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Make the Most of Your Business Cards

Here's the best way to get those cards out of your pocket and into your computer.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 05/08/2008

It is often the simplest basic tasks that are performed inefficiently by advisors. For example, the typical advisor receives numerous business cards from prospects, vendors, centers of influence, and others. An advisor who is aggressively marketing and networking might collect 50 or more business cards on a weekly basis.

Once the advisor has a business card, where does it go from there? Ideally, one needs to capture the information and get it into a CRM application or some other database in an efficient manner. Most advisors I meet either type the data into the database themselves or delegate the typing to a staff person. This process can be automated with specialized business card scanning software, but few advisors currently use card-scanning applications.

Generally speaking, all of the business card scanning applications work in a similar manner. You place one or more business cards in a scanner in order to capture a picture of the business card. Optical character recognition software built into the application then "reads" the business card. When the software performs the way it should, it is able to "understand" whether a set of numbers on the card represents a business phone number, a ZIP code, or a cell phone number. Once the software understands what each set of letters and numbers represents, it can copy the information to a corresponding field in a database within the application.

So, if you received a simple business card with the name of "John Smith" on it and a phone number of (555) 555-5555, the software would know that "John" was the first name, "Smith" was the last name, and that (555) 555-5555 was the business phone number. The software then copies this information into the appropriate fields in a new contact record from which the user can review and edit the information before saving it. Once the information is in the application's database, it is often possible to export it to other popular applications such as MS Outlook and ACT!

Over the last few months, I've reviewed a number of new scanners for readers of Virtual Office News. Coincidentally, this has given me an opportunity to try a couple of software packages designed specifically for scanning business cards because these applications came bundled with the scanners I tested. For example, both the portable Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 and the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510 ship with an application called CardMinder. The Kodak ScanMate i1120 ships with an application called Presto BizCard 5.

While neither business card application I tested was perfect, both were adequate. Each did a decent job of reading business cards on a white background provided there was not an abundance of information on the card. Of the two, the Presto application was a bit more feature-rich and a bit more accurate.

My experience with CardMinder and Biz Card 5 encouraged me to look for a better, more user-friendly business card software solution. I think I've found one in CardScan. CardScan, a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid since 2006, offers perhaps the broadest array of card scanning products, including a budget product for consumers; CardScan Executive, a single user business product; and CardScan Team, a multi-user product. I recently tested the CardScan Executive product to see how it compared with the programs I had previously used.

CardScan Executive is a package that includes both the CardScan software and CardScan 800c business card scanner. The color scanner measures about 6.5 inches by 3.5 inches by 1.75 inches and weighs just more than half a pound.

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