Have you ever ever thought that the exchange of business cards or calling cards  is a rite and it has “hidden secrets” ? What importance do you give to the business cards you get? And to whom you give? What do you do with them afterwards?

Business cards, sometimes also called “visiting” (Calling Cards) were a key element in any relationship between people. They were much more than a mere piece of paper with contact details of applicant they were his/her image, his/her essence, his/her character, his/her vision … his/her mission.

When I decided to write about them, I sought supporting information to know its origin: thus, part of the information that I show you here it was obtained from different pages (The History of the Calling Card, A Brief History of Business Cards).

Business cards are not something that have appeared recently but arose in the 15th century in China and used to request a meeting with another person. Here I show you an example that I found at:

The 17th century was the era in which the use of this type of “vehicle of presentation” and the disparity of applications soared, not only in the field of business but in areas like dating between men and women, to congratulate or to express condolences for death. At the end of the century, they appeared in London called “trading cards” (trade cards) used by merchants and constituted a form of advertising activity in addition to its location (keep in mind that in those days, the numbering of the streets was something not too much common). Even, if signed, they became to be regarded as a contractual document.


(Image credit http://www.rmg.co.uk/blogs/longitude/)

And from that time, the proliferation of business cards started up to now. On the cards various materials, colors, were used everything necessary to facilitate first contact, a business meeting, a possible sale and therefore the designs had to be done very carefully because the business depended largely on the first impression.

(image credit http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_E_o_0Bdm4GA/TJ4Gwa9XuAI/AAAAAAABATw/4Q45TPZUIKs/s1600/AutumnC1.jpg)


Maybe now, and due to various technological tools, the “business cards” on paper  they are no longer important, or most likely we give them less importance than they actually have, thanks to (or blame) of social networks where sharing our profile digital is considered as a regular task to perform (I remember the typical sentence “I forgot my cards but then you can link me by LinkedIn  …” ) but … if you think about it, we agree that we forget very quickly to people who have linked to our LinkedIn account, Twitter, FaceBook, etc.

Even so they continue  publishing books that advise how to design business cards to generate positive impact in the first meeting. And actually are they? I think so, despite the digital age in which we live

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Let’s start thinking about the meaning of the card nowadays. The card is a tangible way to say “Hello, this is me, remember me!“, i.e. favoring the approach, the warmth in a first contact: the representation of the people we meet and also ourselves (and those relationships must be treated with respect and not only save them in the cardbox but provide them with the utmost care, as if it were a treasure). How many times have we recalled a particular meeting, a conversation seeing a business card that we exchanged at a meeting? In fact the brain acts storing images on specific moments and geographically taggedto recover them  later on (I recommend reading the following work of Miller, Neufang et al. Neural Activity in Human Hippocampal Formation Reveals the Spatial Context of Retrieved Memories” published  in Science in November 2013 )

Consider that not all cultures give the same value to the cards, so the Americans and Europeans are looser, more informal exchanging cards, so much so that I have observed in many meetings that the card is exchanged almost without looking at it, just reading the caller’s name and then storing it in the jacket pocket or throw it directly into the computer case to end in a cardbox. However, Asians make the exchange process as a whole rite and if is understood correctly the first contact could be satisfactory or is doomed to failure.


I believe that it is possible to maintain a balance between different cultures (considering its peculiarities). But the process has to be done methodically, I name it “Business Carding” (honestly it is a common sense process, you only need to be willing to do it) and I summarize it in 6 very simple “physical” steps followed by 3 digital steps:
1. When you receive your partner’s card (complies with the etiquette in the process of reception depending on the country) do not leave directly on the table and just follow talking (or save it to the jacket or purse) It’s rude … lend him some attention as it represents the person with whom you talk (this is not an album of complete card as if it were a game)
2. Read the data from the card in front of the person who has given us (for it is important): his/her position, location, etc .. while you look at his/her eyes and try to “shoot” his/her face. The process of “facial scan” that occurs in our brain is amazing, Bruce and Young (1986) proposed a cognitive model of recognition of faces with some modifications (Valentine et al 1991) has remained in the literature. This model proposes several steps in the processing of information from the moment a familiar face is identified up when the recognition is done and his/her name is evoked.
3. Notice how the card has designed, try to identify a character associated to the card format that allows you to link his/her to an activity (this process is generating “geotags” as described by Miller and Neufang).
4. Try to find some element that links the card with your own life (travel, anecdotes, etc ..), that will help you to create a thread of conversation that could empathize with the speaker and will consolidate the link with the card person.
5. Place it in front of you during the conversation, in a visible position. That allows you to remember your name when you’re going to talk to him/her. During the meeting, it helps to take it with your hands whilst you reflect on what will be discussing you start to “scan it mentally.”
6. When the meeting ends, take the card carefully (you do not ever leave on the table as you do not care) and save it.
It is a similar process that led to Bill Clinton early in his career as a politician, pointing at a black book all the data of each person he met, the most relevant characteristics of it and all that he might not forget.
The immediate problem that I encounter is how to keep the data for each card in my address book and even the card itself. Before the digital age, they were stored alphabetically in cabinets to access them (were not going to copy the data to hand in your address book), obviously if you were people with great social activity localization that task could become complicated .

How Business Carding could be linked to the Digital Age? Does it make sense to keep the Business Carding in front of social networks?
Yes, absolutely. Moreover, it is necessary to facilitate the search and contact tracing based on labels (#tags) that we will established according to the characteristics of each contact process.

Thus the following three digital steps are:

1. Scanning the card. I use BCR Plus  (but there are others apps) that allows me to scan the card with its data (sometimes a minimal manual capture is required). Once captured the image and keep all your information in the address book of the mobile then it must be synchronized with address book at the laptop (would be ideal to take the picture of the face of the person you talked to but that is sometimes a little “aggressive” so I keep the picture on the card or your photo looking at social networks or Google to get it).

2. In the laptop I use CoBook  that allows me to not only save the contact data captured (manually or synchronized from the mobile) but also social networks information (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. .) that are more dynamic and allows to keep tracking of contact movements. I only keep the data of LinkedIn as soon received your card (Update: unfortunately Cobook has discontinued support for the link with Linkedin since the latter has changed its API, hopefully new version “FullContact”  will incorporate it again.
3. Once the contact is complete, it is necessary to tag it in order to locate contacts with similar characteristics (labels / tags). CoBook lets you do this easily. The choice of labels is essential to enable effective and efficient search. Right now I’m looking for a software that allows me to create network maps from the contacts and their labels to facilitate the generation of “networking clouds” to enhance the interaction between the different contacts.

…. So I “Business Carding…” and you?

About Juan A. Bertolin

I consider myself a “orchestrator” to tackle challenges  putting together the hybridization of independent solutions to achieve a comprehensive and higher value added final solution (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). Since 2006 I started to enjoy supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow, innovate co-opeting, opening spaces for open collaboration and sharing, integrating the customer experience and emotions in co-designing new innovative elements.

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