There are two points in time when your business card will be of most use to people you give it to:
- When you first give it to them. First impressions are an opportunity that people give you to make a lasting impression. If you don't make the cut in your first encounter with a potential client, you'll have to work that much harder. Your business card is no exception and it needs to look professional. Anyone can print a business card on their home ink-jet printer but someone who is committed to their business is more likely to have gone to the trouble of having their cards printed by professionals on high quality card stock.
- The next time they look at it. Will they remember you, who you are and what you do? How can they get more information or reach you? Keep in mind that it may be days or even weeks before they look at your card again, especially if you first meet at a business event where they received many business cards.
Here are some of the most common mistakes entrepreneur and businesses make when designing a business card.
- Not Clearly Indicating What You Do -- If you are not stating right there on the card what it is that you do, what kind of problem y0u solve or what product you sell, you aren't leaving the person with a reason to contact you… and they probably won't. Avoid jargon. While you may be an expert, your clients may not be. For example, the word Cardstock is technical jargon and refers to paper that is more thicker and more durable than normal writing/printing paper but thinner and more flexible than paperboards. Generally, business cards are printed on stock that has a weight of 45 kg (100 lb). For comparison, typical printing/photocopy paper has a weight of only 20-32 lbs so a business card is about 3-5 times as thick.
- Missing or Incorrect Contact Information -- How do you want the client to find you? If you aren't set-up to receive clients at your place of business, don't include your street address. That being said, if you only provide local services, do include your city, state/province. Email addresses are a standard these days and I could write a whole article on this along. Suffice to say that a business should not be @yahoo, @hotmail or @me unless these terms are relevant to your business… and even then, you should consider getting domain and have a professional looking address @YourBusiness.com. There is one exception: @gmail.com. When it comes to business, Gmail addresses seem to be an acceptable alternative -- and they have great junk mail (spam) filters too. Also, don't make it blue and underlined as the address printed on your business card is not a clickable link. Don't include the word "email:" next to your email address. This is redundant since most people know that firstname.lastname@example.org is an email address and those who don't, won't know what to do with it anyway. Do include your website but don't include the word "web:" or "website:" beside it. Again, the format for website addresses like www.yourcompany.com is a given. Fax is on the way out and I almost never heard of someone initiating contact with a business by fax. Unless you've got a specific need to have it on your business card, leave it out. Remember, the call to action of any business card is to have people contact you in a way that you can interact with them.
- Cluttered Back Side of the Card/No White space -- Some people fill a card so full that there is literally no room to write any notes. When I hand out a business card, if there is some piece of information I want to share with the potential customer, I like to be able to write or allow the customer to write that down on my business card. Not only does this make my business card more valuable to them, they will be more likely to remember me when they look at my card again in a few days or weeks. If you are going to print on both sides of the card, leave white space… somewhere.
- Poor Quality -- Ink-jet vs Laser: Most ink-jet inks will smudge when they get wet from rain or even sweaty fingers or pockets. The print from laser printers will chip away off a business card over time. Glossy vs Mate finish: Glossy cards look fabulous. The down side is that they are hard to write on. Why make it difficult for potential clients to write down reasons they come up with to do business with you? The best compromise I have seen is to have a glossy finish on the font and mate on the back. It may be a little harder to find but you end up with the best of both worlds. Colour/Contrast/Font: Business cards should be easy to read. Using a fancy or tiny font makes it hard to read and the last thing you want to do is to give someone a reason they can't call you. If you use standard fonts that everyone has on their computers, not only will it be easy for people to read, but it will also be easier for you to be consistent in your branding.
- Inconsistent Branding -- Regardless of whether you are promoting yourself or promoting your business, be consistent in promoting your brand across to your business card to your website, letterhead, invoices, newsletter, Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube), reports and whitepapers, documentation, logo, banners, agreements and contracts, posters and more. The more people see your face or your logo, the more they will not only keep you in mind, but associate you with what you can do for them. While pre-designed cards can be an inexpensive way to start off a new small business, be aware that models do get discontinued and that it can then become much more expensive to recreate your business brand as a result of having to change your business card design. Instead, come up with your own design that is yours to use for as long as you want and any way you choose.
- Not Distributing Your Business Cards -- With inexpensive printing services such as VistaPrint.com available where you can get business cards for little more than the price of shipping, business cards in your hands or in a box aren't worth anything but they could be worth their weight in gold both to you and potential clients when in their hands. Design your business card to be distributed with pride and with purpose.
Keep it simple. Give potential clients a reason to want to learn more. If you give them all the information up front, why would they visit your website or contact you? Only include the information you need on a business card. If the information isn't adding value to your card, it's likely taking away from it and you may not even be realizing what you are loosing. Make your business card a reflection of your professional business including good quality, ensuring it is easy to read, useful to potential clients, and be a reflection of a consistent recognizable brand across your whole business. You want people to see your business everywhere they look including your business card.