Business cards have long been the way we've shared our professional contact information with others, but thanks to the internet and smartphone apps their importance is dying out. It may be time to let go of the printed business card and put our focus on newer, more relevant tools.
Why Business Cards Are Mostly Irrelevant
I keep a storage box in my closet that looks like any other storage box, but I refer to it as the business card cemetery. I've been printing business cards for myself, or they've been provided to me by my employer, for about a decade now. I'd be surprised if I've handed out more than 50 of the thousands buried in that little box. So why do I keep them? They're awesome. They're little, attractive rectangles that I might someday give to another person who will look upon my card and smile. They'll think, "what a nice business card," and then put it in their pocket, forget about it, and find a confusing ball of cardboard when they later pull their pants out of the washing machine. Even in my stupid fantasy, the little things are still worthless.
Just because business cards haven't been terribly useful to me doesn't mean they don't have a use for others. For some they're a rolodex. If your job requires you to meet a lot of people, business cards can be the most efficient way to exchange contact information in a short amount of time. They're small, concise, and effective.
Nonetheless, they cost money to produce. Most people want digital contact information instead so they can have it ready on their smartphones for immediate use. Digital contact information can be sent to others quickly and easily with the right apps. While business cards are incredibly efficient when it comes to the exchange of information, they lose that efficiency when your rolodex is not a physical stack but rather a database of information on your phone or computer.
Furthermore, your business card provides little context about who you are. It can't play a video or show off your portfolio. It doesn't include a direct link to your resume or work history. The internet can do a lot more to promote you and technology can be a more efficient means of exchanging information in the long run. This leaves us with an important question: is the business card a mostly irrelevant business tool?
What's More Important Than a Card
With personal landing pages on sites like Flavors.me and About.me, LinkedIn profiles, and other self-promoting web apps, you can get a lot more value out of your online presence with very little effort involved. You can include links to your pages in your email signature, making it simple to share your information without much thought. You can also quickly email a vCard or us an app like CardFlick to make your contact information even more easily accessible to the recipient. While this process can sometimes be slightly more time consuming initially, these efforts save time in the long run.
Technology is also more helpful in actually getting you a job than handing off your business card. If anything, the business card is simply a starting point for a potential employer to find out more information about you. If you have a decent online presence, all they really need is your name. If you only have the time and effort for one thing, managing your online reputation is more relevant. If you can control the flow of information about you then you can control want a prospective employer sees. This is far more important than a card.
There's no question that business cards still have a place in the professional lives of many. Several popular printing companies like Moo and VistaPrint wouldn't offer the product if people weren't interested. Nonetheless, we're moving to a more digital world and more and more people are finding themselves with stacks of unused cards. When we continue to purchase business cards, are we trying to cling to the past or just avoid a present where the exchange of digital information is slightly more tedious? I still love the business card, but I rarely have an opportunity to justify its use. I believe printers like Moo are focusing on the right market — people who want a small run of high-quality cards for the cost of a reasonably nice meal. Most of us won't need a business card too often, but they're really only irrelevant to those of us who've fully embraced a technologically centered future.
What do you think? Is the business card irrelevant, or do you think it's still a vital and necessary tool for a successful career? Share your thoughts in the comments.