Business cards are by far the most common advertising and contact management tool used by businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the world. Your business card has more impact on your business than most types of advertising. Despite this importance, if you’re like the average entrepreneur, chances are you’ve spent very little time choosing and designing your business card.
As President of Canada’s largest business networking group, I’ve seen just about every type of business card you can imagine. At times I’ve been impressed, other times shocked, other times entertained and a few times frustrated. I’ve also had the opportunity to see how others react to various business cards and the results at the end of an evening of networking.
Here are some guidelines in designing an effective business card:
1. Decide on the purpose of your business card. Is it to provide your contact information, to entertain, to advertise your services, to demonstrate your style or some other reason? If the card is to be given to existing customers then it is about providing contact information and other information that a customer may find useful, such as an online website or tool, even a notice. For example, you could mention that you have 24 hour service or a life-time warranty on your product or service.
2. Know who it is that you are planning to give your business card to. If your customers and potential customers are a conservative type, then providing them with a creative, out of the box card may alienate you from them by making them feel like they can’t relate to you or simply uncomfortable. A good rule is conservative card for conservative target. If your market is more innovative and creative, such as inventors or artists, then you would want to use an out of the box design.
3. Be clear on the result you would like to achieve by handing out the card. Do you want to catch the attention of the individual, list your services, send them to your website, establish your credibility (use credentials, brand names, appropriate titles), or remember you for when they need your services so they can call you?
As you can see there should be some thought put into your business card and how it fits into your business strategy even before you sit down to look at its design. Regardless, there are some tips that apply in general.
1. Use really small font. Remember most people once they reach 40 years of age have problems reading small print without their glasses. Not only will they not be able to read it, but you also have not put them in a feel good position.
2. Use a laminated or plastic coating on front and back. Most people will make notes about you on your business card so they can remember later on. Sometimes that note is to remind them to call you or to connect you with someone you know. If they can’t write on your card they could forget and you’ve lost a lead.
3. Use oversized or awkward shaped cards. Remember that your card will be put into someone’s pocket and hopefully in their rolodex or storage. If it doesn’t fit, they are likely to put it somewhere else and possible in the trash can. Keep size and shape standard and show your creativity in a different way if you have to. Different countries have different standards for business cards. In Europe the cards tend to be oversized compared to North America. In South America even more so.
4. Use colours you can’t see in dim light. Contrast is important on business cards for a number of reasons. Yellows and lighter colours are good if they are contrast with strong colours. If you need lighter colours try using them as filler and use the strong colours for fonts.
1. Keep your business card simple and easy to read. Business professionals are busy and they just want to get down to the facts. Most don’t even read everything on the card. By having less on your card you’re more likely to have them read what you want them to.
2. Leave the backside blank. It is cheaper and it gives room to make notes.
3. Be clear on what you can do for your client or the benefit you provide. Having ‘Virtual Assistant’ on your card lets people know what you generally do. However, if you were to add ‘I help you stay out of the office longer’ or ‘I make sure your customers get an answer right away’ then you’re more likely to get better results.
4. Use language anyone can understand, unless you’re using it only among your peers. There is no use in sharing your card if the person doesn’t understand it or is bored by the words. Here is one area where entrepreneurs can be creative in using common language to describe what they do.
5. Use a firm stock that doesn’t easily bend. There is a subconscious reaction to how a business card feels in your hand and that impression is also adopted towards the person giving you the business card.
Even if you follow these tips there is a chance that you could end up with a card that will not give you the results you want. The best tip I can give you is to test your card. Print off a few of your cards and take them to a networking event. As you hand out the first 10 stop and ask the person if they can help you with some feedback with your new business card you’re testing. But only ask them after you’ve given them the card and they’ve looked at it. Then you ask them what you do, what they think is different about you, what kind of style you have, what catches their attention, what they would do with the card, and what other feedback they may have.
Taking this approach with the design of your business cards will lead you to look at your overall business and marketing strategy. Having your cars in alignment with the rest of your marketing collateral and strategy will make your efforts both more effective and efficient. The process of alignment will also make it easier for you to ask the most powerful question of all, ‘What does my target market think?’
It is not about what you want to say, but about what your customers (and potential customers) will see (and hear).