Business Card Tips: Checklist to Ensure Your Cards are Effective
How Effective Are Your Business Cards?
6 Questions You Can Ask
For such a small piece of paper, your business card is often your key to big opportunities, relationships, and success for your business or career. It can be the first impression of the work you do to someone new and it’s a perfect vehicle to position who you are - right now - to others.
But, as we all know, business cards can also be white noise, lost, forgotten, or even tossed in the trash. Are you maximizing the potential of your business cards so that more people use them, not lose them?
Here are 6 questions to see how your business cards stack up from a branding perspective, along with some ways to pump up their potential in the future.
1. Do you have business cards?
Yes, this is the first question, and it's not as simple as you think. Read on.
If you do have business cards:
hang on before you proceed to question two. If you do already have them, the question is - do you have business cards for what you’re currently working on? If you a job somewhere, but you also have a side business, do you have your own card for the side business? Make sure you do, even if it’s something very early and all you have is your name and email. You may need it when you make a connection that's not related to your day job.
If you don’t have business cards:
I’m not asking this question to be a smart aleck. Far from it, I’m asking because I believe that everyone should have a card with their contact information at all times - most especially when you do NOT have an established business, career, or job yet.
If you are unemployed - yes, you should absolutely have a card. In that case, have a card with your picture on it, a short line or two about your skillsets, and your contact info. If I’m hiring or know someone who is, a card is the perfect way to solidify a new connection.
If you are a student - yes, you should definitely have a card. I might want to make you my intern, or introduce you to someone, or connect you to an amazing resource on what you're studying. Be prepared for awesome.
If you are thinking of starting a business or in the process of it - yes, you need to have a card even if you don’t have your logo ready. Even if it’s not pretty. Even if it’s inexpensively printed. Even if it doesn’t pass all the questions you’re about to read about.
Whether you do have traditional business cards for your business, your career, side business, or even to represent you while you’re unemployed - the bigger question is:
Do you usually have business cards on you?
Because you really need to. You never know when you’re going to meet someone who can help you.
It’s crazy to me how many people I meet who are looking for something I could help them with and I really want to help them, but I end up not being able to. Why does that happen? Because upon hearing what they are looking for - I say, “Awesome, do you have a card?” they tell me “no, I don’t.” So, immediately, I have no way to follow-up and that's problematic.
Not having a card can end the conversation, unfortunately, in a lot of cases. This is pretty silly when we’re really only talking about one small piece of paper between you and opportunity.
2. Does your business card have all of your relevant contact information on it?
By this I mean, does it have:
- Your Name
- Your Title + Name of Your Business (if you have one)
- Your Email Address
- Your Phone Number
- Your Website
You’d be surprised how many business cards don’t have all of this information. I remember once having to Google someone, even though I had their card, because I couldn’t find an email to contact them (they had only listed their website). I remember not being able to find their email on the site either, so we never got in touch.
The other thing here is to make sure that no matter what you do, you have a professional looking email address. Maybe your name.last name @ gmail.com or another email provider. I’m a believer in using either your business name or your personal name, and that’s it. If your email address on your card could have doubled as an AOL Screenname (back in the day!), then it shouldn’t be the one you use on your business card.
3. Does your business card speak to what you do?
Is there anything on your card that visually or in a written way says what you do as a professional or what your business does? You definitely have a small space on a card, so it’s all about how you use it.
Often I see cards that don’t take the opportunity to include a tagline for the business, or a visual that encapsulates the service someone provides. To me, this is a huge missed opportunity. Here’s one example and way you can do this.
I’m the granddaughter of the founders of Fleishman’s Tiny Town in Fayetteville, NC - a children’s specialty department store. I designed the store’s business cards to speak to what they do strongly, in a visual and dynamic way.
Using Moo’s printfinity option, the cards actually come in a variety of images to showcase the diversity of the products that the store offers: everything from special occasion clothing, to children’s toys, to baby and children’s furniture. This allows my dad to tell the story of the store visually more easily and to give specific cards to specific customers, based on what they are looking for.
Curious to try something like that? Gather some amazing photography of your business and head over to Moo.com to use their Printfinity option on a variety of cards. You pay the same price for your cards, whether you print 100 different front sides or the same one.
4. Does your business card communicate the right tone and personality?
If you’re a responsible, serious business - does your business card present a professional, tailored experience?
By the same token, if you’ve got a whimsical business (or job) - is your card also fun and whimsical? Or is it pretty plain jane?
A business card can often be someone’s first impression of what you do, which is all the more reason it should reflect who you are and the spirit of your work. It should feel like you - and it should make you feel something.
These are business cards I created for Briana, the Owner + Chef behind BrianaBakes. I designed these to fit Briana’s story of being a young, Southern chef who grew up making cookies sitting on her grandmother’s countertop. Her business is all about making treats that are so good they take you back to sweeter days, just like those she spent with her grandmother.
