Leaving a business card behind – is it harmless advertising or pushy soliciting?
This common practice toes the line between marketing and intrusive sales tactics.
With care and compliance with regulations, cards can inform without aggressive soliciting.
Read on to see how to share your contact info without crossing ethical boundaries.
Key Takeaways for Leaving Business Cards
Is Leaving a Business Card Soliciting?
Leaving a business card is generally not considered soliciting, as long as the card is left in a public place where people can choose to pick it up.
Simply making a business card available does not actively solicit or impose on anyone, so it falls within appropriate business networking behavior.
|Trespassing||Leaving a business card on private property without permission could potentially be considered trespassing.|
|Littering||Leaving cards in public places may violate littering laws if not disposed of properly.|
|Privacy||Leaving cards at someone’s home without their consent could violate privacy laws.|
|Harassment||Repeatedly leaving cards after being asked to stop could potentially constitute harassment.|
|Zoning||There may be solicitation zoning laws prohibiting salespeople from canvassing neighborhoods.|
5 Reasons Why Business Cards May Be Considered Soliciting
While business cards don’t seem as intrusive as a door-to-door sales pitch, some argue they still constitute soliciting in certain contexts.
Reasons cards could be seen this way include:
- Residential mailboxes – Placing unsolicited cards directly in personal mailboxes violates USPS regulations.
- On vehicles – Leaving a card under a windshield wiper or tucked by a car door is littering at best, and could damage vehicles.
- Homes with “No Soliciting” signs – Ignoring posted signs and leaving a card anyway disrespects the resident’s explicitly stated wishes.
- Private offices – Slipping a card onto the desk of someone you don’t know, without their permission, is invasive and inappropriate.
- Restroom stalls – Never distribute cards in restrooms, which will almost always be unwanted and off-putting for the recipient.
4 Reasons Why Business Cards May Not Be Soliciting
However, there are also compelling reasons business cards may not be true soliciting in some contexts:
- Trade shows or industry events – These events exist specifically for networking and promotion. Leaving cards with interested attendees is expected and welcomed.
- Places of business – It’s generally fine to leave cards promoting your business with other local businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, etc. But ask first or look for “No Soliciting” signs.
- Professional offices – Doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. often appreciate cards for referrals. But again, ask first and respect signs or policies against solicitations.
- Personal recommendations – If you receive a product or service you truly appreciate, leaving a card when you thank the provider is usually welcomed as a referral opportunity.
So while the sales intent exists, passive card advertising is distinct from aggressive, intrusive soliciting of unwitting consumers.
As long as distributed ethically, cards enable consumers to engage businesses at their discretion.
Business Owner Perspectives
To complement the advice in this article, we spoke with two local business owners about their experiences with handing out business cards:
Laura, a real estate agent: “I always ask neighboring businesses and retailers if it’s alright to leave some cards on their counters or bulletin boards before doing so. Most appreciate the heads up and are fine with it as long as I’m polite and don’t overdo it. But I’ve been told no before, and respected that right away.”
James, a caterer: “I keep a stack of cards ready to hand out when meeting event planners or chatting with people about catering options. But I would never slip one under a stranger’s door – that just feels pushy. I want to get business, not turn people off.”
Both owners stressed using common courtesy and reading cues from the other person.
As Laura put it, “It’s not hard to get a sense of whether someone wants your card or not.”
James agreed, saying “I’ll usually only offer my card once in networking settings. If they want it, great. If not, pushing further starts feeling solicit.”
Laws and Regulations Related to Business Card Distribution
Whether or not leaving business cards violates solicitation laws depends on the jurisdiction.
Local municipal codes often govern soliciting practices, so definitions vary. However, some general regulations apply:
- Federal laws like the CAN-SPAM Act prohibit unsolicited electronic communications and specify opt-out requirements.
- Putting content directly into mailboxes, including cards, typically violates federal USPS regulations.
- Local solicitation laws may require permits, limit hours, or prohibit leaving solicitation material on private property without explicit permission.
- Public areas like sidewalks are more flexible but may have restrictions on where and when soliciting or leaving materials is allowed.
Essentially, any unsolicited content left on private property risks violating local solicitation laws.
Familiarity with the regulations in your area is key to avoiding illegal soliciting accusations.
Did you know?
🚀91% of people say they keep business cards received in person according to a survey by software company Staples.
🚀Only 37% of people follow up after exchanging business cards according to a study by marketing company Nimble.
🚀Business cards remain one of the top 5 marketing tools for lead generation according to a report by B2B research firm Clutch.
Best Practices for Appropriately Leaving Business Cards
While context matters, you can take steps to avoid invasive soliciting when giving out cards:
- Ask first or use designated areas. Don’t assume it’s ok to leave cards just anywhere.
- Provide useful contact information, not just sales pitches. Recipients appreciate learning more about your business.
- Be aware of and respect any posted signage against soliciting, peddling, canvassing, etc.
- Be sensitive to the location and preferences of potential recipients.
- Find the right balance between marketing your business and avoiding disruptive soliciting.
No approach can guarantee avoiding the perception of soliciting by all recipients.
|Ask permission first||Leave cards on cars/homes without consent|
|Provide cards when relevant to a conversation||Hand out cards in no-solicitation zones|
|Leave cards at trade shows/networking events||Litter public places with unwanted cards|
|Follow up after making a connection||Be pushy or continue contacting someone who has said no|
|Discard responsibly if the recipient declines||Assume leaving a card obligates someone to contact you|
However, common sense, respect, and compliance with regulations will minimize this risk while still allowing you to ethically promote your business.
The laws surrounding solicitation can vary significantly by state, county, and city. Before leaving cards in any new area, be sure to research all applicable regulations.
Many municipalities post their solicitation codes and permits online. However, don’t just rely on a web search – contact your local county clerk, chamber of commerce, or government office to verify. Ask questions if anything seems unclear.
Violating solicitation codes carries real penalties – typically fines, but even potential misdemeanor charges in some cases. Avoid just assuming “it’s probably fine” without doing your homework.
Only distribute business cards once you fully understand the local rules and have secured any required permits. Ignorance of the law is no excuse to commit a violation that damages your business’ reputation.
Protect yourself by getting the facts straight from the source. A small investment of time in understanding regulations now prevents major headaches down the road.
- Is It Illegal to Leave Business Cards in Stores
- Is It Legal to Put Business Cards in Mailboxes
- Places to Leave Business Cards
FAQs On Is Leaving a Business Card Soliciting?
Can You Leave Business Cards in Public?
Yes, you can leave business cards in public places but get permission first and don’t litter. Focus on appropriate locations that fit your business.
Is It a Good Idea to Give Out Business Cards?
Giving out business cards is an effective marketing technique to network and advertise your business when done politely and appropriately.
Can You Leave Business Cards at Peoples Doors?
It’s not illegal but leaving business cards on people’s doors without permission is seen as intrusive and could annoy potential customers.
Can I Get In Trouble for Leaving Business Cards?
You likely won’t get in legal trouble but leaving business cards places without permission is inappropriate. Better to ask first or use other approaches.
Is It Illegal to Leave Business Cards on Peoples Cars?
Leaving unsolicited business cards on people’s cars risks annoying them. It’s better to hand them out or ask permission first.
Can You Leave Business Cards in People’s Mail?
No, it’s illegal to leave unstamped materials like business cards in people’s mailboxes. Use proper direct mail marketing instead.
Rahul is a former medical student turned business blogger who founded NamesPilot to share his passion for entrepreneurship. After successfully launching several online ventures, he now runs his blog full-time, providing tips and insights to help others build their own businesses.