I am working with a client that is going to their biggest tradeshow of the year in the next couple weeks. They are in DC and I am in Atlanta. In this digital age, it is amazing how closely we work – and yet, I have never met them in person. Ironically, I am recommending they update their business cards for the show. In today’s world you can do business without meeting people. The smart phones have been working for years on how to make business card information electronic with the advent of the vcard, Bump, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. It is just as easy to text someone your number or say look me up, and everything is there – perfect, organized, and searchable.
But the business card is still alive and thriving. In fact, just this week the Washington Post reported that business cards are thriving in a digital age. They cite that companies like Staples have seen double digit growth in sales of business cards over the past several years. This is despite the continuing trend of trade shows declining, and travel budgets being cut.
This shows you that the internet can’t completely squash the value of networking. People use business cards to improve the perception of professionalism, authority, and experience. We’d like to think the interaction you have with the person you gave your business card to is enough to make sure you stand out, but just in case, you should make every effort to make sure your business card stands out when they empty their pockets. Here are some quick pointers that I like to follow when designing a business card:
- They should start a conversation. Many times business cards can be an icebreaker. Either at the beginning of your conversation, or maybe extending it by a minute or two. Be different. Use funky design, print them on different paper or even plastic or rubber, put a clever phrase or series of phrases on each card, make them dual sided copies with one side internationalized, try different shapes (not as big of a fan of those though, especially if they don’t fit in card holders nicely). Bottom line, your card should stand out in the heap and be recognizable.
- Don’t mess with the basics. Don’t make yourself mysterious and just put your name and a phone number, or worse a website. People will think you just troll bars for a living and aren’t serious about making impressions. On the flip side, don’t burden it down with too much information like your LinkedIn profile, every instant messenger handle you have and your star sign. They really only need basic info – title being very important. Keep it simple and clean. Try not to list more than 3 telephone numbers, and consider hard if you really need to put that fax number on there.
- Less is more. Especially if you use paper, there should be plenty of blankspace on at least one side – people like to make notes, particularly at a conference. This gives them room to write their own notes to remember you by. It also helps you in case an important prospect comes by who claims, “I just ran out of cards!”. Now you have a convenient card to share with them, and of course, upon seeing your clever card they’ll start a conversation about how great they are and ask for one to keep.
- Always make sure it says what you do. Include a short one liner that expands on your business. Or bullet points the services you perform. Keep it short, a business card is no place for a book. But it really helps sort through the sea of cards you get after a conference or business mixer to remember who did exactly what.
- Know your audience. This is probably a given, but market your cards to your customers. In fact, don’t be afraid to put marketing on them. My client’s competition is internal folks searching for the news themselves. Their service makes creates custom news summaries that beat the pants off of Google Alerts. My first recommendation was to put one side of it with a Google Search box saying something like ‘better news summaries than google alerts’. Don’t be afraid of the marketing, and don’t be afraid to make it useful. You cater to bars and restaurants? Print your card on a matchbook instead. Landscaper? Put grass seed in there and say ‘For a fresh start’. Or put a coupon on your card – just makes sure they can keep it and you “collect” the coupon by stamping it. This of course helps with the conversation a bit, but is also free marketing walking around in their pocket.