What message are you sending with your business card?I think we can all agree that as a small business, we MUST have business cards to hand out in the whirlwind of networking events we attend, or during a serendipitous encounter with a prospect in the airport or even for your proud momma to hand out to her friends. What isn’t quite so obvious is how significant a role the tiny, yet mighty, business card actually has in your business. The business card is the most fundamental of communication tools you have for your business.

Imagine if you will, this common situation: you meet someone with whom you agree to exchange business cards with the potential of some future interaction. In the first few seconds after you’ve handed your card to the other person, they are forming an impression about you and your company… consciously or subconsciously. How does it feel? Is it textured or maybe a unique size or shape? Is it printed on quality paper or is cheap and flimsy? Is the layout clean and clear or is it cluttered and confusing? Does it look professional or ink-jet printed? Is the design attractive or blah?

Business Card Basics

The basic concept behind the business card is to leave your new contact a small reminder of your meeting and a simple way to contact you. To take full advantage of this memory-aide and to increase your chance of contact, it is your job to make sure that your card entices people to learn more about you, not give them your entire resume or product list. I know, there is SO much to you want people to know about how awesome your company is and you aren’t quite sure who will want to know what. Right?!? But remember, you only have a 2”x3.5” small area. Keeping it clean, clutter-free, attractive and congruent with your brand will actually communicate a stronger message about your company that will entice people to learn more. Certainly include your name, company, contact information and company branding (logo, colors, design elements, etc.), also include an indication of what you do. Have you ever gotten back to your desk with your newly procured stack of business cards only to find a peculiar one with no name, a generic company name and no indication of what they do. Now what? I’d predict that more often than not, that card ends up in the trash. Include a brief but unique and descriptive tagline or a list of no more than 3 products or services you provide.

How Many Social Media Links are Too Many?

In the day and age of new social media sites sprouting all the time, it is tempting to include every profile you have on your card, but this can lead to link clutter. Even if you have several, choose the sites on which you most engage your audience OR only include your website address. If you include the exhaustive list of profiles on your website, your new contact will be grateful to just click and like, follow or connect rather than typing out every URL.

Biz Card Controversy

There seems to be great debate raging about two items on the business card: addresses and photos. Let me just say, I do not believe there is a right or wrong on either of these topics. There are pros and cons to putting both items on your card.

If you are wondering about whether or not to include your address on your card, here is a great comment thread about pros and cons.

Just my two cents… I’m a home based business so I never wanted to put my address on my business cards or my website for safety sake, but I often have people ask me for my mailing address to send me a hand written note, which I adore receiving. So, to solve the problem, I got a mailing address at my local coworking center (or you could use the US Post Office or UPS office) to publish publically.

As for using photos, that’s a whole other can of worms and a completely separate blog post. I’ll address that next month.

Try it On for Size

Unless you work for a company with strict restrictions regarding your card, you are not required to keep your business card as it is. Let me repeat, YOU ARE NOT STUCK with your business card. It is not written in stone. In fact, with the dawn of digital printing, you can get as few at 50-100 cards printed at a time if you want to have a test drive. Heck, I’ve printed my cards at least 4 times in the last three years and every time I make a change. In fact, writing this blog post has reminded me of some changes I’ll make when I place another order next month.

Next week, I’ll post about some of the common irritations I hear from people about the business cards they receive. You don’t want to make these mistakes. Be sure to like Lone Orange on Facebook to keep up with more important information for business owners.