Is The Business Card Irrelevant?

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.


Comments

    They might no be used as often but I don't think they're irrelevant just yet. A business card doesn't necessarily have to be in print form either. But I think for meetings and first IRL interaction, a business card can be really good.
    They're like little presents, they make the meeting personal, you're giving that person something of yours. They can keep it or put it away, but it's theirs now. That's nice. Next time someone gives you a business card you can't help but have a feeling about it. ..Unless it's just some random sales person.
    i think they can also help with the awkwardness of an information exchange that you can sometimes get doing it with phones or whatever. When they're acting as the first point of contact they work, like a poster. You usually see a poster in the street and then look it up later on the internet.

    Not so useless.. Ever had one of those moments when someone has a complicated name that needs to be spelled out? And now most people use them to list their digital profiles, so they're still connecting people.

    They're also great to chuck on the dresser after a hot night of passion with a stranger...

    No need to exchange names or numbers, just drop it on the dresser on your way out, accompanied with the one simple line: "call me"

    Easy.

    I guess it depends on the lifestyle you lead and the business you conduct. Like printing photos for display in your house as compared to using digital photo frames..

    Paula has it right. If your email address or name is unusual, a business card provides instant clarification on spelling and avoids "how do you spell that?" questions.

    Since I've started getting business cards, I've been doing them through Moo, because they allow you to put a number of designs on your cards. Because I'm a photographer, I quite literally have my portfolio on the back of a card and people love them because each one has a bright, unusual photo on them.

    Another tip I used a while back was a Moo "hack". I prepared my photos, then gave them a random alphanumeric filename. Then when I was putting the text on (these were Moo minicards) I told them to use the filename as the final line. The cards came with a unique code printed on them. When people went to my site, they could type in the code to get a discount on a package. People actually paid more attention to the card once they knew they could redeem the code!

      Oh, and in addition, my last batch of cards had a white strip purposefully left on one side. I'd have my neat photo on one side, my custom-designed front of the other and a small strip just to left of my contact details. That way I could jot down any info they needed. It was personal like a blank card, but with a cool design like a regular card.

    If you are using business cards for "promotion" then sure - they might be letting you down.

    But what they are good for is communicating your contact information. Want people to visit your [facebook/linkedin/twitter] put it on there. Put your full name, phone number and email on there too.

    The best thing business cards do is eliminate the ambiguity in spelling and user/domain names etc. Instead of saying my email is "[email protected], that's M for mary not N for november" you just hand them your card. If they want to key it into their smartphone on the spot (they way they would if you told them out loud) they can. If not they've got the card with the exact details for later.

    I use them all the time when visiting clients - usually in a context of "Ok, so you need to send me xyz info, here are my contact details" then I write a 2-3 word comment on what they need to do on the card and give it to them.

    Sorry, I think this article is absolutely bullshit.

    Next time you go along to a networking event, try telling everything to skip the business cards & pull out their tablets / phones / laptops and all add each other on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, About.me, Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, etc etc. (Yes, you will most likely need to do most of those as people have different preferences for their social media).

    Then, the 2/3 (source: MYOB Business monitor) business owners who don't yet even have a website (let alone social media) are just going to have to skip networking events.

    Then, in 6 months time when you need to contact said person from networking event and can't remember their name, don't flip through your rolodex, skim your way through your (potentially) hundreds of connections on linked in, people you follow on twitter, facebook likes etc etc because you can't remember which one you connected to them with.

    And finally, you are comparing apples and oranges. You are thinking of a business card as brochure or a flyer - they aren't (thats why they are called business cards, not brochures or flyers) - business cards are exclusively for contact details, a very brief overview of services and a name to easily allow future contact. If you want to compare it against things like about.me and online portfolios - you need to compare it against it's comparable print product - brochures, flyers or booklets.

    Just because you are a tech savvy writer doesn't mean the business world is. You don't get clients by expecting them to contact you via your medium of choice, you get clients by making yourself available to their chosen medium.

    I have personal cards.

    They have me name, title (gentlemen adventurer) email and number.

    More importantly, no one in thus city can make a good old fashioned, so on the back there are instructions on how to make them.

    I have personal cards.

    They have my name, title (gentlemen adventurer) email and number.

    More importantly, no one in thus city can make a good old fashioned, so on the back there are instructions on how to make them.

    Business cards will never be irrelevant as long as I can put them in little bowls and win free lunches. FREE LUNCHES!

      Yup, that's about all I've ever used mine for... Lunches and bar tabs for the win!

    Business cards were irrelevant many years ago. In some niches, they may still have a purpose (particularly people who meet many people frequently), but for the rest of us - I know your name, I know your organisation, I'll google you.

    I have business cards: they're still useful. For the digital distribution of my work details, I have a QR code representing a vCard at the bottom of my email signature.
    In a parallel with the eBook debate, both forms are now required and we'll never have 100% use of one or the other.

      heh, if u have business cards already AND u've gone to the trouble of making a QR code, why not go the final yard & put the code on the card? best of both worlds! :-)

        Hi TechTragic,
        Yes, that would be ideal :-)
        Unfortunately I need to use up the cards I have before I can order new ones. In this instance procurement policy beats super cool nerdy business card (unfortunately).

    For me they have two purposes... great in meetings with new people, esp when there is more than one, for remembering who-is-who out of the four people that just walked in... and what position/title they all have... I always put the cards on the table in front of me in the order of the people seated at the table... I'm bad with names, esp new people names.

    Second purpose is after the meeting... they get scanned to .pdf, saved to contacts and circular-filed for the cleaners.

    Irrelevant means of no use or purpose. HUGE overstatement. In some circles they may not have as much utility as they once did, but for millions they still serve a lot of purpose. And for those who take the time to create an effective marketing piece as opposed to a contact card, you can make a long and powerful impression with a business card.

    I use moo and their Printfinity technology CAN show off some of my portfolio. Granted it won't be up to date but still. It can be useful.

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