Why business cards still matter — And how to use them correctly:

It’ll come as a surprise to no one that the majority of business these days is done digitally. With this in mind, it’s easy to get the assumption that using business cards is no longer important. While it’s easy to get this assumption, it’s also the wrong assumption as printed business cards can still offer you a lot — possible more than you think.

In this article, I’m going to run down why business cards still matter. More than that, I’m also going to look at how to use them correctly to make the most out of any investment you’ve made in getting them printed.

The first reason they’re still relevant in today’s business world is because, quite simply, we are still humans and as humans our memories, simply put, suck. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve met someone, had a great conversation with them and then forgot their name once the conversation has ended. This hasn’t only happened in a business environment either. I’ve had great political discussions and excellent football debates but if you ask me who with, my mind draws a blank.

A business card helps to save you from this embarrassment. It’s a road map to a world of new opportunities. It can help you to land that dream job, it can bring more business partnerships for your company and, most importantly, it can help your business to make more money. This last point is probably the most important because, after all, the reason why we get into business is to make money.

Mitchell Friedman, the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development at Presidio Graduate School, explains:

“When you meet a person at a business event, get their business card. Perhaps even write a note or two on the reverse side of the card to capture key points of your conversion while they’re fresh in your mind. The bottom line here is to have a physical record of contacts you make so you can follow up as appropriate in conjunction with your broader job search / career development.”

Imagine, for a second, that you’re at a networking event, let’s say Mobile World Congress as it’s taking place right now. You’re on the look out for potential new clients for your business and you notice someone who looks like the idea client for you. You strike up a conversation and you begin to really sell your services to them — What do you do next?

Introduce yourself and explain to them exactly it is what you do.

But what comes after this? In order to ensure that you have a chance of getting future business from them, you need to hand over your contact details to them and nothing looks more unimpressive and disorganised at a networking event than you scribbling down your contact details on a napkin or a piece of paper to hand over to them to stuff in their pocket.

Not only does using a business card prevent this from happening, it makes you look more professional, it makes you look more appealing, it makes you look organised. It also helps you to save time by not having to fumble around looking for a pen and paper to write your email address and telephone number on. It also provides the impression that you’re not new to the networking scene and you’ve been to these before and therefore you know exactly what you’re talking about and what you’re doing.

Even in the business world, in fact, especially in the business world, first impressions are incredibly important and that’s why you need to make sure that nothing lets you down. Business cards also give the potential client something physical to refer back to when they decide that they need your products or services.

Sarah Brooks at Successful Blog explains:

Business cards put a face to a business — when meeting someone new, handing them your business card (preferably with your photo on it) will help keep your business in the back of their minds. Though they may not need your service today, there may come a time when they do, and hopefully they will be able to pull out your business card and call verses trying to remember your company name and searching the web.”

The business card acts as that physical object that your potential customers can carry around with them at all times. It stops your brand from just being a name that gets floated around and then forgotten about with time.

As with everything in life, there are some people who don’t believe that business cards are essential any more. In fact, Ilya Pozin, writer for Forbes and INC, actually argues that business cards have lost their edge thanks to advancing technology:

As for me, I haven’t had business cards for many years. Instead, I make a point to ask my connection to email me. (When I respond, I include my full contact information). It’s become normal to see people at networking events using their phones to collect information right there on the spot. Fast-forward a few years, it won’t be surprising to find Google Glass-wearing techies exchanging contact information by looking at each other.

OK, it’s true that advancing technology has made the act of sharing information a lot easier. You can email someone during a meeting with them with a few taps on your smartphone. You can download apps which are designed to allow you to share information just by touching your phones together.

This does lead to the question: Why bother with business cards if this technology can do it all for you?

Good question. The answer goes back to first impressions. Networking and networking events are designed specifically to create meaningful connections and technology has this habit of coming across as impersonal. For me, if I’m having a conversation with someone and they suddenly start to tap away on their mobile phone, I would think that they’re just rude. The art behind making meaningful contacts is about the eye-contact that you’re making with the other person. If you’re asking them to start downloading apps to receive your information or if you instantly ask for their email address and then begin to tap away on your phone to send an email — I don’t know, this strikes me as being impersonal.

Technology shouldn’t be instantly dismissed. There are some brilliant apps available (such as Evernote) which allow you to scan business cards and collect and store all of the information from it on your mobile phone and keep it with you at all times.

In short:

Business cards are cheap. Business cards are portable. Business cards are extremely easy to give away. These three reasons alone prove there is no reason why you should keep business cards with you. Even in a world which involves Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, and Twitter — people are still under the impression that they will receive business cards when they’re meeting potential clients.

So…

HOW CAN MY BUSINESS CARD HELP ME TO STAND OUT?

Choosing the content that is displayed on your business card isn’t an art and it largely depends on the kind of business you are in (or the kind of business that you want to be involved in).

Here are some tips on how your business cards should look:

Keep your clutter down to a minimum:

It’s surprising how many people try to overload their business cards with as much information as possible. What they don’t realise is that if they have a lot of information presented on the business cards, all of the important information gets lost within the clutter. You need your name, your company name, job title and what your company does.

