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Business Cards in the 21st Century: 10 Tips to Follow

April 11th, 2012 ::

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

How to Keep Your Business Card Effective in a Changing World

August 15th, 2011 ::

By Bill Post

Nobody can stop the onward march of technology. But one thing we can always do is to step back and see how that march affects all the things in its path. Some things get stepped on, trampled over and left behind. If you don’t believe me, look at that slide rule gathering dust in your attic. But technology is not always this cruel. Some things join the parade and become better (e.g., TVs, computers). And then there are things that never seem to go away, like the good old reliable business card. It’s been around forever and probably always will be. But does that mean technology hasn’t left its mark? Not really. That little card is evolving and changing with the times too. Here are just a few of the ways the business card is adapting to the digital world:

Customized business cards:

Cards no longer have to be boring and predictable. It’s now very easy and cheap to add your own innovative touches to your cards. Just go online and you’ll see lots of sites that let you design your own cards. You can even make them all slightly different by using your own photographs to create several cards, each with its own personalized image. And to make them even more unique, you can now print them on aluminum, plastic or magnetic material.

Cards on your phone instead of in your wallet:

There are now apps for your smart phone (e.g., ScanBizCards) that let you take a picture of a business card and the card (image plus content) is instantly downloaded to your phone. Not only can the data be imported into your contacts, but you can now flip through your cards visually on your phone as if they were in your wallet!

Smart business cards:

How about tiny electronic chips in your business cards? Well, the technology already exists and when you have these, all you need to do is wave your smart phone near the card and presto—the information on the card is downloaded to your phone.

Technology marches on, but don’t worry— that trusty old business card isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. But it will change, and we are already seeing the changes! Your business card was always an effective tool—and in the digital world it can now be even more effective.

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Business Cards for three years. Prior to his involvement with 123Print, Bill was a small business owner himself, providing marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC, metro area. Before working with 123Print on Business Card Templates, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world. It was there that Bill not only honed the skills he uses to help small businesses get ahead, but it is also where he realized that he’d rather help the little guy prosper than make huge corporations money.

Creative Networking: The Owner Who Gets Out, Grows

February 1st, 2010 ::

Photo by Getty Images

To even start, let alone grow a business, you need to get out of your workplace and meet the right people.  With all the time constraints I am under, this post is very close to my heart!  I am a working mother living outside of the city,  who is trying to balance two active kids, a home, husband, four dogs and have the time to grow my business.  Because of this, I end up missing out on many networking functions that could help me get new clients, education, and grow my business.

Do you have challenges that keep you from getting to the functions you need to attend?  How do you stay “connected” and meet the people who will help you grow in your field when so much is keeping you from that valuable networking time?  You have to be selective, be creative and get out!

A Few Ideas: (please comment to share yours!)

  • Be “on” in your everyday life: Since you have to run around in your daily life anyway, combine it with an opportunity to network.  Print and bring business cards too!  Keep in tune with the conversations around you, you might just overhear someone say they are looking for what you can deliver.  I was talking to my yoga instructor who found out I market small businesses in the area, and she connected me to a potential client!
  • Use your expertise to network with an audience: Instead of going to events as an audience member and vying for the attention of the speaker, why not be the speaker and have the audience want to get to know you?  You could start with the association in your field of business.  Find the event planner and ask if they need a speaker with your speciality and offer your services.  A non-paid speaking engagement can turn into valuable contacts in the future! (not to mention possible paid speaking engagements down the road).
  • Throw an event:  Don’t you hate wasting time going to events that, for whatever reason, weren’t what you thought they would be? (didn’t have the contacts that could help you grow, lessons were too below your level or parking was horrific)  Organize your own event and be in control.  It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but can be as easy as meeting with a targeted group of people for a drink to discuss similar projects they are working on, learn and partner with each other.  Using social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help you find those people, or you can use some of the other resources below.

