This article was originally posted on Solutions Are Power, but the series is now residing on Grow Smart Business.
Last year when I wrote for my blog, Venture Files (now owned by Technosailor), I wrote a post about business cards called “Business Card FAIL“. It was a very popular topic and seemed to strike a cord with many people. As time has gone on and I have seen a ton more people out freelancing or starting their own business in the last few months, I thought it would be good to do an update.
Now, I am a sucker for great design and great branding. To me it sets you apart from the tiny businesses that don’t invest in a good branding package from the beginning. Granted, there are many companies that are totally word of mouth and don’t really need it in their particular business so a basic card will do just fine.
However, there are many professions where people will judge you, knowingly or unknowingly, by your presentation and your business card, along with your attire and attitude will convey this to potential clients. Some great business card designs and other inspirational designs, many of which don’t meet the test in the original Business Card FAIL post, are useful in the right situation.
So I have to take back adjust much of what I wrote in the “Business Card FAIL” post and approach this from a different angle.
So here is some updated advice to ensure your business card doesn’t get thrown out:
1.) Tell me what you do. Quickly.
I like this from the original post:
“Business cards are supposed to have the usual information – name, address, e-mail, title, phone, company name. To make some real impact, you should use the space on the front of the card to have a single statement below your company name that is your main marketing message. For example “Next Generation in Sales Software” let’s me know you are innovative, provide sales software and are a tech company. Simple.
You can also use the back of the card for this too but don’t jam it full of sentences or a big paragraph. 2-3 sentences at most and it should build on the marketing message you have on the front. You can also use the back for the marketing message itself to change it up a bit.”
I have a friend that uses the traditional back of his business card. He hands it to them with the back facing up. Very smart and very memorable.
2.) Don’t jam your web site onto your business card
Ever been on a date and the person tries to tell you their whole life story in between breadsticks and dessert? Same thing. This is in the same vein as number one but I had to say it again.
3.) You can be cool, but be relevant to your audience
In my original post I really bashed cards that went outside the box and I really should take that back. Nothing bores me more than getting a Times New Roman 12 point font business card and although they are probably very competent and very nice, they don’t stick in my mind when I might need them or want to recommend them.
What I really didn’t get into last time was the most important – Know your audience. People will expect a certain thing from you and if you push the envelope just a little bit it will work beautifully. If you go to far they will think you are trying to hard and throw your card out.
4.) If you use funky materials, have a purpose
I love great looking cards and there are some really creative ways to use a business card. My original post really judged a bad business card if I couldn’t write on it. Now some business cards are just really out there, but I have seen cards that fit the business and the approach really well. My dad, who has been in business for 32 years runs an engineering firm and their cards use the same materials (mylar) they use to create the master drawings for blueprints. Very cool and unique.
5.) Your LaserJet does not count as a professional printer
For those of us that remember dot-matrix printers and doing our term papers with them it really couldn’t compare to the LaserJet that your parents had at the office that was all sorts of sexy. If you were able to get them to print it out for you at work (if you didn’t wait until the night before) it looked awesome and might give you a couple of extra points for a good grade. Same thing here. Now everyone has color a LaserJet and thinks they are a print shop. Not so fast dude.
This is where professional printers are worth their weight in gold and will make your beautiful design look fantastic on the right card stock. Think about it. You spent a lot of money on a logo and an design and you print it yourself? I don’t think so.
6.) Make sure it works on a card scanner
If you get alot of business cards these days, you probably use a business card scanner or your assistant does. For many people, if it can’t scan they will toss it instead of typing everything in manually. This is the risk you will run using the more funky and edgy types of cards. Hence, you are warned.
7.) And for goodness sake, get a domain name and a PROPER email address
I like this too from the original post:
“Nothing says “amateur” than using a Yahoo/Hotmail/AOL/Gmail e-mail address as your main address. I mean come on, a domain name and hosted e-mail account is not expensive these days. The biggest perpetrators are usually those trying to be “consultants” but have a day job and this is their side thing or they are just starting out and haven’t talked to one person about marketing.”
With all the new laid off workers going freelance and doing the consulting thing, this an excellent way to show that you are in it to win and build a business. I do make an exception if it is your personal business card and your are using it to find a job. Still there, I would recommend that you get your own domain and put your CV up there and market yourself in the same way.
We want to hear about your bad business card experiences
Since there are so many bad business cards out there I couldn’t capture the sum of things that you my reader have probably seen. Please use the comments as your place to be funny, trash bad business cards and most of all call people out on their bad business card protocol.Google+