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Summary:

So you’re a web worker, but you still meet people in meatspace that you want to network with, and making them type an email into their phone or handing them a plain jane business card either feels awkward or isn’t getting results. There are other things […]

business_cardsSo you’re a web worker, but you still meet people in meatspace that you want to network with, and making them type an email into their phone or handing them a plain jane business card either feels awkward or isn’t getting results.

There are other things you can do, things that are far more representative of your trade than a lifeless rectangular slip of paper with some contact information printed upon it. That’s not to say that all rectangular slips of paper are without merit, just that most traditional ones just aren’t getting the job done like they used to, following the demise of the Rolodex. Here are some alternatives you may want to consider.

Email/Blog Address Fortune

Maybe I just have a lot of superstitious friends with hoarding tendencies, but I, and people I know, tend to hang on to the fortunes we get from fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants. At least until the next time I wash the pants I’m wearing, at which point I empty out the pockets and re-read said fortune.

Lucky Brand jeans uses this as a marketing tactic, and includes a branded fortune in the pocket of a new pair of its product. You can do the same. Find a memorable quote or write an interesting fortune, print them on slips of paper with your logo if you have one, and put an email or blog address on the back. Handing these out will not only help you network, it should spark conversation, so long as the content you print on them is interesting enough. Try to come up with a variety so that you can hand them out in groups without doubling up.

QR Code

Depending on the crowd you’re mixing with, and whose attention you want to attract, you might want to riff on the traditional business card by handing out cards printed with QR codes. QR codes are a type of barcode that can be used to link to digital content via a scanned, printed symbol. Here’s an example:

qrcode_wwd

QR codes can be scanned by software readers on smart phones with cameras (as long as there’s an app available for the phone, which there often is) and will process the information and launch the appropriate content. For example, the one above should open a link to WebWorkerDaily. You can generate your own QR codes here.

Obviously, you have to be careful who you give this kind of thing to. It works best with tech professionals who’ll either be familiar with QR codes, or with tech enthusiasts who’ll be interested enough to find out more about them.

Contact Info T-Shirt

If you’re going to a trade show or convention, and you aren’t afraid to do a little shameless self-promotion (which you really shouldn’t be if you’re in this line of business), then have a t-shirt printed up with either your email or web address on it.

Now that cell phone cameras are so prevalent it’s unlikely you’ll come across someone who doesn’t have one, all you have to do to share your info with someone is stand very still for a couple seconds while they snap a photo. It’s memorable, it’s environmentally-friendly, and you get to feel like a rock star for a day while getting your picture taken.

Business Rock

This isn’t mine, it’s something I found on Instructables, but it was so off-beat that I had to share. Basically, the idea is just that you find a well-worn lake or river stone, hand-write your details on it, and distribute that in lieu of a business card.

It’s time consuming, sure, but it doesn’t cost a thing, and it will help you stand out from the field, especially if you work in a creative line of business. You can pick up a relatively inexpensive customizable craft stamp if you’d rather simplify and save your hand some cramping, too.

It’s a little out of left field, but maybe in your line of work, that’s seen as a good place to be coming from.

Let’s face it. The business card isn’t useful. It’s a little like wearing a hat in public. An odd tradition left over from a bygone era that evokes some nostalgia, but that’s about it. You don’t have to start carrying around a sack of rocks, necessarily, but try and shake things up a bit, and your business relationships will benefit.

What business card alternatives do you use or have you come across and thought about using? Any tangible benefits to do doing things differently?

Photo credit: bargainmoose

  1. I enjoy reading about creative replacements for business cards (that’s probably why I read the article).

    However, to say “The business card isn’t useful” is absolutely ridiculous.

    The business card is tremendously useful and isn’t going anywhere soon. Sure, it isn’t cool in its’ traditional format. Cool doesn’t pay the bills.

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  2. Good ones. I recently purchased a Poken. Its quite kiddish in design but I personally think its cool. I’ve stored all my business and social media contacts in the gadget and voila I have a paperless business card. The only problem is, I’m the only one I know who is actually using it right now and to exchange contacts the other person has to carry a Poken too.

    Maybe for business people the gadget looks too playful or maybe Malaysians (where I’m from) have not or may not even pick up the trend yet… not sure. I love it and wish other people will start using it too.

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    1. I’d never heard of the Poken–it looks really cool! I wish it were an iPhone app or something. It sucks that you have to depend on everyone having one or it’s kind of useless. :(

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  3. I’ve used business cards printed on wood (for a wood products client).
    Temporary tattoos. And samples pieces of mini blind slats with an Avery label stuck on it (for a window coverings client).

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  4. I use My Own Labels to create custom coasters. They fit in your pocket and work very well at conferences.

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  5. How about an augmented reality business card: http://vimeo.com/4979525

    Or the excellent ‘Hello my name is E’ business-card: http://www.mynameise.com/

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  6. I agree that business cards are essential, especially here in Japan. I’m a stay at home mom and still have personal ones that I use.

    I also have a Poken, which is starting to catch on here, especially among heavy networkers.

    I’ve also seen stickers as business cards from graphic designers/artists.

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  7. [...] 28th, 2009 (11:00am) Simon Mackie No Comments As Darrell noted in “Business Card Alternatives For the Real World,” the traditional business card doesn’t have the same impact that it once did. Squiz [...]

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  8. I really like this idea for marketing potential in a niche market. Service industries seem to get the most bang for this type of business interaction. I have at least 4 of these types (keychain attached) that offer discounts, and repeat customer advantages. Great idea for the small business trying to add value for a loyal customer.

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  9. This looks like a great idea. I am looking for a replacement for the standard business card and this looks like a perfect alternative. I can’t wait to try it.

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  10. I like the idea about the t-shirt. I think I’ll give that one a shot.

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