How many times have you gotten someone’s business card with every intention of contacting them and following up?  Perhaps the new acquaintance would be a great networking partner or referral source for your business.  Perhaps the person was a potential client or vendor.  Maybe they offered a service that would help your business?

Then what happens?  You put the card into your wallet, pocket or purse.  When you get back to the office or maybe some time in the future when you clean out your wallet or purse, you put that business card in your desk drawer or a handy little box on your desk.  You know, the one where you keep all of the other business cards that you have collected.  The box may even be the old box that your business cards came in.  After all, it’s the perfect size.  Right?

Let’s be honest.  By the time you sort through the box or drawer and go looking for the contact information, you have lost the momentum.  Maybe you can’t remember the person’s name or their business.  If you are like many people I meet, by the time you sort through those business cards, the information is likely to be outdated.  Not to mention, it is unlikely the person will remember you.  How long has it been?  Where did we meet?

The Streamlined Office would like to help you change that scenario.  With today’s technology, there are lots of apps available to get those business cards digitized and stored in your contact list.  If you are already using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System, it is highly likely that the CRM has an accompanying app that you can download on your phone.   If you are simply using a Mail program like G-Mail or Outlook, there are generic apps that will do the trick.

Once you download the app onto your smartphone, the app will typically walk you through the process.  All of them will ask you to use your phone to take a picture of the business card.  Some will allow you to take both sides and others will not.  Once the picture is taken, the software will process the information.  The processing time varies depending upon the app that you chose and how many cards you are trying to digitize; it will either be within seconds or you will get a notification through your phone when the upload is complete.  From that point, you are typically given the option to store the information in the contacts on your phone.  Viola!  The information from the business card has now become one of your contacts.

Although this is not a design blog, I can tell you from experience that there are a number of things that will affect how accurately the information from the business card is processed.  Some apps, such as the one associated with Infusionsoft (a high end CRM), actually have a person transcribing the information.  This slows the transcription time but, in my experience, significantly reduces errors in the data.  Other apps rely on OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology.  The accuracy of the transcription often depends upon the quality of your photo, the content on the business card and whether you are using the free or paid version of the app.  (I will let you figure out which is more accurate).

The quality of your photo will be largely dependent upon the phone you are using to take the photo.  Quality in = Quality out.  Photos of a business card should be taken on a solid, dark background with good lighting.  Avoid shadows and glare from lights and camera flashes.  Taking the photo at a slight angle (versus completely horizontal to the business card) can sometimes improve clarity.

The content of the business card can also impact how accurately the information is digitized.  Glossy cards are often reflective in photos.  Light print colors, lots of background graphics, unusual fonts, and symbols can all adversely affect accuracy with digitization.

A good rule of thumb is to always check the accuracy of information before automatically saving the data.  During the review process, you will always have the opportunity to make corrections.

Now that you know how easy it is to get new contact information off of those business cards and into your contact list, make it a habit to do this the same day you receive a new contact.  Eliminate the paper clutter created by business cards in your office and, more importantly, put that contact information to good use!