Today we’re talking about smart business cards!

I think that there are two main reasons to look into smart business cards like the ones I’ll be showing you today:

1 – as a quick and simple example of what our NFC and BLE beacons can do, and

2 – as a quick and convenient way to share contact information

So, if that’s something that you’re interested in making, then here’s how to do it

 

Free/Cheap/DIY Options

You’re going to need three things, an NFC tag on a business card, a landing page, and a way to program the tag.

The Card

If you’re looking for plastic NFC cards, I like these ones off of Amazon (500 for $27.49 ain’t bad at all). The downside to these is that they’re blank and you’ll need to find a way to print your logo on them. We’ve experimented with a few options so far and find the self-laminating card protectors that you get at Walmart are the cheapest/easiest option. Pro Tip: Don’t try to peel the laminate off once you’ve applied it… it makes a mess. Some printers can print on sleeves like these and you can use them on your cards.

*This part is important*

The biggest challenge here is getting your design onto the cards. The printers I’ve been looking at usually cost around $1,000, so you may be more interested in some of the DFY options below. You can also check on Ebay, where we’ve found them for as low as $150 – though these are used and may not be exactly what you’re looking for. Just do your research here and decide what best fits your needs.

Now, as to what kind of card we’re looking for, I like the PVC plastic ones (search for CR80 cards). I like the NTAG213 format, though the entire NTAG21X line is designed to be fully compatible with readers and generally do a good job. The other thing that you’ll want to double check when picking your cards is the storage size. The ones I linked above have 144 bytes, which has been more than enough for me. Typically, writing a URL takes up about 30 bytes. With the 144 ones, the craziest thing that I’ve programmed one to do is to play a recorded message on my phone, tell me the time, and send an email with the date and time to my account. I use it to track the time that I spend at work. I think that took up like 90 bytes.

The other thing that you’ll want to keep an eye on is whether or not the tags can handle NDEF encoding. Now, the app that I’m going to recommend here in a bit adds this on its own and you can have the card supplier add it as well. I spent a few days researching this as one of the suppliers that I talked to asked for the NDEF encoding file and I freaked out because I’d never heard of it before. Basically what it does is make it so that iOS devices can recognize what kind of information is on the tag so that the phone can read it. Androids don’t need it, but they can read it too. Like I said, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s better to know about it now than have a heart attack like I did.

You can also save yourself from all that mess by just buying the ones I linked above. They work great!

The vCard

While we wait for the card shipment to come in, we can build the site that we’ll be sending people to.

There are a few ways to do this, but all we really need is a fast-loading mobile-friendly landing page with some buttons on it. I am a firm believer of cheating when it comes to this kind of stuff and just use one of the many online platforms for these things. My personal favorite is a QR code generator site, lovingly known as qr-code-generator.com. I think the designs are sleek, they load fast, and they do exactly what you need them to do. Plus, it’s free, so it’s hard to beat that. Other options would be things like Weebly, Wix, or some kind of WordPress site. I realize this will make a lot of the SEO world mad, but Wix is actually really good for things like this. You have a ton of control over the layout and the pages load really fast – which are exactly the two things that you’re most concerned about. Also, if you go with a DIY option here, you can usually add in your Facebook tracking pixels and Google Analytics so you that you can see who is using the card and promote to them in the future.

What you add to the card will depend on what you’re doing with it. I set mine up to be a normal business card with my contact information and a link to my website and YouTube channel. You might want to include a map to your office, a link to an online store, but that’s up to you.

Pro tip!  don’t try to laminate an NFC card and then try to pull the laminate off of the NFC card.

#themoreyouknow 🌈

Programming the Card

Ok, we’ve gone from tricky, to easy, and now we’re at easiest. For Android users, download an app called NFC Tools (I like the Pro version for $3.50) and iOS users want one called iScan Browser (free). These are the apps that you use to actually program the cards. I mostly use the NFC Tools Pro app and love it. It’s fast, it’s easy, and I can pop these things out pretty quick once the cards have their designs printed on them.

Pricing

We’ve actually gone through this quite a bit over the past few days and can give some solid numbers on how much all of this costs.

For 1,000 cards, you’re looking at about $0.75 per card with the embedded chip and logo printed on the front – instructions and serial number on the back. If you go with just the logo on the front and no serial number, you’re looking at about $0.67 per card. If you buy blank ones and print them yourself, you’re looking at $0.35 per card and about $0.15 to print your logo on them (using one of the printers I linked above). If you’re going to have someone else program them, costs will be based on what’s being programmed and if all the cards are the same or have unique URLs – like if you have a lot of employees and each person gets their own card, etc. The latter usually goes for $0.30 – $0.50 per card.

I recently made the mistake of only charging $1.72 per card for a setup like this and it looks like after all is said and done, I’m only going to make about $170 for ~15 hours of work/1,000 cards. Personally, I will not be charging less than $2.50 for standardized cards and $3.00 for unique cards in the future.

 

Done For You Options

Well, first off, I charge $2.50 per card now, but I still need to get one of those printers before I do anything.

A cheaper option, printed on paper instead of plastic, are the Moo Paper+ cards – which I have and like. You’re looking at $1.50 per card with a minimum order of 20 cards ($30 plus shipping – that affiliate link will give you 20% off your first order).

Another option, and a sort of middle ground between the two above would be to order them from a company like this one. They’ll print and program the cards for the same $1.50, but it takes longer to actually get them and you have to purchase at least 100 tags.

One last side note, some beacons come with NFC chips installed in them – like the Estimote beacons. If you don’t want to deal with all this card nonsense, you could just get a cheap beacon and carry it around AND use it as a smart business card at the same time – just don’t give them away. Install your contact info on their phones instead.