Your business card should be one of the first-line tools in your marketing arsenal, but is often given the least amount of thought. Most people recognize business cards as an essential but don’t want to spend a lot of time or energy on them. So they either run down to the local office supply and pick up a pack of inkjet business-card paper so they can print their own or they order from a popular online site that offers a free box of cards.
There is nothing wrong with either of these methods unless your goal is to create a positive and memorable impression.
I try to attend a networking event at least once a week. This means I usually have a stack of business cards on my desk. As I was sorting through the cards this week, I found myself analyzing the cards and whether or not I would do business with someone based on the impression their cards left. My responses ranged from “most definitely” to “seriously?”.
Some business cards were clearly corporate, probably given upon hire by the HR department of the large corporation they worked for or part of a franchisee or network marketer start-up package. Others appeared to be custom-designed and still others were likely the result of a template from an office-supply store or an online card company. And finally, there were a few inkjet entries (yes, the difference is apparent) and even one with a miniature “resume” stapled to it.
So, how do you get a business card that is memorable in a good way?
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting your business card in your contacts’ “keep” piles.
DO have your business cards professionally printed. I’ve yet to see an inkjet card that didn’t look like an inkjet card. There are a few obvious giveaways: backgrounds or borders that don’t quite match up to the card layout, colors that vary across the card, standard or cute computer fonts.
DON’T overload your card with too much information. Standard business cards are only 2 x 3.5 inches. That’s not a lot of real estate, and while you might be tempted to make the most of every inch, overloading it makes it hard to read and likely to get tossed. If you really need more info on your card, consider a fold-over card for more space.
DON’T be tempted to use out-of-date business cards to save a few bucks. In the great scheme of things, business cards are one of the most affordable elements of your marketing plan. As soon as your information changes, order new business cards that reflect the most current company and contact information for you.
DO include your phone number, email and website. Make it easy for potential customers to contact you. This is, after all, the primary purpose of your business card.
DO use easy to read fonts and colors. I have two cards on my desk that are glossy black with purple ink. I have to strain to read even the company name on the card. Do you think it’s likely I’ll hang on to those?
DON’T be tempted to use cutesy designs that don’t support your company’s message. I often see cards that lead me to believe that the company either is marketing to children or is a “hobby” business and then am surprised to find out that’s not the case.
DON’T be afraid to use a bold design or a different-shaped card that will help you to stand out, but DO be mindful of creating a card that will fit into a client’s file. A card that’s too small is easily lost and a card that’s much too large may end up being tossed. Creative shapes are becoming more popular. DO make sure the style and shape of card you choose is relevant to your business and message.
DO use only professional images and artwork that directly supports your company or message on your card. Unless you’re an artist save the pretty art pieces for your office walls or for larger marketing pieces where they can be easily seen, appreciated and understood.
DO use your logo if you have one or a professional portrait of yourself, but DON’T allow it to dominate the card.
DO check your spelling carefully. If your business card has errors, what does that say about the quality of your work?
DO consider the use of a graphic designer if it isn’t your strong point. For a entrepreneur just starting out, the card templates from online business card printers will probably work fine to get you going IF you choose carefully. But a quality custom business card should have a prominent place in your branding and marketing plan.
A business card is often your best opportunity to leave a good first impression with a potential client. Be sure you have a professional business card that matches the professionalism of your company.
How are your business cards? Are they presenting the image you want or do you need some help? Do you think the design of a business card is important to a business’ marketing plan?