How the lowly business card can seriously boost your authority.

professional business cardsHave you heard that “Print is Dead”? I heartily disagree.

In content marketing, where you freely share relevant information to attract and convert prospects into customers and hopefully repeat buyers, print materials can be a crucial part of the mix.

There is plenty of room for printed materials in permission marketing as well, where you honor the privilege of delivering pertinent messages to people who anticipate them, rather than carpet-bombing the masses with ads, television commercials or junk mail.

Sometimes your customers are not online.

Sometimes your potential customer is standing in front of you, and you are having an honest-to-goodness face-to-face human conversation. In a fleeting moment, you are asked for contact information. You don’t hesitate. You don’t grapple with pen and paper. You don’t fumble your phone. You instantly produce a professionally-designed business card.

Yes, the lowly business card can still fill an important role.

There was a lengthy discussion last year in a LinkedIn group of communications professionals about business cards: Are they dead? Who needs them? Just bump your phone with someone to exchange contact information.

But your business card goes above and beyond the communication of basic contact information. It carries your business identity and branding elements. It makes a critical first impression with prospects, and can immediately boost your authority. Your card also can augment your sense of confidence when you are meeting and interacting with new people.

Do you have a business card? What does it look like?

Is your card a do-it-yourself number, printed slightly crooked and popped out of a perforated page? Or is it professionally designed and printed, impeccably branded?

If it falls face down on a desk, is there some sort of message or supplementary information on the back about your offerings, like a mini brochure?

The importance of having a professional business card played out right here just the other day.

Harry Sircely, in search of fertilizer inputs to improve our new vegetable garden, walked up to one of our neighbors who was cleaning up after her alpacas. They introduced themselves and had a long, neighborly conversation about chickens and alpacas and gardens and the usual topic, “How did you end up here on Orcas Island?” She offered him copious amounts of manure and wondered what he might offer in exchange.

“I’m a photographer,” he said. They talked some more. He produced his business card and she was drawn to the stunning images printed on each side. “Oh, you ARE a photographer!” she exclaimed. Apparently these days, ‘everybody’s a photographer,’  and his business card served as evidence, proof of his talent. Professional image conveyed. Contact information delivered. Cost of full color, two-sided card: 3 cents.

Take a few minutes to analyze your current business card.

  • Does it really tell someone what you do?
  • Is the presentation professional?
  • Are the images and typestyle in tune with your branding, and do they convey the image you want to project?
  • Is all the contact information up to date?
  • Are you using both sides, or a fold-over card with four panels?
  • Do you include a QR code to direct prospects to a relevant page on your website?

If you want to bump phones to exchange information with someone, that’s fine. You still need a business card for occasions when the human conversation and the tactile offering of a printed card builds your authority and helps to seal a new business relationship.

One quick fix can clarify your marketing message.

strive for clarityWhether you’re designing for print or for online publication, you want your message to come through loud and clear.

Your marketing materials should immediately grab a viewer’s attention when they visit your website or pick up a brochure. If your digital or printed pages are cluttered and busy, what happens? Your reader becomes distracted and clicks away or turns the page. An opportunity is wasted.

Here is one quick and easy change you can make to tame a busy layout: Narrow your type choices to no more than two, three at the most.

You’ve seen those websites—the ones with a gazillion different typefaces that set your mind reeling, your teeth on edge and your eyes searching for a calm area with lots of open space. You’ve seen crazy product sheets, brochures and advertisements with six or eight fonts on the same printed page. All could benefit from serious spring cleaning to sweep away the clutter and straighten out important content that’s been lost in the confusion.

Comprehensive books can guide you through the art of typography—the entire subject cannot be covered here. But if you adhere to this simple rule of thumb for graphic design—limiting your font use—your marketing materials will communicate more clearly and persuasively.

It’s difficult to look at the font menu with all the available typefaces and narrow your selection to two. But really, only a select few will work best with your subject and project the image you are striving to convey. The use of multiple fonts obscures the message.

To be safe, choose one serif font and one sans serif font. Serif typefaces have little ornaments at the ends of the letter strokes; sans serif fonts do not have this feature (“sans” means “without”). Traditionally, serifs are used for the main body copy and sans serifs are used for headings. Within each family of fonts, you can use bold and italic typefaces, but use them sparingly for maximum impact.

Always print your draft layout if the final version is intended to be published in print. Many times, the same design that looks beautiful on your screen will look clunky and awkward on the printed page.

Don’t miss out on a single opportunity to attract a prospective customer, make a sale or grow your business. Pare down the number of fonts on your pages to allow your concise and consistent message to shine with clarity.

For more detailed information on typography, try these sources (no affiliates):
•   The Elements of Typographical Style by Robert Bringhurst
•   Thinking With Type by Ellen Lutpon
•   I Love Typography by John Boardley
•   Helvetica, a documentary film by Gary Hustwit