Updated on: 2017.01.30
There are numerous ways to make your contact data known to potential clients. Billboards, mailing lists, websites, social media ― you name it. So why do we still use business cards, which are basically cardboard pieces with telephone numbers? Because they are not just that.
In this article we cover:
- why we still use business cards;
- how to make your card design effective;
- what information to put on a business card;
- why you should consider getting a business phone number.
Business cards as a marketing tool
A masterfully-designed business card introduces your company to potential clients, serving as an effective yet subtle marketing tool. Business cards are:
- Handy. It’s much easier to slip a card into your wallet/pocket than reaching for a phone to record someone’s contacts. In contrast to writing down a phone number on a scrap of paper, it is possible to supply more information in a casual, non-intrusive manner.
- Expressive. It is rather challenging to provide sufficient information with good visual design, readability, and distinctive style within the limited space of a card. Your ability to do it implies attention to detail ― a key property of professionalism. Creative professionals such as designers, photographers, illustrators, or artists can even showcase their skills directly.
- Personal. By giving a business card you show respect by relieving a recipient of additional actions like typing your contact into the phone or writing it down. It also saves time, and people appreciate your care. In contrast to digital tools, being a physical object allows to support the visuals with tactile sensations. Such sensations are not only perceived as more personal, but help to remember the printed information (company name, logo, list of services, etc.).
However, the problem with business cards is that virtually everyone nowadays distributes them as a part of business etiquette. As a result, cardholders of businesslike people are filled with tons of largely similar cards. Luckily, there is a way to get around this challenge.
With the help of the following tips on design and content you will learn to utilize the creative approach without compromising the air of trustworthiness.
Color is the first thing we notice about a business card. Making your recognizable grants obvious promotional advantages and also saves a would-be client’s effort while flipping through his/her cardholder in search for your contacts. Just be reasonable.
A dissonant “eye-watering” palette is off-putting. An irritated person will hardly bother looking at your card twice. What we find pleasing is harmony, although this notion may appear subjective. That is exactly why artists came up with a color wheel. It may be confusing for the first time you see it, so a little read-up is recommended. Such websites as Tigercolor or Colormatters provide several ways to use a color wheel along with some basic theory behind the color harmony.
When the palette is chosen, try to test it before calling a print service. Don’t hesitate to ask your friends whether they find your color choice pleasing. You can get more global and unbiased feedback at ColourLovers ― an internet community of color enthusiasts where they create, share and discuss color schemes. Palette is yet another way of identification, so keep your color schemes consistent through your website, business cards and promotional materials
Balance the oddity
Ferrari red paint, a huge spoiler, and predatory air intakes look great on a sports car, much less so on a family minivan. Ensure that your card design is appropriate for the field of your business activities.
Originally, contacts were printed in black on plain white paper. Many legal and financial businesses still adhere to this template or opt for its derivatives ― shades of pale gray or beige. Such cards look basically the same for a reason: along with inscriptions like “Est. 1876” they convey traditionalism and seriousness. Would you choose a legal advisor whose business card implies nonconformity? Similarly, would you choose a children’s art studio with a black-on-gray card? Hardly so, unless the intention is to make a clear statement of “otherness” ― quite a risky move, indeed.
Color schemes may vary greatly as far as they are appropriate and harmonious. On the other hand, the following aspects of design are universally applicable.
Make your text legible. The primary function of a business card is to convey information ― you don’t want potential customers to struggle through overcomplicated fanciful lettering. Nor do you want them to use a magnifying glass if their eyesight isn’t perfect.
As far as fonts are concerned, they also should be appropriate. There are hundreds of internet sites solely dedicated to fonts. For instance, on Printaholic.com you may find a wide choice of typefaces recommended for use in particular business fields while Indesignskills.com ― among other things ― contains tutorials and tips on the matter.
Materials and shapes
Choose quality materials only. A momentary impulse to save a couple of dollars on paper may severely affect your business reputation. Whatever excellent design you have, people will likely dispose of a wrinkled piece of cheap cardboard with low-res print. 90% of all business cards are printed on high-density matte paper because this material is inexpensive, print-friendly and undemanding in terms of print equipment. What is more, you can make immediate notes on matte paper, while ink won’t stick to a glossy surface.
If your business is associated with handmade products or fashion, consider using textured or embossed material. A good example is paper with linen texture ― it is still writable and looks noble while being very pleasant to touch. Unfortunately, it is difficult to maintain decent quality of print on heavily-textured surfaces, so use more conventional materials unless shabbiness is really what you want.
Bear in mind that a business card is a utilitarian item ― it may be casually stuffed into a pocket, get soiled or soaked. While only plastic coating can guarantee full protection, at least make sure the print is able to survive an occasional couple of raindrops and the paper won’t wrinkle when held in slightly sweaty hands. Give your freshly-printed cards a trial before ordering the main bulk.
