When was the last time you handed out or received a physical business card?
As the popularity of customer relationship management (CRM) applications continues to rise, there are certainly fewer of them being printed and circulated. But old habits die hard, and there's still something very personal and deliberate about exchanging something tangible after a particularly positive meeting.
So, it's likely that most small businesses are collecting at least some paper cards on a regular basis (fish bowl drawing at the register anyone?), and your staff could use a way to automate the data entry process.
The good news is that most smartphones can facilitate this task because of their digital imaging features. And there are plenty of mobile apps that can help, regardless of whether you're handling just a few new cards on an ongoing basis or you're looking to convert a stack of them into a format that can be shared with your team after a trade show.
UPDATED: I originally published this list in June 2013. Since that time there have been a number of changes to the market. This information is current as of Feb. 25, 2014. As before, the list is alphabetical order:
- Bump — The team behind this revolutionary app joined Google last year, and the app was discontinued in January 2014, so they could focus on other projects.
- CardCloud — This app was discontinued.
- Clinck (Android, Apple iOS; Free) — Designed by some developers that used to use the CardCloud app, and needed an alternative when it became defunct. Clinck's focus is on allowing users to send their electronic business cards to others via email (the recipient doesn't need to have the app installed in order to import the information).
- CloudCards (Android, iOS; Free) — Essentially, this is a service for digitizing existing paper cards and creating a digital directory that can be kept updated more easily. There are templates for creating entries as well as a facility for sharing contact information with other people. The developer behind this app, MeCan, is from Malaysia and focuses on social networking platforms.
- CardMunch (iOS; Free) — Affiliated with LinkedIn, CardMunch uses your iPhone camera to photograph cards and convert them into contacts. The images are transcribed by humans for improved accuracy. As you might expect, the contacts can be converted easily into LinkedIn connections. Android and BlackBerry versions still are under development, as they were a year ago (so that begs the question as to whether this is a priority).
- Evernote Hello (Android, iOS; part of Evernote Premium; priced at $5/month) — There are several ways to create contacts with this mobile app, including business card scans, direct connections with other Evernote Hello users (via the Evernote Connect service) or a quick profile creation option, which works with LinkedIn and Facebook. The cool thing about this app is that it automatically associates contacts with meetings that you might have with them.
- Feathr (Android, iOS; Free for networkers) — Technically, this is an app meant to support networking at conferences and trade shows, but that IS where many connections are made, so it's worth mentioning. The app is used by attendees to collect informtaion about new acquaintances, and add them to their existing social networks.
- FlashBind (Android, iOS; Free) — The focus of this service is on creating a trusted network of contacts, especially for small businesses. You can "publish" your card on Facebook; the information can be kept updated in one place, and pushed out to your network when you make changes.
- FriendThem (Android, iOS; Free) — This app, which is primarily consumer focused, offers a twist on keeping contacts in order, by using the location based services on your smartphone to tell you who's nearby (provided they have agreed to disclose their information). If you're at a conference, the app helps you "friend" others to add them to the Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter social networks. The developer's motto is "one-click connectivity."
- FullContact Card Reader (iOS and Android; starts at $9.99/month, $99.99/year) — If your organization relies heavily on Salesforce.com, this is definitely an app that you should evaluate. It turns business card images directly into Salesforce.com leads. Since I last updated this list, the software was released for Android and it was expanded to integrate with Google Contacts and iPhone Contacts.
- Icon.me (Android, iOS; starts at $3.99/month) — Technically speaking, this is a cloud-based service for managing and curating your "professional persona." It aggregates external social networks, and also provides context related to others in your company. So you can see who is viewing your information, as well as whether or not a contact is shared by other people you know.
- Infoduce (HTML 5; Free during beta) — This is a way to make your business card say more about you or your company, by linking your contact information with other relevant profiles. For example, if you're a restaurant owner, you could link your Yelp! profile to your digital presence. Your information lives in the cloud, but you can design a custom template that retains your "analog" identity.
- ScanBizCards (iOS, Android, Windows Phone; $3.99 to $6.99, depending on OS) — If your company uses Salesforce.com, this another app to evaluate. You can export everything that you capture directly into the CRM package. There a direct link to LinkedIn, and there is a one-button feature that will initiate a LinkedIn invite to any scanned contact. If you don't have time to do it yourself, you can use the company's transcription service, at $0.18 per card.
- Shape Business Card Reader (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian and Java; varies depending on the platform, $4.99 for Android or $6.99 for iOS) — Uses optical character recognition to convert images into contact entries, and boasts integration with both Evernote and Salesforce.com.
- WorldCard Link (Apple iOS; starts at $39.95) — One of the most comprehensive technologies available, this software comes with a special iPhone stand to help position the card you want to scan, improving accuracy. WorldCard also offers similar apps for Android and Windows Mobile, starting at $5.99, but there isn't a dock that comes with the products. The Pro version makes it simpler to integrate the scanned information with Outlook. The software also integrates with iCloud and Dropbox for storing images.