The dos and don’ts of business card etiquette

Business cards are an integral piece in professional networking. From small-town shop owners to corporate CEOs, anyone trying to run a business needs this tool. However, having a business card is only one part of successfully approaching a networking opportunity. You also need to know the best times and places to hand out your contact information. Even the slightest of slip ups can hinder your attempt at building a relationship with a potential client or colleague. Therefore, it’s essential to have a sufficient understanding of business card etiquette. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of this strategy:

Do give it to someone who asks for it
A colleague or potential client may not directly say, “Can I have your business card?” However, they may be asking for it in a more subtle way. Jump on any occasion in which someone asks about how they can contact you, when you are available or information about your business. This is a great opportunity to provide them with one of your custom business cards.

A creative business card that speaks to your brand identity will make you stand out among your competitors. However, you still need an extra edge when the recipient is rifling through all of the contact information he or she has collected that day. To make yourself even more memorable, include a little note on the back of the card. Write a few words that will jog the person’s memory of your conversation or outline the best times to reach you. This extra step will really enhance your networking game plan.

Don’t hand it out to everyone
Some business professionals consider handing out business cards as a way to actively network or advertise. However, passing out your contact information to anyone walking by is counterproductive. Although you are attempting to spread the word about your services and convey a sense of initiative, doing this can actually be off-putting or considered rude. This is especially true if you slip it into someone’s hand without saying anything or give it to a recipient who is in the middle of a conversation. If the plan is to hand out your information to anyone and everyone, then these two scenarios could very likely happen.

The important take away from this point is to not treat business cards as an advertising edge. If you really want to get your name out there, hand out flyers, post on a billboard or take out an ad in the newspaper. Save the business cards for more personal networking opportunities.

Do have a business card holder
When the opportunity to hand out your business card does arise, make sure the exchange is smooth and professional. Use a business card holder to carry multiple copies of your contact information wherever you go. Keeping the cards in a holder will prevent them from getting torn or wrinkled, which can look unprofessional. Additionally, you don’t want to go digging in your wallet, pockets or purse to hand out a business card. Consolidating all of your cards into one holder will save time for both you and the recipient. Plus, having the business card holder makes you look like a practiced businessperson. After all, why would you need this tool unless you handed out your contact information frequently?

Though these are some general guidelines on business card etiquette, use your best judgment when handing out contact information. If you stumble upon someone who might benefit from your services or you would like to continue the conversation you’ve just had with a person, give them your card. You don’t always need to wait for someone to ask for one, just don’t push it on people who are not interested.