For years, business cards were considered a must-have for any professional and often the first investment entrepreneurs would make in their business. Today, business is conducted digitally, from signing contracts and invoicing to attending meetings and even networking. This makes it somewhat surprising that traditional physical business cards are as popular as ever.

Business cards have been around since the late 16th century. China and France claim to have invented the first “calling” or “visiting” cards, which were used predominantly by the upper class to request meetings and arrange social visits. By the mid-17th century, Europeans across the social spectrum had adopted the cards, and shops and businesses used them to provide directions for customers.

More that 300 years later, and despite the development of mobile applications that create and manage digital business cards, traditional paper cards remain an invaluable business tool. Here are five reasons why you need to make ordering more business cards a top priority as you ring in the New Year:

1 – Creates a Great First Impression

Creating a strong brand is one of the most important things a business owner can do, no matter how small or large the company. Every piece of collateral you create contributes to building a unique and identifiable brand, including your business card.

Think of your business card as an extension of your brand, a tangible representation of who you are and what your business is about. A memorable business card does more than just convey your contact information. When you meet a connection or a prospect, you want to make a great first impression. Your card can serve as an introduction, an icebreaker, and even help fuel the conversation. Characteristics of the card, such as color, texture, and typeface, influence how people perceive your brand and stay with them as a reminder long after they walk away.

It pays to invest the time and money to make sure your business card communicates your brand effectively. Keep in mind that a unique or creative card is likely to be shared with others, putting your brand in front of additional prospects and acting as an extension of your marketing effort.

2 – Keeps Prospecting Personal

Email marketing, search engine optimization, and paid media can be effective channels for attracting leads and prospects. However, they are not necessarily as effective as meeting prospects in person. Successful business development often involves taking a personal approach to making connections. The act of meeting someone face-to-face, making eye contact, and handing them your card during or at the end of a conversation is how authentic, long-term business relationships often begin.

The exchange of business cards is a valuable interaction between you and new contacts. You can make a business connection anywhere, from tradeshows and industry conferences to airport lounges, so keep plenty of cards on hand at all times. While emailing and texting contact information is quick and convenient, your business card serves as a personal reminder that won’t get lost in the digital clutter. You and your prospect can always transfer the information from a paper card to your mobile device after the fact.

3 – Enhances Credibility

A business card may look like a piece of paper containing a company logo and information. However, your card gives your business legitimacy. So, it is critical that everything about your card sends a message that you take pride in what you do and projects a company image that instills credibility and confidence in contacts and prospects.

It’s likely you’ve been in a situation where someone you’ve met cannot find their card or, worse, says they don’t have one and asks for a pen and paper to write down their email address or phone number. This is certainly not the lasting impression you or your team wants to make. Having a supply of quality business cards on hand shows that you are professional and well prepared and lets prospective clients and connections know you mean business.

4 – Makes Marketing Easy and Affordable

Business cards are an affordable, portable, and easy way of passing along information and promoting your business. Standard cards offered by popular online printing sites such as Vistaprint start as low at 500 cards for $20. Coupled with being pocket-sized, this makes your business card a marketing tool you can take with you wherever you go to help establish new business connections. Take advantage of its small size and price tag to build brand awareness locally, whether you leave it with your tip at a restaurant or pin one to the community bulletin board at your neighborhood coffee shop.

5 – Reliable and Universal

Regardless of where you do business, it’s common practice to exchange business cards. People rely on them to share professional details and refresh their memories after a meeting or conversation has ended. It’s a good idea to become familiar with the rules or practices of business card exchange before meeting with people in another region or country. In some cultures, handing over a card using the left hand is considered an insult. In others its customary to accept a business card with two hands and study it closely.

Physical business cards are also accessible and reliable. Unlike digital devices, business cards don’t require fully charged batteries or software updates to operate. Because they don’t need access to a 4G connection and are not affected by reception dead zones, your cards work for you 24/7 no matter where you may be. In a world where technology has created new ways of establishing connections, business cards continue to be a relevant and useful tool for building meaningful relationships and spurring small business growth.

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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.