Branded: Part Three – Business Cards

OK, so you’ve decided to get branded and you’ve hired a professional designer to develop your logo. Now it’s time to start creating your visual brand identity through your printed and online presence. An essential tool in your marketing toolkit is your business card.

Going Paperless

I’ve been asked if business professionals really still need a printed business card in today’s hi-tech world … the answer is, YES! The majority of the time, your business card is the first impression you are leaving with a potential client or referral partner. When you’re at a meeting, introduced to someone at a networking function, or working at an event – what do you give them that has your contact information and website on it if you don’t have a business card? Nothing! And now you’ve potentially lost business, perhaps even to your competition who may be at that same event. So, yes, of course you still need a printed business card.

Unfortunately, there are many business owners who wear too many hats, one of them being the marketing hat. Business cards are commonly the one item I see owners deciding they can design and print themselves. Rather than get on my pedestal and tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t do this, I’m going to share these two stories real quick.

too_many_hatsFirst, a high-end business coach was at a networking event. An attorney in this person’s contact sphere introduced herself and after talking for a while, handed the business coach her business card. After the attorney walked away, the business coach ran his fingers along the perforated, homemade business card designed with 80s-style clip art and busy fonts, and left it sitting on the table beside him. No matter how experienced or educated that attorney was, she left an unprofessional, low-quality impression behind.

Second story, I love to hear my friend Jamie Limbaugh with IQ Print Media tell:  a company wanted to impress a potential client and spent a small fortune on an executive suite at a ball game with all the trimmings. Just before leaving, they realized they didn’t have business cards, so the IT guys made some real quick, printing them at home. At the game, they’re talking with the CEO of the company (the potential client) and thinking things are going great. Then he asks for their business card. The CEO takes one look at the card and says, “spent all your money on the suite, huh?”

A Book by Its Cover

Yes, our businesses are judged by the appearance of our marketing materials.

The purpose of a business card is simply to provide contact information. Ideally, you (or a referral partner) have already discussed what you do with the person receiving your card, and now you’re handing them a way to contact you. There is also the situation where you (or a referral partner) may have your cards in a rack or business card holder located in an office foyer or waiting room. In these situations, it may be a good idea to utilize the back of your card for a brief – not detailed! – bulleted list of your products or services. Even so, the purpose of your card is to get them interested in contacting you, so in this situation it is of utmost importance to include your website – and then make sure your website is branded, up-to-date, and mobile-compatible! (I’ll be doing an upcoming blog on branding websites but also see “So you have a website … now what?”)

mini-brochureThis brings up one of the biggest problems I see with business cards – when the business owner tries to turn it into a mini-brochure. They want to include so much information on it that the back winds up having a list of all their certifications/experience and a list of their products and services … in little bitty seven-point type to make it all fit. Which results in no one being able to read all that information. Perhaps the business owner should invest in mini magnifying glasses as a promo item giveaway to go along with their business card!

Two Last Things to Note:

1) Even if you can get 250 business cards FREE from an online printer, what impression are you making with a template design not personal to your company and cards that advertise ANOTHER BUSINESS on the back?

2) When you have most of your box of 1,000 business cards, and you just changed your phone number (or email address or website), here’s what you DON’T do:  go through the remainder of your cards with a Sharpie, crossing out the wrong phone number and writing the new one on it. The cost of revising and reprinting your cards is minimal, and the investment of doing so is priceless.

Nothing makes you – and therefore your company – look cheaper than the above scenarios.

Remember, we are judged by our appearance, and your card is the image you are leaving behind. What impression are you making?