Do you have a countless amount of business cards hidden in your desk, purse, or wallet? Ask yourself this: Of all the business cards you receive, how many have of those individuals have you actually contacted?
My mentor Tom Antion doesn't use business cards. This may sound surprising, but if people need to reach him and it's that important, they will find a way. I tend to agree. I haven't had business cards for many years now. Instead, I ask new connections to email me and later I respond with my full contact information.
Business cards are starting to disappear. At networking events in L.A., I see people using their phones to type contact information right there on the spot. Fast forward a few years, and maybe all of us Google Glass-wearing techies will just look at each other to swap contact information. Cheers to the future!
If you really want to develop a professional relationship with a contact, try these alternatives to skip the formal business card exchange:
Use Your Inbox
There's nothing more frustrating than having to scour your email for the contact information of someone you need to call. WriteThat.Name has helped me to completely remedy this task. Acting as your personal email assistant, this tool helps to keep all of your contacts automatically updated.
WriteThat.Name scans the signatures of the people you're emailing, extracts their information, and merges it with contacts on your email and phone. The best part of this tool is that it takes your contacts from your phone and puts them in the cloud for safekeeping. You'll never have to worry about losing contacts again.
Manage your inbox and your contacts by asking new connections to shoot you an email prior to saying goodbye. While this methods works perfectly with WriteThat.Name, it's also a great way to make sure you never miss a chance to follow-up with the people you meet.
Put Your Smartphone To Use
For some, a software solution completely trumps the business card. Bump, available for iPhone and Android, gives you the ability to transmit information from your phone to your computer. While there have been 125 million Bump downloads so far, keep in mind that you may run the risk of connecting with someone who doesn't have the app.
If you're not quite ready to go completely cardless, try LinkedIn's CardMunch app. It turns business cards into contacts. When you collect a business card at a networking event, snap a picture with your camera and let the app do the work. The image is converted to a contact, and also links you directly to your new connection's LinkedIn profile information and connections you have in common.
As we find new ways to connect and stay in touch, business card alternatives will grow increasingly more popular. I've only scratched the surface of what's out there in terms of apps and tools. What do you use?