In a digital age is there still a place and time for paper business cards or are they rapidly going the way of the paper book?

I’d say your startup should still be killing trees. But that only applies if you’re going to use and design your business cards effectively.

Using business cards

I’m generally not the biggest proponent of taking up valuable pocket space, but I’ve tried the whole hey let me snap a quick picture of us and I’ll tweet it at you, what’s your handle thing and it’s hard to find people later that way (plus you still have to hunt down their email address unless you can publicly say what you’re interested in), and the whole picture thing can be kind of uncomfortable if you’re not 100% glamorous that day.

Beyond exchanging Twitter handles, certain smart phone apps can allow you to easily collect  and exchange information about other people in a room with you, but it seems like business cards are still widely used at networking events (things that startup founders should be regularly attending)- and if someone hands you one, it’s only polite to give one back.

There’s something very finite and reassuring about the physical exchange of  information at the end of a good discussion. You also might like to include business cards in care packages you send, providing an easy way for potential customers to get in touch– snail mail breaks through the clutter in a digital age.

But keep in mind that your card will have a short-lived chance to make an impact. Most business cards probably sit for a certain amount of time in the receiver’s wallet, on their desk, or in a drawer before potentially being tossed in the trash as rolodexes don’t seem all that common anymore.

Designing business cards

I’ve seen some super creative business cards like these but when it comes down to it, a really original business card might not say anything about your core product offering. Sure people might hang onto it a tad longer than other cards but it will still end up in the trash. While it might prompt them to show the card to their friends it’s doubtful their friends would then copy down your information and try to get in touch– as making bangin’ business cards or designs most likely aren’t the business you’re in. Your time is probably better spent making an impact in person, than pouring weeks of thought and money into the most shocking and sticky business card.

A couple quick tips:

  1. Present your company and product offering right upfront. For example on the back of our cards we include our company logo and tagline:
  2. Leave room for making it personal. For example we left some space on the back to jot down a note or giveaway code.
  3. Since a card is generally exchanged to make a human connection, put your humans first.
  4. Then provide all venues for possible interaction, as many people have preferences about which social networks they like to use to digest content.
  5. Keep your colors, fonts, and imagery in line with your brand’s aesthetic and persona. For example here’s the front side of our cards:

So what about you, do you still use business cards and how much do you think the design matters?