As for the shape, it is better t stick to standard-size rectangular cards. While oval or hexagonal ones will definitely stand out, storing them in a cardholder – or a wallet – is problematic.
Before proceeding to content, let us recap the design-related tips:
- Pick an aesthetically-pleasant color scheme, ask for feedback
- Make sure your design is in line with your business field
- Select legible fonts and font sizes
- Use professional print services and high-quality materials; give them a trial
Be as clear as possible. A fleeting glance at your business card should be enough to determine the general industry of your company. The name of the company and its logo are things that catch one’s eye. They must be chosen carefully. To avoid ambiguity and enhance the promotional effect, include a company slogan (brand promise). Even if you run a one-person enterprise, state your personal responsibilities clearly.
Provide essentials only. Cramming the card space with irrelevant text is bad: it affects the design and draws attention from what is important. A business card should invite a recipient to make a call/write a message, it is not intended to provide explicit details.
In the late 19th century, putting an owner’s photograph on a business card was a good way to make it stand out. Now, as color printing has become cheaper, this approach is quite common for those who wish to be remembered in person (real estate agents, for instance). Arguably, a photo builds up familiarity and thus increases the number of incoming messages. What is more, people tend to remember faces better than names. However, some people are rather conservative towards business cards and a photo ― especially, a not-so-perfect one ― makes you look unprofessional in their eyes.
Anyway, it might be a good idea if you work independently ― in contrast with a company logo, a photo emphasizes the personality of a card-giver. If you opt for a photo, avoid ID mugshots ― it is not the most appealing camera angle. Instead, ask a professional photographer to make a business portrait with adequate equipment, lighting, and background. Don’t forget to don your best suit. A “creative professional” can try a self-portrait in a cartoonish or caricature manner ― such a face will surely be remembered.
Don’t waste the space
Corporate business cards are often blank on the reverse side. It is how companies show that they don’t use cards for promotion. It also almost halves printing costs. For a small business, however, a single-sided card seems a waste of a promotional asset. Have you ever studied how card recipients react? Out of pure curiosity they would look at the backside and ― finding nothing there ― put the card into their wallets in a slightly disappointed manner.
Now, if they find something unexpected on the reverse, you will get a smile in appreciation of your creativity. And as we know, positive emotions generate customers. A card’s reverse side may be used to provide a link to your landing page via a QR code or you can offer discounts and special offers. It is even possible to highlight some of your work, be it manicure, wedding cakes or tailored suits ― just take a photo of the best thing you’ve ever made and place it on the back of your card.
Keep in touch
The most essential area of your business card is your contact data. In the world of today, two things are indispensable here ― an email address and a telephone number. Additional contacts may include your website, social media accounts (don’t forget to restrict access to anything private), popular messaging agents etc.
For most people phone calls remain the most natural way of communication as they prefer voice over messaging. Therefore, a phone number is compulsory. But is it a good idea to give your private mobile contact? On the one hand, exposing your private contact data makes you a potential target for pranks, spam and night calls, which doesn’t add peace to family life. On the other hand, you risk losing clients when failing to answer incoming calls (if a line is busy, or you are preoccupied with urgent matters, or trouble with your device occurs). Probably the worst possible situation is when you are forced to change your number. In this case, all the previously-issued business cards become almost useless.
Large companies combat this problem by using phone branch extension systems. For smaller businesses there is a much more affordable alternative ― a virtual phone number. Companies like MightyCall provide business phone numbers enabling you to get all the benefits of a professional PBX without any additional equipment. Such solutions are highly customizable with a wide variety of options to pick from.
If you work as a part of a team, just put a business number on your card and the system will automatically forward incoming calls to a free team member. Alternatively, you can activate an auto-receptionist to greet your clients and enable them to choose who to speak to. An independent professional can always stay in touch regardless of where he is ― calls can be forwarded to any mobile, VoIP device or softphone. And if you don’t want to be troubled during non-business hours, just set an appropriate rule and record a voice message for callers.
The content-related tips go as follows:
- Make your text perfectly understandable. Don’t overload your card with information.
- If you want a photo, make sure it is appropriate and professional.
- Use the reverse side of a card to your advantage. Showcase your work, provide special offers or supply a link to your landing page.
- Always include your email and phone number. Social media profiles are optional, yet recommended.
- Consider getting a virtual business number. It makes life much easier.
Despite the exponential development of means of communication, business cards remain a handy networking instrument and a part of business etiquette. Maximize the promotional impact of your cards by making them unique, professional-looking and credible. A business card is the face of your company, so do your best to create a long-lasting favorable impression.