Is the traditional business card dead?

The discussion has raged for quite some time – is the traditional business card dead? Do people, in the age of the web and technology still need to kill trees (or use ores and petroleum by-products) for a silly little piece of card stock to hand out at events or when meeting someone else?

The first argument I had heard on the subject was at a new media group in New York where the speaker insisted that, with web sites and the ubiquitous “about me” section, why would anyone need a printed business card? Being the curious sort I am—some may say the pain-in-the-rear—I had to raise my hand and ask, “but how do people remember our URL without that little slip of paper?”

There was no answer as I remember—just some mumbling and hurt feelings. Several people commented to me later that I was right. People weren’t about to remember names and URLs, so what was the answer to raging technology and a paperless society?

 

Business cards are an art form

There’s nothing as fun as seeing how far people can push the innovation of the standard-sized business card. Die cuts, process foils, and thermography, folds, pop-ups, and other great ideas lead to collections by individuals and printed collections of the “best business cards.”

Here’s some links to blogs showcasing numerous innovative business cards:

100 (really) creative business cards

30 creative QR business cards

You the designer

Business Insider

Inspirationfeed

Artatm

Naldz Graphics

Toxel

Letterpress has been very hot for business cards for the past few years. Pixelclouds.com has recently posted a collection of Letterpress cards on their blog.

More examples can be found on carddsgn.com as well as exquisiteletterpress.com.

A great business card is sometimes just in the name, too! When I was first hired onto the staff of MAD Magazine, my cards were much sought-after by people. Luckily, I had several boxes printed before leaving that job and still get requests for my card. At one Phoenix restaurant, known for snipping off the ties of those who dare dress too formally, then attaching the person’s business card before tacking the tie stub to the wall or ceiling – giving the illusion of waves of a wheat field from slight breezes – I decided to wear a tie with my T-shirt, just so I could join the collection. When the waiter snipped off my tie, he asked for my business card. Upon handing him my MAD card, he ran off and returned with the owner who shook my hand and told me my tie and card were going into his personal collection of celebrity’s ties. Try that with a web site!

I recently sold one of my William M. Gaines business cards on Ebay. When I was a young teenager, I visited the offices of MAD and got to meet the legendary publisher of the beloved magazine (or is that the other way around?) and while sitting at his desk with him, he used a couple of his business cards to pick the pastrami from between his teeth (I assume he had a pastrami sandwich for lunch that day but one never knows) and said, “here, kid…my card!”

That DNA-stained card went for quite a bit on Ebay. Again—the power of the printed card…and toothpick.

 

The card as a selling tool

Handing someone a business card is the first marketing effort you take with them, aside from looking them in the eye and a firm handshake. The Japanese, for example, put great reverence into their business cards. It is their personality and must be treated with the utmost respect. Many years ago, when I was to meet with the largest conglomerate in Japan, I received some cautionary advice from my sister, who had studied international relations, about my first few moments in my meeting. It wasn’t just bowing but also how to accept a card with both hands, holding it with reverence at the corners, which pocket to place it in (never the back pocket!) and how to give out my business card. It was, it seems, very beneficial to know the proper card etiquette as well as just good manners and business acumen.

In another situation, I was quite embarrassed when at a design event, a well-known nutcase and dilettante made a point of shoving her card into the hands of everyone at the event. When she arrived at the small group with which I was standing, I took her card, wiped my rear end and threw it on the floor, thinking she didn’t see what I was doing. After the laughter from others in the group died down, I was told that the crazy-lady had seen me do it and I was embarrassed by my callousness. I should have waited until she had left the room to do it.

In another article on creatives in social situations, I wrote that a business card didn’t necessarily have to be a standard size. While I advise against a full letterhead-sized printed piece, because people will need to carry the damn thing in their hand all night, wiping with it later, there is no reason that a piece cannot be large enough to show a sample of your work and still fit into a pocket or purse. I had also suggested that one could create a set of “flash cards” that showed several pieces. Many years ago I had a set of business cards that had fifty different images on them. Even though I attended the same networking groups repeatedly, my cards were known as the “collect ‘em all” cards and were always welcomed when I would hand my card out, even to those who had received one numerous times before.

The key is to have a card people will keep and perhaps show to others. Having a card that sits on someone’s desk of tacked to a bulletin board in plain sight is the biggest compliment since not wiping a rear end with one.

 

The digital answer

Giving credit where credit is due, a nice collection of digital apps appears on a recent post on webdistortion.com“6 apps that are killing the business card.” The list is short and doesn’t cover ALL of the  sites that can be used for further information about you and truthfully, they may not be the best but here they are for your information and inspiration.

Aboutme

Flavors.me

Identyme.com

Bu.mp

Shhmooze

Missing from the Web Distortion blog entry are sites like LinkedIn, which is for business networking and allows you not only to post your résumé, recommendations from others, join groups, and network but the ever increasing amount of widgets allows you to insert Behance portfolios, slide shows, videos, Twitter and blog feeds, and much more.

