Business cards have been around for hundreds of years. Yet even in the current digital age, when communication and transactions have become increasingly electronic, the value and significance of a business card has not changed. These cards are tangible tools that have the potential to further business relations and grow your business.

When it comes to using business cards, the fundamental protocols have also remained unchanged. This means that mistakes such as a hard-to-decipher design, a lack of essential details, or the failure to exchange your card at the right moment, may result in a missed opportunity. Before you print, pocket, and present your business cards, keep in mind these tips for creating a professional product, exercising proper etiquette, and making a lasting impression.

1 – Get a second opinion on your design.

As an extension of your company’s brand, your business card needs to look professional as well as convey all the necessary information clearly and legibly. This can be a challenge given the limited amount of space. Before rushing your cards off to the printer, be sure to get someone else’s eye on the design and content. Consider consulting a reliable employee or trusted personal contact to review your ideas and proofread your copy to help ensure you are creating the most appropriate and polished product possible.

2 – Stow your cards safely.

Once they’re printed, your business cards should be kept handy and protected from damage. Most cards can bend and tear easily, so make sure to tuck them into a card case or a safe pocket in your wallet or purse. You want to make a strong first impression, and handing someone a dog-eared or dirty card is the equivalent of a weak handshake. Conversely, there is a certain power in giving a new connection a pristine and striking card as you are leaving a meeting or networking event.

It’s also a good idea to keep plenty of extra cards in an accessible location like your car’s glove compartment. If you’ve ever been in a situation where someone you’ve met cannot find their card or, worse, says they don’t have one, you know this is certainly not the lasting impression you or your team wants to make.

3 – Connect with confidence.

When a meeting with a prospective client or partner is over, it can be tricky to share your business card. You want them to remember you and your business, but you may be busy shaking hands and engaging in small talk as you walk them to the door. One way to avoid this situation is to present your card at the start of the meeting. Short of that, have your card ready and share it at an optimal moment. Be polite but confident, saying, “Here’s my card,” as you hand it to them. There is a risk in simply asking, “Would you like my card?” or ending the conversation with a casual, “I hope we speak soon!”. Your prospect could end up walking away without the vital contact information they need to get in touch in the future.

4 – Distribute your card judiciously.

While it’s important to have business cards at your disposal, it is equally critical to be judicious in terms of who you give them to. You are likely to shake a lot of hands at conferences and networking events, but networking is not about collecting business cards or developing a large list of contacts. It is an essential means of building the relationships and strategic partnerships that are critical to job or business growth. Resist the temptation to give out your cards like candy on Halloween; instead, carefully consider which new connections are the most interested in your work or hold the most promise before offering them your card.

5 – Keep your card up-to-date.

Has your company changed its phone number? Did you recently get a promotion and new job title? As your business circumstances shift, you need to adjust your business card accordingly. The exchange of business cards is the first step in a transaction between you and new contacts, but your cards will prove useless if the information is inaccurate. While updates can often be made quickly on digital platforms like company websites and social media, it’s easy to overlook the fact that all print materials need to reflect important changes as well.

6 – Don’t forget to follow up.

Giving someone your business card can be the beginning of a fruitful partnership, but it’s possible your new connection will stash your card in their bag or pocket and fail to follow up. After a few days have passed, be proactive and email or call your new contact to ensure that you stay top of mind. Share information, offer assistance, or invite the person to join you at an event. Keep your communications as professional as your business card and you’ll be well on your way to establishing mutually beneficial relationships that will provide genuine value for you and your business.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.