You wouldn’t give your clients a limp hand shake…
How do you feel when you give your business card to a prospective customer or business contact? Does it really convey what you are all about? Are you confident it will be kept or worried it will simply end up in the bin?
Business cards are a strange but vital part of any business conversation. They say a lot about you before the recipient has even read the content. If it is limp or dog eared, what does that say about your company? A good business card starts with the material it is made from and should reflect the qualities of your business from first contact.
Have you actually read your own business card? Could a prospective client tell what you do just by reading it? It’s amazing how many cards I see where it is impossible to tell. The result is they will end up in the bin or ignored in preference to one that clearly reflects what the company is about.
“I just need a business card” diminishes the importance of these little pieces of board. They are a vital part of your communications and should be treated as such.
So here is a brief introduction to the pitfalls and best practice when producing a card for your business.
#1: The “Mystery” Business Card
Take a look at a few business cards you have collected recently. Can you tell immediately what any of the businesses do? If not, does the logo or other elements give you any clue about the business?
If neither is the case then the card is not likely to generate many calls or referrals and the chances are you won’t remember anything about the business in a few weeks.
Remember, you are often competing for attention in crowded markets and potential customers are busy. If they need a product or service they will look for that. If you didn’t make it clear what you do you are unlikely to appear in their search.
#2: No Unique Selling Proposition
USPs are not complicated, but having one on your card can make a difference.
Your card should have at least one very good reason why a customer should do business with you. For example a car repair business could have something about any specialist skills or “all work fully guaranteed” or “free collection and delivery of your car”.
What you do differently to your competitors is often the reason you set up in business in the first place, so make sure your potential customers know about it.
#3: The “Me Too” Card
Your business card needs to stand out from the crowd.
Too many cards leave no real impression and are soon forgotten. A great card will use all its elements in a considered way with clear design.
Use colour carefully to give impact. To much much colour can result in overload or just a messy looking card.
Adding a relevant photo can leave a lasting impression about your business. Relevant is the key word here; yet another pic of a smiling girl on the phone is a big turn off.
There is absolutely no excuse for an unattractive or unprofessional-looking business card. You can use on-line templates and examples of business cards or simply take inspiration from another card in your collection – that’s inspiration, not plagiarism.
#4: Poor Quality Paper Stock
This was touched on in my introduction. Most people don’t realise that your business card starts telling prospects about your company before they have even read it. If it is dog eared or limp that will start alarm bells ringing and consign your card to the bin.
Don’t be tempted to print up “home-made” business cards. Spending a few quid on an Ink Jet business card kit is a waste of your money and the time it takes to actually print them.
The card will feel feather-light and you will be able to feel the perforations around the sides.
Equally things like Vista Print cards tend to mark you out as a very small business and you could easily find yourself presenting a card that looks almost identical to a competitor.
Don’t skimp on your budget when it comes to a business card. You should have good paper stock, print that doesn’t run from a drop of water, and possibly a special colour, or a lamination. The card should feel substantial and pleasing to the touch.
Just because a standard card is done a certain way doesn’t mean yours has to be the same. You might be surprised by what is possible for very little extra money and could make all the difference.
A poor quality card implies a business that will have poor quality products and services. Rather than attracting business, a poor card will more likely repel prospective customers.
#5: Using Only One Side of the Card
How many sides does a card have?
Using the back of the card is a no brainer. How much would that advertising space cost you elsewhere?
But be careful about how you use the reverse. Keep all your contact information on one side and use the extra space to expand on your business offer so potential customers get a better idea of what you do or why you do it a certain way.
#6: Using an Oversized Card
There are no rules about what size a business card should be or which way up it should appear. You can add rounded corners or other cut out shapes and even folds if it fits with your needs or design.
However, it’s common sense to use the standard 88 by 55mm format even though you want to stand out from the competition. Anything bigger will not fit in wallets or most business card holders, so is likely to end up being lost or filed in the bin.
There are smaller formats around but they are a bit of a gimmick as you have less space for your message.
#7: Print that is too Small
Your prospects need to be able to actually read your card.
You might be able to cram more information onto a card with a small font, but what good is it if people can’t read it? 95 percent of the population aged 35 or older need reading glasses, so a good guideline is to use a type size no smaller than 7 or 8 point. Your name and the company name can be larger but look for a balance of size that reflects the relative importance of the various elements.
A good ‘rule of thumb’ is ‘the smaller the type size the simpler the type face needs to be’. Don’t use decorative or complex fonts at tiny sizes as even people with good eyesight will struggle to read it.
#8: A Cluttered Card
Don’t try and turn your business card into a leaflet.
A good business card does not need the print content of a novel. Too much text looks busy and unprofessional. It’s the old adage “less is more”.
A card should only contain what’s totally necessary for someone to know your name, your company, what you do, and why they should use you.
But, don’t skimp on your contact information; you want to be easy to reach.
#9: No email address and website on your business card.
If your email address and website are missing from your card, you are likely to miss out on business.
Sometimes it’s easier for potential clients to use email instead of making phone calls for all sorts of reasons. And people who want more information about your business often want to learn more without a sales pitch. So they will go to your website to read about you. They will also look for any social media presence you have, and look at those pages.
However, don’t add social media icons to your cards unless you are a regular user, blogger or whatever. Old, obviously unused, accounts are a big turn off. Also don’t use daft avatars for your business profiles, keep it simple and use the same logo or portrait photo across all accounts.
Do your web and email addresses match?
If you have a web site you should use its address for your email as well. Using an email that includes the name of the service provider makes you look small and not very technically “with it”. Talk to your web site provider if you don’t know how to set it up. Email addresses often come as a package with web sites.
#10: The Secret Card
What good is having a box full of business cards if they’re just sitting in an office drawer? Apply the old saying, “Use it or lose it.” What can you lose? Only business!
Always have a supply of your cards wherever you go. Give them out when appropriate, and don’t hesitate to give out more than one. Invite your contacts to pass the extras along to others who might need your service. You might be surprised at how often it results in a referral. I catch myself doing this and often have to make a conscious effort to hand over two or more cards.
Do keep your cards in a card holder or small box. There is nothing worse than handing over a dog eared card. It shows you don’t care.
Your business card is one of the most important and cost-effective marketing tools a business has.
It should get people to remember you and contact you for business. If your card is poorly designed, has unreadable fonts, or looks unprofessional it will be useless. Make sure it works hard for you by avoiding these 10 common mistakes.
Andy Thomson runs Thomson Design Associates Ltd. Based in the heart of Essex, he has been producing design work for large and small businesses for more years than he cares to remember. He is passionate about good design and helping his clients make an impression. If you want to find out more about how he can help you, give him a ring on 01277 899268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomson Design Associates Limited