My Lag Ba’Omer Bonfire of Business Cards

The Conference Season has just opened in Israel, with lots of great events filling up our calenders for May and June. Even a few that an introvert like me would consider leaving the security of my home office to attend.

For example, the Temech Conference for Women in Business, which I’m organizing. Probably I should show up to that one :).

But all these opportunities to meet people in person has raised a question that I’ve been avoiding for the last 2 years:

Should I get some business cards?

You know that awkward moment where you meet someone at a professional event, and they hand over their card with a confident flick of the wrist. Then you mumble your excuse why you don’t have a business card to exchange.

Perhaps you even rationalize that you don’t need one ‘cos you’re just too savvy  to hand out pieces of dead tree.

I’ve been doing that line for the past couple of years.

While I’m certainly a lover of rainforests, that is not real reason I’ve been too wary to make business cards.

The real reason is because there was a period of 5 years where I had six sets of business cards printed. Each time a batch of 500. Each time I used less than 10% of them before they became obsolete, if not misleading, if not downright embarrassing.

And then they started piling up in the closet in the guest room.

The Problem with Business Cards

I know there are some people who stay in the same role and want to convey  the same message for 5 consecutive years, or more. There are actually quite a lot of people like that in the world.

Business cards work great for them. Those types can even save money by ordering 1,000 business cards at a time.

If that’s you, you deserve a cape for this staying-power super-power you have.

And then there are people like me, natural-born entrepreneurs with a hint of ADD, who are constantly getting involved with new projects, new ventures, new directions.

People who are passionately involved in a lot of things – not just one job title that they can print on a business card.

People who like trees and hate waste and whose guest-room closets are already haunted with several thousand ghosts of business-cards past.

As you can see I have some baggage around the issue of printing business cards.

And yet, all these conferences are coming up. There are all these great people that I will have a chance to meet and give them my business card, making it so much easier for them to follow up and stay in touch with me.

Lag_BaOmer_bonfireThen last week I saw the light:

Lag BaOmer is coming. I can tell because the boys in my neighborhood can be seen schlepping enormous fallen trees up 45 degree inclines on any given afternoon.

Now is the perfect time to purge all the kindling wood cluttering my closet AKA thousands of useless old business cards, and burn them in a giant cleansing conflagration in the merit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

And then make a fresh start with a new business card, hot off the digital presses.

But What to Put on My New Business Card?

The most obvious choice would be this blog.

I could say:

Naomi Elbinger

Blogger-in-Chief

My Parnasa: The Jewish Business Blog

But while this blog is closely related to both my business and life goals, it’s not the sum total of who I am and what I might offer some nice person I meet at a conference.

I am also:

  • A creative non-fiction writer
  • A web business strategist
  • A developer of WordPress websites
  • A copywriter
  • A marketing consultant
  • A Parnasa activist
  • The coordinator of the Temech Conference
  • The owner of a historical translations business
  • A micro-farmer

And this list grows and changes on a regular basis.

How can I get the sum total of who I am on a 5X9 business card?

After a lot of thought, I came up with the following business card:

biz_card_front

The Front

biz_card_back

The Back. Credit goes to my designer, Rachel Gabay

When I showed it to a few colleagues I respect, I got some rather strong reactions, both positive and negative.

The doubters felt that this is not what a business card should be or that I was failing to convey a core message.

The likers felt that it was simple yet different and it had an up-to-date web-esque feel.

I thanked them all for their input.

But Will it Work?

My goal here is different than the standard goal of a business card, which is to convey a credible message that this person is worth knowing due to their association with whatever company, organization or message is logo-ed on their business card.

Think:

“Oh, you’re the VP of Marketing at Apple Inc? In that case, I will take some time to talk to you a bit more and follow up too.”

My goal is different.

It’s more like.

“We met. If your meeting with me gives you the feeling that I am worth knowing, then here is a friendly invitation to learn more about all the things I do and get in touch.”

Whether or not this approach will work, we’ll probably never know, since the effectiveness of a business card is almost impossible to measure. Still, I’ve included a quick poll at the end of this post to see what the general reaction is.

Meanwhile I have 500 of these business cards and I’m pretty confident I’ll use them all, since neither my name nor my personal domain name are likely to change in the next 5 years.

And now I can go burn all my other old cards with a clear conscience.

Happy Lag BaOmer!

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Comments

  1. I like it Naomi. And I totally get what you mean about changing roles. For this particular card of yours though, instead of a business card, I could see calling it a greeting card. Let us know how it goes.

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Thanks Leah. It is kind of like an old-fashioned “calling card”

    [Reply]

  2. Gidon Ariel says:

    Your poll options are humorous, but do not give me a satisfactory response.

    I think a discussion about what the goal that business cards are a part of is in order.

    Nowadays, it’s much easier to find info and contact details about you or anyone with a quick gmail or Google search than by thumbing through a card album or pile.

    If we really connected, I’ve already entered your phone number into my phone=Google contacts in the cloud.

    If not, does it really matter?

    BTW, I would put a qr code, a lot of people already use these. Maybe two, one for your site and one for your vcard.

    Otherwise, the out of the box ness here is good IMHO.

