The Secret Life of a Business Card

This last December, I was asked to present at the NSCA Japan conference. Prior to the trip, I was coached on some cultural differences that I should be aware of. One of the differences that was stressed, was how the Japanese people treat the exchange of business cards. The giver holds the top 2 corners as he/she hands the card and the receiver then grasps the card by the bottom 2 corners. Upon receipt, the receiver then takes a moment, reads the card, looks up and thanks the giver and then may place the card in a place of respect (breast pocket, wallet, etc.). Don’t just take it and shove it in your back pocket. The business card is a representation of the giver and, as with the person themselves, should be treated with respect.

China business cardsThis was an interesting lesson for me and the kickoff for a point that I want to make about how most business people (this includes personal trainers) misuse the business card.

When starting with a new company or starting your own business, most people will run out and get their new business cards, because, if you have business cards, you must be in business. There’s nothing wrong with this. The business card, as in Japan, is a representation of you and your business and should be here as well. If only we would treat it as such. We don’t, of course. We will order 500-1000 cards and hand them out like they are flyers. I’ve even seen presenters at conferences walk around the venue before their session and put a business card on each of the seats. Most attendees didn’t even pick them up. They just sat on them. They were not given with respect and were not received with respect.

My own view on the use of a business card is that your focus, when looking to build your business and not simply using it as a way to stay in touch with an acquaintance or associate, should be to receive them not give them. When someone gives you their business card they are giving you the permission to contact them. With a potential client, this means that you have the permission to call and talk with them and, hopefully, set up a time to meet with them. Then, after receiving their card, you can present your card to them should they like to initiate a conversation or change an existing appointment. This way of using your business card, empowers you. Whereas, if you are just handing your cards out, all you can do is sit back and hope that someone calls you.

Business cards are not meant to be flyers. They are meant to be treated with respect and given more selectively. Remember that getting someone else’s contact information is far more beneficial than giving yours out.