Startup Operations · CRM

What is the Best Way To Digitize Business Cards?

Daniel Dudley Strategist & Biomedical Executive

October 8th, 2015

I recently got back from yet another conference with a massive stack of new contacts and leads in the form of business cards. In the past I would simply take the day to individually write follow up emails and add people to my CRM with notes about when/where I met them. As my startups has grown I no longer has the luxury of time to spend (what now has become) days to do everything manually and am looking for a way to automate at least part of this process.

Does anyone have Services or Apps that do a good job of digitizing everything  and also a CRM that will easily take that info as an input? Or if you don't do you have any that you have had bad experiences with?

Joe Walling CTO, software developer, software architect

October 10th, 2015

The goal, imho, is not about online networking as suggestedabove. It is about building good relationships. The business cards,social media sites, and phones are tools. They can all help you move toward your goals when used effectively. It is not all about whether you can do this networking 100% online. I would suggest that if you manage to do this 100% online, then you are missing out on some major aspects of relationship building.

I agree that it is good to have a purpose and to look up people you already know to expand the relationship, but it is also a great opportunity to get to know many people that you have never met before and set up future meetings to see if there are any synergies.

For those that still plan tocollect business cards at shows and other networking events, the tools mentioned earlier in this discussion should prove useful.

Anthony Zeoli Digital Strategy and WordPress Consultant and Trainer

October 8th, 2015

LinkedIn did have an app to scan business cards, but for some reason, they shelved it.

Evernote came out with business card scanning as part of their mobile app experience. I've used it and it's pretty neat.

Here is a tutorial on Evernote Business Card Scanning.

Joe Walling CTO, software developer, software architect

October 8th, 2015

As far as business card scanning, there are several products that give reasonable results. Some of these can be done from your smart phone such as CamCard, World Card, and Full Contact. World Card also has an inexpensive scanner that I find to be quicker and easier than holding a phone. I did an in depth review of several of thesedifferent options including their accuracy. There is a big difference in accuracy between the products. Full Contact came out on top in my tests. However, there is arecurring fee for this service. Iam personally using the World Card scanner until I finish an app thatintegrates my CRM with Full Contact.If you want to see the full review, visit my blog at

Rob G

October 12th, 2015

Joe W has it correct, it's about building relationships.  I think it's a serious leap of logic to assume that someone has "failed" in their digital networking simply because they have business cards they want to leverage.  Most importantly, in the startup world, if you don't, as Steve Blank likes to put it "get out of the building", you are unnecessarily limiting your opportunities.  And going purely digital (i.e. banishing business cards altogether) isn't as frictionless as it could be nor does it offer the business value it should.  I would argue that you unnecessarily limit your business opportunities if you don't cary and have your employees cary business cards.  Business cards aren't for everyone, but then again they aren't about you, they are about making it convenient for the recipient.  The issue is, as Daniel is experiencing, that they still aren't as convenient (frictionless) as they could be.  If the seed of a business relationship starts face to face and business cards are exchanged so be it - still happens millions of times a every day.  This is a market opportunity that LinkedIn should have done a better job with. They reportedly paid $2.4M for CardMunch (chump change for them), but failed to truly leverage it's value.  Now they have partnered with Evernote - time will tell.  Evernote uses OCR whereas CardMunch used live bodies.  Looks like perhaps FullContact may get it- we'll see. Google could put a serious dent in this too.  LinkedIn and Salesforce have done a reasonable job providing tools to manage business relationships at scale, but they still miss the boat in many respects.   There is a need for tools to eliminate the friction from real world to digital and after the initial face to face interaction the digital tools need to do a much better job of helping users get value from the 'relationship'.  That's where the real magic needs to happen and where the opportunity lies.  When an employee of mine hands someone a business card (or hopefully some lower-friction method) that's a potential business opportunity - no matter how minor.  The challenge is making that minor connection 'stick'.  3 years or 5 years down the road when that 'contact' or his/her boss does an online search for a product or service my company offers i want my company to be a part of that search result.  That's value i'd pay for. 

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

October 10th, 2015

You should regard picking up a business card at a conference as a sign of failure. It means your online networking is not working as it should.

These days there is no excuse. Twitter sends you three people you should connect with every day, LinkedIn has oceans of suggestions (not all good ones, but they're there) and there are a host of sites like this one dedicated to helping you find the people making waves in your space.

There is a second factor - what you do with them.
In the 19th century people collected stamps. They knew nothing about them, just put them in an album to show off how many they had. 

In the 20th century people did the same with business cards. In an era where finding out about what was out there was hard, contacts were important. But with the advent of the telephone, it became much easier. Sales people would build massive Rolodexes of contacts to show how important they were and send a message to their boss - if I go the Rolodex does too.

The boss's reaction was CRM. The boardroom feeling was that those contacts belong to the company, not the person and every salesperson was forced to divulge details of every interaction to the system. 

But many people haven't got out of the stamp collecting mindset. They collect cards just to feel connected, to show off how many people they know. And they do nothing with them - simply show them off like trophies in a cabinet.

So ask yourself three things.
1. Why have I not met this person before?
Are they Luddites who don't show up online? If so why am I bothering with them - they aren't the best people in the industry. Perhaps they're new - maybe they've moved jobs - in which case I'd better dig behind the current card to see their track record. Who do they know that I know, so I can triangulate to learn more about them? But really I should have heard of them in their old guise - perhaps they don't know this industry but are just out to make a quick buck. Alarm bells should be ringing. Why were they recruited, what's their remit etc.

2. Who else do I know at this organisation?
Regardless of the person, you should surely know all the companies and players (regulatory bodies, funding groups, media etc.) in your space. How good they are, how close to what you're doing, potential for co-operation, collaboration or competition. Basically what you can get from knowing them and them knowing you - both long and short term. So who did this person replace, and where is he/she now? Why did they move on and what does that tell me about the dynamics of the company? 

3. The Biggie. What can I do now to make use of this contact?
What can I propose to them? How should I tease this out? Is something going on I should nip in the bud, or get involved in? Why have they suddenly surfaced - is there a new initiative? And how much time and effort should I expend - are they just a nice to know, or a must get involved with?

With a modern intelligence system, you know your market. Not only what is happening today, but who are the players sitting on the subs bench, waiting to come on. Shows are not part of that intelligence gathering system, they are only the confirmation of it - the place to go to renew old acquaintances, tease out the intel, have some face time and watch the tells to see what is really going on. If you are relying on finding out something new at a show, you really shouldn't be in that industry at all!

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

October 8th, 2015

I use NEAT DESK and and SalesforceIQ to manage my contacts. Unfortunately, they do not integrate, so it's a bit of a chore.

Robert Tolmach Entrepreneur and Social Entrepreneur

October 8th, 2015


Daniel Dudley Strategist & Biomedical Executive

October 11th, 2015

Thanks to everyone for the feedback. As much as I would like to "ditch" business cards, that is not an option in my industry. What may work in the "tech-startup" world doesn't necessarily translate to the biomedical and healthcare I live in. The people I tend to get business cards from are rarely on LinkedIn and social media or other digital presences are often not possible due to NDAs. 

I will definitely check out Evernote, Cardscan and FullContact.
Will report my thoughts later.

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

October 8th, 2015

+1 for fullcontact

Sam Glassenberg Chief Executive Officer

October 8th, 2015

After trying a few, I've been happy with Evernote.