networking with digital business cards

Rethinking Business Cards for a Digital Era

If you’ve ever left an event with 15 business cards but little memory of the connections you made with those individuals, you’re not alone. While digital business cards can help reduce the clutter, there are other creative ways associations can revamp their printed business cards to reinforce networking and engagement.

The humble business card many of us know and love is typically 3.5-by-2 inches, fits snuggly into a wallet or purse, and lets you easily share your contact information. But does the standard still stand up in a post-pandemic environment?

“The idea of printing business cards isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago,” said Justin Burniske, principal consultant at Meta-Dao. “Now associations are considering the purpose of these cards and how they can help forward their organization’s goals.”

One option that association pros may consider is switching to a digital version. With a digital card, you can provide a URL link or QR code that recipients can either click or scan to access your information. Though this cloud-based record can serve as a one-stop access point for your business’ digital presence, it does have setbacks.

“Being able to access your website isn’t a guarantee that recipients pay attention to it among the other open tabs their phone,” Burniske said. “There’s a danger of losing the connection you built during your meeting.”

According to Burniske, no one has cracked the code to the perfect digital business card. But he sees potential with blockchain technology.

“As a concept, this technology could help keep your identity safe and ensure you can share your information when you choose to,” he said. “But I think we’re at least five years away from something that’s adopted widely enough to replace the physical business card.”

Until that time comes, there are still ways to transform your business card into a tool that enhances networking and promotes engagement.

Digital Business Card User Experience

When Burniske started at Meta-Dao, the company didn’t have standard business cards it gave to staff, so he was free to experiment and take a thoughtful approach to his card.

“In my line of work, we spend a lot of time thinking about user experience. I would advise associations to take that approach to business cards,” Burniske said.

For example, traditional business cards often include the organization’s physical address. Sometimes that  info can be useful—for instance, if a vendor or sponsor is shipping materials to an association—but with many people working hybrid or remote, including an address may just take up space on your card.

“Deciding what to include on your card should be a meaningful decision from the address to the information you include about your organization,” Burniske said.

When designing his card, Burniske considered user experience and the limitations he found when collecting business cards from others.

Courtesy of Justin Burniske

“When I’d collect a lot of cards, I sometimes forgot the faces of the people attached to them, and I’d go through the staff directory on the website, which took time and effort,” he said. “So, I decided to include my photo on my card to help others who may have a similar issue.”

Burniske also wanted his card to serve as a helpful reminder to recipients of their initial meeting with him. In his research, Burniske found that most companies included their logo on the back of the card, which left little room for information about the company or space to write meeting notes.

“That led me to include a line on the back that says, ‘I talked to Justin about …’ and lists areas that I cover, as well as space at the bottom for the recipient to write notes,” he said. “The phrasing ‘I talked with x’ felt personal, which makes a lot of sense of associations that are all about relationship-building.”

This approach also puts the organization front and center—listing major focal points allows the recipient to learn about your association’s work and priorities. When they’re reviewing business cards after a conference, they’ll have a better chance of remembering what was discussed and what to follow up about.

“You can tailor this approach to your specific role,” Burniske said “If you’re in membership, you can include your association’s top membership benefits on the back. If you’re in sales, consider including the perks you offer to sponsors and vendors.”

No matter what tweaks you make, it’s critical to use the real estate of the card effectively.

“If you are going to give someone your card, give them a reason to reach out, whatever it may be,” Burniske said.


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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