Pundits have rarely been so wrong. Once a hallmark of a successful businessperson, the calling card was predicted to die out in this increasingly digital age. Instead, business cards have evolved – but not necessarily in the exclusively bits and bytes manner one might expect.
Dating back to the Ming Dynasty in China, business cards have long been the primary means of contact information distribution from businesses to businesses or companies to consumers. The “visiting card,” as it was known then, made its way to Europe’s strict societies, which emphasized etiquette. Eventually, lithographers expanded the practice to a burgeoning 19th century middle class before cards took hold in the United States. Our entrepreneurial society latched onto the idea of spreading information and the card has evolved ever since.
Odds are, your business cards are printed on card stock in two or three colors. They might have information on both sides and a stylized logo, as well as basic facts like your name, position, address, phone and fax numbers, as well as your email and your company’s website. You could even have a slogan or a few basic company facts.
Your cards might follow the same basic pattern found elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop there.
Think about materials you can use for cards.
Recycled paper and eco-friendly ink is environmentally conscious, which helps meet ISO standard and resonates with clients. Maybe a high-tech appearance is a better bet; cards printed on thin steel, leather, cloth, carbon fiber or aluminum won’t cost substantially more, but they’ll stand out.
Regardless of the material, these unique cards are designed to make an impact, both to prospective accounts and to remind existing clients of your innovative approach.
Critics said that business cards would die when smartphones took over. The Blackberry didn’t kill them and iPhones and Androids helped evolve them.
The prevailing idea just a few years ago was that “bump” apps would be the ideal way of transferring information from one device to another. Bumping isn’t a lost concept, but it hasn’t reshaped business cards.
Perhaps the biggest advancement to the traditional business card model is the integration of QR (“quick response”) codes, small matrix barcodes designed to be read by a mobile phone’s camera. A simple wave of a smartphone over a QR barcode reveals significantly more information than before.
QR codes might have hit their Zenith at the South by Southwest festival earlier this year in Austin, Texas. Appearing on business cards, credentials, signage, flyers and giveaways, QR codes instantly linked recipients to a plethora of information – social media pages, websites, product information pages and way more.
But a QR code might be just the beginning for many. For one, they’re not necessarily appropriate everywhere. Many businesses ban mobile phone cameras in order to prevent sensitive information from escaping, while some business card transactions and reviews occur 35,000 feet above the air. Yep, you’ve probably passed out your card at least once on an airplane.
PlugYourBrand.com has an innovative – although costly – solution. USB business cards shaped and sized about like a thick credit card can plug right into computers to provide recipients with pre-loaded information, including product information or capability portfolios. At around $3 each when bought in bulk, they aren’t a mass market concept yet, but they do provide a sophisticated way of showing off capabilities.
USB sticks (thumb drives) are cheaper, but they offer packaging real estate for little more than a logo.
A paper card might suffice for now, but staying on the cutting edge dictates adding more to your standard business card. You don’t want to be playing catch up, do you?