If you go to meetings, find yourself at networking events, attend conferences or training programmes you can’t help meeting people. You get chatting and you find people ask you for a card.
This is your first opportunity to give clear information about who you are and what you do.
We all pick up business cards without necessarily having time to find out much about the person that gave it to us. How do we remember a week later what Gill Bloggs of Express Services actually does?
If all your business card say is your company name and your name with a bit of fancy artwork you could be wasting your money on having cards printed – and in this time of cut budgets and cashflow getting tight, that’s not good news.
So what should go on your card?
Definitely your brand – and, ideally, this should be memorable. This is your logo and the choice of fonts you use. It should stand out, but not overpower. Your brand should be clean and sharp, even if you don’t have a logo as such, your company name needs to be presented consistently, so the same font on everything (business card, letterhead, website, flyers, etc). The letters should also be the same colour, tone and shade on the same background colour too – ir you are using a graphic designer he or she should be able to give you the pantone references for your each of the colours that you use.
If you have a strapline that’s even better. This helps people to understand what your company does.
Your name should be clear and bigger than anything else (except the logo). It should be big enough for people to read easily – even without their reading glasses. If they didn’t catch your name properly this allows them to take a quick look and make sure they’ve got it. We’ve all done this – not quite got someone’s name – and it’s embarrassing if you get it wrong or have to ask.
Put the name that you want to be called – for instance don’t put Gillian Bloggs, if you prefer to be called Gill or Robert Fisher if everyone calls you Bob.
If you have letters after your name think carefully whether they will help people to make a decision to call you again. If not, let the ego trip go. If you think that your qualifications help people to decide that you can deliver a better service then by all means add them. Don’t put a string of qualifications, stick to one (or at the very most two) relevant designations.
It’s not essential to have your title, but it could be helpful, especially in a larger organisation where there may be many people and departments and it helps to know which one your contact comes from. If you’re a small business or a one person organisation, it’s probably not important to let people know you’re the boss!
Your telephone number – in a font that’s big enough to read without a magnifying glass! If someone needs to contact you they should be able to do it easily. You don’t want to miss out on a fantastic referral or introduction because they don’t have a number to call. Give a landline and a mobile number.
A professional email address. That means not a gmail, yahoo, aol, hotmail or any other address of this type. If you want people to take you seriously get your web designer to arrange for you to have an email address that mirrors your web address.
A snail mail address – your actual mailing address. This is advisable, but not absolutely essential. It doesn’t matter if this is in a smaller font, but not so tiny that a microscope is needed!
If you have a fax number it doesn’t really need to be on the card. Few people use fax these days, unless, of course, you’re in an industry that still uses this means of communication regularly for any reason.
Don’t put so much information that it makes the card look cluttered. Less is more; it’s better to have the key information in a bigger font than to cram lots of information in and use a tiny font.
Remember if you choose to have a coloured card with lighter coloured writing make sure that the writing is big enough and bold enough to be read easily. Small and thin writing is very difficult to read on a darker background, so consider the purpose of your card – if your contact information is hard to decipher it will make it less effective.
Right – that’s the front of the card taken care of.
But what about the back of the card?
The back of your card is marketing space; don’t waste it!
If Gill Bloggs is a smart cookie she will have something on the back of her card that explains either what she does, or, better still, what the recipient of her services gets. In other words – the benefits.
What do I mean by ‘benefits’? It’s the difference between ‘We write copy for websites’ and ‘you’ll get words that keep people on your website for longer’.
Make sure you use that marketing space on the back of your card, but leave some space around the edges for people to write where they met you and the date.
Other tips that help your business card work harder for you
Keen networkers like to write information on the back of cards – that gets really difficult when the card is laminated or glossy, you’re just making it difficult for them. When you write on a laminated or glossy finish the ink doesn’t dry, it gets on your fingers and on your clothes. That doesn’t win you any points with people who could be potential clients.
Standard business cards come on a standard weight card, it can be a good idea to use a slightly heavier card than your printer uses as standard, heavier cards subliminally say ‘quality’! Very thin cards say ‘lightweight’ and send a subconscious message about your business. It’s always best to ask to see samples before choosing – or at least know what different weight cards feel like.
Handing out your card.
It’s easy to go round pressing your card on everyone at a meeting, but it’s often a waste of cards. Many people won’t keep cards unless they can remember the person who gave it to them – so, unless you had a conversation, it could just end up in the bin.
The etiquette of good networking says you should not offer your card unless requested – and at the very least should ask if someone wants one.
If you’re at one of those networking events where everyone sits around a table and the cards go round, choose only the ones that you want and, if you particularly want to be remembered go and talk to the people you want to connect with and give them your card personally.
Managing the cards you receive.
Don’t be afraid to write on business cards. Write the date, the event and, if you’ve promised an action, write that down too.
Have a filing system that works – this might be a card scanner or a card filing box. It’s a good practice to follow up meetings with an email to help the people you’ve met remember you. For those whom you feel you could help or could help you ask them for a longer one to one meeting and get to know them better.
Don’t make the mistake of having heaps of cards around the office, or tossing them into a tray or box – you’ll waste lots of time trying to find the one you want when you want it in a hurry! Consider a filing system that accommodates even odd sized cards – there are people who have postcard sized business cards, or particularly small or tall cards.
… and finally …
It’s always worth investing in a good business card – the moment you put it into someone else’s hands it says volumes about you!