Business Cards: Information or Clutter?

They’re everywhere – those cute little 2- by 3 ½-inch paper rectangles with colorful logos, attractive graphics, and snappy tag lines.  We pick them up at stores and doctors’ offices.  People hand them to us at business meetings or social events.  We feel empowered and connected because now we have information.

Now what?

If your business card collection is sitting in a big pile with a rubber band around it, or in a shopping bag in the back of the closet, then that’s not information.  That’s clutter!

The purpose of a business card is to communicate contact information so that future contact can be made.  Unless you make that contact information available to you, you might as well throw the card away.

So what can you do turn that clutter into actionable information?

– Transfer the data from the card to your contact database of choice.  It could be your e-mail program, your cell phone, or a robust contact management program like AIM.  Whatever your preferred way of maintaining contact info, moving that data off the card and into your contact database is key to making it actionable.

– Don’t like to type?  Consider getting a business card scanner.  I have a CardScan Executive.  It’s fast and it captures an image of the business card.  This is helpful for those people who are visual and need to see the card to have better recall about the person.  However, as with all optical scans, you need to proofread the results and make sure that all of the information was accurately captured and that it went into the right data fields.  The fancier the business card, the more editing it will need after scanning.

– To increase the value of the information, be sure to add some notes about this contact.  Where and when did you meet this person?   What did you discuss?   If it’s a card from a store, what do they sell there and why are you interested in retaining this information?  If your program allows you to categorize your contacts, that is also useful.

– Try to process your business cards as you collect them instead of waiting until you have a big heap.  Doing one or two every few days will prevent this from being a big chore.  It will also enable you to have better recall about the circumstances surrounding the cards.  Many of my clients will pick up a card off their desks and say, “I have no idea who this person is, and why I saved this card.”

And that, my friends, is clutter!

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