Most business owners give out business cards, hoping that the recipient will file it someplace important and refer to it frequently for the goods or services offered by the business card’s creator. When performed correctly, business cards can be a great branding tool, probably one of the best. When executed poorly, a business card can serve as an impediment to future business.
I made these discoveries while scanning a bunch of business cards from networking events using a CardScan scanner. At least half of the more than 30 cards used fonts that didn’t scan well at all, meaning I had to retype information during the verification process. That sad reality defeats the purpose of scanning in the first place. It also meant additional time and effort on my part. Anything that makes a potential customer have to work harder is a problem.
As I corrected errors in the scans, I came up with some 10 tips for making sure business cards are doing their job to promote your business:
1) Use both sides of the business card. I had new cards created by Freedom Printing and Specialty, a client, and used the back of the business card to provide additional information about what I could offer. (See back of card on this page.) As nice as it is for the back to be free for writing notes, I realized that if my business card is doing its job right, no one should need to write additional information. I accept that challenge.
2) Convey what you do in specific terms. Contact information is only valuable if it coincide with someone’s needs. Consider what happens if someone goes fishing through he or her pile of business cards six months after he or she meets you. Does the business card convey enough information to make connect the dots then? One of my friends uses the phrase “Printing Guru” on his cards as his title. I like the creativity he showed in using his title line to convey what he does.
3) Use clear fonts. As I indicated above, typing information after a business card has been scanned and the information didn’t appear clearly is a waste of time. Either the information is too small or the font isn’t plain enough. While cursive and curly fonts are fun, they aren’t useful to those scanning a business card. Keep also in mind that people are getting older and their vision is getting worse. Text less than 9 point large is going to be hard for many to read.
4) Add your company website. I see an influx of traffic to my business website in the days following a lot of networking, showing that people will visit a website if you include it on a business card. Since a business card is small, the amount of information presented is limited. The website has unlimited space and the business card feeds traffic to the website.
5) Ditch the address if people don’t ever visit. In addition to seemingly every Starbucks and Panera within 100 miles of my home, I have three locations where I conduct business. The address information isn’t important. I send people directions depending on where we are meeting. No one has told me they missed the address on my business cards and I definitely prefer using the space to provide more useful information.
6) Consider your potential clients. What do your prospects need to engage with you? A company Facebook page, Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile might be more useful than the address for your business (consider also that offices change, but the other items I just listed rarely change so 1,000 business cards would have a longer shelf life).
7) Include a cell phone number. More people are texting. The ability to use this powerful tool to change plans, tell someone you are going to be a few minutes late or whatever is vitally important to these texters. Don’t disappoint them.
8) Make sure the name you refer to yourself as appears. I meet a lot of people each month and it’s difficult to match up people’s names to cards when they differ. Although my formal name is “Robert,” my card shows “Bob.” Formality is nice, but not if it keeps someone from finding you or remembering you. If you introduce yourself as “Buffy,” then I would posit that the same name should appear on the business cards.
9) Ask at least one other person to proofread your business card. We all know what we wanted or meant to write. Get someone you trust to review your business card before it is printed. The printer is not responsible for accuracy. You are. Reprinting business cards when a typo is found isn’t fun or cost-effective.
10) Order quantities consistent with your needs. Printing is really easy, as a graphic designer reminded me last week. He said, “Printing the first one is expensive, but the rest of them are really cheap.” The greater the quantity, the cheaper the per-card price charged. However, don’t fall into the trap of getting 1,000 or 2,000 business cards printed if you don’t hand out at least 100 a month (I do) or if you anticipate any changes in your business within the next two years. Getting new cards is easy enough to make quantities of 250 or 500 reasonable enough in most cases.
Business cards can be a great tool for branding and furthering a potential business relationship. But only if they accomplish what they need to.