Frank Floor Talk: Are business cards still relevant in the casino world?

July 26, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports
July 26, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports

When AGS recently held their Customer Summit at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno last month, CEO David Lopez made a bet on stage with GSR’s general manager, Shannon Keel. He predicted that less than half the conference attendees when polled would say they still used printed business cards. When I raised my hand in the affirmative, I was worried that I alone would be branded a “geezer” and moved to the back of the room.

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Surprise! Keel, who’s either a young Gen X’er or an accomplished Millennial, pocketed $100 from Lopez who truly looked stunned by the answer. Almost two-thirds of the audience, including Keel, apparently still practice the ancient tradition of exchanging business cards. I wondered if this result was a throwback anomaly or if maybe this visiting casino crowd was just angling for a suite upgrade from the casino’s GM?

Naturally, I immediately turned to the source of all things worth knowing, the Google machine. Big mistake. The first few hundred articles said business cards are the single most important component of a successful professional career. The stories assured me that a sharp business card ranked ahead of everything including your resume, experience, and a liberal expense account. Of course, all those posts were written by firms that print or design business cards. Perhaps, there was a bit of bias in their responses?

On page five of the Google search results, Forbes had a news article from 2017 that gathered responses from their Forbes Business Council. Member Jeff Tan said, “Perhaps I’m an old-school, new-generation millennial, but I still love exchanging business cards. Are they absolutely necessary? No (hello, LinkedIn). Do they still provide value? Yes. Like a physical paperback compared to an e-reader, there is something still meaningful and personal in giving and receiving cards when meeting people.”

Another member, Dan Golden added, “Business cards aren’t a thing of the past, but saving them is. Collect a business card but take immediate notes. Back at the office, scan the card. There are a lot of scanner apps. Input the info gathered and let it prompt a useful and valuable follow up. Connect on LinkedIn, sure, but do more. For example, follow up a week later by following the person on Twitter, and send an email shortly after about something you talked about.”

I have to concur with Golden. This week I asked a mid-Gen Z clerk manning the sales terminal at Office Depot if they still sold Rolodexes to store business cards. She’d never heard of such a thing but would try and look it up. That’s confirmation.

I admit, I do have a few of those old Rolodexes stuffed with cards, but in my defense, they sit high on a dusty shelf next to an old Nikon F 35mm camera and a pager/beeper with a greenish crust oozing out from the battery compartment.

It is important to note that the Forbes story was pre-pandemic. Almost every rule of business life must be re-examined in this post-pandemic era. CEO Today tackled the topic again just last year: “In today’s fast-moving commercial environments, digital communication, messaging apps and video calls appear to have taken over from the printed page. Understandably, the case for physical business cards must surely be up for review.” Their article discussed the various advantages of digital cards, phone bumps and social media; but they still concluded, “We take the view that printed business cards remain the fastest and most straightforward way to share contact details and get people interested in your business.”

The website said that in 2023, “business cards still hold a certain charm. They offer a personal touch in an increasingly digital world, providing a tangible representation of a professional persona. This physical object can help to create lasting impressions, while also serving as a convenient way to share contact details. Yet, the rise of digital communication technologies and environmental concerns have begun to challenge their dominance.”

But there are just as many doubters. I asked my son if he still uses business cards. “No one uses them, Dad, we just share contacts on the phone.” He told me this while giving me the same condescending look he does when I ask him if he watches the evening news on network TV.

Julia Carcamo is not in the business card printing business. But she is a top consultant on public relations and branding in the casino world (find her online here). Her formal response to my query was pretty definitive: “In an era, where virtual connections dominate, physical business cards remain an irreplaceable cornerstone of effective branding. They embody the tactile essence of connection, forging a lasting impression that transcends screens and resonates with authenticity. A well-crafted business card carries the weight of your brand’s identity, a tangible ambassador that speaks volumes about your professionalism, attention to detail, and commitment to making personal connections in an increasingly digital world. Embrace the power of the physical, for it is in the touch, the exchange, and the lasting impression that true brand loyalty is born.”

