Finding new ways to build a bridge between a printed piece and the online world was a key theme at the PRINT 13 Conference in Chicago last week.
One print-service provider that has built a bridge between print and digital media is All-State Legal, a Cranford, New Jersey-based printing and engraving company that has been providing corporate identity services to law firms and other professional services customers for more than 60 years.
The vizCards™ sold through their new Vizibility division use QR and NFC codes to add another dimension to traditional business cards.
When someone you’ve just met scans the QR code printed on your business card with a scanning app on their iPhone, they will see a custom, mobile-optimized microsite, through which they can set up appointments with you, view a video bio, or link to your social-media profiles..They can also use your microsite to see if you have any LinkedIn contacts in common.
Metal vizCards printed with NFC (near-field communications) codes eliminate the need to use a scanning app because NFC technology can wirelessly “beam” your vizCard link directly to whoever holds an NFC-enabled smartphone close to your card. You don’t even have to hand out the NFC-coded vizCards; you can keep them in your wallet or purse.
Newer smartphones from Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry, and others all use NFC technology. (A new report from Strategy Analytics forecasts that one-third of all smartphones shipped this year will support NFC.)
One patented feature of the vizCard is a ‘Google Me’ button. Through this button, you can present five, hand-picked Google search results that will help bolster your professional credibility. The Google Me button eliminates a lot of the irrelevant information that might come up if your new contact did a Google search on their own.
You can set up your account to receive real-time alerts when someone scans the QR code on your card. You can also enable your contacts to receive automatic updates when changes are made to your title, phone number, or other contact information.
Individuals can sign up for a free Vizibility account to test the basic features. Freelance professionals and small creative teams will want a $79/year subscription so they access features such as “Google Me” and include their brand graphics on the microsite. Larger teams and agencies can buy a flat-rate-fee subscription for all its members, then use the account administration tools to see which employees’ cards are generating the most scans, taps, and clicks. Teams can set up a searchable directory of vizCards for everyone in the organization.
Immediately before I left for the PRINT 13 Conference, Vizibility founder James Alexander sent some NFC-enabled vizCards to take with me, and explained some of the features of my microsite in more detail.
He pointed out that a vizCard expands the way your business card can be accessed. If you can’t give out a business card in person, you can include a link to your vizCard page in your LinkedIn page or your e-mail signature. From your vizCard microsite, your contacts can download and email a vCard that includes notes such as how and where you met.
Having smartphone-readable business cards can be an asset for freelance designers, writers, photographers, and other service providers because many companies now ask younger workers (Millennials) to locate and recommend experts for certain projects. These smartphone-loving digital natives are predisposed to find service providers who use the same tools they do.
If you’re an older professional, adding a QR code to your business card can help bridge the digital gap between generations. It shows that you care about keeping up with technology.
When I expressed concern about sharing all my LinkedIn contacts with someone I just met, Alexander assured me that my new contacts would only be able to view those contacts we have in common. He pointed out that conversations are fundamentally different when two people who have just met discover they both know or respect the same people. Knowing the same people can help get the conversation started, and we tend to let down our guard a little bit.
When I wondered what people at a trade-show for printing companies might think about business cards that ultimately could be carried and exchanged via smartphone, Alexander was quick to emphasize that “Printed business cards aren’t going away.”
“They are incredibly useful tools, and were actually the very first form of mobile marketing,” he pointed out. “Paper is a powerful technology. It’s always on. It requires no battery, and you never have to reboot it.”
“We look at the mobile business card as the third side of the business card,” says Alexander. “You have the front, you have the back, and now you have the link to the mobile-optimized page.”