Business Card Etiquette

It doesn't matter if you're a business start-up or a well established company, you can benefit from business cards. Even in this digital age, business cards can be a highly effective marketing tool, but they're only effective if they're used properly.

Proper use is crucial to the effectiveness of business cards and one aspect of proper use is business card etiquette. It's important to remember it takes more than the look of the business cards to create a professional image. The look of the card is, of course, important and it's necessary to choose the right business card paper and take the appropriate steps when making your own cards. But all that effort you put into your professional looking self-made business cards will be ruined instantly if you are unaware of the dos and don'ts of business card use.

Business Cards for Business Introductions

It's important to make sure the exchange of business cards is a smooth transaction. It's also important to know what to do when you receive a business card. And for this to happen, preparation is the key.

Preparation begins with actually having the cards on hand. Too often business people who have either been supplied glossy professional looking cards by their companies, or who have spent hours and countless dollars creating their own, waste this valuable and affordable marketing tool by not carrying the cards. You should have your business cards with you at all times including outside of your general working hours. Important business contacts can be made in the most unlikely places and you don't want to show up unprepared.

Business cards need to be kept clean and crisp at all times. Bent cards with frayed edges, fingerprints or pen marks give the impression you don't care about your company. Don't jam extra cards into a section of your wallet. The edges will get bent out of shape. Plus when it's time to share the cards, you don't want to spend awkward moments trying to pry one out from between your bank and credit cards. There are a variety of business card cases on the market today to cater to every taste. They're not large or heavy and you probably won't have a hard time finding one that fits your personality and style.

Share your cards at the beginning or end of a meeting. You don't need to wait until a formal meeting to share your cards. Sometimes informal gatherings can be the best time to exchange business cards and network. Do not give a person your card unless they seem interested in the service or product you're selling or representing.

When meeting a new contact, resist the urge to give the contact a handful of business cards unless you're asked to. Leaving more than one card gives the impression you would like the recipient to make contacts for you. This is unprofessional and tacky. The reason business cards are so effective in marketing is because of the person-to-person contact.

Receive and Exchange Smoothly

If you're interested in a person and their company, there's nothing wrong with asking them for their business card in most cases. The biggest exception is if the person is in a higher position than you. Etiquette states that if they want you to have a card, they'll give you one and you should wait until they offer a card to you.

Receive business cards graciously. It doesn't matter the situation whether you're meeting a bank representative for a personal loan or a big business executive, look at the card before you put it away. Looking at it should take a few seconds. Read the contact info. Look at the design and logo. Sometimes it's appropriate to make a flattering comment about the way the card looks or to ask clarification about something shown on the card.

Show respect when putting the card away. Don't shove it in your wallet or in the same pocket you store tissue in your purse. Make special effort to avoid putting the card in your wallet if it's going in your back pocket where you'll be sitting on it.