Business cards are still the quickest way to gather potential lead information, but lugging around pockets full of business cards isn't very comfortable and the Rolodex is no longer in style. Not to mention, hand entering each business contact into your Outlook, CRM program or phone contact list takes a lot of time. Most people end up dumping business cards into a drawer, then frantically sift through them later when they realize they need to reach out to an important contact.
Business card readers allow you to quickly scan business cards and save the digitalized images in contact programs for easy access later. You can take portable devices with you on the go, and mobile apps are even more convenient, allowing you to simply snap a picture of the card – your phone can then automatically enter, sort and save the information on the card in your contact list. Business card scanner applications also have scanning functionality and can easily be installed on your smartphone or tablet.
Business Card Scanners: What to Look For
Most physical scanners come with a USB cable so you can connect it to your computer or laptop, both to power the device and transfer scanned images to the software. Most devices come with either a physical disc or instructions for downloading compatible programs. It should also come with a calibration card, which is used when the device needs cleaning. Here are some additional features and options we used to compare card scanners in our review of the best business card scanners on the market.
One of the most important features to look for when buying a business card scanner is the ability to auto populate. This means the scanner recognizes the contact information from the scanned card and automatically fills in the text fields in your contact program. The best scanners are compatible with Outlook and other email programs, and some may even be compatible with your contact management software. Two-sided scanning is also an important feature. When you buy a scanner that doesn’t scan both sides of a card at the same time, you have to take the time to manually flip and rescan the back side.
As part of the testing process, we attempted to scan a variety of business cards, including those printed on cork, wood, plastic, recycled paper and thick cardstock. We looked at how well the devices scanned when specialty inks and finishes were used and when the cards were cut in specialty shapes. Business card scanners with high versatility scores clearly scanned cards printed with white ink on black backgrounds, foil inks, embossing and raised lettering.
The best card scanners effectively use optical character recognition, or OCR, to identify text and auto fill text fields. Several can decipher cards in different languages and translate the text before saving the information.
A business card scanner should be small enough to slip into a laptop bag, purse or even your pocket. That way, you always have it on hand when you need to scan cards and save information. Look for a device that scans quickly, at a rate of around 10 cards per minute.
Also, consider whether you need the device for a PC or Mac, since there are a limited number that are compatible with each. It is also important to know how much computer memory the software takes up when you install and use it.
The size of the card scanner you choose should partly depend on where and how you plan to use it. If you are always on the go, consider a small unit capable of scanning only business cards or a mobile app that turns your cell phone or tablet into a scanner; this completely eliminates the need to carry an additional item with you to your business meetings or conventions. If you plan to scan most business cards at your desk, a larger device may be more feasible, especially if you also scan larger documents such as important letters or contracts.
Help & Support
Business card scanners are extremely user-friendly and shouldn't require much additional help for set up or use. However, electronics are renowned for their ability to break at the worst possible times. If you come across any problems, you should be able to contact the manufacturers through email and telephone support. FAQs sections and online copies of user manuals are useful in finding quick answers to common questions and problems. Your business card scanner should come with an industry-standard one-year warranty.