Business cards, you may have heard, are no longer kept in books albums with unwieldy plastic pages or in dozens of boxes, nor are smart people spending their time typing them into their laptops. After various card scanners – Neat Receipts and the less buggy and more efficient Cardscan among them – had moderate success in the card storage market, new apps on smart phones are allowing people to store and access their contacts by category just about anywhere.
I can, for instance, give you a list of seven chocolate makers or dairymen in two minutes or find half a dozen sommeliers in the Miami area on my Ipod. If you gave me your card, I can reach you from the road or from Munich. If someone calls me and asks for the address of a restaurant supplier in Kansas, I can pull him out of a pile in seconds. You want that. (Well maybe not a call from me, but being available or having your information available is one of the key elements of being successful in this odd business.)
During a week of card database restoration after my 2500 item card list was taken out by a rogue hard drive I have developed a sharp sense of the essence of good and bad business cards and what makes them effective. Let me share:
- If you are between jobs and looking, you should have a card. If you have a card from your employer, you should also have a personal card with your permanent contact information. If you have a second business you should have a card for that. It’s how people find you. Your card is your best advertising. People store them and pass them along.
- Have your card printed professionally. Nothing speaks dilettante louder than a hand knit card on fold and tear stock.
- Have it designed by someone who has a sense of look and proportion. Having seen the effects a company like Noise 13 can achieve with an image, we are believers. Our favorite printer, Red Dog Graphics, and many other printers also offer design services.
- Your printer will charge you a set up fee for putting your card on a plate. Make sure you get a copy of the set up and keep it in a safe place. I have one on a keychain thumb drive, in case I need cards away from home.
- Use dark print on light background or vice versa – similar tones like dark grey on black or cream on white can’t be read by scanners. Your print should also contrast with your logo. While scanners easily read really tiny print, some people can’t. You need to keep your print small but not microscopic.
- Fold over cards and dual sided cards are a great way to get more information into the small space allowed, but put all of the important contact information on one side.
- Repeat: Everything that you need someone to know about you – Company name, Title, phone, email etc – belongs on one side of the card.
- Use standard card size. Over-sized cards tend to get put aside and lost. Small ones can’t be found. Card shapes, on the other hand, are expensive but eye catching. A rough edge can make it interesting.
- Don’t confuse cute with effective. A card printed on a beer coaster or a Chinese puzzle box won’t make it to or through the scanner. A fortune cookie is a great gimmick, but not a card (you can, of course, do both.)
- Don’t go too wild with fonts. Fonts that look like trees or swishes, medieval scripts and crayons in the form of letters are not recognized electronically, nor are wild scripts or funny fonts. If you do have an exquisite, artistic and illegible card face consider double sided printing with the same information in a simple font on the back.
- The fewer colors used in printing a card, the less it costs. New methods may change that.
- You are working on small space, so your graphics should be simple and leave space for information.
- You don’t absolutely need graphic, or at least not pictures. If you are an individual without a graphic, there’s nothing wrong with putting your photo on the card. It helps people remember you and find the card, if they are looking for you.
- Add a Skype number if you deal outside the country. Consider adding a Google Voice number (this is a permanent number which relays to multiple phones.)
- Explain what you do or are. If your company is “The Blue Bloom” something like “Purveyors of Fine Wine” or “Ambiance Consultant” belongs below it.
- Be generous with your cards. I hear back from people who got mine ten years ago.