Despite the rise of electronic methods of communication, in many industries business cards continue to reign supreme. For many professionals, business cards are significantly more than just contact information. They are a way of projecting an image of yourself and your firm; of establishing yourself in the mind of the receiver.
Many individuals, whether consciously or not, use business cards to make a snap judgment about the nature of a person or firm. If you are handed a flimsy, poorly designed business card you are likely to immediately eye the firm in question with suspicion. Conversely, a well produced, eye-catching business card can immediately create a good impression in the mind of the recipient. So how should an effective business card look?
To begin with, you should consider the information that you need to include. Business cards are not large, and there is an art to fitting everything required into such a small space.
There are a number of things that you will almost certainly need to include. Your name and that of your business are essential, along with at least one contact method. You should generally include both a telephone number and email address, as many people have a preferred means of getting in touch. If you have a website, include the address. Make sure that the email address you give is a direct one; people are much less likely to bother getting in touch if your address begins with ‘info@’.
You should also consider including a strap line or a very short description of your company. This is particularly important if your business name does not immediately describe what you do, or if you are a sole trader operating under your own name. If you are a plumber, make sure you say so. You can use the back of the card for these things if the front is too cluttered.
Having determined what you need to include on your business card, you should think about design. Your chosen design will, to a great extent, depend on personal taste, but there are a few factors that you should bear in mind.
Primarily, your business card must be readable. Do not try to cram on so much information that you are forced to use a tiny font. Use variation in font size and weight to highlight important elements – like your name and that of your business. You should generally avoid ‘fancy’ fonts; these are always distracting, sometimes illegible and often tacky.
It is also important to remember that your business card is likely to be ‘filed’ in a pile of others, or shoved into a draw. It is therefore vital that you make yours stand out. You can achieve this through a variety of means; bright colours are always eye-catching, particularly when most business cards rely on rather dour colour schemes. The colour and style should always match your business brand.
You may wish to experiment with the shape, although this will be more expensive to print. There is nothing to say that business cards have to be rectangular. However, remember that business cards are often placed in standard-sized holders or in wallets; if yours does not fit it is likely to be discarded.
The material you choose for your business card is very important. Cheap, flimsy business cards reflect badly on you; the recipient will presume that you either do not care about the way your business is presented, or you are so strapped for cash that you cannot afford proper printing. Avoid cheap paper stock at all costs.
Wherever possible you should go for at least 300gsm card and a finish that feels good to the touch; anything cheaper is likely to be a false economy in the long term. You may also wish to consider extras like embossing or foil print that will help your card stand out from the pack. The increased cost can usually be offset on larger print runs; most printers will give discounts for orders over 300.
Selecting a printer
Think carefully before using one of the many online business card services. Although they may appear cheap, you will almost always get better results from a dedicated typesetting and printing firm. And under no circumstances should you ever even consider taking ‘free’ business cards with an advert for the printing company on the reverse side. There are few things so guaranteed to create a negative impression of your business in the eyes of the recipient.
The business card looks set to remain a vital part of the language of business, despite the increasing domination of electronic communication. If you rely on face-to-face contact as a means of building relationships and gathering new clients, a well designed and professionally produced business card is a vital tool. Spend some time thinking about design, a bit of extra cash on printing, and your business card will pay dividends in the long term.