Recently I noticed colorful phone and address books on the shelf of my local office supply store.  Does anybody still use them, I wondered? Nearby were attractive, and surprisingly costly, daytime planner books. It looked like they had a fine layer of dust on them.

business cards

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we do things and the tools that we use to do them in countless ways. Formerly essential items are now part of conversations in which we laugh and say, “Remember when?”

There is one old-school paper business supply, however, that is not only still relevant today but can still make you stand out among your competitors. It’s the business card. Here are five reasons you need to have one:

Here are five reasons you need to have business cards

1. Business cards help expand your connections.

When you meet a prospective new client or customer, you want to leave a lasting impression. No other marketing tool is more effective than a face-to-face meeting. Combined with a thank you, a smile and a handshake, your business card leaves that new acquaintance with a tangible reminder of your meeting.

You never know when you will run into that valuable contact. It could be at a conference or a trade show, sure, but it also could be at the supermarket or at your kid’s soccer game.  Business cards can go wherever you go and be ready when you need them.

Handing someone your card outside the traditional business setting is a great way to bring up what you do and what you offer. You have an opportunity to give a short pitch about your service without having to write anything down or punch anything into your phone.  Business cards can be conversation starters.

2. Business cards save you time.

Even though we are connected much of the time, a business card can save you time when you are not plugged in. Let’s say you meet someone on a plane or in a busy hotel lobby or at a hospital. Handing someone your card is a real time saver.

By exchanging business cards, you can quickly and easily give someone all your contact information and you won’t have to worry if her or she will forget your website address or how to spell your name. It’s all right there.

3. Business cards pack a lot of information into a small space.

A successful card will help you put your brand out there. In only a 3.5 inch by 2 inch space, you can include your company’s logo, your  slogan, your phone number, your website address and your email. Many business owners include QR codes, which look like bar codes, on business cards so that new clients can scan them with their smartphone to easily connect with their company website or social media pages.

Depending on your business, you could use the back of your business card for photos of your work or for a coupon or discount offer for the holder.

4.  Business cards are inexpensive.

In terms of bang for your buck, you can’t really beat the cost of business cards. Many printers offer affordable options such as 500 two-sided color cards starting at around $30. You can choose from designs the printer offers or create your own custom design.

With card stock and plenty of ink, you can even design your own cards online and print them out yourself.

5. Business cards are professional.

Do you travel for your business? The exchange of business cards is important in many parts of the world, especially in Asia.

In Hong Kong, for example, if you are given a business card and don’t offer one in return, you are considered rude. According to Hong King business etiquette, you should exchange cards after the initial introductions. When you give or accept a card, you must do it with both hands and with a slight dip of your head. You should hand your card to the other person so that the typeface faces him or her.

Then etiquette requires that you examine the card carefully before putting it in a card case. In Hong Kong, you should never write on someone’s card unless you are asked to do so. Further instructions for the Hong Kong business traveler dictate that you should have one side of your card translated into Chinese, with the characters printed in gold.

Here in America, handing someone your card shows that you are a professional. A well-designed card shows that you take yourself and your work seriously and are proud of what you do.

In today’s marketplace, online marketing is essential. Don’t discount the value of one-on-one connections, however. A seemingly old-fashioned business card can be a valuable asset to your business. Plus, you never know in whose hands or on whose bulletin board it may end up. A business card is a physical reminder of who you are and what you do that the online world cannot always offer.