September 25, 2007

Business Card Etiquette

In recent weeks, I've met advisors in different provinces and noticed poor business card etiquette. Are you guilty? If not, you've got a competitive advantage over the rest.

Carry Your Business Cards
Opportunity lurks everywhere. So carry your business cards with you. They're not much good if they're back in your car or somewhere else. To keep them clean and flat, put them in a holder. A metal holder looks nice but the sharp corners aren't always pocket friendly. Thanks to the principle of reciprocity, you'll get cards when you give out yours. Most of the time. Chances are that you'll give out more cards than you receive. That means that your cards will start rattling in your pocket. This can be as annoying as coins jingling. A leather case may be a solution.
Tip: If you don't care about logos, you can probably get a free card holder from a wholesaler.
Hand Them Out
Business cards cost money, but they are a cheap way to market and show your professionalism. If you have a weird name or weird spelling, your card helps folks with the spelling. Some people want to see your designations.

Order Refills In Advance
Are you the sort who doesn't fill the gas tank until it's nearly empty or buy new bus tickets until you're on your last one? If so, you'll have trouble ordering refills in advance. So you'll run out or spend extra for express service.

Business cards take time to order (or cost more for rush delivery). The simple solution is to order refills before you run out. Otherwise, you become less willing to give out cards as your supply diminishes (the principle of scarcity).
You most need cards when you're starting a new job and meeting people. You'll probably need to wait weeks. For some reason, cards are rarely ordered in advance.
Give Out Extras
You're easier to refer if you hand out extra cards. I'll sometimes give out two or three. When you're at a reception desk, hand over a card to help the receptionist grasp your name. Chances are that you'll get your card back and can recycle by giving it to the person you're meeting.

Discard Cards With Errors
A business card with errors belongs in the recycling bin. Handwritten corrections show
  • you didn't proofread before printing
  • you selected a sloppy printer
  • you didn't plan for new cards early enough (e.g., if moving)
Did you just get promoted? Then it's okay if your cards haven't arrived.

When interviewing movers, one simply put a preprinted sticker on someone else's business card. Next, please.

The Ideal Business Card
The perfect business card has
  • sharp corners (not bent or folded)
  • distinctive look
  • professional email address (no,,,, ...)
  • cell phone number (unless you're never going to give it out)
  • photo (helps match a name with a face)


  1. Thanks Promod..I have found that as important as having a proper business card, it is of little value unless you hand that card to someone properly. A business card represents who you are, what you do, and how you do it. When dealing with Asian clients, I learned to hand a card to the recipient using both hands. I was offering myself to the recipient in the gesture. Whether you use one hand or two, the "pass" is vital as it reflects as much about who you are, as how you are dressed or prepared for a meeting.

  2. I didn't understand the symbolism of the pass. I'll keep the protocol in mind, as I'm meeting an Asian advisor tomorrow.

    I think you're supposed to read the card you receive. That's impossible in some lighting conditions but carrying/using a flashlight seems like overkill :)

    Thanks for sharing, John.