On the front, they feature her logo and tagline “southern goodness that’ll whisk you away” and the back features a funky and fun sprinkle background with the simple line “custom orders are my jam.” From this very basic shaped card, you get a ton of personality from Briana and a bit of her story that invites you into the brand and what she bakes.
If your card doesn't feel like your business tonally, what can you do to showcase it more? This can be something you add or play up visually, or even simply more words you add. If you're a dentist, are you putting your specialties or the fact that you have weekend hours? It doesn't have to be something super creative necessarily, but it does need to tell me more than just your contact info to make me feel something about your business.
You decide what it is that you want me to feel when I experience your business card - maybe it's trust, maybe it's confidence, or maybe it's entertainment - it all depends on your brand and needs to be authentic to it.
5. Does your business card physically look and feel good?
If your card is double thick card stock, letterpress, etc. - it probably looks and feels great! But what I’m really asking here is not “did you spend a lot of money on your cards” - I’m asking “do they look and feel nice?”
Do you like the quality of the card? Can you read all of the information easily? Is the print job clean or is it a mess?
The thing is, your cards don’t have to be expensive, letterpress, gold foil, or anything more than black and white. However, to be useful, they do need to look nice so they present you professionally.
Too often, someone hands me a card and it’s hard to read (especially if it’s a dark color with white writing) or the paper is so flimsy that it doesn’t give me a good impression of how professional the person or the business is.
My own business cards for Greatest Story, which I’ll share in a minute, are printed at VistaPrint, because they happen to have the format I wanted. I don’t pay for expensive business card printing and I consistently get great reactions and follow-up. And I also get great deals on re-ordering them thanks to all the coupons. I think they look nice and professional, though I’m sure it’d be cool to have them printed on nicer cardstock or with an interesting finish.
So know that you can do this inexpensively, just make sure they have a reasonable degree of quality. I recommend that you print a small quantity first, maybe show some to your friends, and confirm they give off a solid / good impression of you without any distractions (like being hard to read, typos, feel, etc.).
Last but not least:
6. Is your business card unique and memorable?
Is there anything special about your card or does it look like anybody else’s card, especially in your industry? If your card is professional, but not distinct and memorable, it’s less powerful to you.
You need to keep in mind that some people do use business cards for follow-up, but it’s becoming more rare in the age of short attention spans and the dominance of sites like Facebook and Linkedin. So what happens to a larger extent is that your business card becomes super important for its impression - that’s why it needs to be memorable and interesting.
If it is, it will stick with people. It will inspire them to find you on LinkedIn, or ask you to coffee, or email you when something does come up.
For example, these are my business cards for Greatest Story. They are the normal sized business cards (3.5 x 2”) but they are folded. I created them in a way that makes them look and feel like little books.
I had one of these out when I was attending a small business event the other day and noticed that another person staring at my card for a good 30 seconds. I looked up and said “Hi, would you like one?” He did, and he subsequently emailed me to invite me to a big event I was interested in going to and to set up a one-on-one coffee soon. This was all from someone I never would have met if my business card didn’t stand out to him.
I consistently hear people tell me they hold onto my card and I almost always get a great reaction when I share them with people. They are the first step in communicating what I do and how I do it and often - like in the above example - it can do a lot of the work for me in forging a new relationship.
You can do this, too. Remember, all you're really looking at are simple cards printed with Vistaprint.
So how did you do overall?
If you answered mostly “yes,”:
your business cards are likely in great shape! Congratulations! Send me a picture - I would love to see and feature them.
If you got stuck or had a lot of “no’s”:
so long as you answered “yes” to number one, you’re still in the game. Don’t sweat it, and now you have some ideas the next time you run out of cards to do things differently.
And lastly, if you had to say “no” to the first one,
you now have some guidelines for what to include in the business cards you’re going to get yourself. You have nothing but potential ahead.
What To Do Next
After reading this, you may have felt intimidated or challenged on upping your business card game. The first thing to remember is that a lot of these things are stuff no one is doing, so if you can take a new crack at it and do things differently with your card, you’re already ahead of the pack.
The second thing I would say, feel free to ask for help. I currently write and design business cards based on your story. I do this for entrepreneurs, career professionals, and yes - even if you're unemployed or a student. And I invite you to contact me here if you need a professional eye on how to improve your current card.
There are also many creative graphic designers out there that can turn your story into a more compelling business card that fits your budget. As you saw today, many of these designs were simple/inexpensive to print but packed a big punch.
Whatever you do, the number one way to make sure your business cards are effective is to ensure you HAVE cards! Put them in your wallet and don’t be afraid to share your story - no matter what page you're on. You never know who you’ll run into, and by practicing a few of these things, you’ll be ready and prepared to make big things happen.