16 Good Things to Do with a Business Card (Yours and Theirs)

I take a perverse sort of pleasure in asking lawyers for their business card. It reveals a lot about a person. How deeply must they dig to find one? If it takes more than one pocket, it’s a safe bet he isn't winning this week's “Be Prepared” award. Does she apologetically offer a smudged and wrinkled card — the only one she can find at the bottom of her purse? Her desk — maybe even her thinking — is probably rumpled and disorganized as well.

Conversely, does he smoothly produce a crisp clean card and a pen, saying, “Of course — here, let me jot my cell number on it as well, so we won’t miss each other” before handing it over? Yep, this guy is thoughtful, well-prepared, interested in new connections, and he thinks I’m important!

If you are one of those people who has 496 business cards in the original box of 500 you received when you began practicing, it’s time for a few pointers. Even if you are a digital whiz, your paper business card is an important business development tool. Here are a few recommendations for ways to put that card — yours or the other guy’s — to work.

Eight for Your Business Cards

  1. Take them wherever you go. You never know when you’ll need the quick intro information provided by a well-designed business card. And make certain you always have a good supply on hand in the office, so you can easily replenish the batch you carry around.
  2. Give your card to someone you want to see again.
  3. Jot something on it as you hand it over — your cell number, Twitter handle, a subject the two of you discussed, a reminder about an upcoming event, your nickname — to help them remember who the card belongs to and why they should care. (This is a good reason to make sure your business card is easy to write on.)
  4. Keep your own cards in your right-hand pocket so you won’t get confused and hand someone a business card from that other person you met earlier.
  5. Attach or enclose it with materials you distribute when speaking at an event.
  6. Use it as a bookmark in any books you give as a gift.
  7. Print something on the reverse side. There was a time when using the back of a business card was simply not done. No longer. An inspiring quotation, your marketing tag line, an image, even a description of your practice.
  8. Double-check to make certain what's on the card is ethics-compliant.

Eight for Their Business Card

  1. Ask for the other person’s business card as you hand yours to them. It’s business card etiquette, it makes good sense, and some people believe the only real reason to have a business card is to facilitate getting someone else’s.
  2. Write a note-to-self on the back of their card as it's handed to you, so you can remember who they are and why you wanted their card.
  3. Stow it in your left-hand pocket until you get back to the office. (Remember, those are your cards in your right-hand pocket, OK?)
  4. Record its image with your Evernote (or something similar) to scan it into your smartphone (take the associated human’s photo while you are at it, too) and create a contact note.
  5. Send an image of the card to your holiday card mailing list file so you can include the person (or not, as you see fit) when the time comes around.
  6. Use the information to locate the card’s owner on LinkedIn and make a new connection. Do the same for Twitter and other social media platforms you frequent.
  7. Base the first stages of your business development research on that card. You can use the address on it to Google the business location on the map, view their building in Street View, access demographic information via the ZIP code … while you are Googling, you can research the person’s name on the card and learn about their career, predecessors, direct-reports, education … research the name of their organization and learn about its history, others who work there, who their legal counsel is, the current issues their industry or location is currently wrestling with. That business card is the first step toward knowing everything you need to know next time you see them.
  8. Share it with the lawyer in your firm whose practice might benefit from the addition of this new contact to her network. Offer to make an introduction. Cross-sell! At a minimum, the offer can earn you good karma. Best-case scenario? You partner with that lawyer to bring in a nice new client.