Business Cards – Why use them in this modern, high tech world?
by Dave Cottrell
Business Cards – Do you use them for your business? Does anybody use them, any more? Should you be using them for your business? I’m not referring to electronic business cards, such as vCards, which are also useful, but to the good, old-fashioned, time-tested, traditional, lowly business card that you hand out whenever you meet someone.
Business cards, in their simplest form, are simply a small, printed card that will fit easily in a wallet, purse or pocket, with your business name, your name, and your contact information. From there, many other things can be added, as long as they fit and they don’t detract from the purpose of the card.
Most often, business cards are shared as a way to help potential clients remember who you are. Your business card will usually include your name, company name, contact information such as street address, telephone number(s), fax number, e-mailing address, email address and website. With today’s busy online world, it’s also good practice to include social media addresses such as Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus and LinkedIn. A simple, utilitarian business card is generally black or blue print on plain, white card stock.
There are so many choices, today, other than the traditional black text on white card stock of yesterday. That is another article, entirely. The main thing about business cards is that they’re the one material thing associated with your business that you need to give away free, and the more you give away, the more profitable they are! What seems like a paradox (giving something away for profit) is one of the simplest things you can do, yet the ROI (return on investment) is very high.
While there’s nothing wrong with plain, simple, business cards, they are often printed on many different kinds of stock, nowadays, with many different fonts, colours, logos, materials, etc. The most memorable one I think I’ve ever had was one that changed colour as you tilted it. More about that, later…
Business cards have been used for centuries. According to Great FX Printing’s history page, “Bearer cards, calling (or “visiting” cards), and trade cards were the three main predecessors that turned into our modern system of exchanging business introductions. These cards were early forms of advertising as well as symbols of personal and business status.” As far as we know, these cards first began to appear some time in the late 1500s, often hand written on playing cards. They were often considered as legal documents.
But why use business cards, today? Why not just exchange contact information on your smartphone? After all, everyone carries one. That way, you have their contact information, so you can phone or text them any time, and they have yours, so they can easily look up your business…
Therein lies the very problem our super duper, ultra terrific, modern technology creates: (Ain’t technology grand?) Have you got a smartphone? The very serious challenge that you MUST consider if you use a smartphone for business, and if you consider that more and more people do, is that your smartphone (and theirs) very rapidly becomes a phone book.
What I mean by that is that, much quicker than you think, your (and theirs) contact list fills up with contacts. Unlike a wallet or a purse or even a coat pocket, where a card is sooner or later going to inevitably be noticed, a contact in a smartphone is inevitably … buried, never to be seen again, unless by accident, OR, if for some amazing reason your prospect happens to be looking of a particular something that you sell and they happen to remember your name.
What about those weird looking code boxes you can scan (aka, photograph) with your cellphone? All I will say about that, right now is, don’t even get me started on the drawbacks and uselessness of that one! Just think about it for a minute… then forget about it! If you really like the idea of using one, have it printed on your business card!
Business cards, on the other hand, are things that just keep showing up. Open your wallet. There they are. Open your purse. There they are. Clean out the pockets of your jacket. There they are. Open your glove compartment in your car. There they are! What’s that hiding in the centre console of your car? There they are!
Business cards just keep showing up, over and over again. Of course, they don’t guarantee a sale, but I guarantee they will do a lot to help people remember you!
That brings me back to something mentioned earlier in this article. Remember I told you someone once gave me a card that changed colour? I had that card for years. I moved across the continent with it, twice! I still remember the card, who gave it to me, what colour it was, and what it was made out of. The card FINALLY disappeared (good grief, it was over thirty years ago that I got it)! But I have never forgotten the card or the business or the owner.
That should clearly demonstrate how important your business card is, but even more, that being a bit innovative with the design of your card can also really pay off.
I don’t necessarily recommend that you get business cards that shimmer or change colours when you tilt them, but you can be creative. Making your card stand out will mean that when the glove compartment of that prospect’s car falls open and everything falls out (happens to everybody), your card will stand out among all the others collected in there.
If you make your card special, a funny thing happens. Just like that card I kept all those years, incidentally, for a business there was almost NO chance I would ever use, if you make your business card a little bit more unique than everyone else’s, people might just hang onto it a lot longer. I have a post in one of my desk drawers for cards like this.
Putting a good, professional-looking, full colour photo of yourself on your card is a very good idea if you want to be remembered. This is an absolute MUST for sales people, which is why many real estate and automobile sales people put their photo on their cards. When you’re in a competitive market, fixing your image in people’s minds gives you a real edge over those who don’t put their photo on their business cards.
Use easy to read, eye pleasing fonts and colours for the print on your cards. Don’t be afraid to be a little different, as long as it’s not too different. (Don’t go crazy and start using Wing-Dings or other silly fonts). Take your time and choose fonts that send the message that you’re a little different, perhaps a little bolder than your competition, but don’t overdo it. Slightly bolder fonts are good, especially for your name and business name.
Use fonts, sometimes called “Power Fonts,” that draw attention to the business name and to your name. If this has already been done in your logo, use the logo if it fits. Only use these fonts for larger print like the business name and your name. These often become difficult to read when shrunk down, so use clearly legible, plainer fonts for the information you print on the card.
A few of the more popular “power” fonts are: Eras, Impact, Century Gothic, Elephant, Felix Tilting, Forte, Frutiger, Garamond, Gill Sans Ultra Bold, Lithos Pro, Nina, Rockwell, Tahoma, Agency FB
There are a lot more of these fonts to choose from. Ask your printer for advice for your business. You don’t have to take their advice, but they are the experts.
Use fonts that make sense for your business. Comic sans might be good for a kind of “down home,” folksy kind of business, like a craft business, or wood shop, or small family restaurant. A more professional looking font makes much more sense for an accountant, a lawyer or a real estate agent. Use a font that says you’re real AND your serious about your business.
Make mock-ups of your business card before getting them printed. Move things around. Mix up the fonts a bit. Try different spacing. Try creating shapes with the text (but don’t overdo it – remember that it has to be legible).
Prices for business cards vary greatly. There are some excellent online choices if you’re on a tight, starter budget, that give you a lot of room for upgrades, yet keep your costs WAY down. Obviously, you will not be able to have all the choices available at a higher end or offline printing company, but an online company like Vistaprint is a very good place to start.
The bottom line is, if you’re in business, unless your business is one hundred percent online, you need business cards. They are one of the lowest cost and most useful forms of advertising you will ever use, and you should make them a priority “must have” for your business. They will pay for themselves, often again and again.