Myth has it that in Japan business cards are handled like crossbreeds of raw eggs and diamonds. Not only do they carry contact data, they are all but considered an extension of the person. The recipient bows while respectfully handling the card with both hands, taking the time to study it carefully. And they should, as they have to behave towards the owner of the card according to their status and rank in social hierarchy. So they convey very valuable information.
While in western cultures the exchange of business cards does not involve as much etiquette, it is still a matter of some importance in setting the tone for the following business exchange. Because, even if people don’t consider their calling card an extension of their person or company, they still put a lot of effort in designing the content and layout of this little piece of cardboard. So I find that it usually goes a long way to appreciate what is written on the card. To the giver of the card it tends to communicate that I am willing to appreciate them. And I find it easier to start a conversation with people if I can get a clue from their contact card to get me going.
Visiting Cards Should Provide Footing to Walk the Connection Path
Yet this is where I find business cards in our culture strikingly lacking: some of them are so sleek that your eyes seem to glide off the letters printed on them. That is of course very telling about the owner of this visiting card – at least it speaks to me as saying “I am so smooth and cool that you will not find any gap in my impression managed outer shell – so let’s stay on a very superficial level, shall we?” Now, impression management and authenticity are two topics that make me prick my ears – but that’s a different story that I will talk about some other time. Suffice it to say here: it’s not quite the invitation to strike up a conversation, is it? And what good is a business card for networking if it keeps people at a distance? If communicating an unapproachable stance is the desired effect, then this type of card fully serves its purpose. As long as the owners are aware of that it’s all nice and dandy. So, that covers the sleek type of business card.
Business Cards Help Transport Your Image
Then there’s the cheerful one. Often very ‘cute’. In a double sense of the word: on one side, I’ve often seen sweet little comics or landscape-background graphics on these calling cards, in an attempt to, hmm, make them more personal, I guess?! Don’t get me wrong: I really think making them more personal is a great idea! In fact I think this point is so important that my QRu business card actually features a comic, one depicting the gist of our service (‘Hello, my name is Maren. And QRu?’). And it may actually achieve the purpose of making a contacts card more memorable (we hope), and standing out of the masses is generally a good thing. It might also play well in the terms of providing a conversation starter. Especially if you’re in the child care business or an interior designer or working in some other field, where you deem it suitable, this might also reflect your style and thus be valuable information. If you really thought this through and found it portrays the image you want to broadcast, great. But here comes the other connotation of cute: to me it can also mean ‘unprofessional’, because cute and business just don’t fit together very well. More often than not, these ‘cute’ business cards are also noticeably ‘home designed’, at least one gets the impression that someone just discovered screen beans in their slides producing software. Or that they’re printed from one of those business card vending machines with limited templates available. What message is this supposed to convey about the card giver? Yes, I do have a few people in my network that have started out with this type of card (and some Pollyannas actually still use them), but I dare say it’s more despite than because of their calling cards. With websites like 99designs.com you can get your calling card professionally designed for less than 200$ (180€). I think that is well-invested money.
A Token to Be Remembered by
And then there’s a third group, which probably makes up the lion share of business cards: the standard card. I would define them as professional yet witless visiting cards that convey a rather conformist set of contact data (name, number, email address and maybe a job title). Nothing wrong with that. Not all right either, though. Often this type of card is mandatory when someone works for a bigger company or corporation. Yes, it transports all the relevant contact data, but the question is, whether it motivates the potential networking partner (client, customer, co-operation buddy, future team member or coffee-drinking-sparring-partner) to remember the card owners, let alone get in touch with them. I contend that no, it doesn’t. Now, there’s a subgroup to the standard business card owners: the cunning ones that add a photo to their card. Well. If you have a photo on your visiting card, then let me try to break it to you gently: The idea of providing a memory hook to the names-challenged among us is really sweet. Yet – even if it helps me remember someone by putting a face to the name – it rarely (in my experience so far: never) comes across as professional. Just don’t.
Why We Recommend QRu Codes
The good news is: there is a solution to all this! It is called QRu. Of course we are going to claim that adding a QRu code is the best way to optimize your business card. Because it is. :D
Explanation of QRu – the Digital Business Card
For those of you, who just stumbled into this blog looking for networking tips, here comes a quick summary of what our service offers: we provide you with a tiny QR code that leads to your rich digital business card. The recipient of the calling card with a QRu code on it scans this QR code and immediately sees the contact data provided by the QRu member and additionally has the option to receive the full data as a vCard for easy import into smartphones. Now, what contact data is included in the ‘rich contact data’? Your standard information, needless to say, plus social networks, more email addresses, more phone numbers, some additional information in the notes section (opening hours, competencies, conferences you attended, … get creative!) and (this will delight the standard cunning types among you) your photo!
Why We Had the Idea for QRu
The photo was actually one of the reasons we started the whole QRu service. Because I am well aware that it is much easier to remember a person when you have visual information available on top of the text. I just never wanted to put my picture on the card itself.
The main reason for starting QRu was that I kept wondering, how to make it easier for potential network partners of mine to get my contact data into their phone. All those scan-a-business-card apps never worked well enough for me, since there was usually some manual correction necessary. Encoding the contact data of my calling card into a QR code seemed like an obvious solution. If you ever tried this, you will have noticed that those QR codes get fairly big fairly quickly! Not so pretty. And it takes up room on the visiting card that I’d personally rather use for something else. In my case I came up with a little idea-generating tool that is now printed on the back of my card. And the front has some basic contact data, my logo and the QRu code. The beauty of such a tiny QR code like the one we provide at QRu is that not only it doesn’t clutter up your card, but also it can be prettified and made to fit the style of your visiting card. And on top of it all, it conveys so much more information than you could ever possibly print on that card.
So the recipient of your card is relieved from having to type your contact information to digitalize it (and potential typos are avoided, too). Hence we call it the digital business card, as it really bridges the gap between digital address book and paper card (or flyer, poster, brochure, you name it). The regular networking event visitors among you will probably find this idea as appealing as I did. If you do, just sign up for our service (there’s a free and a paid version, so you can try it out without worries!). And hopefully, the next time you sit at your desk after a successful conference and are trying to enter all that relevant data into your digital address book, you will sit assured that the recipients of your QRu-enhanced business cards are unburdened from this cumbersome task.
Summing It up…
For networking I think the main benefit of having a good business card is that you enjoy handing it out. If you manage to use it as a springboard to initiate a conversation, even better. That could be a provocative job title or an inspiring quote on the back, or whatever helps you extend the impression you want to make as a person onto your business card. And as a favor to the recipients, the digital business card produces less ‘event aftermath’. Another plus: next time you run out of calling cards, just provide your QRu code for your network aspirant to scan from your smart phone. This works fine as a backup, but I believe the tangible business card will not be going out of style for a while, so I would generally prefer to also have the relevant contact data at hand in physical business card format for my networking counterpart.