I heard a wise man once say, “You’re not in business unless you have a business card.” While that may not be entirely true, I did get his point. Business cards are our real-life social badges and our primary branding tool. But in this day and age, do we truly need these 3.5” by 2” pieces of cardboard anymore?
Some networkers think we can enter a contact into our phones faster than digging a card out of our wallet. I’ve had instances where I gave out my card and had the recipient take a picture with an app on their phone then give the card right back. We can now even tap our phones together to exchange contact info just as fast as swapping a card. I personally don’t hang onto the business cards I collect very long. Once I get back home or to the office I connect with these new colleagues on LinkedIn and pop them in my Google contacts list.
With all the alternatives to exchanging contact info, it may lead a business professional to question whether business cards have become outdated and unnecessary. Is it surprising that even in the tech industry we’re still using business cards? I say nay.
While business cards seem as archaic as newspapers, they are still a vital part of networking and the business process. Despite living in a digital world, a business card is a symbol of establishment and credibility. That exact reasoning may be what that wise man was referring to in his statement. Let’s face it, we experience great joy out of getting our order of freshly printed cards in the mail. We have all felt the excitement to have a new card with “Founder”, “President” or “CEO” printed in bold font with our name right beside it. Our business cards serve as a trading card in our industry almost like a professional athlete, but without the bubble gum. I doubt even the great Derrick Rose has business cards that say “Derrick Rose. Point Guard. Chicago Bulls.”
Business cards are a great marketing tool. We can email blast and campaign on social media all we want and it won’t match the power of the personal interaction that took place during the business card exchange. However, before you spend money on your first thousand cards, you’ll need to follow a few tips.
1. Be Bold
You’re going to want your cards to stand out. Don’t fall victim to the ambiguousness of plain styles like in that scene from American Psycho.
The color, layout, and paper weight all important, but you have some choices to make.
- Should my card layout be horizontal or vertical? – I say that you can go either way. Depending on your logo, it may look better one way over another, so draft some mockups to see what looks best for you.
- How much thickness should my card have? – You’ll want some stiffness to your cards, a flimsy card can sometimes just feel cheap, but it doesn’t have to be made out of metal.
- Should I stick with the traditional 3.5×2 or use a more creative size? – This can be tricky. While a different size can make your card stand out, it could also be annoying to those who like to collect them as they don’t fit in traditional holders.
- UV coat or no? – If you are going to UV coat your cards like a dance club flyer, I’d recommend only coating one side. UV coats are hard to write on with ball point pens, so leaving one side at least matte allows for easy note-taking.
2. Follow Brand Guidelines
Your card should be considered an extension of your company’s brand image. Obviously you’ll want to include you logo in some fashion on the card, but I recommend you do not deviate too far from the company branding.
- Use your company colors, or close variations thereof
- Use the same fonts that as your site or other marketing materials
- Include your tag line, if you have one
3. Make it Readable
This seems to be a growing concern. Black writing on black paper never works well, unless you’re a ninja. Your print should be easy to read and have clear contrast to your background. Sometimes black and white work, but you’re smart and know how to make colors stand out. The font should also be legible and big enough to read without a magnifying glass. Keep in mind that investors are usually more seasoned and want to be able to actually read your card!
4. Include the Important Stuff
Social media handles, P.O. Boxes, and favorite quotes may seem like fun additions to your cards, but can they sometimes just be clutter. Stick to the basics and think minimalist and about what potential colleagues and connections really want to know. Best bets are first & last name, title, email address, phone number and company website. If you are a brick & mortar company I would suggest including your physical address. Sometimes a Twitter or Facebook handle makes sense (especially in the case if you are a social media company), so include the address in type, but NEVER put the logo on your card. Why would you want to include another company’s image on your most important brand extension? To sum up, make your card simple and all about you.
So, you may be asking, “Tim, where do you get your cards made?” Well, I definitely like to stay local whenever possible. I formerly used M13 Graphics in Schaumburg until a big misprint then I switched to a small shop in Bucktown called QDP Graphics. They do amazing work at a very reasonable price, which is great for a startup budget. You can get 1,000 cards, full color, front and back for $25. VistaPrint can’t even beat that. Plus, I love keeping my business local.
Start collecting cards you like at events and borrow their ideas to make your ideal card then take these tips and run to the printer. You’ll be flashing those freshly printed cards before you know it.