The Changing Dynamics Of Business Cards

Attend any conference and you will find everyone happily swapping business cards. This normal feature of in-person networking that we take for granted has its roots in ancient “Visiting Cards” used in the 15th Century and “Trade Cards” introduced by business people in the 17th Century. The modern equivalent of the business card has been with us since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century. And now the business card is about to change again! With the digital age surrounding us, the pace of information flow has accelerated. It is inevitable that the humble business card we know and love will see enhancement in the form of a QR Code. This Digital Business Card has the touch and feel of a “real” business card but offers the ability to provide the recipient with your contact information electronically. The paper card won’t go away soon, but it will become more versatile and offer more information while still providing that warm and toasty feel of a good, solid, high-quality paper card. There are also the all-digital e-business cards which are a new and aggressive competitor, and likely the wave of the future.

Traditional paper business cards are still widely respected and appreciated as a useful networking and marketing tool for introducing yourself and providing your contact information. These simple devices are easily carried and handed out and offer a straightforward way to communicate your basic contact information without awkward fumbling with technology while chatting with a prospective client. People returning from a conference may well sit and cull through the cards they received and keep a few that they feel are relevant. That little piece of paper has an amazing way of enduring since it takes a conscious act to toss it out! How many old paper cards do you still have? Higher-level personnel are more likely to continue to use the traditional paper card. There are multiple disadvantages of course. You must store the cards, you must transfer the information into your storage medium, there are printing costs, and if the information changes you have to re-print.

A digital business card is an online page that has all your contact information. The page is accessed by a QR code printed on a traditional business card. The QR code then can direct the reader to your website and effectively can provide any information you choose. This option offers multiple advantages including sharing unlimited information, the advantages of the well-respected paper card, quick and convenient transfer of contact information, and user access analytics. There are multiple vendors who can provide the QR codes at a nominal cost. A disadvantage is that you still have the printing costs associated with the paper card.

An e-business card provides a single file with your contact details which can be shared across all your social media sites. Your phone becomes your virtual “business card.” The screen of your phone can be configured to display any number of attractive business card designs via templates offered by multiple vendors. A QR code displayed directs the recipient to your contact detail file. E-business cards can provide you with analytics as users access your contact information. This option does away with the paper card altogether and relieves you of the storage and handling issues of the paper cards. While the convenience and adaptability of the e-business cards are certainly attractive, some disadvantages exist: most of the business population is not yet accustomed to the technology. Another possible downside is that the all-digital approach may offer greater opportunities for malicious hacking.

So where does this all lead? The market will be divided up between the conventional paper card, the digital business card, and the e-business card, with the proportions gradually shifting over time to reflect the demographics of the card holders and their position in the business hierarchy. Stay alert to the trends you see when attending networking events so you can observe THE CHANGING DYNAMICS OF BUSINESS CARDS!

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NAPS Harold B. Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award Winner