We’ve all had the displeasure of meeting the conference leeches who walk around spamming out business cards. That’s why there is one rule at every event we produce. “No handing out business cards unless the other person asks for it first.”
As much as I hate to admit it, business cards still fulfill an important role in the world. There’s just no faster, more frictionless way to share contact information. Sure it just punts the ingesting of said information down to a later time for the recipient, but it allows two people to exchange contact info in less than a second. But what if there was an even better way? It’s been a pet project of ours for several years now, and we think we’ve found it.
Business cards suck for at least 47 different reasons, but let’s just tackle the top five here…
- They’re static. Even if all the information is up to date, they have nothing current or interesting to draw people into an ongoing conversation.
- You never have them when you need them. This is the biggest one for me. If I keep them with me in my wallet, the edges quickly look tired and worn. If I don’t, “Oh, sorry I don’t have any on me at the moment.”
- They take time and money to produce. This is a smaller inconvenience, but I’d rather spend the money on a lunch than ordering a 1000 new cards for every employee. Not to mention it’s a piece of paper that you’re practically asking someone to throw away for you when you hand it to them.
- No context. How many times have you returned from a trip or conference with a stack of cards, and tried to remember which person went with which card?
- They’re boring. This is the worst offense of all. No matter how much you spend on each card, what space age material you make it out of, it’s still just a meh experience.
Let’s be honest, I never have business cards with me. I just don’t think about it. So several years ago we started working to improve how we think about sharing contact info in a live setting. It needed to be:
- At Least 10x Better Than Traditional Business Cards
I love me some automation, so that’s the first place I turned. Hell, I’d automate brushing my teeth in the morning if I could. Version 1.0 was created by Justin, our COO, and was simply a webform that created a new contact in our CRM and autoresponded with our contact info in an email.
The thing that I love most about automation is that once you have the building blocks in place, it all comes down to creativity and empathy to create better and better experiences. For Version 2.0 I realized that there were two types of people I typically met. Ones that I really wanted to pursue relationships with, and those that I’d be content letting the universe bring us together again if necessary. So I made a second form for the first category. One that would ping me a couple days later to follow up with that person for lunch or coffee. Around this time, we also added shortcuts on my phone to the two different forms for easy access at events.
People really seemed to love it, but it still didn’t provide context to who the other person was and wasn’t 10x better of an experience than traditional cards. So for the third iteration, we broke the web form up into two sections. There’s the typical fields for the person to fill out, then it says “Thanks! Hand the phone back.” and has three more fields for our employees to quickly fill out.
- Contact Type Dropdown – Context for what type of relationship it is. (Lead, Competitor, etc)
- Follow Up Check Box – This eliminates the need to have two different forms for people I want to grab lunch with.
- Notes – A brief area to jot down something memorable that goes directly into their contact notes in the CRM.
To make it a full 10x better experience, we started adding more information to the email. In addition to the contact info, we added a link to the person’s bio, and info about current interesting projects they’ve been working on, paying special attention to adding conversation starters. It takes a few minutes for the system to send the email, so I’ve had so many times where I’ve moved on to a new group at an event, and 20 minutes later someone comes back up and starts talking about how amazing the email is and the projects we’ve been working on. Queue a new line of people asking for my contact info.
Whether we’re building this for a new employee or a new client, I always try to remind people that business cards can never be a replacement for being an interesting person. But these sure take some of the pressure off. Good luck killing business cards in your organization too, and reach out if you have any questions or ideas!