Business cards have long been a staple of networking events. But, in the digital world, are they worth the expense?
Brian Himmelman, B.Comm., CFP
President, Himmelman and Associates, Halifax, N.S.
Years in business: 17
It would be foolish not to have a card, but they’re not required any longer. Now, I use email, LinkedIn or someone’s website to make contact. On the other side, a lot goes through your mind when you look at a card—you get a better understanding of your new contact. You can see whether the person has a home-printed card, or whether he’s established and corporate. Seeing someone’s title may immediately tell you more about his work. You may meet somebody and, in conversation, may not grasp where he fits in his business’s hierarchy—but his card says “vice-president” or “marketing director.”
On my card, I tried to emulate an accounting firm’s. It’s clean, with lots of white space. It’s conservative with a matte finish. It’s flat but textured, like linen. Including a photo can work for or against you, so I decided to go with no photo. There’s also no description of the products we offer. Some people list 20 different services on the back of their cards, and it makes them seem like jacks-of-all-trades.
Susan Stefura, CFP, R.F.P., FCSI, TEP, Fellow of the FPSC
Principal, Bespoke Financial Consulting, Toronto
Years in business: 24
This is our first year in our new business, and we’ve been doing a lot of networking. When walking into a room of people ready to hear your presentation, it’s habit to hand them cards. But the business card will one day be obsolete. Now, as long as people know my name, they can track me down.
Still, you need a physical object for contacts. I was at a conference and someone handed out a postcard instead of a business card. People were reading it because it was different. We plan on handing postcards out at our next client event. We can tailor the postcard to the event topic because they’re relatively inexpensive to prepare. We’re using an online company and getting 50 postcards for $15.
A postcard is also more than a business card. It’s harder to lose because it’s bigger; maybe you’ll use it as a bookmark. Whereas, with a business card, I enter the information in my computer, put it away and hardly ever see it again.
The postcard includes what our services are, what our approach is and what our beliefs are. Ideally, you want everybody going to your website because that’s where you can tell your story. The postcard is a condensed version of that.
Ngoc Day, CFP, CIM, RFP, TEP, M.Sc.
Fee-only advisor, Macdonald, Shymko and Company, Vancouver
Years in business: 12
I ask for other people’s business cards and find them useful. After a meeting, I use new contacts’ cards to find them on LinkedIn, or their websites. It helps me learn information I hadn’t gleaned from our conversation. The contact details from these cards also go into my Outlook database, so I can easily share that information with my partners.
I’m also starting to see people scanning each other’s phones to swap contact information. Scanning iPhones is the future of networking, but it’s not as popular as I thought. I was at a conference with more than 600 delegates, and people were still handing out business cards.
I would forget someone if their information was automatically scanned into my phone. That’s because I grew up using business cards, so I’m comfortable with the physical cards—the younger generation isn’t like that any more.
Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.