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An Apples to Oranges Comparison of Paper and Digital Business Cards

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

The challenge today is to connect in a world where business communications have clearly shifted to digital. Engagement has largely moved online, where paper cards don’t work, but the need to share contact information still remains. Digital business cards are made for these online exchanges and for touch-free, in-person sharing. They can also do much more.

Comparing paper and digital cards is much like comparing a typewriter and word processor.

Both create documents, but the word processor adds massive efficiency and introduces an ever-expanding range of capabilities. Digital business cards do the same for business communications. Let’s look more closely at the two.

Paper Business Cards

The core function of a paper business card is to facilitate the in-person delivery of contact information. It also makes a brand impression expressed through font, colors, paper quality, shape, and layout choices.

Traditional Business Card

A paper card is easy to carry, convenient to share, and is familiar. It can be displayed on a desk or attached to marketing materials. It’s a tangible reminder and leaves a professional impression. It works great without the internet, and you can write notes on it.

What's Wrong With My Business Card?

The downsides of paper cards are that we often forget them, can’t change them after they have been dispensed, and don’t know if they’re used. They don’t work for remote or socially-distanced recipients and are inconvenient to add to one’s contacts. The majority are thrown away.

The most significant handicap, however, is that one cannot use paper cards in today’s explosion of digital channels. They’re physical in an increasingly digital world.

Digital Business Cards

A digital business card is a savable, mobile website with an app-like user experience. It’s also called a personal app, progressive web app, and personal touchpoint.

Like a paper card, a digital card works in-person -- via airdrop, SMS, or QR code. However, its real value is in moving you onto the web and from there to anywhere. It makes its brand impression online with easy to update colors, images, videos, actions, and content.

The core function of a digital business card is to foster digital engagement. Share it to connect and engage in any of the web’s communications, marketing, and social channels. Add it as a touchpoint in a blog or website, or display it as a QR code on a brochure or video-conference background image to increase inbound connections.

Consider the example card to the right:

It’s a linkable URL that’s perfect for sharing in an email signature, over Linkedin, through Whatsapp, in a Slack channel, as an Instagram bio link, or in a Zoom chat window. It’s a natural-language URL that uses a trusted domain; and when shared, it presents an image-rich call-to-action.

One productive use of a digital card is to share it by text message during a phone call. This approach allows you to discuss included content such as product information, while also making a digital connection that builds the relationship.

Think of a digital business card as a high-intent digital touchpoint with clicks that follow directly from a personal introduction or a strategically placed digital breadcrumb. Its clicks are as valuable as those from a Google search, but are less expensive.

It’s convenient too. Rather than carrying a digital card in your pocket or purse as you do a paper card, you save it as an icon on your home screen or bookmark it for convenient access. Texting your card is then as simple as tapping its icon and then the “share button” followed by selecting a recipient. The link is automatically included in the message.

For recipients, digital also means frictionless. A digital business card loads instantly with the tap of a link. Moreover, in contrast to printed contact info, digital cards offer one-touch tap-to-call, tap-to-text, and tap-to-email. They even provide downloadable vCards to streamline adding a card to one’s contacts.

As task-oriented mobile websites, digital cards extend well beyond delivering contact info. They provide instant access to product info, videos, subpages, attached files, social feeds, and blogs. Moreover, they engage support, start workflows, launch e-commerce, solicit reviews, and can initiate any other web-based function.

There are other ways that digital cards distinguish themselves. They can be updated at any time and be administered at scale. It’s straightforward for an enterprise to update content in one place that will instantly update the cards for a division, region, or companywide. Digital cards also provide an active feedback loop to measure the engagement and to learn which actions have the best click-through-rates.

The downside of a digital business card is that, outside of sending it via a text message, transferring it requires the internet. If implemented as a progressive web app (PWA), as is recommended, then a digital card will work offline, which means it can be browsed without internet access.

It often makes sense to keep your paper cards but adding higher-performance digital cards will increase your discoverability, reach, and engagement. It’s hard to imagine anyone working remotely and engaging over the web that will not benefit by expanding their digital footprint with a digital business card.

Scan the QR Code or tap this link to view my digital card, which is used for the above example.

You can access other blogs. learn more about PWAs, or contact me through it.


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