Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice.
In our article on first-party data, we showed how new and revised data privacy laws mean companies need to use customer information more carefully. We also showed how that care pays off. Covering all the bases makes first-party data a real gift.
It’s vital to know where your data came from, and to have consent to use it. That means first-party data sources (information from your own business activities) are very valuable in 2019.
Business cards are especially useful, because they represent a real-world connection. They're highly accurate because, of course, no one wants the wrong spelling or contact info on their card. And they indicate the giver’s consent for the recipient to stay in touch.
To make the most of those connections—and to comply with the law—you need a clear process to digitize and share the information. This is especially true if you’re doing it as a company (because consent strictly lies with the recipient).
Why business cards are so important
Since 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has affected businesses all around the world.
Countries like Japan have made their own rules stricter, to match the GDPR, so companies can transfer data more easily. Even outside those countries, the laws can apply where the customer lives, not where the business is based.
Wherever you are, you now need clear permission to use personal information for sales and marketing. This is what makes business cards so valuable.
A business card gives you full, current contact details. You don’t need to guess your customer’s job title, or how to spell their name. You’ll probably have their personal email address and direct dial telephone number. Possibly even their social media addresses.
More importantly, business cards are usually given freely, during a real-life meeting. They are evidence of a business relationship—and that the giver expects you to contact them. That makes it easier to comply with the GDPR, and other data protection rules.
How to use business cards within data privacy rules
Business cards are a potential star among your first-party data. But you still need to use them correctly.
Viewed alongside some other countries' data regulations (such as Singapore’s PDPA), the GDPR has comparably strict requirements on obtaining clear consent and/or legitimate interest before data can be utilized.
So it’s OK to contact someone who gave you a business card—but not to add them to your marketing mailing list without asking first. Instead, send an introductory email. Give a clear opt-out option, and tell them what marketing emails you’d like to send.
Sansan senior marketing manager Krishna Agarwal says: “A business card only gives communication consent to the person who received it—not the whole business. But that’s a great starting point for companies to get the other permissions they need. This is easily manageable with most marketing automation and CRM systems.”
Why and how to use business card data in your CRM
The GDPR is not just about consent. You also need to account for the data you hold: where you got it, why you have it, and how you use it. Anyone can ask you what information you have about them.
This is almost impossible unless that information is stored digitally. You need a single customer record, shared by marketing, service and sales. Everyone should use the same processes and standards, with the information owned centrally.
As well as helping compliance, this lets you make the most of your data. With your business cards in a central, digital system, you can search all your company’s connections. You might already be connected to someone you want to reach, in a way you wouldn’t expect.
But there’s a problem. People don’t understand why it’s important to store this information. Left to individuals, 80% of business cards go missing before they reach your CRM.
You need a clear, coordinated approach, and you have two main options.
The first is to use a dedicated system that’s designed to help you collect and share business card information, right across your company. For example, Sansan makes it easy to find and request an introduction from the person who first made the contact.
Or you can put your business card data into a full CRM, like Salesforce. This gives you a good chance to use automation, and combine your business cards with other data sources.
The important thing here is to make the process as easy and accurate as possible, so people will use it. If it’s too slow, business cards might still be misplaced.
Integrating your CRM with a business card platform
Thanks to an open API, Sansan can be smoothly integrated with Salesforce and other CRMs.
This gives you the best of both approaches. Sansan takes away the pain of typing in business card details, so the information is not lost. Real humans check the scans, ensuring the details are over 99% accurate.
(Added plus here: Centrally consolidating the business card data also lets your company uncover connections you didn't know were there. You see who knows who, degrees of separation, company-to-company connections.)
Then you can use the contacts right there or expand functionality by integrating with a CRM.
If you’re sharing data between systems, remember the link between them must also meet the GDPR and other relevant standards.
Sansan’s legal team says: “First of all, check the terms and conditions. Do you still own your data, and will it be shared with other companies? Also, look for confidentiality arrangements, and confirm the data will be deleted when your contract ends.”
And when you digitize the information, you also remove a huge data risk. Physical items like cards are easily left lying on desks, in file folders, and some still even use rolodexes. They are rarely locked away and secured with the same level of privacy as other personal data. That leaves such data open to anyone who finds it.
It’s far safer to scan the card, encrypt the data, and then destroy the card.
Business cards and CRM: perfect for the GDPR age
We live in a digital age—but the more regulations emphasize real-world connections and consent, the more important business cards will become.
If you can set out a clear, simple process in your company, you’ll get the full value from the data. With the right tools, you’ll enhance your sales and marketing, and improve your data compliance, all in one.
Compliant, safe, and productive—business cards and CRM are a great match.
Feed your CRM good contacts, ramp up the MA
Business cards are an amazingly accurate and up-to-date source of first-party data. Straight from the lead to you. Get it in your CRM and your leads are smoking hot. Learn more about using Sansan to scan cards, create a valuable in-company network, and integrate it with your CRM.