Paper is so out – that’s what you think! Business cards are still all the rage. What should you think about at your next business event in order to collect as many new business cards as you can and thereby establish valuable contacts?
A quick Google search gives you a clear result – the search term “print business cards online” offers a whopping 3.3 million results! Obviously not a niche topic.
The apparent origins of the business card date back to Nefertiti and Tutankhamun – the Egyptians are said to have given each other pieces of papyrus with proverbs written on them!
One thing that is certain is that during the Regency era of the French Sun King Louis XIV, “Visiting Cards” became customary. They were left when the host was not available personally and therefore a ‘visit’ card was left.
How important are business cards in the digital age?
Something with such a long history is not so easily washed away by the digital storm. It comes as no surprise that even digital startups try and make their mark with as creative business card designs as possible.
When you receive a business card, you find out a lot about your potential business partner. You not only receive their personal contact details, but also a lot of further information such as their professional title, corporate identity of the company, up to how carefully your conversation partner handles their business card!
So which points should you consider before, during and after your business appointment, such as at a conference or trade fair, in order to take as many business cards home as possible and thereby extend your personal network?
Checklist: Before the event
The collection of business cards is not a one-way street. First and foremost, make sure you have good supply of business cards. Have spares in your car or suitcase, just in case your supply you have on you runs out.
Think about how you can make your business card stand out. Guidelines in bigger companies are quite strict, but perhaps you have the possibility to add a personal touch.
Providers such as www.Moo.com offer high-quality paper, diverse formats, as well as varying pictures on each of your business cards. This obviously comes at a price, but guarantees a perfect first impression.
How do you store your business cards? A big stack shoved into your jeans is obviously not the right place for them! Your own business card should be in perfect condition, regardless whether you are a banker or a startup founder.
Checklist: During the event
Be generous with your own cards. No-one will deny you their card if you make the first step. Should this however be the case, this tells you a lot about your potential business partner.
In China and Japan it is a no-go, and also it is seen as extremely impolite here too: simply tucking a received business card away without having looked at it properly. This reduces the business card to a simple form of address storage, thereby circumventing the ideal, actual meaning of a business card.
Perhaps your counterpart has just received a promotion and is proud of their position that is documented on their business card.
A few words of recognition regarding the title or design, some brief small talk about the company’s location will certainly break the ice.
Some people like to make notes on business cards. You can see this one way or another, but think about how you would find someone scribbling on your business card. Not ideal, is it? If you don’t want or can’t avoid this, make your noted when your contact partner isn’t nearby.
Checklist: After the business event
We are making broad steps towards the paperless office… a likely story!
Even if we aren’t far away from it though, it is a good idea to make a digital copy of received business cards after an event.
There are of course apps for that – and not just a few. Even the popular Evernote app (the ‘virtual memory’) can scan business cards. If you compare scanned data with LinkedIn or XING and directly add the new contact, this achieves a considerable jump in the direction of sustainability.
Nonetheless, it is good taste to follow up on collected business contacts after an event. The least would be to extend the mutual basis by sending contacts a link to an article about the event you both visited.
Or simply a nice thank you for having the opportunity to get to know each other would suffice!
We have put together an interesting Pinterest board offering you some inspiration regarding business cards!
Have fun networking!