Business cards are essential tools used for networking. People carry a bunch of these every day in case they stumble upon potential customers and partners. By handing out cards containing their contact details, they strike a connection with a person that could possibly lead to a sale for their businesses.
Now that people have gained access to ways of promoting their businesses online, business cards seem to have lost its place atop the food chain of marketing tools and tactics.
The business card problem
Todd Essig, a clinical psychologist practicing in New York, poses a very interesting scenario with regard to handing out and receiving business cards in his post on Forbes .
Let’s say you want to exchange contact information in person with a potentially valuable client. The problem is that you forgot to bring out cards with you at that time.
In the case of Mr. Essig, he apologized for the oversight and informed the possible customer that he has the contact details with him. This is advantageous because Mr. Essig has the the information of a person he covets for networking reasons - he has the ball in his court.
Imagine flipping the situation against Mr. Essig’s favor. Would the person be as interested as Mr. Essig in making that connection with him? There may be a chance that the person may not contact Essig and that the act of exchanging business cards is done for formality’s sake.
Thus, we are presented with an interesting question, “Are people handing out business cards for the sake of tradition?” Instead of ending a conversation with a simple “goodbye, they exchange cards “for future reference.” You begin to wonder, is the exchange sincere or manufactured by habit?
The online solution
I believe the lukewarm reception that has begotten networking using business cards has something to do with the insurgence of the internet. In times when you were not able to get their business cards, just run their name using a search engine. If that prospective client is worth a lick, you’ll get to see his professional site and contact him from there.
What drives online branding?
Businesses have put emphasis on their online strategies to build better online reputation and increase their visibility. They do this by creating business pages from different sites liked LinkedIn and Facebook. People are keeping up with the changes brought by the online revolution as they maintain blogs where they share ideas and elevate themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries.
There are so much opportunities created by online marketing for people to become heard and known. To learn some of these tactics, read this post from the Brazen Life titled “3 Ways to Strengthen Your Online Presence and Say Goodbye to Unemployment.”
So, should we get rid of business cards then?
My answer is a big fat NO.
The reason why people still hack out business cards at every opportunity possible is to touch on their offline marketing channel.
Business cards offer a more tangible and personal approach to your marketing strategy. You do not hide behind a glossy portfolio site with a list of your accomplishments and awards over the years. The fact that the exchange is performed in person is testament to the kind of marketing offline tools offer – it showcases you. Business cards, then, are extensions of that organic experience of the moment upon meeting each other to network.
You will run through misguided marketers who will use business cards the wrong way, just as much as you will encounter social media managers who will squander their relationships with customers. You have to take the good with the bad – there will be networking battles wasted and won in all marketing channels but they do not make the channels unusable.
No matter how widespread the use of online tools are to help businesses achieve their goals, there will always be a place for business cards in your marketing strategy. At best, you should combine both to ensure that you develop a sound marketing plan composed of effective tactics to build better branding and increase networking opportunities within your market.