I decided that I needed to ask a few more colleagues from the industry for their opinion, so I sent out 100+ emails with a brief poll:

  • I still believe Business Cards are important today    YES / NO
  • Do you keep business cards on file?    YES / NO
  • I, or my organization, scans the card or information, but does not retain the card   YES / NO
  • If not already, business cards may be obsolete in __ years  2 /5 /10 / Never

Thanks to all who responded. We learned some interesting lessons. First, emails sent with extensive Bcc:’s lists often end up in your Spam or Junk mail bins. Secondly, with all the pandemic-related job switching, my Outlook file of email addresses is out-of-date. (If only I had collected more business cards at the latest IGA show, TribalNet or AGS Customer Summit).

Importantly, I discovered that this is a subject near and dear to many of my colleagues due to FOMO. That’s not just a “fear of missing out,” it is more of a “fear of being left behind.” It’s like several years ago when you suddenly noticed that no one else was still using a Blackberry or when a friend said they would “Venmo you” and you had no idea what they were talking about.

One person commented about the poll, “Will this be a “dinosaurs vs. young up-and-comers?” Interestingly, “age” didn’t seem to be a factor in the responses. My good friend Victor Rocha, who passed the Millennial milestone a decade or two ago, didn’t think cards were relevant today. He prefers using QR codes or LinkedIn. Surprisingly then, he was one of the 54.3% who did keep a file of cards received. But he added in a Dr. Seuss tone, “A pile, not a file. Unless a pile is a file.” He was not alone in this storage method.

Lopez would have lost his money on my survey too with 83.3% of the respondents saying cards were still important. When polled, 52.8% said they scanned the cards and then disposed of them. I should have probed more on this response.

Online reviews of dedicated business card scanners that ranged in price from $150 to $425 were not favorable. Almost all did an excellent job scanning and capturing card images. But not one got high marks for successfully transferring the card information correctly into your “contact” list whether it was Outlook, Google, Yahoo, your phone or another organizer. The issue here is probably the wide range of artistic elements and typography styles that card designers use to display contact information. I assume that most respondents manually input much of the data into their contact lists.

But what about digital business cards?

The photo above is from Mobilo and shows one of their cards. Along with Popl and a few others, they are leading suppliers of digital cards. Despite the “digital” name, you do maintain a single physical card that can be produced with any custom design on plastic, metal, or wood. However, the Mobilo card has an internal NFC (near field communication) chip. You present the card, and the receiver captures all your data by tapping against it with their phone. On the back of the card, there’s an alternate method where you can scan a QR code.

One plus for the QR alternative was that I interviewed Mobilo co-founder Joey Madej on a Zoom-like call. He was in New York, NY; I was in Reno, NV. He held his card up to the camera, and I captured his data instantly with my phone. It went seamlessly, and without errors, into both my iCloud and Outlook contact files.

The other advantage was that this QR code could be displayed on your phone without a card, so you’d never have to carry anything if you didn’t want to. Madej cautioned, “We don’t recommend it (digital only). Having something physical on you generally is a perfect segue into a digital solution because there’s a lot of people that go from paper their entire lives all the way to ‘digital only’. For them it can be one step too far. And so having something physical on you is the same muscle memory as a paper card. You give it out, you tap it, you just don’t give it away.”

For a solo operator like me, it is a one-time fee of less than $20 forever. That’s about 20% of the cost of a box of traditional cards, which I re-order every year or two. Even better, I can change a phone number or email address with no charge at all using their app. I signed up on the spot.

Corporate accounts are more expensive, but come with lots of additional CRM-like features. The card can also link directly to videos or presentation decks.

Interestingly, Noah Acres of Acres Manufacturing recently signed up his company with Mobilo. He observed, “I’m noticing that fewer people bring them (paper cards) to regular meetings, but everyone brings them to a convention like G2E.”  Madej said that many of their clients do the same by remaining in both worlds for now.

Acres added, “older school guys have binders full of business cards.” As mentioned earlier, I’m from the much hipper and younger generation that stuffed them into Rolodexes.

So, despite all the affirmations earlier in this story about the value of cards today, DO NOT INVEST any of your 401k retirement money in a business card printing business. Almost two-thirds (63.9%) of the respondents said cards would be obsolete within five years. About a fifth (22.2%) of those participating gave cards a two-year or less lifespan with only 16.7% saying they’d “never” go out of style.

I was in the five-year camp, until I talked with Mobilo. My vote is now in the two-year range. Maybe it’s time to put some of my paper cards in one of the casino coin cups I’ve saved alongside my stack of dollar slot tokens, transistor radios and vintage flip phones.