Like your American Express card, you should never leave home without your business cards. Business opportunities can pop up at any time -- it could be at the grocery store, in line at the movies or at Starbucks. When a business opportunity presents itself, you need to take advantage by having a business card available. The business card is a lasting impression that is left behind after you are gone. You need to make it work for you.
The appearance of your business card says as much about you as your physical appearance. As the tangible evidence of your meeting, it should reflect your style, grace and class. You should never pass out a business card that looks "used" - torn, folded, frayed corners. A business card case should be mandatory. It doesn't have to be a fancy sterling version from Tiffany's. You need something to keep your cards clean and prevent folding and fraying.
Another no-no is to distribute outdated cards. If your cards contain outdated information, do not pass them out. Crossing out information and writing the correction is sloppy. Business cards are cheap. When your information changes, buy new cards. If your company is too cheap to buy them, purchase them yourself. Remember the cards are not only a representation of the company but also of you -- make yourself stand out.
Follow the one card per person rule of thumb when passing out your cards. It is acceptable to give more if asked, however, you look like you want that person to help you market yourself if you hand over more than one.
While networking, you would not want people to blow you off. It is the same with business cards. Do not hastily put a received card in your pocket or stuff it in your wallet. This is a sign of disrespect. Take a moment to review the card and use the information provided as another source of conversation. It will show the other person that you care. After the conversation it is acceptable to put the card in your pocket, but you should refrain from writing notes on it until later.
It is acceptable to request a business card, unless that person is in a higher position than you. In this situation, you must wait for the other person to offer you a card. If they want you to have one, they will offer you one.
For international business people, it is a good idea to have your information translated into the native language on the other side of your card. Do not assume that everyone speaks English and having the additional version shows you are thoughtful and prepared.
It's hard to believe that in today's technologically advanced world that a 3" x 2.5" piece of card stock can have such a big influence on your business. Yes, your business card says a great deal about you and is a lasting impression a person has of their meeting with you. Make it count.