Despite the popularity of social media and online networking, the business card will always play a unique role in your organization’s advertising strategy. At trade shows, meetings or networking functions, business cards are the easiest way to communicate not only your organization’s contact information, but a snapshot of your organization. It’s a 3.5″ x 2″ elevator speech your customer keeps.
Your business card is often the first piece of advertising your customer will see, and from it, their first impression will be made. Is your business card up to the task? Using your card as only a vehicle to distribute your company information is like buying a Ferrari and never taking it on the highway. Unlock the potential of your business card and use it to make a meaningful connection with your customer. Give them more than just your phone number and your website address. Take these precious moments of undivided attention and tell your customer about your organization.
Your business card tells a story about your business, and it’s not just the words printed on paper that have a tale to tell. The design, the paper, the fonts and the finishing all speak for your business and it’s in your best interest to control what is being said to avoid conflicting messages. Gone are the days when strolling up to the counter at your nearest Copy/Print store for the $99 1-colour business card special was good enough. The cost of quality printing and finishing has dramatically dropped in recent years and now attractive, professional business cards are within the reach of organizations of any size. The trick is to know what to look for. Read further and you will too.
This may seem obvious, but take a moment to think about where your organization is, and where it will be. For some organizations, it takes a while to go through 500 business cards. Are you moving soon? Maybe don’t put an address on the card if it can be found on your website or invoice. Make sure you get it right the first time. Pulling that first card out of the box and realizing you forgot your phone number is a real pain. Proofread, proofread and proofread again.
Design and Layout
A business card is like a meal. A bland business card, much like a peanut butter sandwich eaten over the sink, is unremarkable and in no way memorable. If your card gets handed out at an event where many cards are swapped, for example, a networking event or tradeshow, chances are your card will be in many pockets that also contain the cards of your competition. If your card is confusing, plain or unremarkable, your card will likely end up at the bottom of the pile, or worse, filed under “G”. Much like an evening of great food, fine wine and great conversation, a stellar business card will stand out in a reader’s memory.
If your organization has an existing look and feel, design the cards to be consistent. Advertising materials consistent in appearance increases the value of your brand and reinforces your organization’s message in the memory of the reader.
How your organization’s card should be laid out could be influenced by your industry’s visual conventions, but for some it’s a blank canvas. A tattoo artist could have an elaborate, colourful illustration or something simple as a black card with a name and contact information. You would be a hard pressed to find an accountant with a card that looks like either of those, opting instead for something more conservative. We’ll save the design theory for another day, but make sure your design is cohesive and attractive. Your card could be on the most expensive paper available, but if the design is unprofessional, there is no value.
If you’ve got the space, use it. Within moderation of course. Many people leave the back side of the card blank. Use this empty space to show your mission statement, your top products or map to your office. Add a QR code to your card and bridge the gap between the real and virtual world. You’ve got your viewer’s attention; make this a moment your viewer will remember. Take advantage of their attention and drive your message home.
The stock, or paper you choose for your business card can make a strong statement. The standard, thin, white card stock is over used and unremarkable. It’s flimsy; it doesn’t wear well and looks cheap. There are more paper options than ever before, and they won’t break the bank.
A thick, 16pt stock is thicker than average card stock. It stands out; has more substance. A thicker stock implies quality and will project strength and trustworthiness onto your business. 24 pt stock is very thick and would be worth looking into your product or services are high-end. Its expensive feel implies exclusivity and luxury.
Make sure the paper you choose sends a message appropriate to your organization. A 24 pt paper would be the wrong choice for a charitable organization; the message it would send wouldn’t be congruent with most charitable goals; it would seem extravagant and a misuse of funds. If your organization is environmentally conscious, a recycled paper would convey that.
Fonts have personalities unto themselves, and choosing the right font is paramount to reinforcing your cards design and message. While there may be millions of fonts available, most of them will not be appropriate. Fonts can be too trendy, to boring, to serious, to happy, to subdued, to professional, not professional enough…etc. Most organizations have, or should have, a logo made prior to printing business cards and it’s possible that your fonts may be dictated by your logo. While the font in the logo may not be the font chosen for the card, choosing a font that compliments it will narrow your options significantly.
If you are lucky enough to have free reign when choosing a font, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Keep your industry’s visual conventions in mind. KFC would probably not use Time New Roman any more than a nursing home would use a graffiti font or a lawyer choosing Comic Sans.
- Avoid trendy fonts. Trendy fonts will date quickly. If you have many different people in your organization with business cards, if you switch the font for one person, you need to do it for everybody.
- Limit the number of fonts. Using too many fonts will make your card appear unprofessional. Keep the fonts consistent among items of the same priority. Your phone, fax and email should stay the same font.
- Choose fonts because they are appropriate to the message, and not because they are your favourite. The fonts you chose should be chosen because they enhance the card and your message, not because they’re cool.
- When in doubt, use Helvetica. If you can’t choose a font, just pick Helvetica. There is not a business in existence that Helvetica would not be applicable to.
Colours and Images
Like fonts, some of the colours you use may be dictated by your logo, but rarely must you exclude others. Business cards don’t need to be just white paper with text on them. Adding a background image, imagery that supports your message, repeating backgrounds are all ways to take your card your card from boring to brilliant.
There are many different finishing options available that have become more affordable in recent years.
- Rounded Edges add a degree of class and attention to detail. Round 1, 2, 3 or all 4 corners for a unique, polished look.
- High Gloss cards stand out like a shiny new watch. They’re eye-catching, attractive, and they look sharp.
- Spot UV cards are like high gloss, except the high gloss is confined to certain areas. Spot UV adds a level sophistication and elegance to even the simplest of cards.
- Embossing, raised ink, custom die cuts are all options available to make your card stand out in your viewers memory with a price tag that isn’t as high as one may expect.
Tips to keep your cards from getting tossed:
- Be clear. What your business does and the message need to be abundantly clear. Not enough, too much or conflicting information reflects disorganization onto your business.
- Be legible. Nobody keeps magnifying glasses handy and if your reader needs one to read your phone number or website, chances are they’ll flip to the next card, and flip yours into the trash.
- Use a standard size. If your card doesn’t fit neatly into somebody’s card holder, you run the risk of getting tossed for the sake of simplicity.
- Recycling and reusing isn’t cool for business cards. If you move or change your phone number, don’t put a label over the old info, or worse, don’t cross out the old info write the new info above it. Plan ahead.
- Look like a professional. An unprofessional design will project the same unprofessionalism onto your business.
- Have your cards professionally printed. Business cards printed at home look like business cards printed at home. Perforated-edges, banded ink lines and the inaccuracy of home printers will imply your organization is run out of a basement. Don’t let the feeling of accomplishment skew your objectivity.
- Stand out from your competition. If a shopper at a kitchen and bath trade show gets a business card from five cabinet builders, will they call the builder with the black and white card with clip art, or will the call the builder with the shiny card with a picture of a dream kitchen on it?
The strength of your business card is key to reinforcing the credibility and the message of your business. You wouldn’t show up to a sales meeting in your pajamas, so why would you want your business card to look equally unprofessional? Dress it to the nines, and let it be a reminder to your customers of your organization’s potential.