Wallet-Worthy Or Gerbil Cage Liner? Ten Ways To Prevent The Untimely Demise Of Your Business Card.

Wallet-Worthy Or Gerbil Cage Liner? Ten Ways To Prevent The Embarrassing And Untimely Demise Of Your Business Card.

There are (mostly) three kinds of business cards in the world. There are second-rate cards that get thrown together with clipart, then printed on an inkjet in the basement. There are over-the-top cards that are more art than card, printed on things like clothespins, raffle tickets and squares of real maple wood. And there are ordinary cards, boring, forgettable, not bad but not good either.

But wait! You don’t want a sub par or forgettable card, and clothespins are probably a bit much. So what category is left for you?

That would be the fourth category, where good cards go to network and make friends in the contact managers and portfolios of professionals everywhere. Assuming you’re not ready for clothespins, here are simple ways to elevate your business card, keep it out of the sludge pile and make your company look like one that someone should do business with.

Have The Right Contact Information

Avoid either too little or too much, as both can result in a rendezvous with the trash.

Too little will discourage people with a personal communication preference from getting in touch with you. I have a client who simply doesn’t like email. If he can’t reach me by phone he’ll keep trying until he does, no matter how many times I entreat him to drop me an email so I can call him back (he doesn’t like voicemail, either). I bet my client would toss a business card if the only bit of contact info it contained was an email address. Make sure you appeal to your prospects’ preferences by giving them options.

On the other hand, too much contact info is also a bad idea. Great, you have a phone and a fax and a cell and an 800 number and you’re on Skype. Did you know that offering people too many choices tends to immobilize them so they ultimately make no choice at all? Stick to the basics – and try to avoid too many options within options.

Include Your Web Address

How obvious does that sound? But you’d be surprised to know that people do omit this.

A web address can be considered part of your contact information but it’s important enough to stand alone. Why wouldn’t you want to direct people to your website? After all, if you’re handing out business cards you probably hope to generate business. Your web address is a chance to do just that.

While you’re at it, include your Facebook page, too. You probably don’t need the address to every social account you own but Facebook is big enough to matter. In fact, when handing your business card across the gaping chasm of the open rabbit cage, why not prompt the recipient to Like you on Facebook, too?

Get A Quality Print Job Done

Step away from the inkjet. It’s for amateurs and enterprising babysitters. If you take your business seriously then take your business card seriously. It will be representing you in pockets everywhere.

A good print job doesn’t have to be expensive. There are myriad online print shops that offer good quality and you won’t even have to sell a kidney. If you’re really going for quality and want a few bells and whistles like glosses or embosses, go with a better printer and cough up a few bucks. It’s still not that expensive and it’s worth the stand-out image you can achieve.

Whatever your choice, this is not a DIY project. Get it done right or you may as well scribble your phone number on the back of a napkin. And anyone who was ever a teenager knows where those end up.

Make Friends With White Space

There’s no reason to fill up every square inch of your card with design elements or graphics. Space lets the eye rest and move easily from one element to another. Too much junk on the card is just that… junk… and it will distract people from the useful information. A business card is not an art project. It’s a functional bit of marketing collateral so unless you’re making a distinct statement and embossing it on a swatch of pure leather, keep it simple and keep it clean.

Make It Readable

This will be a lot easier if you’re not trying to cram 47 ways to contact you onto the front of the card. If you find yourself squinting to read it, think twice. There is plenty of fine print in the world it doesn’t belong on your card.

This will also be a lot easier if you’re not composing an art project. Poorly chosen background and font colors can be difficult to read even for the average person. What happens when you meet a colorblind person? Keep it simple and when all else fails stick with a white or neutral background. If your card hurts my brain, I don’t care how competent you are, I’m tossing it and probably missing a chance to get to know you. I doubt I’m alone.

Make Sure It Matches Your Branding

I’ve worked with people who have redesigned their websites and even invested in a new logo but continued to hand out old, dated business cards. These are the cards that should land in the rodent cage.

If this sounds familiar, do your brand and your company image a favor and get new cards. They should be consistent with everything else in your marketing arsenal. If you treat your card as an unimportant throwaway, how can you expect a prospect to do anything else?

Use Appropriate Typography

Remember my advice to avoid art projects? When it comes to creative license, people tend to take the most liberty with fonts. It’s tempting… open any desktop publishing or editing program and there are so many fun fonts to choose from. Not to mention the bazillions you can find or purchase.

But nothing says, “I learned Photoshop last weekend” like a card with multiple, swirly, curlicue fonts.

Pick a font. Stick with a font.

Think clean, neat, professional, consistent. And whatever you do, avoid Comic Sans like the embarrassing uncle of the font world that it is. It will attempt to corrupt you wherever it appears. Do not cave. You don’t even need to know why. If you have an embarrassing uncle you’ll understand.

Tell People What You Do

This isn’t always necessary but it’s an important consideration. If your company is “Joe’s Landscaping” or “Main Street Bagel Shop” you don’t need to spell out what you do. But if you’re like many of today’s service companies with words like “Synergies” and “Solutions” in your company name, you should probably add a one liner or service tagline.

What do you suppose “New Synergistic Solutions” does?

If you came across that business card in your pocket, how much time would you take out of your busy day to figure it out? But with a few extra and strategically placed words you might realize, “Ohhhh, these are the guys who install air conditioners! I have to call them.” And voila, the difference between new business and bird cage mulch.

Try A QR Code

If you’re handing out your business card as a marketing opportunity and not just as a bicep exercise, a QR code can give you an advantage. There’s the practical: embed your contact info so someone can scan it right into their address book. And there’s the creative: embed a link to a landing page on your site with a special marketing offer, an email signup or a video.

It also makes a good conversation starter to engage the less tech savvy. Good marketing is about trying new things and measuring the results. A QR code gives you the opportunity to do both.

Use The “Power Of Three”

Our brains simply grasp things better when they’re in groups of three.

Think three wishes or three little pigs. Take all of the information that needs to go onto the card and group it into three logical chunks. It’s not only a good way to organize information but it makes the card easier to read and plays to the psychology that already exists in our brains.

It can be three horizontal groups, three vertical or three split into two and one. It all depends on the type and amount of information you want to display, but use this hidden power to your advantage.

Which leads me to a Bonus tip: hire a professional designer! A good designer will already know all this so you can get back to work with the confidence that your marketing needs are being considered and met. And when you do hire a designer you’ll have a better idea of what to look for. Plus you’ll be smart enough never to let it slip that you secretly pine for Comic Sans.