If someone asked you what the most important marketing tool is, you would probably respond with business cards. You would be absolutely right about that since it is without a doubt a powerful marketing tool. What if you were asked if there is a particular etiquette regarding business cards? The answer will differ depending on where you are located in the world.
In Japan, business cards are called meishi and are exchanged with great ceremony. The proper way to give and receive cards is with both hands. It is first received with both hands, followed by a bow, and expression of gratitude to the person for the opportunity to meet with them. The cards are not then immediately put away, because it is regarded as rude. It is printed in the home language on one side and Japanese on the other and presented with the Japanese language side up. The Japanese place emphasis on status and hierarchy, so a title is a must. During a meeting the Japanese normally place the cards on the table in front of them.
The business cards card will contain the name and title along with the company name, address and telephone number of the businessman. In Japan it is frowned upon to write on the card as well as putting the card in your pocket or wallet. These actions are viewed as disrespectful. Cards are put in card holders. Since the Japanese value the business card so highly, the highest quality cardstock is usually used.
Business card etiquette is a bit more relaxed in the UK and involves little ceremony. It is not considered disrespectful to keep cards in your pocket, but they should definitely be kept clean and presentable.
In India they are presented so the recipient may read the text as the card is being handed to them. If you have a university degree, or any honour for that matter, it is something that should be put on the card. When handing and receiving business card the right hand is used, and the cards do not need to be translated into Hindi.
Little if any ceremony is attached to card exchanges here, the business card etiquette is quite loose. Although cards should be kept clean and presentable, it is not uncommon for businessmen to carry cards loose in their pockets or to make notes on the card's back or other blank surfaces. It is actually suggested by many to leave parts of the card blank to have an area to write on when out in the field. Finding a writing surface can be hard to find sometimes.
They are usually handed out at the beginning of meetings, and just one is given. At informal meetings more than one business card is handed.
In China it is preferable to present your card before you ask for that of the other person. The translation of the card is in simplified Chinese characters and in the appropriate dialect (Mandarin or Cantonese.) If the business is distinguished by being the oldest or the largest the card will convey that fact. As in Japan, the card is presented with both hands, Chinese translation facing up, with the type toward the recipient so the card can be read. After receiving a business card it is customary to bow and thank the person for the opportunity to meet with them. After receiving a card it is examined carefully, and a nice gesture would be to ask for a clarification of some point to convey interest. The cards are never put a card away immediately and never written on.
General Business Card Etiquette Tips
- If travelling to another country, have a translation in the appropriate language.
- When in another country hand the business card with the appropriate language facing up.
- Business cards are usually exchanged at the beginning or end of a meeting.
- Make a point to study the card that is handed to you, commenting on it and asking any questions about it if any.
- Have plenty with you so you do not run out.
About the author:
Sevag T is a Project manager at Mind2Print.com
, an online printing company.