The Business Card episode

Physical business cards should have been extinct by now. But somehow they are still around

It’s the same story for me at every conference or meeting I attend. There is an elaborate 7 step process which is followed to exchange contact details…

  • Step 1 — Meet someone new
  • Step 2 — Reach in to my pocket
  • Step 3 — Fish out my business card and hand it over to the person in front.
  • Step 4 — Receive his business card…
  • Step 5 — Take out my phone…
  • Step 6 — Click a picture of his card on a mobile app which stores all his data on the cloud. This app is also synced with my contact list and automatically updates it with this new contact.
  • Step 7 — Locate the trash can and slam dunk the crumpled up cards in them

Now in an age where cars have become automated, it is a bit baffling that there is no simple, paperless and universal way of exchanging business cards!

Let’s list down the possible alternatives and evaluate them one by one

Social Media Sites like LinkedIn

Pros

  • Paperless, Instant, Zero Cost

Cons

  • While most people have a LinkedIn profile, they aren’t really active. So it defeats the whole purpose
  • Most LinkedIn profiles don’t include contact details like phone number and email id. The only way of communication is through LinkedIn message or InMail which again is quite non-responsive

Cloud Based Mobile Applications like CamCard

Pros

  • Paperless, Stored on the cloud, Zero Cost

Cons

  • There is still a need for the physical business card to be scanned and stored on the cloud
  • The details need to be carefully checked since the image reader gets the text wrong most of the times

Apps like Bump and Beam Me

Pros

  • Paperless, Instant, Cost effective

Cons

  • It’s not universal since both parties need to have the same application
  • It has issues in transferring between iPhone and Android platforms

There are some more alternatives which I haven’t listed but almost all have the basic issue of not being universal in nature. There are always constraints around mutually exclusive platforms, lack of adoption, or the whole process of converting from physical to digital manually.

I am not sure what the perfect alternative is but here are some things which it needs to consider

  1. It needs to be universal: I don’t want to meet someone new, show off my super sexy new business card application, only to realise that it doesn’t work for him. The biggest thing working for physical visiting cards is that everyone has them. They might be of different shapes, sizes, designs etc. but everyone has them and in most cases it has the information people are looking for. This means that whenever there is a transaction (card exchange), both parties have something to share…which results in a successful outcome.
  2. It should be hassle free: As mentioned earlier, whenever i exchange visiting cards I end up performing a 7 step process. This needs to be simplified much more. Can it be as simple as introducing oneself verbally? It needs to be a voluntary action…but once the person has agreed to share information then it should be totally hassle free
  3. It should be low cost: This sort of ties in to the first point mentioned. One of the key factors for anything to become universal is its affordability and hence the need for low cost. No point having a super sexy technology which is unaffordable
  4. It should be easy to store for posterity: Although we are in the era of SnapChat which doesn’t believe in storing anything for posterity, visiting cards are quite the opposite. There needs to be something on the lines of how google has enabled storing phone contacts on the cloud for times to come. And please...no physical cards!

So do we have any solutions or ideas out there which can address these? Would love to know!