Business cards are more than just another piece of marketing collateral. Business cards are an essential personal networking tool: the most ubiquitous and popular piece of printed sales material in use by businesses today. From home-based cottage industries to the owners of local professional offices, from small- and medium-sized enterprises to gigantic megacorporations, business cards are widely in use by business people everywhere, and show no sign of having been supplanted by digital technology.
How to use business cards
At Mardesco, one of our favorite marketing advice books is highly targeted to our own profession, yet it contains great advice for any small business owner. The book is called, The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing. Regarding business cards, the authors recommend that professionals should carry business cards everywhere and at all times. The authors also state that you should hand a business card to someone when you shake hands, even if you’ve met them before. (Don’t be surprised if the other person says, “You already gave me your card.” That’s good! It means they remember you.) Be sure to reciprocate: ask for the other person’s business card, and be sure to note the correct spelling and pronunciation of their name.
The purpose of business cards
Building your business is not just about product design and pricing. For local small businesses especially, the success of your business often depends entirely on the strength of the relationships you build with your customers. That doesn’t just mean they have to like you: people can like you a lot without buying anything. It means that your product or service must be so essential and integrated into their lives and needs that they will come back to you over and again, even if you charge more than a competitor. Business cards are a tool to help you establish these kinds of relationships. They enable future contacts and follow-ups.
Principles of business card design
When designing your business card, it is important to resist the temptation to try to fit too much information into a small space. Let a few small elements speak for themselves. If people have questions, give them your contact information so they will be able to get answers. This is what your business card to do: encourage people to contact you. The card does not have to answer every question they might possibly have. For example, say your business offers six varieties of a product, or twelve different services. If you try to list everything on your card, the text will have to be tiny. This reduces legibility, which in turn reduces the likelihood that your prospects will make the effort to read, keep, or remember your card. Instead, select one or two key categories that appeal most strongly to your target market, and let people visit your website to learn more about all your different offerings.
Leave plenty of white space around each element printed on your business card. This makes each item stand out, improving legibility; and this in turn makes your cards more memorable. Other ways to make your business card stand out from the crowd are through the use of unique papers; the use of unusual printing methods (such as letterpress); the use of color; double-sided printing; rounded corners; or business cards that are adhesive, magnetic, or produced with other unusual materials.