I used to be in the home décor and holiday decor décor business. We did a lot of trade shows and I met tonnes of people, handing my card to each one. And of course, I wouldn't hear from them until the next trade show, where I'd have forgotten that I'd given them my card, and they'd inform me that they already had my card when I handed them one. So I made one simple change. Our business and the industry was a lot about colour. I changed my card's colour every year to reflect the Pantone colour of the year (home decor segment). This served several purposes.
I would ask "Do you have my new card?" before handing them the updated card. It gave me an excuse to give them the new card. For people that I was meeting for the first couple of times, it also gave me a conversation starter; an opportunity to talk about this year's colours with them.
For people that knew I was doing this, my card became a resource for them when they were buying for their stores; a point of reference for them to base their décor purchases off of. Some people even started making a point to see me to get my updated card.
However, the more time we spend in the virtual world, the less we spend in the real world. As such, we're spending less time meeting each other in person. If that's the case, do we still need business cards? Is there still a role to play for the old calling card?
After being employed in China in the 15th Century, the calling card gained ubiquity among European aristocracy by the 18th Century. They served multiple purposes from advance notices of someone coming to visit, to leaving a message to a home owner if they weren't around to receive the guest. They were invitations and messages of condolences; and they were status symbols with people often leaving neat piles of these calling cards for guests to see, often with cards of the most prominent people on top of the stack.
Over time, the purposes of the cards have become more specific in their use cases. Greeting cards, 'get well soon' cards, and of course, business cards. And the business card has matured over time as well. There is a myriad of combinations to help make cards unique. You've got different thicknesses. There are different card materials. There is also a plethora of embellishment options to choose from as well. Gloss, UV coatings, debossing, embossing, the list goes on.
But we now live in the digital age. People are networking online. We connect with people digitally. We don't use rolodexes anymore (yes, I'm dating myself for knowing what one is. And yes, I've used one. lol). Here are 3 ways to update your business card for the digital age:
Add a QR Code
The QR code (Quick Response Code) was invented in the nineties, so it's been around for a while now. So it's had a minute for maturation. And we've certainly seen the QR code explosion over the past couple of years due to the COVID pandemic. While a QR code is essentially a bar code, it's one that people can use with most smartphone cameras now and can be directed to a specific web page.
One use of the QR Code is to direct the person scanning to a landing page, a menu, your website, a pdf, or maybe one of those linksites. But sorry, you can only choose one. The QR code is like a digital fingerprint. One unique QR code, goes to one place.
For the purposes of this article, one possible use case of the QR code on your business card, is to send the recipient of your card to a landing page that invites them to enter in their own information. Once they enter in their information and have given you permission, it can trigger a quick automated sequence. Since it's coming from a business card, you know you met in person, so the sequence could start with an email follow up. You can use information from the form you had them sign up. This is also a great opportunity to invite them to a subsequent chat with you to get to know each other better.
And since people have a tendency to 'lose' business cards, once they've scanned the card and entered the information, a lost business card isn't the end of the world.
Make It Smart
It's really a bit of a misnomer. All it means to have a Smart business card, is to embed an NFC chip in it. NFC stands for "Near Field Communications". Which means, your card is now "tappable" on NFC enabled smart phones.
The nice thing about making your business card smart, is that you can embed simple instructions. People have been using NFC tags to increase efficiency and productivity in their homes and at the office. And unlike a QR code, it's something that you can change. One thing you can do with a smart business card, is to automatically add your information to someone else's phone simply by tapping your card.
Since people are tapping YOUR card, you don't have to worry about them misplacing your card subsequently. It doesn't however, prevent people from subsequently deleting your information though. Sorry.
Lean Into The Past
Everything old is new again. We've seen a resurgence in people taking up crocheting, using fountain pens, and absolutely beautiful handcrafted greeting cards. The same can be said of business cards. Remember George Clooney's card from Ocean's Eleven? A simple, high quality card with a classic typeset can be very elegant and impactful.
But we can take that 'old school' card concept further. If you're a carpenter, you might want to have your information laser engraved onto a thin cedar chip the size of a business card. Your card can be a different shape than just the traditional rectangle.
What's Right For You?
With an abundant number of options now to personalise the business card available, there are no shortage of options to create a business card that best reflects your brand. You could even use all three of the suggestions I've suggested here together in the same card. So how do you choose?
People are less likely going to throw something out that evokes a perceived value. People are more likely going to remember something that stands out. And people are more likely going to remember you, if there's something available for them to remember.
How often do you anticipate using your card? In what sort of situation? Are these situations conducive to exchanging business cards? If you're constantly giving out cards in large volumes, it might not make sense for you to do something that's very costly.
What would you consider a 'top of the funnel' point? Where are people first engaging with you? If say, you're a plumber, it's probably more important for people to have your information in their contact list than for you to have their information in your email list because chances are, they're only going to call you if something is leaking, and that's HOPEFULLY not something that happens on a regular. So a smart business card might make sense for you. They tap, and they can instantly save your contact information on their phone.
How does it reflect your brand? At the end of the day, your card is an extension of your brand and what it represents. If you're a tailor of bespoke suits, you probably don't want to have a business card that looks cheap. While how you should be incorporating different design strategies and technologies depends on your brand and your business; having a business card is an investment into your brand.
And one additional thing. As with all marketing material, be it copy, paraphernalia, advertising, or even a social media post. Always be able to answer the following questions.
Why am I putting this out there
Why should this be important to the person receiving this
How does this benefit the recipient? (What's in it for me?)