Business cards: don’t leave home without them

Despite advances in technology and smartphones that do everything except butter your toast, the humble business card is still the best business tool available by far.

robert bruce business cardsAs this author's weekend fades into a distant memory of champagne, sunburn, summer frocks and horses (I was at the BMW New Zealand Polo Open, thanks Metro Law for having me) I take stock of the mementos: wallet (good), sans cash (bad), keys (phew), toothpicks (gross), receipts (gulp) and a handful of dog-eared business cards.

My slightly foggy brain begins filtering the auto-archive of conversations about marketing and advertising and public relations and events with all these new people. My coffee kicks in, followed closely by my internal monologue: 'Ah yes that guy, he was nice! What did we talk about? Of course, we are going to charter a yacht together! I am going to refer some business to this guy –  I must follow up!' and on it goes. Evidently I had a busy weekend.

I find an email from myself to myself at 10pm Sunday night: 'Business cards = awesome. Write about this for Idealog' and so, here it is.

I believe the humble business card is by far the most useful tool any marketer, business owner or entrepreneur can possess. In my life I must have given out thousands, and received just as many, but no matter how I feel the day after a networking function or event I always follow them up.

When you are in business (especially in the SME space, but equally so at any level) your network is gold. You can spend $10,000 on a radio or web or billboard campaign, but meeting the right person at the right time and swapping business cards can have a far greater impact on your bottom line, in my opinion. A 50c business card that leads to a $20,000 job is a pretty impressive return on investment by any standards.

While I've noticed a recent trend away from handing out business cards, especially amongst Gen Y or younger/cooler crowds, I believe this is a big mistake.

There is something wonderfully authentic and professional about the act of starting a conversation then putting a business card in the other person's hand. The moment when you give your full attention to that card (finally learning their name, perhaps) is magical. You rub your thumb around the outside edge, testing the smoothness of the cut. Your finger glides over the embossed lettering; you unconsciously bend the card in your palm to test the strength and quality ... a moment that cannot be replicated by pulling out your phone. A card says something about its owner and can pose as many questions as it answers: Is this someone you want to know more about? Is it someone you want to do business with? Do you want to work with/for/against this person? Or perhaps you are secretly furious that their card is better than yours? (Hint: don't get psycho.)

If you recall my last post about business planning and really making 2013 awesome, one of my strategies was to increase my networking and generate more business. What I have learned is that if you network but don’t get any contact details from that person, then a huge opportunity has been lost. 

My tip for this week is to carry business cards and give them out freely, but more importantly always ask for one in return.

Happy Monday: go forth and network! And tell us, what's the best win you've had from a business card exchange? Share your thoughts here for the chance to win something (TBC)!

Robert Bruce is the founder of experiential marketing agency SublimeNZ (now part of Professional Public Relations), and a regular contributor to Idealog. Contact him at

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