Fast Company

The iPhone vs. The Business Card

Ditch your business card; it's bad for business and the environment. With Gmail and my iPhone, every meeting follow up is personalized, conveniently archived, and facilitates networking. The experience of being cardless has turned me into a digital evangelist.

How it works:

Inevitably, when a conversation runs dry and I'm asked, "So, do you have a business card?" I respond proudly "Actually, no, I've gone completely digital. But, I'll send you an email tonight. What's your preferred email?" Usually, I get praised for being 'cutting-edge' or environmentally consciousness. On the spot, I enter their email in my Appigo To-Do application, type a one word reminder beside it, and have them look at my screen to make sure it was spelled correctly. At home, I enter them into my Gmail contacts system and 'tag' them by various groups. For instance, an mp3 distributer from India will tagged as "International," "Entertainment," and "Technology." Finally, I email them with a one sentence summary of our conversation, a request to learn more about their interests, and give links my various blogs, social media, etc.

Why It's Better:

1). It Builds Connections
Exchanging business cards is like breaking up with a girlfriend: you both smile, say you'll keep in touch, and never speak again. With email, I've created a convenient, one-click way for them to introduce me to their business network and vice-versa. Email continues the conversation, advertises my Web-presence, and builds my relationships. With business cards, more often than not, I'd find one in my jacket pocket weeks later, strain to remember the meeting, give up trying, and toss it away.

2). Paper 'is sooooo' technology 1.0
Many people juggle more than one business persona: I have multiple business ventures, twitter accounts, and email addresses. Paper is too static and too small to capture my constantly changing and multi-headed business life. With Gmail, I can send email from any address I wish. So, for instance, if it's an education related correspondence, I'll send an email that looks like it's from my .edu address.
3). Cards are an embarrassment in the Recession

I'm constantly being handed business cards from people who no longer work for business on the card. Each hand-off is accompanied with an embarrassing cover-story explaining their untimely departure. Instead, substituting email would allow the unfortunately victims of the Recession to retain their credibility, while appearing tech-savvy and environmentally friendly at the same time.

4). I don't waste time brooding over graphic design
It is profoundly silly how obsessive compulsive business cards have made us. I could just kick myself for all the time I wasted agonizing over font type and paper quality. Unless you're the guy in the video below, I think it's best not to define your business potential on a 3.5x2 sheet of paper:

5). All of my meetings are archived and searchable.
Remembering all the people I meet is an unwieldy task. With Gmail, I can search a person by virtually any memorable event: time of meeting, subject of conversation, or business field. I've recovered countless business opportunities by searching previous emails of meetings I didn't know would be valuable until weeks later.

So, I say join the digital revolution: save a tree, make connections, and ditch your business card.

Greg Ferenstein

Follow Me On Twitter

See My Public Presentations

Add New Comment

8 Comments

  • Jake

    I can see how this clearly benefits your way of doing things, as it helps facilitate the way you like to operate. But clearly, if they are asking for a business card (as opposed to just your email address) that is because it's how they prefer to operate.

  • Sylvia Duckworth

    My business card is on my SMARTphone, in the form of a QR code. New contact can scan code and then add it to their new contacts on their phone right away.

  • PVS Giridhar

    Think I am going to try it. Actually I notice that when I want not to lose someone's contact info, I generally store their phone no. and/or e-mail id on my mobile. Thanks, PVS Giridhar, IP Lawyer, India

  • Simon Erich

    In general, I think having digital alternatives to an analog solution is a good thing... but disagree with completely removing the physical business card from that list of options. I use 'Bump' on the iPhone (for other iPhone users) and 'Contxts' (which is probably the best 'digital business card' I've seen (try it, text "hello simon" to 50500). But honestly, more people remember (and ask) for my business card than any other method of contact. With cheap offset printing from places like OvernightPrints.com, it really isn't that expensive, and you never really know how wired the people you meet will be. If it's working for you, more power to ya!

  • Chris Hopkinson

    Great piece. There are several iPhone apps for exchanging contact info. We've built the only one that works across iPhone, BlackBerry, WinMobile, Android and any text based phone. Plus, we automatically update your address book any time a contact updates their info. And, we've partnered with LinkedIn so you can send a LinkedIn invite along with your contact info.

    Check us out at; www.dubmenow.com

    Cheers,
    Chris Hopkinson
    DubMeNow
    chris@dubmenow.com
    @dubmenow

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    Great, Terrence! And, its not just multiple ventures, but multiple ways of describing each venture. Its like being able to tailor your business card to each contact.

    --
    @wikiworld
    Digg: Wikiworld

  • Terrence Chavis

    I think I might adopt this practice. I agree with all the points that Greg made in this article. This is particularly relevant for those of us who have multiple ventures going on.