Resources to Start You on Your Way:

  • Local Chamber of Commerce: Find your local Chamber of Commerce and find out where you can offer to speak or attend an event. Tons of great resources at the US Chamber of Commerce page as well.
  • Association Involvement - ASAE:  Sign up to speak, volunteer, search for your association, and use other resources to help you to grow your business skills and network.
  • MeetUp: This is such a great site to find or lead a local group/event.  Start an account now.  Try a search on “Small business” and you can see all the groups in your chosen zip code.  I joined a DC Blogger group where I meet with fellow bloggers who exchange experience and inspiration.
  • Twitter : I can’t say enough about the value of Twitter. (check out my past blog).  You need to sign up for Twitter for your business to not only market it, but also to network for its growth!  Use Twitter to find fellow small business owners to exchange information, find out about local meetings, and meet for business.  With Twitter search, you can narrow down folks in your field and area by using the hash tag symbol (#).  I found someone who does graphics work that I admired, she was in my area, and we are discussing upcoming projects!
  • Twellowhood and Yelp: These are sites where you need to get listed, find other local listed businesses, resources and people that list themselves.  Follow them, network and eventually partner to grow your business.

Have any other networking ideas for business owners with limited time?  Please share below.  I wish you much success in growing your network and business!

#GrowSmartBiz Video: SmallBiz Quick Tips: 10 Rules for Killer Business Cards – Steven Fisher

October 1st, 2009 ::

So I got asked a few months ago to present at the GrowSmartBiz Conference and I suggested to do something on business cards. I am sure many people were like “ok….” It can be a dry subject unless you find the examples of business cards I did and relay some solid and clever rules to create “Killer” business cards.

This is a presentation that is usually given in 30 minutes and I did it in about 10. It was rapid fire and from the Twitter stream and the high fives I got, it went over really well. For those of you that could not make it, I embedded the presentation that came on everyone’s thumb drive below and further down is the video presentation of the session. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Video Presentation of “10 Rules for Killer Business Cards”
SKIP TO 4:35 past the raffle to get to my smiling face and enjoy.

About Steve Fisher:

Steve currently is Managing Partner of AppSolve. In its 10th year, Appsolve specializes in user experience design, enterprise web development and online community management. Through AppSolve, he works with Network Solutions to manage its online small business community. Prior to that he was founder and CEO of Slipstream Air, a software provider to the private air travel industry. It was sold in 2008 to JIT Airline Resources, which rebranded as Slipstream Aviation Software. Steve has also held key leadership positions at Global Network Solutions, OnSite Technologies, IKON, USConnect, Ryland and Wells Fargo.

He has published several e-books on Small Business Management, User Experience, Online Marketing and Innovation. Currently, he is working on his first book, “101 Rules for Entrepreneurs” slated for a Spring 2010 release.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from University of Baltimore and on a personal note he is a private pilot, musician and concert photographer. He cur¬rently resides in Columbia, MD, USA.

#GrowSmartBiz Video: SmallBiz Quick Tips: 10 Rules for Killer Business Cards – Steven Fisher

September 30th, 2009 ::

About Steve Fisher:

Steve currently is Managing Partner of AppSolve. In its 10th year, Appsolve specializes in user experience design, enterprise web development and online community management. Through AppSolve, he works with Network Solutions to manage its online small business community. Prior to that he was founder and CEO of Slipstream Air, a software provider to the private air travel industry. It was sold in 2008 to JIT Airline Resources, which rebranded as Slipstream Aviation Software. Steve has also held key leadership positions at Global Network Solutions, OnSite Technologies, IKON, USConnect, Ryland and Wells Fargo.

He has published several e-books on Small Business Management, User Experience, Online Marketing and Innovation. Currently, he is working on his first book, “101 Rules for Entrepreneurs” slated for a Spring 2010 release.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from University of Baltimore and on a personal note he is a private pilot, musician and concert photographer. He cur¬rently resides in Columbia, MD, USA.

You can reach out to Steven Fisher at the Network Solutions Blog

Rules for Entrepreneurs #1: Make Sure Your Business Card Doesn't Get Thrown Out

June 2nd, 2009 ::

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.