Business cards still a necessity

Networking with cards gives instant information, face recognition

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007

AMARILLO, Texas — Exchanging business cards is a ritual steeped in tradition.

And one most people rely on.

Despite the soaring necessity of PDAs, cell phones and e-mail signatures, the standard business card still is a critical advertising tool for most folks, from massage therapists to bank presidents.

“Honestly, I hate ‘em,” said Walter Riggs, Citibank senior relationship manager in Amarillo. “But I want them, and I give them out.”

Like most executives, Riggs depends on business cards for pertinent information about a company or individual, including phone numbers, e-mail, Web sites, fax numbers and street addresses.

Most important, however, is a person’s name.

“When I meet somebody, I try to give them a card early on because they might forget my name,” Riggs said. “Handing them a card helps eliminate that embarrassment.”

Cards are a nice little introduction, said Mary Coyne, senior vice president of McCormick Advertising.

“In a meeting, a group of people may end up with six of our cards,” she said. “They’ll shuffle them and match our faces with our names.”

She can’t think of a single client who doesn’t use cards.

“There are different forms and formats,” she said. “But when meeting people, you have to have a piece of paper to hand to somebody.”

Business cards evolved from visiting or calling cards, used by the Chinese in the 15th century and in Europe in the 17th century. Footmen would deliver cards to servants of hosts to introduce the arrival of aristocrats.

The tradition passed to North America, where the social elite used cards to validate fulfilling a social obligation.

Collecting cards in a tray was a handy method of knowing who called and whose calls should be reciprocated.

Today, business cards speak volumes about a person, said Judith Bowman of Protocol Consultants International, a New England-based firm offering training to those who wish to enhance their interpersonal skills.

“If I give you a cheap, laminated card, it’s like arriving at a meeting with day-old hair and shoddy shoes,” said Bowman, author of “Don’t Take the Last Donut: New Rules of Business Etiquette.”

She prefers engraved printing on a quality card stock with the individual’s name the focus of the card.

“The company name or logo should be subtle,” she said. “When I get your card, I want to know who you are.”

That’s exactly what J. Gaut considered when choosing a design for his business cards.

As owner of a commercial real-estate firm, he wanted his cards to resemble his real-estate signs.

They offer plenty of information, but his name is prominently displayed in the center.

Debbie Jeffers, regional vice president of Arbonne International cards include a full-color photo as well as a few bullet points describing the beauty products she sells.

“In all the research, people are more likely to keep a business card if it has a photo,” she said.

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