No matter how technologically advanced we are as a society, we still follow a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1600s, when calling cards made their debut. Over the next centuries, calling cards were used to announce the impending arrival of prosperous or aristocratic people, or as a means of formal introduction — leading us to business cards.
How about this business card from an attorney in 1895!
Format-wise, business cards have been a little slow to adapt to our always-online culture. It seems that exchanging paper cards at networking events is still the quickest way to get someone’s contact information. But therein lies the challenge: What happens after the event, when you get back to the office with a stack of cards?
Most likely, you go through the arduous process of typing each card’s info into your contacts file, or you just let them sit there on your desk collecting dust until you throw them out. Well, Evernote now offers you a much better option.
How Evernote Addresses the Pain Point
Evernote has a new Premium feature that solves the pain of collecting information from business cards, at least for all of us who use iOS devices. (An Android version may be in development, though Evernote does not officially comment on upcoming features that aren’t in beta.) Here’s how the feature works.
When you open Evernote and tap on the Camera icon, you’ll see four different camera options. One, obviously, is to take a regular photo. The next two, as we learned in my last post, are the Post-it note and the Moleskin journal settings. You want to choose the fourth, the Business Card setting.
Now, snap a photo of a business card. Evernote will collect the card’s information into a new contact note, and you’ll be able to edit the contact’s details. Plus, immediately after saving the business card’s information, Evernote will ask if you would like to email your own contact information to this person. What a great way to instantly connect, right there at an event!
Before you start sharing business cards this way, though, you’ll want to head over to Evernote settings and update your contact information. Just scroll down to the bottom where it says “Business Card,” and you’ll see that you can create a profile for yourself. Once you are happy with your profile, you can tell Evernote to send it to all new contacts, automatically! This is a nice way of ensuring that new contacts know how to reach you.
What Else? The LinkedIn Connection
If you have connected your Evernote account to your LinkedIn account, Evernote will cross-reference your new contact’s card information with the entire LinkedIn database (i.e., not just your own connections). Then, when Evernote finds your contact on LinkedIn, it will include a link to the person’s LinkedIn page and will also pull in the contact’s photo for you. That’s really cool!
Even better, these contact notes are fully editable, allowing you to continue to add information. This let’s you create what I call “Master Contact Notes” (MCNs). Here’s how I typically use them: I first add information about where I met an individual; then, over time, I add any new information about meetings or calls we have. For example, let’s say I met Mark Feldman of Attorney at Work at a conference, and we talked about me writing some posts on Evernote and productivity. Well, after I take a photo of his business card, I can add notes about that conversation in the Notes field to go with his card. Then, every time I speak with him thereafter, I would add the date and time and what we spoke about. This gives me a rich, meaningful record of my communications with Mark.
Some other things you can do:
- In the Settings menu, you can tell Evernote to send all the cards you capture to a specific notebook, such as one titled “Business Cards.” If you leave that setting blank, card info will go right to your default notebook.
- You can right-click on a contact’s note to copy the Evernote “Note Link” and use it as a hyperlink in other notes. To illustrate, say you reference this particular person in a different note that discusses various prospects. You can highlight the person’s name, right-click and choose to insert a hyperlink, and paste in the Evernote Copy Note Link. This will allow you to instantly return to your MCN for more information. In essence, you’re making Evernote a relational database!
- If you add an Evernote reminder to a newly digitized business card, you can remind yourself to reach out to this person with a pop-up on both your desktop and phone as well as an e-mail notification.
So, the catch in this is if you are not an Evernote Premium account holder. Free-account users can only “test” this feature on five business cards. Though if you join Evernote Premium, which I highly recommend, you get unlimited access to this (and other) features.
Daniel Gold is a productivity author, podcaster, keynote speaker and consultant. He is the moderator of the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast, co-host of The Productive Life Show podcast, author of Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done and Official Springpad eBook. You can read Daniel’s posts on the official DEG Consulting website, or join him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.