What were they thinking – 4 Biz Card Don’ts

business cards

business cards

I went to a networking event last week, and it was really a very good event, lots of vendors, lots of people in attendance and a great deal of networking going on.  But the one thing that I found very interesting was the very large table going down the center of one of the rooms.  On this table were hundreds of stacks of business cards and people were going around the table picking cards up from each of the stacks.  As I watched this go on, I had to ask myself; “What are they going to do with all of those cards that they are gathering?”

We become annoyed when people cold call us, we gripe, we complain and we sneer at the people calling us, but we put our cards out there for the taking.  Doesn’t laying your cards out on a table just cry out to others that you are open to be solicited? I know, I know, you thought that by having your business cards out there they were going to sell something for you,  not to you, right?

The next most common complaint that I hear from people everyday is the amount of Spam Email that they get.  Don’t you think that when you are laying your business cards out on a table for people to just pick up randomly you are asking to be put on a mailing list.

Here are 4 things that I do not recommend that you do with your business cards

1.  Don’t lay them out on a table so that others can just randomly pick them up.  There is no value in having a lot of people who have never met you, had a conversation with you or shaken your hand taking a bunch of your cards.

2.  Don’t put your cards on a bulletin board in the grocery store.  Let me ask you a question, have you ever made an appointment with a financial planner who’s card you pulled off of a bulletin board?  If you are the Financial Planner is this the level of clientele that you are really looking for?

3.  Don’t give your card to people who have not asked for it.  I go to networking event on occasion and I am amazed at how many people give me their business cards without ever having a conversation or little conversation with me.  Make sure that people ask for the card before you start handing them out.

4.  Don’t go around the room and lay one of your business cards all the way around the table.  I often see people lay their cards stuck in an ink pen with their logo around the tables of a networking event.  They want to make sure that everyone has their card.

Your business card is an extension of you and your business, it is the one thing that you leave behind that allows me to follow  up with you.  But, it does not sell anything and it does not create a relationship with me, that requires that you and I get face to face.

If you want to just randomly hand your cards out at least you should get something for it, so you can drop them into fish bowls and win free meals, free gym memberships, makeovers or a free financial reviews.  Just don’t be aggravated when you get cold called or spammed.


26 responses to “What were they thinking – 4 Biz Card Don’ts

  1. Hazel, outstanding advice! We are flooded with information and now networking overload these days. We can’t drink it all in. I never thought of business card spam before, but it is an insightful concept. Thanks!

    • Thanks Stephen, glad you like the post, I just wrote to article on Business cards and I am going to do a series of post here. People expect too much from their cards.

  2. Hazel – I was amazed how many people put their cards on the table – and it was my event!

    • People want to get the name of business out, but throwing your biz card everywhere is not the best way to do it. It was a very good event by the way!

  3. Great post, Hazel. So many people base their success at an event on how many cards they hand out. I recently did a workshop on business cards and it amazed me how many people in attendance had no idea about the “ettiquette” involved.
    One concept I went over was to have some conversation with people prior to exchanging cards. Heck, with some people, you may NOT want their card after talking with them (if you get my drift). Going around a room and handing your card out to everyone is tacky and “sharky”.
    For more information on business cards (including the history of them), I recommend you check out the book “It’s In the Cards”. Great stuff!

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  4. Hi Hazel, so true… I think handing out cards has become as customary as a hand shake. It’s almost an involuntary reaction in business circles… most cards I collect that are “uninvited”, end up in the round file anyway. Even in the Social Networking environment, people advertise and self promote– “Hey, look at me” … but even on websites like twitter, we become 1 in a million other tweets until we establish that we can provide value for them.

    • Mark, I think that you are right, it is just what we do and we do get lost in the world of social networking. Thanks for your great response.

  5. As always, practical, great example, and to the point. I’m going on an “anti-networking” campaign…at least anti- the way many of us are networking. Your post is more ammo in the fight. Thanks!

  6. Hazel,

    I once read a book about the greatest car salesman who ever lived. He noted that business cards were his mainstay and without them he wouldn’t have been anywhere. He’d go through 1000’s weekly throwing them into the air as confetti at local sporting events or go as far as leaving stacks of cards in public restrooms.

    Times have certainly changed, but I do think there is still value in the anonymous business card placement. Even placing one on that local bulletin board. Do you think you’d actually lose business if someone saw it there? From an advertising perspective, if one person in a thousand actually saw your card somewhere and made an impression, isn’t that worth its 3 cents?

    • Maybe if I were a car salesman. I buy cars from perfect strangers, there are lots of commodities and products that I buy from strangers or off the internet.

      When I was an insurance agent, I quickly learned the difference between working with people who looking for quotes and getting prices and working with people who wanted a quality insurance agent. I could give better service and time to my clients when I was not running around chasing after low level leads and cranking out quotes for people who were just shopping.

      When I worked with people who were referred to me, I had the kind of clients that were ready to buy. When I threw around business cards I was working with shoppers.

