Do Business Cards Still Matter?

There are better ways to be memorable and discovered - Issue #111

When I meet someone new — or I hear about an interesting person — I always look them up on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google, etc. It’s my preferred way to learn more about someone with whom I might be interested in doing business.

If you hand me a business card, but I can’t find recent or useful information about you online, well… Let’s just say that it doesn’t bode well. Who doesn’t have an online presence these days?

I’ve handed out plenty of business cards over the past 25+ years, but I can’t recall a single time that my card helped me land new gigs. My most valuable business — and all of my jobs — came from warm intros and internal champions.

No card involved.


Business cards feel outdated

I have a massive stack of biz cards acquired from networking events, conferences, business meetings, etc. I recently found hundreds of them in an old office box that I forgot to unpack.

Clearly, they weren’t important to me.

There were only a handful of people who made such an impression that I immediately looked them up on social media or LinkedIn. I followed or connected with them before the end of that day.

The other cards gathered dust. Now I’ll just toss them in the recycling bin.

I witnessed my son exchanging Snapcodes with some people he met recently. That activity made my business cards feel like old tools from a bygone era.


Ok, sometimes cards are helpful

I do think that business cards can be useful, but only in a few cases:

  1. You meet someone at a loud event or party, and it’s not easy for them to hear you or capture your contact information. You can hand them a card to follow up with you later.

  2. You may be in a situation where the exchange of cards is culturally expected. While business card usage is declining here for the younger generation, that may not be true everywhere you go. In this situation, not having a card negatively impacts someone’s impression of you and risks a connection. I carry a minimal number of cards in my wallet for these “formal emergencies.”

  3. You’re dealing with someone old like me. When I meet business folks my age (or older), they sure do love to exchange cards.

  4. You’re a salesperson, and you actively collect and use cards for leads. Some people are in industries where this is more common. It feels kind of like a spammy “spray and pray” approach to sales. I know that I don’t enjoy being the recipient of this technique, but maybe it works with large enough numbers.


Be memorable and be easy to find online

Do this instead of hoping your business cards will somehow work magic for you:

  • Be highly memorable in meetings and engage deeply with a few people at events vs. skimming the surface. As an introvert, talking with a small number of people is my preferred interaction anyway. I’m more likely to follow up with someone when I have a meaningful conversation with them vs. someone who hands me a card and walks away after a minute.

  • Be amazingly easy to find online when people search for you on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. You should try to dominate SEO for your name unless you share it with someone famous (sorry!). One thing I often say to people who ask for my card after I’ve run out is, “Look me up online. I’m super easy to find.” I’m confident doing this because I actively invest in maintaining my online presence.

  • Don’t get lost in the crowd at events where people are tossing around business cards like confetti. Instead, be the one up on stage. Give talks and presentations. You’ll have slides the size of a billboard with your name and contact information seen by everyone in the room. You can speak uninterrupted for 30–60 minutes vs. trying to get a word in edgewise in a cluster of people.


If you’re curious, test your cards

Do you still want to carry around a few business cards?

Sure. You can do that.

However, I encourage you to do some testing and see if those cards are working for you:

  • Create a new email address that you only use for your business cards and track your inbound messages. This metric will give you a better sense of how many people are using your card to contact you.

  • Use a service like Call Rail to track incoming phone calls for your business card as well. It’s an excellent service that provides an incredible amount of customization and analytics.

  • Create a campaign URL using Google’s Campaign URL Builder. Note: you will want to convert the resulting URL to a short link since you can’t expect people to type that long URL into their browser. For example https://goo.gl/jRBRzH

  • Design an elegant business card at Moo! That’s where I create my mini cards. They have lots of different styles, and you can get 25% off your first order using this link.

Experiment and let me know if you’re getting inbound contact from your business cards! I’m curious too.


Do the following Career Tips interest you?

  • Why you should create sources of passive income now.

  • Mistakes you should avoid when you look for a mentor at work.

  • How you can succeed in your career without being extroverted.

  • Why you need to get closer to the money at your company.

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What I’ve been reading and writing

  • In The Surprising Power of Simply Asking Coworkers How They’re Doing, the researchers found that "39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally." Do you agree? Or, do you just want people to leave you alone so that you can get your work done?

  • In Do You Need to be Extroverted to Succeed?, I wrote about the stereotype that only extroverted, charismatic, and influential people could be successful in work and life. I also talked about how the workplace seems to be designed to support extroverts more than introverts (e.g., open office spaces). However, I think that if you play to your strengths and find the right environment, you can find a better way to succeed.

  • Terina Allen shared five steps that may help you apply the art of persuasion in the workplace in Persuasion: How To Convince People To Act On Your Great Ideas. You won’t be successful if you don’t take the time to connect with your audience and demonstrate that you care about them and their needs. Persuasion isn’t about having everything your way.