What Do I Do With These Business Cards?

If you do a lot of networking, you end up with a lot of business cards. How often do you set these cards on your desk or in a drawer with the intention of adding them to your contact list or CRM system? How often do you really get them entered into your system within a couple days? If you are like me, many of those cards still haven’t made it into your contact database.

A couple days ago I was meeting with someone to discuss their business needs. I was doing some research to determine what functionality we need to add to our business management application to make it a winner. She mentioned that she has an app on her phone, CamCard, that she uses to scan in the business cards. However, she has no way of getting these cards into her contact management system.

I could tell that this was important to her so I went back to the office to do some research. In addition to wanting to handle this for my own business cards, I realized that this could provide an easy way for people to get their data into our product thus increasing the usage and benefit of having a system like the one we are creating. I started the research with the goal of finding a system that met the following requirements:

  1. Had to work on iOS, Windows Phone, and Android
  2. Had to be accurate (I didn’t define exactly what this means, but the more accurate, the better)
  3. There had to be some way to get data from the scanner app to our application

In addition to the above requirements, we also wanted to work with a product by a company that wants to work with software developers to get the product integrated with their application.

In addition to CamCard, which the person I was interviewing uses, I also spent time downloading and playing with WorldCard. One other option I researched was FullContact. They don’t have a WindowsPhone app, but they do have an API which I think I can use to create an app that will accomplish what we need. The only reason I considered FullContact since they didn’t meet all the requirements is that they have what looks like a great API for development and they are more accurate than the others.

While doing the research on FullContact’s site, I found a chart showing the difference in accuracy for their approach vs the other vendors. While their study seemed to follow a fair and scientific approach, I don’t trust studies sponsored by the company and showing that they are the best. I ran some of my own less scientific studies with a smaller number of data points and found that I got even worse results from the competing products than they had gotten. This might be a difference in the apps for the different smart phones platforms.

When I tested the same card multiple times on CamCard, I would come out with different results. Sometimes it would do a reasonable job and sometimes I got garbage. WorldCard was more consistent and more accurate; both on the OCR and on what it though the values were related to such as title, name, email, etc… FullContact comes out as much more accurate because they have a system that include both automation and then a validation/correction step where they have humans check the data and correct anything that was missed. This means that it may take a few minutes before the data is available to you.

If you are looking for a bargain, I would say that your best bet is WorldCard. Since others are using CamCard successfully and since it has a better UI and is more streamlined, you might do some testing of your own and decide which product to go with. When deciding to go this seemingly more economical route, keep in mind that bad data has a cost downstream. If you have a phone number or an email wrong and you go to contact someone and then have to look them up elsewhere, that is a very real cost since you have to spend time on this instead of something else. If you are spending time validating the data yourself and changing it when it is wrong, then you will actually find FullContact to be cheaper since you can’t do the work yourself for what they are charging.

I am still evaluating things from the development perspective before integrating with our application. As soon as I get some answers from the vendors I will make a choice on what we will integrate with our application.

If your hand isn’t very steady, there are stands that can make scanning the cards easier. Visit Amazon for one such stand.

WorldCard has a couple inexpensive scanners that don’t use a phone. NeatDesk also has a product that scans business cards and documents. It is pricier, but it has integrations for many other products so you can export it and then import into other programs such as QuickBooks.

Let me know if you have any questions or have something to add to this conversation. I’m always on the lookout for tools that can make us more productive and on ways we can help others be more productive.