Are business cards still relevant to marketing?

Estimated reading time: 3 min

As a child I was fascinated by business cards.

business card boxes

Rebecca’s discarded business card storage boxes

My curiosity was piqued when I was earning some holiday money in my father’s office doing admin and filing. His business partner, David, had a corner office with a deep windowsill. It had a tiled surface and every couple of feet was a small stack of business cards. I had never seen anything like this before and while he was not looking I picked up a pile and started to leaf through the stack reading each one.

When he came back from lunch I asked him what they were and he explained that this was how business people exchange their contact details. I asked him if I could have some and he was surprised.

It was a curious thing for a 12-year-old to be interested in. He kindly sorted through a pile and gave me a dozen. “There” he said “now you can be a collector of business cards”.

I thought this was a supercool hobby and was sure that none of my friends was doing anything even remotely as interesting.

I collect business cards

Fast forward a few years and of course I’m now a marketing specialist and business to business marketing hangs off databases and your ability to stay in touch with your customers. Business cards are no longer a thing of the past but they certainly are an element of off-line marketing that has not transferred smoothly into the online world.

I vividly remember an early app called bump when you could tap knuckles with another person and exchange business cards through your mobile phones. It was one of those great SXSW digital innovations that really never meet reached the mainstream.

There was another app which I sorely miss which was CardMunch, it scanned your  business card via the camera and automatically sent a LinkedIn connection request. Of course it got bought by LinkedIn and they shut it down. Sad days.

But what about business databases?

There are a lot of things that a business could be doing with customer data but I find that few firms actually take advantage of the information they already have let alone the information they could obtain.

Let’s run a quick checklist.

  • Where do you keep customer data in your business?
  • Where or other places where data is kept for example in your account system.
  • Can you pull these into a single place?
  • How often do you message your customers?
  • If someone is on your mailing list and that email bounces what happens?
  • What are you doing to add new names to your database each month and to refine the existing subscribers so that people who do not open your messages are removed or message less frequently?

Get answers to these questions by “mystery shopping” your own firm.

Having good data discipline is a really strong underpinning to a robust business to business marketing plan.

Your job for today

Think back to me as the young kid who thought collecting business cards was cool. Take a look at where your business could collect customer data and what actually happens when you do.

I hazard a guess that there are a lot of opportunities which are extremely low cost, could lead to valuable customer relationships and more sales.

Go get them.

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