Columnists Features

Effectiveness of business cards in networking

FOR most part of my working life, I used to think that business cards are meant for senior members of staff only and should be printed by the organisation.
In some organisations, there are policies that provide guidelines on who should have business cards and who should not, and of course that should be respected.  What is important, however, is to have uniformity and an approved design of the business card for all members of staff for branding and corporate image purposes.
I remember how surprised I was, several years ago, when I came across a personal assistant who worked for an international non-governmental organisation and had business cards.  I had never thought secretaries, personal and executive assistants could have business cards.
When I first travelled to China in 2007, I marveled at the way the Chinese effectively use business cards – a practice that I have also observed in South Africa.  Every cab driver has business cards, every business outlet, even the smallest enterprise, has business cards.
Some cards have names of the cardholders on them while others just have the business name and contact details.  I found the business cards useful in helping me find my way around.
Even without speaking Chinese, when you get into a cab and just give the driver a business card of the place where you wish to go, he will take you there.  The use of business cards makes it easy for shoppers to be able to locate a shop where they would like to go and make a purchase after window-shopping.
In Zambia, often times I come across business executives and senior organisation officials who will give an excuse for not carrying any business cards.  Either they forgot to carry their business cards or they ran out and are waiting for the organisation to print them some more.  What will you lose if you spend a little of your own money on printing business cards?
A business card is one of the most valuable networking tools you have in your quest to increase the number of customers and contacts. The business card is the most powerful single business tool that you can invest in.
It is compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech and keeps working for you hours, weeks and even years after it leaves your hands. Many people in Zambia do a lot of income-generating activities outside regular employment.
If your employer does not allow you to have a business card for the office, you can have a business card for your chicken business or for whatever else you do.  One can have business cards printed in Zambia for as low as K150, this is much less than the amount you spend on talk time in a week, especially if you are in business.
When people attend conferences, they usually collect a number of business cards; but what is the point of collecting the cards if you are not going to get in touch? It is useful to just drop an email to the person whose business card you have collected even just to say that it was great to meet that person.
Thereafter, if there is need you can then keep in touch.  With social media in place now, you could befriend your new contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media.
For women, sometimes when you change a handbag, you may forget to move your cards into the new handbag or the handbag that you are carrying that day.
Make it a point to have some business cards where you will not forget them in much the same way as you remember to take your cell phone and car keys all the time.  It is a good idea to also keep some business cards in your car.  Never leave your home without business cards.
The author is Managing Consultant of Career Prospects Limited, a human resource, recruitment, training and development consultancy firm.

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