I have been working professionally as a consultant for the last fifteen years. Through those years I have been given out between 750-1000 business cards with my contact information on them. Honestly I can’t say how many I give out each year. I only know the upper limit since each year I order that number and I have never had to order additional cards. One year I counted how many I had left and it was around two-hundred and fifty and that seems about reasonable to assume that it holds for the other years as well. It is hard to be certain though since I recycle my old cards once the new ones arrive.

This year my mother made the statement that she would like to get some as well. At first I had to let out a small laugh. It was cute and I couldn’t understand why. After all, she is retired and never had a need in her working years to give them out.

So why would she now be interested in them?

First, let us consider why you need business cards in the first place. Who do you hand out a business card and in what situation?

Sure they are an important advertising tool.

It provides you with a way to make an impression, especially when you provide them with well-designed cards.

While many opt to design their own, e.g. with Word or another word processor, many professionals pick a high-end option that is specific to their industry. While the first option can work for some; My mother is one of those people that could forgo the extra expense, I have always left the design to a professional.

For me it is a question of how I want to present myself. I don’t need to simply drop contact information, that isn’t what they are for. You need to make an impression, it needs to stand out make an impression. It will be used as a gauge of your professional demeanor. If they don’t see that it has been professionally designed they will question your competence. This sounds harsh; It is superficial and has no baring on who you are but it is there so I need to keep it in mind and work within those confines.

Networking is an important aspect of any industry, these small pieces of paper are one aspect that that should be seen as a tool.

Like any tool, it is only useful when you have it on hand and how to use it properly. You should always have a few of your business cards with you, regardless of the situation you will be glad that you had at least one when you needed it. So no matter where you go keep a couple of them in your purse. Regardless of where you keep them it is important to ensure that thy do not buckle or get stains. As I said it has to due with appearances. So that they maintain their form I keep mine in a small case.

Make sure that you never pass on dirty or crunched cards. This seems incredibly unprofessional and could have undesired results. Just recycle the unusable cards and move on.

I have found it works well to add them to letters to my customers. For example, if you send an invoice, you can include a cover letter as well as your name card. Throughout the years I have used several ways to enclose these two additional pieces of paper in the envelope. Currently I use letterhead that has pre-punched mounts included where the address would normally go. Though I have use adhesive strips to fasten them to the cover letter. If you are uncertain if this will work for you use a paper clip to test.

No matter how much we rely on technology I don’t think that we will ever loose the need to have business cards.

When you have appointments with customers and events, you should always have your business cards at your fingertips. For appointments, hand over your business card when you are making introductions. This also has the advantage that your interlocutors do not confuse your name.

A year or two after I began working I learned a lesson that I will share now as a more than little embarrassing story. At that time things felt more overwhelming, it felt like balancing plates on sticks. Needless to say one of the aspects that was missing was organization that comes from experience. Once while at a trade show I had amassed a small collection of cards. To keep them from getting bent they were piled together with mine.

That was a mistake.

While making the rounds I accidentally gave the wrong card out. What is more embarrassing was that it was the card from one of his colleagues in the company. The contact did pay off a year later so it was not a complete failure but at the time my face was red.

The moral of the story?

If you get business cards from others, ensure that you keep them separate don’t put them together with your own – that could lead to confusion.

The way that I am now just filing them away isn’t enough. Whenever I receive one it gets filed aside with note on where I met the person and what we discussed. This prevents confusion and you can go through the stack again at the end of the day and consider who you contact first.

Going back to my mother she felt like they would be a nice way to leave here contact information with new acquaintances.

The idea is sound, the implementation on the other hand, is slightly overdone.

In college one of the students was known for giving them out for the same reason. While I am certain he has found success in his professional life, it was out of place at the time. Social setting dictates when you are safe to hand them out. Under a group of my peers it is not uncommon for them to be passed around or shown off in this setting. When I am invited to a less formal gathering where I don’t know those attending the thought does not cross my mind.

Decide where it is appropriate and when it is sensible to make a potential contact.