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Are Business Cards Still Relevant?

In the world of digital presence and contact apps, are these pieces of paper relics of the past?
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Some people say business cards are dead. They claim the likes of LinkedIn and other contact management apps have rendered them obsolete. Business cards, they say, are the last vestiges of the bygone era of paper and print.

Those people are wrong.

Full disclosure here: I work for a printing company and have a vested interest in business cards. However, I am more than happy to acknowledge the usefulness of LinkedIn, Evernote Hello, FullContact and other apps out there. I use them, you use them, we all use them. To deny that would be folly.

Instead of killing business cards, the web has transformed how we use them.

Related: Business Card Do's and Don'ts

Think back to the last time you exchanged business cards with someone. Most likely, it wasn’t that long ago, perhaps at the last meeting or conference you attended.

We no longer use business cards to share contact information -- there’s smart phones and LinkedIn for that. Instead, business cards have become an extension of our brands.

Business cards are a way to distinguish your brand from competitors. In face-to-face meetings or interviews, business cards are often the first time a client or employer are exposed to your brand. It’s vital for them to make the right impression.

They offer the benefit of being both visual and tactile representations of your brand. The physical exchange and engagement creates a connection that can’t be recreated by LinkedIn or your website.

Business cards offer plenty of opportunity to grow your brand -- you just have to do it right. I've seen a lot of business cards, good and bad, and when it comes to designing your own cards, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Related: 7 Ways to Make Your Business Card Your Best Marketing Tool

Know your audience. Are most of your clients in the corporate world? You'll want something professional -- think lush linen papers, classic colors and raised printing. If you own a small startup with laid-back customers, your cards should reflect that.

Remember brand consistency. It’s branding 101. Avoid creating disconnect between the different elements of your brand. Your business card should match your website, office and marketing materials. It’s important to create a seamless experience from using similar colors and the right tone.

Don’t go over the top. Concrete business cards -- yes, they really exist -- are definite conversation starters, but they aren’t practical. You don't have to go overboard to represent your brand. When getting creative with your business card, make sure it’s a good fit for you. What works for one business might not work for yours.

For example, business cards made from a biodegradable paper dotted with seeds works great for a friendly neighborhood gardening center. For most businesses, a classic, 2 inch by 3.5 inch card made from non-sprouting paper works just fine. Differentiate your brand through other ways, such as the thickness of paper stock, its design and finishes.

There are plenty more best-practices when it comes to your business cards' design. The most important thing to remember is that it’s ultimately about your brand.

Like it or not, business cards are here to stay.

Related: How to Design a Business Card That Gets Noticed