Business cards are still crucial in a digital age

Still using business cards? You're certainly not alone. Despite the many apps and digital tools that have threatened to replace its archaic functionality, the humble card lives on.

In 2015, nearly 10 billion business cards were printed in the United States alone, according to statistics quoted by global digital print company, MOO.

MOO's revenue has doubled every two years over the past decade, with business cards a key driver. The company prints on average 500,000 of them globally every day, mostly for small businesses.

"Many tools and technologies have tried replacing business cards, however none have succeeded," says MOO's Cathy Berman.

"Virtual business cards are a great example. They're very useful when trying to share contact information but the exchange is less impactful. You don't have a chance to showcase your brand and identity through a virtual business card the same way you would via a regular one.

I think it speaks of being professional, identifying yourself as a company with a brand.

Samuel Spurr

"It's still such an important part of the ceremony, when people meet in a business setting, that I think business cards will go out of fashion only when people stop shaking hands," she says.

Industry ritual

Samuel Spurr, founder of PR and marketing agency Inlumino Communications, says the ritual of exchanging business cards still plays an important role in his industry.

"Obviously with the advent of LinkedIn you can find out someone's personal details before you meet them," says Spurr.

"But when business cards come into their own is when you go to those face-to-face meetings. I think it speaks of being professional, identifying yourself as a company with a brand.

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"Obviously, from the recipient's point of view, they receive something physical and tangible that they can take away with them."

Instant memory

Cards are no less relevant even for tech companies, says Daniel Clark of Townske, a startup offering virtual city guides for travellers.

"It's all about networking when you're launching a new platform, and I don't think anyone's got a technical solution to replacing a business card," he says.

"Business cards are super easy to quickly pull out and give to someone. When you're first networking with someone, most people forget the person's name. A business card allows you to instantly remember that and you don't have to get sidetracked with a technical solution."

Rather than rendering business cards extinct, technology has enabled them to become more dynamic and memorable for recipients.

New printing capability offered by MOO enables customers to have a different image printed on each card, within a pack of 50 cards.

Bateman effect

The options for creativity have certainly expanded, since that iconic scene in American Psycho, when Patrick Bateman and colleagues show off their cards as a measure of prestige.

"Individuality is just as important when creating business cards as it was in 2000 when the movie came out and 1991 when the novel shocked the world," says MOO's Berman.

"Patrick Bateman and his colleagues expressed their individuality through their choice of paper, while keeping design flourishes to an absolute bare minimum.

"Now we're seeing much more focus on the design thanks, in big part, to greater access to design software and online tools. Other than that though, things have not changed significantly. They took a lot of pride in their business cards, just like our customers do [today]," she says.

Four tips for a killer card

Berman has a number of tips for those currently in the market for a new business card.

1. Keep it brief

"Filter through the information and make sure to only include what is necessary," she says.

"Focus on methods of communication that are actively used. So if one is always checking Twitter but never answers the phone, skip the phone number and include the Twitter handle, and so on.

"It is also recommended to keep all information on one side for ease of use."

2. Be memorable

With all the important details on one side, Berman says the other should be used to make an impression.

"What this looks like can really depend on the personality, business, industry and more. From photographer and designers, to potters and jewellery makers, businesses can use their cards to showcase some of their best work," she says.

"For those who are less design-savvy, there are other ways to stand out – bold colours, unique logos, business-appropriate humour."

3. Don't overlook quality

Berman says a flimsy, poorly printed card could send all the wrong messages about your business.

"This does not mean spending hundreds of dollars on ten cards, but it's important to remember that quality and attention to detail are very important," she says.

"It might also be a great idea to request free sample cards before purchasing, to see the quality first hand."

4. Ditch the gimmicks

And she advises that while it is important to be memorable, it's just as important not to go overboard.

"Any card that does not showcase key contact details up front, for example one that requires unfolding, becomes a bit gimmicky and less impactful," she says.

"[And] a bit of humour might be good, but too much can lead to a sense of unprofessionalism – cards often need to cater to all different audiences."

Are business cards still important for you in your role? Let us know in the Comments section.

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