In the world of Instagram handles and online transactions, a crisp yet demure business card might seem like an afterthought. When most businesses and proprietors are looking to capture parts of a user’s online experience and trying to seamlessly and slyly insert themselves into daily conversation, why would anyone be okay with just taking up space in someone’s wallet or purse?

Harkening back to the roots of business and entrepreneurial culture

Well, how else are you going to accommodate normal human interaction in a predominantly digital world? We have to understand that the fundamentals of selling itself rely on people. People skills would actually be more accurate. The first hurdle for anyone selling anything online these days is convincing their audience that they’re real and convincing them that they’re legitimate, in that order. And nothing says legitimate than a friendly interaction with a passer-by who may have access to something that you need – or not. Both ways, you have their business card, and it’s not like it’ll hurt to just call and ask.

The phenomenon of objects becoming outdated is one that we’ve become too familiar with. We look at anything traditional or conventional as something that needs to be replaced, and that just isn’t how things work when business cards are gone. A business card has a place within the social discourse that’s never quite been challenged by anything else. And we’re not just talking about Eastern cultures either, where it’s still standard practice to exchange cards at the beginning of a meeting.

Making and maintaining an impression

That’s because there’s more to a business card than just conveying essential information like the business you’re in and the position you hold, or what your email address is. No, a business card is a tangible reminder of you, one that people carry with them, reminding them of you whenever they glance at the card. Yes, that’s the kind of impression a sufficiently unique and well-made business card can make.

Nobody knows exactly how many contacts they have on their phones or in their address books, and nobody minds adding a few more numbers to that list. They don’t mind it, because they pay it no mind either; another entry in that list is just that easy and that cheap. But when it comes to a business card, they’ll face it every time you look through your wallet or clean it out. They’ll be reminded of the first impression you made, of the moment you handed them that card, thanked them for their time, and bid them a good day. It’s the kind of personal touch that businesses spend thousands of dollars to acquire during the internet age, and you’re getting it at the cost of a tiny piece of fancy paper.

Some cultures just can’t make do without them

We talked earlier about how important it is to exchange business cards in some cultures. But did you know that you risk offending a potential client or partner when they give you a business card and you don’t have one to give back? Perhaps not so much in the United States, but in Hong Kong, not having a business card can be a legitimate threat to your business’ profile.

The exchange of business cards is an essential step in the process of two interested parties introducing themselves to each other, and you’d even need to have one face translated into Cantonese to be able to make the cut. China places even more value on business cards, where there are even rituals and etiquette surrounding them, such as offering your card with both hands, or spending a moment to take a look at the card you’ve just been offered. Skipping any of the requisite steps can lead to muddied business relations between you and your potential partners as they feel disrespected by your ignorance of their business culture. And if that seems like a bit much to you, wait till you hear about Japan, where, aside from formal etiquette and conduct, partners will even judge the merits of your choice of cardstock to see what kind of business person you are. A somber, understated card will serve you best in this case, as it’ll reflect that you’re serious about conducting business and that you understand and respect their culture.

They’re traditional, professional, reliable, and tangible, and what all of that means is that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an internet equivalent that does everything a simple, old fashioned business card does. But all we’ve talked about thus far is what a good business card does for you. You don’t print out business cards in singles, doubles, or even tens, so chances are if you’ve made a choice in the past you’re still handing out the same card till date, and know exactly what you did right or wrong (having handed it out to so many people).

We’d recommend going through your options for card stock, font, color, design and the like to make sure you pick a card that perfectly suits your brand image. Remember, a business card is part advertisement, part press release, and part statement of intent. Not only does it tell people that you’re here to do business, or what you do and where to reach you; but also that you’re the kind of businessperson that pays attention to the details and is aware of the image you want to project. So don’t get caught without a business card the next time you’re in town to strike deals!