Whether you are running a business or changing careers, you’ve likely been to at least one networking event. And like any attendee, you found yourself walking away with a handful of new contact and a pile of paper business cards. But in a world that is going digital, are printed business cards still relevant? Will virtual alternatives, like mobile apps and nameplate websites, replace or complement their paper counterparts? Here is a closer look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of paper and digital business cards.
Paper Business Cards
Benefit: Printed business cards give you an opportunity to communicate your brand with people you’d like to reconnect with in the future, starting with the first impression. In the age of visual content, these cards are a great visual reminder of who you are and what your business is all about.
Drawback: Did you recently update your phone number, email address, or website address? Are you changing your business name or undergoing a full-scale rebranding? Any changes made to the contact information provided on paper business cards calls for a new batch to be printed.
Benefit: Paper business cards come in handy at conferences, trade shows, professional lunches, and other in-person networking events. When someone asks for your cars, it means they want a reminder of who you are and how you met. Jotting a quick note on your printed business card will help them recall this information when following up with you later.
Drawback: Quantities are finite, as you can only pass out as many business cards as you bring. You need to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get them printed and shipped when you are running low.
Digital Business Cards
Benefit: Mobile Apps like SnapDat, One Card, and Handshake, allow you to share your electronic business cards with other smartphone users. You can create a personalized virtual business card (vcard) and easily send your contact information to other app users via their username. These apps also allow you to email your vCard to non-app users.
Drawback: Digital business card sites are hot one day, and gone the next. Contact sharing tools like Bump, Card.ly, BeamMe, and My Name is E was recently popular but are now defunct. Plus, not all mobile options are available on both iPhone and Android, and some free versions require both users to have the app installed on their smartphones. Other mobile apps only work if both parties are on the same WiFi network, which makes sharing information difficult if the connection, is poor.
Benefit: Web-based business cards can help you maximize your online networking and generate opportunities to be found online. Professional nameplate websites, such as about.me, re.vu, icon.me, flavors.me, allow visitors to discover more about you, learn how to reach you, and see some of your best work. Once your page is created, you can link yo your email signature and social media profiles for extra exposure.
Drawback: Want to link your vCard to a custom domain? Some nameplate websites allow you to link the two, yet often considered a premium feature. While more than affordable than designing a traditional website, you’ll be required to pay an annual fee (or essentially, rent the web design).
Even in a tech-focused world, there is still a place for classic paper business cards. Here are a few easy ways you can merge your real-world activities with your virtual presence.
• Add digital elements. Use a QR code on your printed business card to making visiting your website or vCard easy.
• Leverage social media. You are particularly active on a couple of social media platforms, include their icons and your handles on your paper business cards so new contacts will know where and how to connect with you socially.
• Manage contacts efficiently. Instead of logging all you’re now contacts by hand, use scanning programs to digitize paper business cards. These programs will import the information directly onto your Smartphone’s contacts list and save you the hassle of entering all the data manually.