Stop fixating on business cards!

There are better investments you can make to be memorable

I always look people up on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Google too. It’s my preferred way to learn more about someone with whom I’m interested in doing business.

If you hand me a business card, but I can’t find recent or useful information about you online… Let’s just say that it doesn’t bode well.

I can’t recall a single time that my own card helped me land business either. My most valuable business, and all of my jobs, came from warm intros and internal champions. No card involved.


I have a huge stack of biz cards acquired from networking meetings, conferences, etc. Just found hundreds of them in an old office box that I forgot to unpack. Clearly, they weren’t very important.

There were only a very small handful of people who made such an impression that I immediately looked them up on social media or LinkedIn, and followed or connected with them before the end of that day. The other cards gathered dust.

As I witnessed my son exchanging Snapcodes with some people he met on his college campus yesterday, it made my business cards feel like tools from a bygone era.


I do think that business cards can be useful, but they only help in three cases:

  1. It’s culturally expected that you exchange cards. While business card usage is declining here for the younger generation, that may not be true everywhere you go. In this situation not having a card negatively impacts someone’s impression of you and risks a connection. I like to have a very small number of cards in my wallet for these “formal emergencies.”
  2. You’re dealing with someone old like me. When I meet business folks my age (or older), they sure do love to exchange cards.
  3. You’re a salesperson and you actively collect and use cards for sales leads. Some people are in industries where this is more common. It’s kind of a spammy “spray and pray” approach to sales. I know that I don’t enjoy being the recipient, but maybe it works with large enough numbers.

My preference to business cards?

  • Be highly memorable and engage deeply with a few people vs. skimming the surface. As an introvert, that’s my preferred interaction at an event anyway. I’m more likely to follow up with someone who engages with me in a meaningful conversation vs. someone who just hands me a card and walks away after a minute.
  • Be amazingly easy to find when people search for you on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. That means dominating SEO for your name. One thing I often say to people who ask for my card (when I don’t have one handy), “Look me up online. I’m super easy to find.” That’s because I actively invest in maintaining my online presence.
  • Don’t get lost in the crowd at events where people are tossing around business cards like confetti. Instead, be the one up on stage, giving a talk and presenting. Then, you’ll have slides the size of a billboard with your name and contact info, being seen by everyone in the room, while you speak uninterrupted for 30–60 mins vs. trying to get a word in edgewise in a cluster of people.

Be memorable and be easy to find online

Still want to carry around a few business cards? Sure. Do that. Just don’t expect that they will make anyone remember you.


Update:

I participated in some interesting and heated discussions on this topic on Facebook. As you can imagine, some people do think that they get value out of their business cards. Unlike the “old days,” there are ways to test this now.

Experiment with this and let me know if you’re getting inbound contact from your cards!

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