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Each passing advancement in an age of unprecedented, hand-over-fist technological progress seems to change the way we do business just a little bit. A gadget here, a gizmo there seems to add up to making our work-a-day world lighter and easier. The key to staying on track and staying true to yourself, though, is remembering why you’re in business in the first place. And the answer to that is as old as the hills.

So as our age of electronic connectivity grows more comprehensive are old-school networking materials such as business cards still as relevant as they once were? Until the day we can morph into virtual doppelgangers of ourselves, it would certainly seem so.

It’s said business cards date back to 15th centuryChina. The card began, really, as a visiting or calling card, a social convention that was introduced toEuropein the 17th century. More recently, technology helped revive the business card, which today can be seen in a wide range of colours and printed on everything from a CD to wood and metal. There are even virtual versions.

The beauty of the old-fashioned business card has to be its simplicity. They require no batteries, no QR codes or lasers and they don’t need to be downloaded or even plugged in. Information made simply and offered simply.

Richard Moross, founder of Moo.com, aUnited Kingdomstart-up that prints customized business cards and other stationery, considers the business card the single most successful networking tool of all time. Moross says annual business card revenue beats that of social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn combined.

He contends that as our virtual world grows in complexity, our need for physical signs of life: meeting face to face, a handshake, a business card, are key life-giving forces in the business world. Business cards tell a great deal about a person’s personality that data transferred electronically simply doesn’t do.

And according to Moross, people are spending much more on their business cards in an effort to stand out.

So how do you make your card shine in a sky already filled with so many stars? Try these suggestions:

Customize your card to match your brand – Use your logo, your language and anything that distinguishes you from others.

Be intentional about what is on your card – think through your business card carefully – the information that goes on it matters.  If you don’t want strangers calling your cell phone, leave that number off; if your mailing address is not relevant, leave it off; if you use social media for networking, include those addresses on the card, remember any toll-free numbers, your website, a local phone and fax number, your NAME (I have seen this forgotten many times), your company and of course your branding. Not just your companies.

Print your card on good quality paper – Flimsy doesn’t cut it. You want paper that’s thicker, smoother, perhaps softer and textured as well.

Use both sides -- While that seems obvious, many don’t and what a waste that is. The back is a great spot to put your tag line or slogan or to list your services.

Consider a photo – There’s no room for shyness. A well-taken photograph of you speaks volumes and tells the business card bearer immediately who you are and what you do.

Consider formatting your card vertically – This makes your card stand out from the majority of horizontally formatted cards.

 

Business Card Best Practices:

The question isn’t whether business cards are still relevant. They are, obviously. The issue is what are you going to do to set yours apart. Below are 12 suggestions for WHERE and WHEN to use your business cards, to get the most use out of them:

Visiting open houses – Stop in at open houses, chat with the agent, get acquainted and give two cards – one to leave at the home and one for the agent to connect with you down the road.

Shopping – when you are shopping for personal or business purposes, every time you pay at the counter, mention the business you are in, and pass your card “just in case” they ever have any questions – after all the excellent service you received from them is the same standard you hold with your clients.

Networking lunches/breakfasts – this is obvious, but here is your opportunity to be shameless – every time you go, give everyone you speak with a card, and ask them to pass it on, or better yet, go prepared with a website or store you think they would be interested in and write it on your card before handing it to them – now they WANT to look at your card again.

Restaurant – whether out with your spouse, or with friends, have cards handy – the conversation with table mates or a server will inevitably move to real estate or the mortgage market – use that as the opportunity to pass your card with your Twitter address on it or website and suggest they check it out for ongoing valuable information and updates about the industry.

In the Office – it may seem obvious, but business cards should abound at the office – to hand to colleagues to discuss something, to hand to clients who drop in unexpectedly, or to use as a refuelling center for your purse, your car, your coat pockets and more.

Newsletters & mail outs throughout the year – if it can be helped, anytime you send any information to a client, prospect or referral source, include 2 business cards – it is easy for them to hand them out, and they are inexpensive enough that if they get tossed, you have not lost much.

Client meetings – Whether you are doing a listing presentation, a home evaluation, showing homes, meeting to sign mortgage documents or just meeting for coffee – even if they see you twice a week lately, give them a card each time.  It is professional for starters, and it ensures they will have your card on them and available always.  If the client says, I don’t need one, I have one already – suggest they give it to someone else when they refer you....and if they still prefer not to take one, honour that request.

Gala events, weddings, parties, or anywhere dressy – especially for women who don’t tend to have pockets or a large purse when all dressed up, bringing cards can be easily forgotten, but this is a great time to figure it out and bring a stack anyway – a couple of cocktails and hours and hours of chit chat is an opportune time to impress and provide those you meet to reconnect with you next week.

Reciprocity – if you want to be able to connect with someone later who impresses you professionally or seems like a valuable resource, hand them your card in order to ask for theirs.  Reciprocity is a great reason to give a card – now you have added to your data base.  If they don’t have one, hand them one of yours, and take a second card of your own to write down their email and phone number so you can follow up.

Conferences and Courses – When attending industry conferences and courses many professionals don’t worry about their cards because no clients will be there.  OOPS!  What about networking within your industry? Get to know the other players, let them know you love referrals and will take great care of their clients when they are not able to service their needs personally.  If there are gift bags being given out and you choose to invest in a token for each bag, be sure to attach your card so attendees know who to thank for their creativity and generosity.

Volunteering and Community Service Events – Doing good for the community doesn’t preclude you from networking.  Give your business card to people you meet and let them know you are excited to connect further with another like-minded person within the arena of philanthropy you are sharing in serving.  It is far too common a tale that people work side-by-side in volunteer work, and don’t even realize the calibre of professional they are standing next to – give those people the chance to do business with someone they already respect and admire: YOU.

Business card affiliates – Ask professionals with whom you work to swap a stack of business cards with you, so they can have your cards on hand or on display at their place of business and vice versa.  If a financial advisor can hand over the card of a mortgage broker he admires, there is a high likelihood his client will follow up.  If a trusted florist tells you the only REALTOR® in town they would depend on is the one whose card is on their check-out counter, why wouldn’t that buyer or seller contact that individual?

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