On the face of it, there seems to be a gradual move away from traditional business cards towards digital connections, which prompted me to ask the question “Are business cards relevant in 2021?” And like many things nowadays, it turns out that it is somewhat of a contentious issue.
It turns out that there are two opposing camps in this regard. Perhaps this speaks to the polarization of society in general, but even here, on this patently innocuous matter, many on wither side believe that they are correct and that those with the opposing view are being foolish.
I thought I would toss my hat in the ring to try to make some sense of it all.
Let’s start by looking at the viewpoints of the two camps.
The “Business Cards Are Irrelevant” Viewpoint
These folks say that like the dodo, the time of the business card has passed.
it’s now about connecting and sharing information via phone and app. It’s about digital cards and LinkedIn.
On every chat and discussion forum I have come across concerning this topic, I found more than one person eager to tell me that they haven’t used a business card in x number of years, proving that there is no longer a need for them. On a side note, it seems like a self-reinforcing argument to say that you don’t hand any business cards out when you don’t carry any cards or where you suggest connecting onine with people you meet before they have the chance to give you their card.
Obviously, many people – especially those in funky, cool, and cutting-edge industries – try hard to stay ahead of the curve, to be trend-setters and technically savvy. They are the early adopters of every new fad and trend that comes along, so why wouldn’t they relish the idea of abandoning the fuddy-duddy old business card in lieu of something infinitely cooler. After all, it makes them seem
The “Business Cards Are Still Very Relevant” Viewpoint
On the other side are the traditionalists, many of whom use technology, but still recognize the value of the business card. Whether that is because of nostalgia, habit or an actual belief in the benefits of the humble business card is another matter.
They use stats like the following to back up their case;
- 27 million business cards get printed every day (I am not sure if this is worldwide or just in the US or Europe). The fact that so many get produced means someone sees value in using them.
- Sales increase by 2.5% for every 2000 cards handed out.
- 88% of cards handed out are thrown away within a week. This seems like a strike against the business card proponents, but if you read between the lines, this means that 12% of cards handed out are kept. How many people who visit your website or LinkedIn profile reach out to connect with you or at least store your contact details? Less than 12%, I am sure.
One glaringly obvious point in favor of this argument is that many of the more mature and less tech-savvy business people – who often tend to be executives or business owners – still use business cards as a matter of habit. Although less important, many cultures in Asia particularly exchange business cards as a formality during business meetings.
So, Are Business Cards Relevant? The Verdict
I am going to be a “milk-toast fence-sitter” here and advocate for a hybrid approach.
I would suggest printing and carrying business cards with you. It is still an important business ritual to exchange business cards, especially with older or more conservative business people.
However, you should also look into setting up and becoming competent in the use of online solutions that allow you to capture and store the details of those you meet.
Technologies like QR codes can create an easy-to-use (and understand) bridge between the tactile and digital worlds, helping you get the best out of both.
At the end of the day, you will have to decide for yourself, taking into consideration your level of comfort with technology and the industry in which you operate. If most of the people you meet are mature senior executives who barely know how to operate a smartphone, stick with business cards.
However, if you are in one of the cutting-edge, venture capital-obsessed industries that center on new technology, then a business card would most probably be wasted on those you meet.
Make Your Business Cards More Relevant
There are ways to improve the chances that those you give your business card to will actually keep them.
- Add a QR code to your business card and set it up to link to a landing page on your website or your LinkedIn profile.
- Although it’s easier said than done, try to make your card memorable in some way. This can be through its thoughtful design or a clever feature that gives the card a secondary function.
- Spend some money on having a color card designed by a professional. Well-designed cards will be more readily kept and may even be shown around if striking or remarkable enough.
- Think about what information you can include on the card that might catch people’s attention or make it easier for them to contact you. Perhaps a QR code that takes them to a page on which they can download a free useful e-book or report. Perhaps a discount code for purchases on your online store.
- Use the back of the card as well as the front.
It’s More Important to Get Their Card Than to Give Yours
Yes, giving someone you meet your card is important, but more important is you getting their card.
You must follow up with them and make yourself memorable using networking techniques such as offering something of value to them for free and connecting with them on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
Don’t think that just because you have given them your card, your work is done. What happens to your card is pretty much incidental. You need to create as many points of connection between yourself in the person you met as possible and you need to make sure they remember you.
One More Tool in Your Toolbox
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not business cards are going out of style. You should use whatever avenues you can to increase your chances of being contacted, whether that is through a website like LinkedIn, your website contact form, your newsletter, and, yes, your business card.
Whatever your opinion on this issue, wouldn’t it make sense to carry a few cards with you for those occasions when it makes sense to hand one over? It can’t hurt.
After all is said and done, I would say that yes, business cards remain relevant in business. They offer one more communication channel that can be used to connect with potential clients and you would be foolish to ignore that opportunity for the sake of being on fleek.