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Success tip: Using business cards effectively

17 July 2011

A business card is an essential tool when you meet new people for the first time. In some cultures you are effectively “a nobody” if you do not have a business card.

A business card may seem old-fashioned in this era of modern technology but it represents the fastest and most reliable way of giving someone basic contact information about yourself. At the same time your card will say something about the kind of person you are or the organisation you represent.

Other people's business cards

When you meet someone, it is a key priority to obtain their business card, normally in exchange for your own. Without a card you will find it virtually impossible to remember that person.

When you collect someone else's business card, do not put their card into the same pocket in which you keep your own cards. It is very embarrassing if you find yourself giving a third party's business card to a new acquaintance instead of your own card; shuffling through a handful of cards trying to find your own amongst the cards that you have received slows you down and looks ridiculous. Instead follow a rigorous policy of always carrying your own cards in the same place (I use the outer breast pocket of my jacket) while putting cards received consistently into a different place (I use my shirt breast pocket).

As soon as you can decently do so (but not in front of the individual) you should annotate the back of their card with basic information such as when and where you met them and any information about them that you gained during your conversation. Otherwise it is very frustrating to see three years later that you have John Smith from XYZ plc in your address book, but you have no idea who he is or where you ever let them!

The CardScan device is a scanner designed for the sole purpose of scanning business cards. After scanning the card, it extracts the text from the image and in most cases it recognises telephone numbers, mobile numbers, email addresses etc.

After you have checked the scanning and made any corrections needed, you can export the data to your main address book.

My version from around 2010 is for a single user. When checked in 2017, Dymo appeared to be only selling the five user version.

The data from each business card you collect belongings in your address book. At one time many people carried a paper personal organiser; as you added more people to the address pages, you found yourself adding more pages and gradually the organiser became heavy and unwieldy. With modern technology your smart phone or electronic organiser gains no weight as you add people to it.

If you have a secretary, you can delegate the task of typing business cards into your address book to your secretary. Without a secretary, unless you meet new people very rarely, typing business cards into your address book becomes unbelievably tedious. Accordingly in late 2009 when I was about to retire from PricewaterhouseCoopers and would no longer have a secretary, I purchased a CardScan device and have been delighted with it ever since.

Follow up actions

Once you have entered the new business card into your address book, I recommend sending that individual an email to say how much you enjoyed meeting them as well as anything else that came out of your conversation.

Modern technology really does make it much easier to keep in touch and such communication is an integral part of building your network.

If the person is on LinkedIn, Facebook or some other social networking site that you use, send them a connection request.

Your own business cards

If you work for a company, you will normally have no control over the appearance or content of your business card. Your responsibility is to ensure that you have your business card with you at all times except when it is impossible. (I have not found a way of going swimming with my business cards!) An easy solution for men is to store some business cards in the outer breast pocket of every jacket that they wear.

I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who I meet who have business cards but have forgotten to carry them when attending an event.

The simple goal with your business cards is to ensure that they end up in the hands of relevant other people; a business card only works for you when it is in the possession of someone else.

If you are independent you have complete control over the design and content of your business card. I have the following suggestions:

Obviously you do not need to be in business to have a business card. If you want people who you meet to remember you and to be able to contact you again, you need to ensure that you give them a business card.


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