      Statistically speaking 10 percent of your clients will create 80% of your income while taking as little as 10% of your time.

      On the other hand, 10% of your clients will take up 80% of your time and create only 10% of your income.

      Bottom line, its about target market. Who are you targeting when you are throwing your cards everywhere? Look for quality over quantity, look for buyers instead of shoppers.

  7. Jerry W. Williamson


    I couldn’t agree more. Those who know me well will tell you that I always teach the only person who is successful from this form of marketing is the person “printing” the business cards and selling them to you.

    If this works, why don’t we all meet at Wal-Mart and just spend our days sliding business cards under windshield wipers?

    • That Walmart Comment is FUNNY! I do have one lady who feels insulted by the whole post, she is posting comments on my facebook! Thanks for your comment, I love it!

  8. As a Gift Basket Designer, my product might be compared with cosmetics or vitamins (both consumer retail goods), but I prefer not to paper the universe with business cards to see what I might get. I try only to exchange cards with people I feel I could build a relationship with, as my desire is to have a trusting partnership with all my clients… Read More…I am sure I could have more business by doling out the cards like raindrops, but my intent is to have fewer lifelong clients as opposed to many 1 shot deals!

  9. Hazel, great post. Prequalification is always a must. But what is the goal of giving out you card? Is there a call to action on your card? Why is this person or prospect going to contact you?

    Usually, I forget a person or business if I am not in need of their services, after I receive their card. Sometimes, I have even lost their card.

    A smart man told me, to use my business cards as marketing pieces. Not only to brand yourself, but to present your prospect with an offer.

    With the presence of technology helping leverage our communication efforts. Why not offer a prospect a free gift, report, tips, etc. via online.

    When doing this, you capture the prospects information, track their interest in you and put them into your marketing cycle (email marketing).

    Hopefully, this works as well for you, as it has worked for me.


  10. Hazel,

    With you 100% Most of my business comes from referrals, and virtually none of them from the 100s of people who give me business cards on a weekly basis.

    I want to know with whom I am contracting – just good business practice.



  11. Jeff Stay challenged me with this, and I did it. Had forgotten all about it until now.

    Someone gave me their card at an event and he was a financial planner. I looked at the card, and politely handed it back to him, calmly explaining that I already had my primary and secondary referral partners, and so it would be disingenuous of me to take the card of someone I would not be referring business to.

    The look on his face was priceless. We went on to get to know one another – he actually started a BNI chapter – but I never did refer him business. After all, once I have 2 levels of referral partners it takes a lot to displace them!

  12. I guess it can depend on the field your in whether to aggressively hand them out or not.

    Personally I agree with the commentator David that you’d get more value in your cards if you used them as a marketing piece.

    Displaying your business’ unique value proposition, or a strong call to action, or any other strong message to spark an emotion.

    But again, depending on the field I’m not sure this strategy works for all.

  13. Pingback: 4 things NOT to do with your business Cards « Tiffanie Kellog’s Blog

  14. I feel most business cards are badly designed anyway – they often don’t have the “right” info on them.

    Sales is not “telling” but asking numerous questions so that one can match the needs of the prospective client with the product/ service you have. A business card cannot do this.

    Most business cards don’t have a “call to action”. So what if they know your email address: the card hasn’t solved any of the objections of “no worry, no hurry or no money”

  15. I don’t know if stacks of business cards sitting around is really a bad thing, but I can say that to date I have never had someone come to me stating that they randomly picked my business card up somewhere (not that there’s really been that opportunity).

    I agree that getting them from people you know, or have at least really talked to, is the best approach. For myself, those are the people I actually get a response from and it’s a win-win both ways and it leads to referrals which is where a good portion of our business comes from.

  16. Hazel,

    When is the next networking event in Indy where I can leave my business cards on a table?

    This tip might be the total opposite of idea of the article, and isn’t for every business type.

    But whenever I have a sales person cold call me, I always flip the the call. I have him on the phone, so I try to learn about their business and who the decision makers are.

    This method works best when a decision maker is making to cold call to you.

    I would like to test out how many people call me from having my business card laying on a table. And also how many appts. I set for selling my services. And Finally, how many deals I close.

    Hazel, could this work for you? Wouldn’t those people who pick up the biz cards, do exactly the opposite of what you teach about leverage? It seems like they could be great candidates for your business success trainings.

    P.S. I thought my first post never posted, good ‘ole google analytics showed me this back link.

    • Interesting concept! They do cold call me and like you I also have a habit of turning the cold calls around. OK, lets plan on going to the chocolate and blues again this fall, put our cards on the table and see what happens!

  17. I heard someone say to me one time, they were either couk or extremely wise, You be judge:

    “Everything happens for a reason, whether its good or bad. That is what was supposed to happen in this beautiful cosmos. “

  18. About laying those cards out at events, Hazel: some states have laws against baiting game when you’re out hunting.

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