There are a plethora of way that a business can attract customers, ranging from the traditional methods of advertising in the newspaper or going to trade shows to the latest and greatest Internet marketing tool such as PPC, SEO or social media. One of the most powerful, yet most ignored, weapons in your marketing arsenal is your business card. You give your business card to prospects and customers so they have your contact information. You tuck your business card inside of presentation folders, drop it in letters, and use it in a myriad of other ways to let people know who you are and what you do. Business cards are used by people in both big and small businesses and are one of the most important marketing tools you possess. And yet so many small businesses minimize the card’s usefulness.
What Are Business Cards Good for?
In an increasingly digital world, many wonder what the future of the business card is. Let me be the first to tell you that, love ’em or hate ’em, business cards are here to stay. But don’t take my word for it. In a 2011 study, over 95 percent of those surveyed said that business cards are still important to their businesses. In fact, you could argue that business cards have never been more relevant than they are right now. As businesses move to the digital arena, business cards may give you a unique advantage from a marketing standpoint. While everyone else is shouting from the rooftops about PPC, email, SEO and social media and drowning each other out, you can stand apart from the rest with a professional business card.
A nice-looking business card not only shows professionalism but can also build your level of legitimacy and credibility. Small and micro businesses rely on referrals more than any other business demographic, and business cards are an effective, inexpensive and long lasting channel for referrals and networking. As it has for many other products, the Internet has made business cards more accessible and less expensive than they were 10 years ago. They’re easier to design, purchase and hand out than ever.
Considerations and Benefits
Business cards help form a customer’s first impression of you. Using business cards gives an image of professionalism and shows that you take pride in your work, both of which are vital qualities for the customers of many small businesses. And if you include your business card with every product that you sell or to invoice that you send out to customers, you have an extremely powerful and long-lasting marketing and networking tool. Why? I can tell you in one word: longevity. Brochures and direct mail likely end up in the trash within a couple of weeks. (Even so, both methods still have a longer life than an email campaign whose average longevity is about a week before it’s deleted.) Promotional products can make a wonderful impression, but most of them will probably end up as a toy for someone’s kid. But the business card I give you today may stay with you for 10 years, and you will be reminded of that first impression every time you flip by it in your Rolodex or business card portfolio.
Business cards are also about image. I know many small ecommerce merchants who run their business out of their basements, yet they do phenomenal business due to the professionalism of the business cards that they distribute. A professional image builds credibility in the minds of the customer and can make all the difference in generating a sale or not.
Businesspeople who carry and distribute a stack of cheap, do-it-yourself, print-at-home, templated business cards wherever they go are doing themselves and their business a great disservice. Those cards are not likely to ignite or even support a great first impression in any way. And because of the longevity of a business card, the evidence of that failed opportunity may stick in your prospect’s files for years to come. Don’t think it doesn’t matter or that people don’t notice. People judge you on appearances, and your marketing materials play as much a role as your attire and demeanor. There are many top-notch printing companies out there that can give you a completely customizable business card design. I recommend you do it right and let the professionals do it for you.
Also remember that no matter how much you spend on your business cards, they will probably still be the cheapest and most effective piece of marketing collateral that you will ever buy. You get what you pay for, and saving $50, $100 or even $250 on business cards isn’t worth it when you consider what it could cost you in business in the long run.
Business cards can be an effective and long-living form of marketing that improves the legitimacy of your company and keeps it in the mind of the customer longer, especially if the card stands out. The design of the card quickly communicates what your company is about, and piques the interest of people who see it. Not only will they keep the card, which increases the likelihood of a future purchase and improves branding, but they are also likely to share it with others, which greatly extends your reach. Many businesses include two business cards in every package they send out strictly for this purpose: The customer gets to keep one and can distribute the other if necessary.
Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Business Cards
1. Include the Right Information: The information you put on your business card will depend on you and your business. The average card includes your name, position or occupation, company or business, company address, your work phone number, mobile phone number and email address. However, you do not need to put each of these on your card. It really depends on your business. Make sure your website address is included regardless. When no website is listed on a business card, it communicates one of two things: Either you have a website and were not forward-thinking enough to put it on your business card, or you don’t have a website, which raises serious legitimacy issues.
2. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: It is highly recommended that you put a picture or image on your business card. Studies have shown that people are more likely to keep a business card with a photo on it. It could be your picture (make sure it’s a professional image), a picture of your product or a combination of both. Picture cards get attention!
3. Consistent Branding: Make sure your business card has a look and feel that tells potential clients who you are and what you do. Ask friends to look it over for an outside opinion. Also, don’t forget about the aesthetics (colors, font choices, etc.) of your card. It is very important to ensure that there is consistency between your site’s branding and your card. Many small businesses forget this simple rule and select a business card simply because it “looked cool.” If your business card does not match your website and other collateral, then roll up your sleeves and make them match. Mismatched aesthetics can lead customers to believe they are at the wrong site and do not create the type of first impression one should strive for. Make them match and reap the rewards.
4. Taglines Are Remembered: Multiple psychological studies have shown that people remember a tagline before a company name. A tagline is a one-sentence benefit statement and can prove extremely valuable for your business. Their value builds for years, and over time, a good tagline can be your best and least expensive form of advertising. Make sure you include it on your business card.
5. Material Matters: Flimsy business cards do not impress prospective customers. It shows poor quality, and a low-quality business card creates an impression of low-quality service. Spend the extra pennies to get thicker card stock–it’s worth it.
6. Don’t Be Stingy. If you are not going through a few hundred business cards a year, you probably are not using every opportunity to market yourself and your business. Printing a few hundred business cards has never been easier. Order lots of cards, and give them all away. The more you hand out, the more opportunities you have to grow your business.
7. Stand Out From the Pack: Yes, your business card may very well wind up stuffed in a desk drawer with a stack of other business cards. This is why it needs to stand out in a crowd. This is perhaps your greatest challenge when designing a business card, and it is why I prefer to let the experts do it. With so many amazing design options available today, there is no reason why you should be giving out a standard white business card.
8. It’s All About the Plan: The greatest cost associated with business cards is the initial setup and printing. But the best business card in the world is useless if it’s sitting in a box with 1,000 others like it. Devise a plan for how you will distribute your cards. You have plenty of opportunities. Take them to trade shows, tuck them inside of presentation folders, drop them in letters, and include them in packages and billing information to customers. You have a powerful tool at your disposal. Use it!
9. More Is Less: Think of your own reading habits. A business card holds your attention for mere seconds. Not only does your information need to be presented to the reader in a clear and concise matter, but you’d better make sure all of the information can be read and comprehended on the first pass.
10. Let the Experts Do It: Your business card should represent the perfect image of your company. A design that does not reflect what you do could have a negative impact on your business sales. That’s why I strongly believe designing your own business card design is not the right way to go. Leave the designing to the professionals, and use your time doing what you do best … selling your product or service!
Image courtesy Solid Cactus