You know as well as I do that first impressions count. That’s why before a meeting or a networking event, you’ll don your best suit, brush your hair and make sure your breath doesn’t smell. So why do so many of you overlook the importance of your business cards and settle for mediocre design?

You obviously think that your business is fantastic otherwise you wouldn’t be in business. Unfortunately the sales decision isn’t in your capable hands, but in the minds of your potential clients and, as materialistic as this sounds, every detail counts. After all, a potential client will initially judge your business purely on face value.

Often, the exchange of business cards is the one-time opportunity to really sell your business, make an impact and land your card in a decision maker’s hand. Your business card should not be thought of as just a contact card, but instead a valuable opportunity to explain exactly what your business does and shed some light on your business’ values. In an instant, your cards should enhance your brand, effectively communicate your message, resonate with your audience and demonstrate your difference.

There are so many people handing out mediocre cards, with a logo slapped in the corner and contact details aligned to one side. Amongst this volume of cheap rubbish and with minimum effort, even the smallest of businesses should be able to design something a little special that makes a huge impression. Think of clever and creative concepts that visually demonstrate what your business actually does.

I’ve just returned to my office from the FSB Roadshow in Swansea and I was amazed at the number of people that, in one form or another, actually apologised for the quality of their business cards or marketing materials. Comments like, we rushed our cards for this event, we only got our banner stands made up yesterday, this brochure doesn’t contain our latest stuff or I can’t afford design. If so many of you are embarrassed enough to apologise, why oh why are you settling for rubbish and handing out items that don’t accurately portray your businesses?

If you design your business card with the moment in mind, you will achieve a much greater impact and are likely to receive more orders from the same effort. Consider what information is important during the moment and what is important in your absence. When handing someone a card you’ll normally be engaged in conversation and there will be little time for the recipient to study your card in any detail. With this in mind, you can design to purposely draw attention and control what the recipient sees at a glance. This can also help you to naturally steer the conversation towards your products or services.

Your business cards should contain at least one method of getting in contact with you, but don’t feel you have to include everything. After receiving a business card how many people are really likely to get back to you via fax or post. Other than that, ditch the rule book, be as creative as your juices allow and as different as your dare.

The material you print your cards on is also worthy of careful consideration. Many designers have their preferred materials, which make it easy to achieve consistent results, but a well chosen material can enhance your design and present your business in it’s very best light. There are thousands of materials to choose from including different textures, colours, patterns, weights and coatings. Material is also a good way of demonstrating your environmental awareness with a wide range of recycled and sustainable sources. Don’t let your designer or printer tell you that they are not good for printing on, that’s quite simply not true. Getting hundreds of samples can seem overwhelming, but your designer should be able to guide you through the process. My own cards are printed on a material made from cotton fibers and although the effect is subtle the quality is always noticed as people take great delight in getting touchy feely with them.

Your business card should make a statement, make someone stop and think, raise their eyebrows and look back at you whilst giving an understanding nod of approval.

Small businesses tend to settle for mediocre and struggle through their first few years, then finally spend on design when money becomes less of an obstacle. I think this attitude is nuts and only delays the flood of sales, prolongs financial instability and makes the first few years of business a very hard uphill struggle. Design can be the difference between sale and no sale!

Can’t afford to creatively design your business cards? With today’s high expectations, I strongly believe you can’t afford not to.

Written by James Good


Published in Enterprise Magazine - Spring 2007