Why business cards still beat ‘the bump’

Yes, it’s a matter of habit, but not only so

Marketing consultant Mark Schaefer has a thought-provoking blog post headlined: "The best digital business idea that just never worked." It's about being at the SXSW conference recently and noticing that even that collection of digerati remains stubbornly dependent upon paper: paper programs, paper posters, paper flyers and paper name tags.   


And then he gets to his main paper point:

But the strangest hold out of all is the business card.

I probably passed out (and received) 250 business cards at the event. Nobody offered a "digital" card and nobody asked for one, even though that "bump" technology of transferring from one mobile device to another has been around for a few years.

I found this so odd ... especially when I returned home and manually had to enter all that information into my contact list. Doesn't that just seem like the biggest waste of time? "Bumping" a business card is such a great idea. But it never worked.  Why?

He posed the question to a Facebook group and received a bunch of plausible answers, most boiling down to habit and the fact that paper cards offer subtle benefits that the bump just can't match.

But here's another reason: Human nature.

Never having exchanged cards electronically, I'm going to nonetheless assume that offering a "bump" requires a conversation between the parties to ascertain that a) the receiver is amenable to this method, and b) that he or she possesses the necessary technology (yes, people still carry not-so-smart phones).

That bother alone is enough to dissuade this non-bumper, who has had occasion to be at a conference room table with a half-dozen previously unknown vendor representatives.

But there are also other considerations. Some new contacts may acquiesce to and accept your bump even though they really would prefer a physical card; too polite to ask, they leave the encounter slightly unfulfilled if not irritated. And should you make the offer to someone who either doesn't bump or lacks the technology, well, you've added the possibility of embarrassment to the possibility of irritation.

Not good for business. And why take the chance when going old school carries no risk whatsoever.

But, wait, you say: What about the bumpers who hate paper cards and are irritated by the collective failure of most of us to get with the bump program?

That's their problem. And their irritation, unlike the type they risk causing, cannot be directed at specific individuals or else they'd be irritated with virtually everyone.

Business cards are going to be around for a long, long time.  

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