It’s also incredibly important to have your business phone number, mobile phone number (if applicable), work email, website and the location of your business (again, if this is important to know).

Leave the back blank:

If you’re creative, or if you work in a creative industry, then you can experiment with different styles and logos on the back of your business cards. However, a clever tip is to simply keep things basic.

Writer John Williams, from Entrepreneur, goes as far as to suggest leaving the back of the card completely blank:

How often will people see the back of your business card? Traditional card store modes assume that the back is blank. If you do wish to put copy on it, be sure the information is of a supplemental nature: e.g., your company’s mission tag line. While business cards should promote your brand identity, they shouldn’t be confused with advertising.”

Use white as the base colour of the card:

By using white as your base colour, it allows the information on the card to be easily visible and it also allows you or the receive to write notes and additional information onto the card.

Stick to the standard size of 2" by 3.5":

While it may seem like a clever idea to create a business card that is a different size and shape from the traditional cards — it’s not. There is a reason why business cards are sized the way that they are. Have you ever noticed that business cards fit perfectly into your wallet or purse? This isn’t an accident, they’re designed that way. If you create a business card bigger than this — simply put — they’ll find their way directly in the bin.

Remember, it’s your conversation that will make make the lasting impression — not the size of the card.

Put your picture onto the card:

Imagine you go to a convention, you receive 55 business cards from different companies all vying for your business — how do you remember who gave you each one? By including a picture on the card, it helps to trigger memories of the conversation and helps you gain the edge over the competition. Other things you might want to include on the card are:

QR Codes:

QR codes are a great way of directing traffic to a specific website which is packed full of useful information that is impossible to fit onto a business card. It does take up a considerable amount of space so make sure that it doesn’t replace the important information if you decide to include the QR code.

Spend more on quality:

Basic business cards are cheap. They look cheap. They feel cheap. By handing out these to potential clients, can you guess what kind of impression you’re giving off? Yes, you’re cheap.

By using cheap business cards you can potentially give off the impression that you’re the kind of company that is willing to cut corners to save money and this could result in you giving sloppy work. A quality business card, though it may cost you more, gives the impression that you’re a quality brand. You’re willing to go above the industry standard and you’re willing to spend more money to ensure that you deliver quality.

Choose the right font:

Make sure that you keep your fonts to 12 points or larger and make sure that they are easily readable. You can, of course, play around with the font that you have on the card, but a good tip is that if you’re even the slightest bit concerned about whether or not it’s easy to read — change the font!

Get professional help:

There are plenty of graphic designers out there who have experience when it comes to designing business cards. The beauty about hiring a graphic designer is that they understand the importance of business cards and they also know how to work within certain size limitations. The best part of working with a graphic designer? Their creative minds.

Their creativity allows them to create something clever, something bold and something truly eye-catching.

BUSINESS CARD BEST PRACTICES:

OK, so you’ve designed your printed business cards and you’re now ready to rock up to the next networking event and hand them out. After making an investment in these cards, the last thing you want to do is hand them all out to people and get no return on investment. Here are some best practices that you can follow to make sure that your business card doesn’t go to waste. After all, what’s the point in spending time and money creating the most beautiful business card in the world if it’s only going to end up in the rubbish?

Be prepared:

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’ve just designed and paid for beautiful business cards — why wouldn’t you be prepared with them? You’d be surprised. Forgetting your business cards is something that happens to all of us and the truth is that you never truly know when your next meaningful contact is going to make an appearance.

Always, always, always make sure that you have your business cards on you. Always. Even if you’re down the pub with your mates — you might just end up making a connection with someone. Always keep a couple of business cards stored inside your wallet just in case.

Be selective:

You may have just purchased 1,000 business cards but that doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to give all of them away to get your money’s worth. Instead, aim for true value for money by making sure that you identify the right kind of clients first and ensure that they’re the ones that you’re going to give your business cards to.

Handing out your business card to everyone might make you think that you’ve done a great job. But the truth is that the majority of your business cards will end up in the bin (what a waste). Also, it means that you won’t have a business card to hand when the perfect client comes over for a chat (what a waste).

Be interested:

If you’re going to give out business cards, aim to get the recipients in return. Most of the time, if you hand out a business card, you’ll receive one in return — humans are generous like that. But, if the other person isn’t forthcoming in handing out their card, make sure that you ask them for it. Showing that you’re interested in them will only serve to increase their interest in you. It also provides a name and contact details for you to follow up with after the event has finished.

Be proactive:

When you receive a business card, don’t just assume that your work is done. Look them up on LinkedIn or any other social media site that you use. By doing this you can gain more information about them and ensure that they’re the right kind of client that you want to connect with. It’ll also help you to put a face to the name a few weeks later.

In our fast-paced, ever-changing world, there are plenty of ways where you can force you way onto someones contact list or gain more information about them prior to adding them to yours. However, business cards are still the perfect first step through the door and this makes them incredibly value in the business world.

They’re cheap, they’re efficient, they deliver all the information that you need to give to potential clients.

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