Is this the end of the business card?

global exchange imageI visited the annual gala for one of the charities that I support recently. The event and evening took its normal schwa ray of greetings and smiles, with exchanges, and my amusement. For the first time, I was not asked for a business card but “could I kindly have sight of your QR code” whilst I held a large grin on face. I could not help but wonder what had happened to the long tradition of exchanging business cards.

To my relief, the next person I met did actually ask me for my business card. I asked myself if this is the end of a lifetime of generations where etiquette was a formality of exchanging a business card.

I remember my time in Japan and China where presenting your card with two hands is a big part of business culture. To these cultures this is the first representation of you. I could not imagine a PA to a director carrying your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry to the person you are about to meet.

Are we now going to be subjected to “can I see your QR code” and the next thing you know you will be zapped in a CRM program for life?

Industries may change and brand names may come and go, but at least one tradition in the business world has remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. The exchange of cards between two people who are meeting for the first time is a ritual that goes back as far as business itself.

For most of us, the handing over of contact details is an important moment – a clear signal that a connection has been made. But as our lives turn increasingly digital, technology is attempting to offer a range of futuristic alternatives to the old-fashioned card.

Ever since the arrival of electronic communication, people have explored new ways to share information with each other from swapping email addresses to trading mobile phone numbers and, increasingly, connecting through an online social network.

Japanese Business Card Exchange
Japanese Business Card Exchange

In the majority of cases, I believe business cards matter. The personal and interactive approach vs a CRM listing is what builds trust and the relationship.

Here are some other reasons why:

  • How many times have you met someone, spent most of the conversation thinking of what to say so you don’t sound stupid, then, promptly forget their name when it’s all over?
  • When you meet a person at a business event and get their business card you can write a note or two on the reverse side of the card to capture the key points of your conversation while they are still fresh in your mind. The bottom line here is to have a physical record of contacts you make so you can follow-up as appropriate in conjunction with your broader job search/career development efforts.
  • A business card is a road map to opportunity. It could lead you to a great new job, a great business partnership, or simply help your business make money.
  • Business cards put a face to a business. When meeting someone new, handing them your business card will help keep your business in the back of their minds. Though they may not need your product or services today, there may come a time when they do, and hopefully they will be able to pull out your business card and call versus trying to remember your company name and searching the web.
  • Your business card is a physical object that potential clients can take with them that keeps you or your brand from just being a name that floats around in the ether.
  • Business cards never have downtime. They are always accessible, and never have dead zones or Internet outages. Your business card can be viewed no matter where you are located, and even at times when cell phones and other devices must be turned off, such as on an airplane ride or in a hospital, your business card is always working for you.

Not everyone thinks business cards are essential, and some argue business cards have lost their edge.

Technology, and—more specifically—smartphones have made information sharing easier. These days you can email someone while you’re meeting them with a few quick taps of your thumb. There are even apps out there that can share contact information with someone with barely any effort at all. So why bother with a card when you have all of this other stuff?

Networking is about making meaningful connections, and sometimes technology—or the act of using it—can be impersonal.

What are your thoughts? Will business cards become extinct? Do you still  look at the effectiveness of your card design before you re-order? Did you add a QR code to your cards?