When you look back over the past few decades, it's amazing how many products have been phased out or are no longer sold. Fads come and go, technology catches up and makes things obsolete. There is always going to be a "better version" of something that's more popular and pushes the old model out.
But if I had a dime for every time someone has proclaimed the business card "dead," I would be a very, very rich man. Like Bill Gates rich. Few products have been murdered at the hands of journalists, bloggers, social media, business and networking experts more than the business card. A simple Google search for "business card dead" returns over 50 million results. Needless to say, according to the experts, no one needs, uses or even considers having business cards anymore.
Did you know that business cards are dead? Who hands out business cards anymore now that there are smartphones, smart phone applications, tablet computers, Twitter, facebook, email, websites and text messages? Why would you need anyone's information on one small card as reference? There's no way you could ever really lose track of someone you just met with all these communication mediums. Business cards are just silly at this point.
They're so silly companies and people thriving in the social space would never consider using them, right? As an example, I had a meeting with two very smart people from Twitter just a few months ago. I walked into the room, shook hands and made the appropriate introductions. Guess what happened next? They both handed me their business card, and I handed one back. Those business cards are now on my desk, in the spot where I keep business cards, so if I decide to further our business relationship with Twitter, I can easily find my contact's information. No one in the meeting said, "Oh do you have an iPhone application so we can exchange contact information" and no one decided that exchanging cards would be pointless. And these were executives from a company that relies solely on social traffic. If I had to guess, that same exact encounter happened hundreds of thousands of times across the country on that same day and business cards were swapped.
Micro businesses rely on referrals more than any other business demographic. A 2011 Vistaprint study showed over 95% said that business cards are still important. In fact, you could argue that business cards have never been MORE relevant than they are right now. They're easier to design, purchase and hand out than ever. Like many other products, the Internet has made them more accessible and less expensive than they were 10 years ago.
What is clear is that business cards as a communications medium have changed, as OPEN Forum's Barry Moltz pointed out. There's no arguing that people have become more creative about how they use them, how they hand them out and what they include on them. "Standard" business cards are certainly fading, with a simple white background and text that includes your name, phone number and address. Cards are now dominated by unique logos and graphics, website addresses, Twitter handles and multiple email addresses. The medium has changed, but their importance in connecting with people hasn't.
As social media continues to take hold and more and more people expound the importance of "connecting," business cards will continue to be an important part of that landscape. Not only is it force of habit and part of business culture at this point, but having and handing out a business card sends a certain message, a vibe that you're serious about wanting to talk further and hopefully build a relationship. Many times we've heard that business cards are an extension of a person or their business, so having one is validation that they're legitimate. No one will ever laugh at you for having one, but they will certainly forget you if you don't.
That's not going to change anytime soon, so let's ease off on killing the business card, at least for a few more years.
What are your thoughts, do you still use business cards? Or are they truly "dead" as so many have claimed?
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Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email email@example.com.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.