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Mercedes Oliveira

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What to do with all those business cards?
September 15, 2009

What to do with all those business cards?

Exhibitions, networking, meetings… they all mean one thing – more business cards. What do you do with yours? A neat pile by your computer perhaps? Or a card file box, or a folder, or several piles dotted around the office? The list goes on, and I doubt there’s many of you who meticulously type them into your computer.

We’ve had stands at two exhibitions this year, and I decided that, having spent hours typing business cards into a spreadsheet after last year’s expos, this year would be very different. I’m talking about card scanning – and an exhibition seemed the ideal time for an experiment!

On our exhibition stands we had two mobile phones. Each had their own application to scan business cards. Back in the office meanwhile, I had a card scanning machine ready and waiting. They operate quite differently, and I thought (knowing how many piles of business cards are out there on desks and in drawers) I’d share with you how they worked.

Business Card scanning on your mobile phone
We had a Nokia E71 – a popular SmartPhone on the market, and a Samsung Omnia – a Windows Mobile phone. They both have their own applications to record business cards, and it’s worth noting that not all SmartPhones have this kind of application available as standard. Cards are ‘scanned’ using the integrated camera. You open the application, hold the phone over the business card using a frame marked on the screen as a guide, and press a button to take a snap. The phone then processes the card data using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and puts the data into fields to be stored on your phone.

So how accurate are these phones? Well, that depends quite a lot on the business card you are scanning – metallic writing is hard to pick up, cards that are vertical can be harder to pick up, and unusual fonts as well. However, the majority of typical business cards are recognised really well – I was actually quite impressed, having expected very little. The Samsung was better than the Nokia – the software easier to use, and easier to amend items it had got wrong, but the Nokia wasn’t far behind, and for general business card scanning – ie the small handful you might get from networking it’s great – especially as we run our phones connected to our Hosted Exchange accounts.

Outlook Professional is our hosted exchange service, and the great thing about it here, is that within a seconds of scanning the card, the details were in my Outlook Contacts on my phone, on my laptop and my desktop (and available to any other person in the office who I’ve shared my contacts with). It’s amazing how simple it is to get a contact available exactly where I’m going to need it – anywhere!

Business Card Scanner
The card scanner back at the office is a completely different machine. I splashed out on a CardScan Executive (RRP £199.99), although there are models from £35 upwards. This particular model scanned in colour, and came with software that would export to Outlook, which is crucial for us.  It was amazing! For a large pile of cards it whizzed through it very quicCard Scankly – 3 seconds per card to be precise. You can scan them all at once if you like, or you could scan them in batches assigning a category per batch. Once they’re scanned you can verify the data, which means double checking to make sure it’s recorded all the right data (it’s quite accurate, but it can take a bit of time double checking them all). Then you have them all in the CardScan database. From here, you can export to an Outlook Contact file, or a database etc., or you can use the software on its own.

I would say that the phones and the card scanner, are for two different purposes, but they both suit their purpose very well. For small handfuls of business cards here and there – the phone is great – it’s quick and easy to use, and means you have that contact right there when you need it. For large piles in one go, the card scanner is amazing, and enables an excellent way of keeping on top of contacts, making sure you don’t miss out on leads or mail opportunities. Whichever method you require, they are definitely better than hand typing…!

Win a Business Card Scanner at Woking Means Business!
If this article has caught your interest – we have a CardScan Executive to give away at Woking Means Business, so come along and see us, and maybe you can finally clear those piles of business cards once and for all!

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