Once upon a time, there was a plain little homemade business card whose owner just wanted to save a few dollars. After the short-lived excitement of being passed on to a new home, the card ended up in the trash can, never to be seen again. The end.
While short and sad, this story is not far from the real-life fate that many of the “budget” business card options in the marketplace. Business cards can make-or-break deals, potential clients, and potential orders. Often they are the only representative for your business that gets to be present when someone is making the decision on where to spend their money. The cheap, easy business card shares an image of a business that is not established, and may not even be around tomorrow.
On the other hand, a unique, well-designed, and professionally produced card will proudly take its place at the top of the stack and portray an established, professional, and innovative image of your organization. The following is a guide to equipping your covert business reps (a.k.a. your business cards) to cut through the desktop clutter and turn initial contacts into valuable business relationships.
1. Cost Factor
Might as well discuss this part first since it seems to be the scapegoat for poorly produced business cards. The fact is, quality cards are available at any budget. Whether you want to pass out bars of gold with your contact info. on them (talk about generating a buzz!) or are just looking to get your name out to employers for your first job, it’s not hard to do so in an attractive and professional way. Four-color process printing (or CMYK) is an incredibly cost-effective way to give your card a colorful and professional look that will stand out without applying for a grant. The options are endless from this point on. Consider different shapes, materials, finishes and features as tools to make an impression with your business card. We will discuss all of these options in more detail as we go along.
2. The Information that Counts
Without the right information, you are at best just passing out a pretty little picture that won’t help anyone. The key is not too much, not too little. A business card should be effective in sharing information without being cluttered and confusing. Of course there is the basic info such as your name, company name, job title, logo, email, website, phone number, and so on, but it can also be very effective to include some of the not-so-basics. For example, you may be going after the type of clientele that would be more comfortable making initial contact from their favorite social media site. In this case, providing the link to your Facebook fan page or your Twitter username is an excellent idea. (It also can show that you are savvy to current trends in communication.)
In some cases, making the business name and logo the focus of the card may not effectively cut through the clutter. It’s strategy time! Using a tagline, promise, or question as the card’s focal point can be a great attention grabber. A question like “Need the absolute best coverage?” or a tagline like “Quality catering, guaranteed” will make your card interesting and send it straight to the top of the stack of competitors’ cards. There are obviously more creative and specific statements for your business than the examples above, so get creative and determine what sets you apart from the crowd.
3. Out of the Box, Literally
The 3.5 by 2 inch perfect rectangle is no longer king of the cards. By straying slightly from this standard, cards become more modern, eye-catching, and aesthetically pleasing. A feature as simple as rounded edges will set your business card apart and leave a better first impression. The sky is the limit. Cards can have shapes or words cut out of them for dramatic effect, they can take on a different size or shape, or even be 3D, like this furniture company’s business card. Break out of the mold and go for a card that will stand out in that card pile at the back of the desk drawer.
4. Show Them What You’re Made Of
I could bore your with a lengthy discussion of the many weights of paper and types
of stock, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The material you choose for your business card can serve as a secret weapon. By engaging multiple senses (i.e. sight AND touch) your card immediately cuts the line and goes straight to the forefront of a person’s recollection. Whether it is high quality paper or an alternative material, give your contacts something to feel that will make them take extra notice of your card.
Business cards can be printed on anything from super thick papers (similar to the coasters we like to keep as souvenirs from our favorite restaurants) to plastic (like a credit card), metal, wood, and whatever else the mind can dream up. Don’t limit yourself to the standard thin, white piece of paper when there are endless options for look and feel in the material world of business cards.
5. Not All Inks are Created Equal
This is where homemade business cards really get left in the dust. Adding a professional or unique finish to your card makes it pop and reflect well on you. Two of the major finish options to consider are varnishes and spot UV.
Varnish is a finish that is applied to the card to enhance the look, feel and durability. The most common varnishes are matte, silk, and gloss. These are applied as an overall finish to the entire card or a side of the card.
Spot UV is similar, but it is a finish only applied to a part of the card. It usually is used to contrast a matte finish card with a glossy area such as a logo or piece of text. By using spot UV to make a part of your card pop, the whole card becomes more eye-catching and appealing.
A great finish on your business card makes the statement that you are professional as well as put-together. It is a great way to set your card apart form the masses of quickly produces cards out there in the world of networking.
6. The Card that is Not Just a Card
No one ever said that a business card could only be used to share contact information. (And if they did, what gives them the right to say such a thing?) There are many features you can implement into a business card to make it even more valuable to whoever receives it. For example, add an offer for 10% off a purchase if the person shows the card. This will not only make the person hold onto your card, but also make them act on it. Two birds with one stone, just like that. It is even possible to add more formal/professional peel-off coupons from Peel-A-Deal® to a side of your card. This way the person can peel one or multiple coupons off the card to redeem while still keeping the card. Including multiple coupons also increases the length of the card’s value to the person.
Coupons and incentives on your card don’t even have to be limited to your own products or services. Consider making an arrangement with another business to add value to your business card. For example, a Realtor could arrange with a local restaurant to provide a discount when a customer shows the business card. Adding value to your card through creative features is a sure bet to increase its effectiveness and make the card go to work for you.
Investing in the production of your business cards definitely pays off in the long run. A cheap card portrays a cheap image to the person who is deciding where to spend their money. There are now more ways than ever to produce a creative and professional business cards without breaking the bank. Remember that a card that stands out is more likely to create a connection between you and the client while a plain card is destined for the back of a drawer or a trash can.
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