Another interesting site that was about to go under but was bought by another company at the last minute is visualcv.com. This site allows you to post your résumé and portfolio samples, then share the profile with others or download the whole thing as a PDF for emailing.

Twtbizcard has a unique Twitter app for sharing information. Check out the video on their site.

Poken, for those who aren’t embarrassed to carry cute little plastic creatures to networking events and business meetings, is another bump technology gadget. It hasn’t caught on in the United States…and probably won’t but why not click the link and check it out, if for nothing else, a laugh.

Of course, using a QR Code on a printed card can take people to any of these sites or a video such as this one:

Whatever you use, printed or digital, the most important thing to keep in mind, is to make people remember you, connect and become a valued client. The best way to do that is to make sure your information is clear, concise and easy to find.

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  • Guy

    How many business cards have you handed out in the last year to prospective clients? Answer that question and you’ll know if they are needed or not. Also, they do not have to exhaust natural resources. In fact they can be used to decease the inexhaustible stockpile of recycled paper products and they can be printed with vegetable based inks. Also, most trees used for wood pulp are grown for that purpose. They are fast growing hybrid poplars developed by the paper making industry. Decreasing print production would probably hurt our environment if the mills stopped planting those trees. Buying and using Chinese made paper is a whole other story as far as eco impact. That paper making process is very eco unfriendly. Always insist on US made paper.

  • Ben

    Yeah, business cards are not going anywhere anytime soon. Nobody ever asked me to exchange with me digital bizcards.  Always printed bizcards, because with printed bizcard they can judge the quality of my business and focus.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kidbombay Ketan Anjaria

      I totally agree. Your personal brand and perception must carry weight and be translated well for digital business cards to work.

  • Anchorstl Art

    We use mobi contacts and they work pretty well.  It is an SMS based business card.   It will even build a database of contacts that we can send group text blast to announce news or specials or deals or whatever.

    https://www.mobicontact.net/

  • http://shinytoyrobots.com Robin Cannon

    Definitely not. In fact, given the increasing number of ways in which you can present yourself online, a business card is arguably more important. It’s a simple and easy way to provide people with a single piece of information that links to your wider profile.

    As we become more and more digital, the impact of physical media is actually more powerful. I have hundreds of bookmarks and tags of websites, articles, profiles – they often get lost in the clutter. If I have a business card, I’m more likely to remember the person who gave it to me, and to use it to make at least an initial engagement with them online.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kidbombay Ketan Anjaria

      Really good point, do you think it’s more important brand wise to send a personal url on your card for contact or one of the url services you can use? A singular destination for yourself is defined as what? An online profile that links to your various identities or your own web site?

  • http://docraptor.com/ Tyler Moore

    I definitely don’t think traditional business cards are dead. I’m largely against printed materials (and physical media in general) but business cards are still the easiest way to provide your contact information: phone number, email address, Twitter handle, web address, specialties, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.pingree Michael Pingree

    It is easy for people like us to get stuck in the myopic view that everyone is as techie as we are. Guess what. They aren’t. Just got done with a networking group and not one person tried exchanging digital bcards. We did exchange paper business cards. 

  • http://blog.neorelic.com.au/ Patrick Jones

    Considering my new business cards just arrived this morning, I’m glad to see there’s still a lot of support for traditional cards and that my investment hasn’t gone waste.

    For now, exchanging digital business cards is still too clunky and I can’t see this changing for at least another few years. Even if the process does become more streamlined, I’d have to agree with Robin in that tangible media will only gain in power as we continue to shift everything towards the digital realm.

  • Speider Schneider

    Are you referring to my card when I was with MAD Magazine? It’s not that the design was anything out of the ordinary (design hadn’t changed in several decades). The point was that it was the NAME of the company that was impressive as a physical card that everyone wanted on their Rolodex (remember those?).

  • http://twitter.com/bartligthart bartligthart
  • http://www.intravecdesigns.com/ Intravec

    Business cards are a lifeline for any business; small or large. I design business cards for clients by the bunches and these companies are return clients, because when they run out of cards, they always reorder.

  • http://www.intravecdesigns.com/ Intravec

    It is hard for me to  believe that people think that Business Cards are like an old 8 Track! A business card is the ulitmate marketing tool… The greatest way to work on your initial impression when trying to gain new clients.. Digital in some ways may work, but not when it comes to business cards..

  • http://www.businesscardcritic.com/ Jamie Northrup

    Business cards will be around for a long time, eveywhere I go I get some, and I hand out a lot. It’s the best way (other than promotional items that can cost a bit) to keep your name/website/brand in potential clients hands.

  • http://www.dealsbell.com/store/psprint/ psprint coupons

    Business card will never die i think. It is the great way to communicate with the clients and the people. It is the easy way of marketing the business. In fact business of the business card is growing now a days.  

  • Designer

    It is very important way of your promotion, and the email form or some kind of e-card will never take place of the classic business card..
    http://business-cards-designer.blogspot.com/