In life you are judged by the company you keep and the impression you make. (My adaption of an Aesop fable) The business card you hand to a prospective client or colleague reveals more about yourself and your business intentions than you know.
I have hundreds of business cards that I have collected over the past year and I can still remember each person. For the folks that actually were responsible for the creation of their own business card that person I met is stamped on the card, figuratively speaking. Poorly designed cards handed to me were from people with a poor business plan. Those folks will never be able to gain my respect or business.
If you approved or designed a card that is a disaster in terms of legibility, stop being cheap and hire someone that can do the job right. The inspiration for this blog came indirectly from Michele Valencia of InfluenSphere and her post “On the death of the Business Card” It is my contention that well intentioned start-up companies have flooded us with really crappy cards to the point that most of us disregard them because they have so little value.
In my altruistic nature, I will provide you with my impressions on why I would rather receive a blank business card than a poorly designed and executed business card. Here some of the elements of a bad business card that does you and your company more harm than good.
- Mailing Address: If there is no business address on your card, you are not really in business. I know everything has gone electronic and social media, but you still need a physical address. If you are continually being evicted from your residence so you have no street address, get a post office box. If you can’t afford a PO Box, you are not serious about being in business; it is more of a hobby. If you are not serious about your business, how do you expect me to be serious about you?
- Tiny print: If the print requires reading glasses for someone with 20/20 vision, it is too small. Don’t make me fumble for a magnifying glass to read your phone number or email address. Your contact information should be clear and easy to read.
- Corporate Cards: Some of you are absolved of guilt because you have to use corporate cards designed by the 85 year old company stenographer. In that case, the poor marketing of the company puts them on the ‘do not use’ list. However, you can redeem yourself by having your own personal cards made. That is unless you identify more with the company than yourself. If that is the case, why do I need you? We buy from people not corporate identities.
- Cute Cards: Only cute women, with cute businesses can have cute cards. We are talking about those cute cards that are witty, funny and truly represent witty and funny businesses such as cup cakes, smurf collectibles and passion parties. I recognize that your business card is part of your brand, but looking like an idiot or a fool is not part of your brand. If you want me to pay you real money for goods and services or refer you, give me a business card that says you are serious about business. Gay men do not get a pass on this. If you are a gay man and you sell something soft or whimsical, sorry, you are still a guy and you have to have a ‘straight’ forward business card.
- Email address: If you are associated with a website your email address should be a function of the web site: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a gmail, Hotmail or yahoo email account, that is telling me you are either too cheap to pop for a domain or you are not bright enough to figure it out. Either way, you are not projecting a professional impression.
- Changes: If you have lined through an old address, phone number, website, etc. and you don’t explain to me why you lined through it, I see that you are too cheap to buy new cards. The explanation of, “Well, I just got 1,000 cards, then I changed my email address from hotstud@yahoo to rangingbull@gmail, so I just write in my new address until I need to reorder cards” First, handing out 3 card a week means you will not be reordering for over 6 years. Second, you were too cheap not to spend $80 for new cards, you just lost a sale or a referral. Your business cards are you. You don’t walk around with a line on your head to say, “Oh disregard my hair, I am too cheap to buy shampoo and wash my hair.”
- Pictures: Your picture is nice but not a deal killer, especially if you have to use a pre-patterned corporate card. Your picture enhances the business card. But to be honest, if we had a good discussion at a mixer or over coffee, you have made an imprint on me larger than any picture on a business card.
- QR codes: While I have a QR (quick read or response code) on my cards, I know most people don’t use it. Why? Because the majority of people with smart phones are…well…not smart enough to figure how to down load the app to read the QR code. However, having a QR code on your card shows that you are at least somewhat tech savvy and following the latest trends.
- Social Media: If your card lists Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, tell me how to find you. Am I looking for your personal Facebook page or do you have a fan page under the business? Is the Twitter account under your name, business name, or something funky like ‘go2ell’? Don’t make me have to climb Half Dome just to follow you on some social media site. If you want my support, make it easy for me. Most people are not going to spend more than 30 seconds, literally, trying to figure how to ’like’ you on Facebook, let alone follow you on twitter.
- Two sides: Business cards have two sides, use them. Just make sure the second side is a matte finish so people can write comments like, “Kevin is such a jerk, I wouldn’t let him sell insurance to my enemy.” If it hurts your brain too much to try and figure out what to put on the back side of the card (mission statement, QR code, additional information, inspirational quote) at least put a picture of kittens. Everyone loves kittens even if we think your business card sucks.
- Ask for a card: There are some ignorant ‘networking experts’ who counsel that it is rude to ask someone for their card either too quickly or without a proper introduction. If you are offended by marketing your company to a stranger in a room you have never met, what in the hell are you doing in business? I am flattered that someone just saunters up to me and asks, “May I have your card?” Oh sure, they are going to go home, back to the office, car, or where ever they work and put me on a mailing list and then try to call me and sell me something. If someone calls me for a sale, they better be prepared to hear my own sales pitch. The next thing you know, we are trading referrals. But have no fear, 99% of the people you give your card to never follow up. I wish I had the guts to just pass out my card to total strangers! If you don’t like giving your business card to strangers, please close your eyes during commercials on TV or skip the ads in the newspaper, I would hate to see soul sullied by unsolicited advertising.
- No Business Card?: If you arrive at a networking function without your business cards, turn around and leave. Don’t walk in the room and attempt to waste my time. If you can’t get your act together to bring your poorly designed business cards to a mixer…do I need to say anything else or have you figured it out?