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    I hear your point, but I still think that business cards are important. The act of physically handing something over (and receiving something) represents a certain first step in establishing a connection (if there is interest). Then there is the power of seeing someone’s name in print, which embeds it in our minds on a different level than hearing their name.
    Business cards may be on their way out, but they are far from dead yet IMO

    [Reply]

    Gidon Ariel Reply:

    i agree with your last comment

    [Reply]

  3. Hello Naomi;

    We met at the Temech conference last year. I was the one handing out pretty business cards – that were all different.

    You might think about checking out Moo Cards. I don’t work for them, but I do love what they do. Two great things they do, well three – because they are really beautiful quality cards. 1) you don’t have to order 1,000 minimum but can make an order as small as 50 cards. 2) each and every one can be different – whatever you want. You have 9 possibilities listed above, so you could add a general one and then get 5 of each with the same contact information on the front.

    Anyway – your new cards are very pretty and I do like them. Looking forward to seeing you at the conference. :)

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Thanks Sheina. Looking forward to meeting you again at the conference.

    [Reply]

  4. Everyone meets two kinds of people at conferences, etc. – those who already know/ have heard of them. And those who haven’t.

    The first category don’t need your business card, because they will look you up or Google you if they want to do business with you later.
    But the second category don’t know you or your name. If they want to get in touch with that nice lady they met at the conference who was a marketing consultant and web designer, they won’t be able to find you in their pile of business cards they brought home.
    So I’m not sure your cards serve any purpose.

    Signed: the owner of two sets of business cards sitting in my office closet, who probably should print a third set.

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Hi Miriam,
    There are a thousand web developers and marketing consultants.
    If they want to look me up, it’s because I made a particular impression on them. It’s me they want to follow up with, not “a web developer.”
    In my experience, people don’t hire me for my skills alone, but, more importantly, due to their impression of me. There is a difference between someone who sells the same skills as a commodity, and me, who sells them as an experience.
    This is my opinion, but I can’t prove it’s true.

    [Reply]

  5. I get the idea, and I like some parts of it – providing less info is cool. But I think SOME more info needs to be there. I am not great at remembering names, especially if I’m at a conference meeting hundreds of people, and no matter how great an impression you made on me at the time, I’m pretty sure that when I next look at that card later on I will not have a clue which person that is. Round file.

    Maybe a single web address that you can always use as your launchpad to direct people to your various ventures, whatever they may be at the time. That way at least when I pull your card out of my pocket a week later, I can visit the website to remind me why I wanted to keep your card in the first place.

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Hi Chava,
    I totally agree about the central webpage and this is my goal with this card.
    right now, that domain is redirected to the about page on my blog, but I will soon change it to an about.me page that can present all the different aspects of my work.
    The point is that I can update my website at any time, unlike my business card

    [Reply]

  6. Well, this is an interesting discussion, but nobody mentioned personal branding yet. (Sorry if I missed it…) Your business card is a terrific way to establish personal branding and a minimalist approach is clever, but doesn’t brand you. Except as a minimalist. My business card also has the front and back printed, (you’ll see them on my Home page and my About page) but you will not have any doubt at all about who I am and what I do. I branded myself, for better or worse. People who think I’m cool will want to keep my card, and those who don’t will toss it away. That’s how personal branding is supposed to work – it attracts our ideal clients and repels the others. I’d LOVE to see a card with your personal brand, Naomi, because you are such a multi-preneur! http://mia-sherwood-landau.com/index/

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Hi Mia,
    You’re making an important point about branding. This biz card is inconsistent with any brand message I’ve ever put out there before.
    Until now, I never gave any thought to the look and feel of my personal brand.
    That’s why I was careful to choose colors, fonts and a look that I feel is something I could use on my website (when I develop it) and other materials in the future.

    [Reply]

  7. It definately not the type of business card that will work as a stand on it’s own advertisement for your buisiness. But if you succeeded in conveying something about your business durring your meeting with said contact it might just be very effective. Tell us how it goes.

    [Reply]

  8. a) Yes, it is a calling card, or “carte de visite” – but with the added contact info added (old fashioned cards, it was assumed you knew how to reach people just by reading the name!)

    b) Cards have a variety of purposes. At a conference, where you are meeting lots and lots of people, being able to hand someone your name and contact info is handy – they can enter the info later, and may not have time at the moment.

    c) despite all the hype surrounding a “real” or “terrific” concept business card, which acts as a kind of 2 second advertisement, I’m not sure they work all that well. For those of us who operate more slowly and who need multiple and various exposures to new ideas and people, invest in them only if they will be useful for 500 “gives”. Otherwise, find other ways of exposing people to what you do. Most of what I need a business card for is to get the contact info of someone I’ve already decided I need to contact.

    d) A missing element here is reasons to interact beyond a sold client. I think conferences are useful in getting people together, but I’d like to see smaller gatherings that expose people to what their peers are doing – these can be in person, via Skype or some other method of virtual communication – so that there really ARE avenues for exposing others to what we do and finding out ourselves what others do. Nothing too time consuming, but really, where the goal is to learn something, and later on get to meet some of the same people in other cycles, presentations, situations so we get a fuller picture of who they are and what they do over time.

    Not what you asked. Just saying.
    PS I didn’t vote because none of the answers matched what I felt. Happens to me a lot with surveys… :-)

    [Reply]

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