My dad worked several jobs across a bunch of fields when I was a kid, and he had piles of boring business cards to show for it, but one not-so-boring one stands out to me. He designed this one himself and, even though I’m pretty sure he never sent it to print any further than his office inkjet, he was incredibly proud of it and gave all of us kids a copy. Why? Because he worked in computer repair and it had an image of a duck “fixing” a computer with a sledgehammer on it. It may not have been the pinnacle of professionalism, but it had his personality all over it!
With a new generation of digital natives joining the workforce, you might be wondering if business cards are still necessary. It’s a fair question, but the answer is a resounding YES! Whereas cards of old were basic by today’s standards, your small business’ calling card should be just as memorable as you are.
Do I need a business card for my small business?
Here’s my hot take: small business owners need a great business card more than someone working a traditional corporate job needs even a good one.
As the owner, executive officer, and customer representative (and more!) for your business, you’re basically single-handedly responsible for bringing in sales, either through in-person meetings, social media marketing, or your website.
Say you meet a potential customer at the DMV and you get to talking about your business. They’re interested, but their number is being called and the conversation is over. Do you want to take the risk that they remember you but can’t quite get your business name or URL right and never find you again, or do you want to have a business card on hand so they can visit your website or send you a quick email later?
What needs to be on my business card?
Your business card should have exactly as much information as your potential customer needs, and little more.
All business cards should include this information. If you don’t have one of these things, you may want to consider getting it.
This one’s a gimme, but make sure it looks good. Your name should be one of the largest parts of your business card and should be immediately obvious.
Format your name as you would for any other business communication – if you always sign your name one way, use that. The only exception is if you prefer a casual sign-off, but use your full name professionally.
What is it you do? Give your customer an idea of who they will be talking to about what.
Again, this one may be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s left off!
Don’t use your personal address here – you want to keep your business and home lives separate, at least on paper. If you don’t have a personalized email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), get a free gmail address in the name of your business.
Here’s a great tip: if you have a long address, you can capitalize the first letter of each word no matter how you signed up. email@example.com and YourName@SmallBusiness.com and even YoUrNaMe@SmAlLbUsInEsS.com all go to the same account, so take this opportunity to make your address a little easier to read. …and don’t do that last one.
Believe it or not, there are still some people out there who prefer to make phone calls. If you don’t want to use your personal phone for business calls, look into setting up a digital voicemail system like Google Voice.
This may be a little controversial because not everyone has a website, but if you’re starting a small business I firmly believe you should. Whether it’s a full custom site, a weekend job on Wix or WordPress.com, or your Etsy page, your website is where potential customers will go to find out what your business is like and see examples of the work you do.
If your business has a public location, you absolutely need to tell your customer where it is! If you’re exclusively digital, ignore this one.
Good to have
Once you have all the necessary pieces of information ready to go, you can start adding touches that will make you memorable and relatable. I’ve included all branding elements here, because, while I’m sure is making a lot of people twitch, let’s face it: your email address is much more important than your logo.
Bring on the controversy! I’m sure somone out there’s head is spinning right now, but hear me out: your business name is important to you, but it’s not actually important for getting in touch in with you. Do I think it should absolutely be included (unless, of course, your name is your business)? Yes, I do. Do I think it’s a dealbreaker if it’s not? No.
If you have a logo for your business, put it on your card! You either put a lot of work into that thing, or you spent a lot of money on it. Be proud!
Note: Unless your logo doesn’t include the full name of your business, you probably don’t need both.
If you have a great tagline (that isn’t already part of your logo) AND you have room without crowding your card, I say go for it. A solid tagline or vision statement can help your customer relate to your business and understand it better, even before visiting your website or sending the first email.
Social Media Handles
Don’t go crazy here! If you have seven different social media accounts, I guess that’s great for you, but do you really need to include your LinkedIn profile on your business card? Probably not.
Bonus points if all your handles are the same!
Space for a Note
Lots of business cards are printed on only the front of the card, but is it on purpose? I used to work for someone who was so passionate about including space for a note that his business cards were twice as tall as usual. I don’t personally think that’s a great idea, but the idea has always stuck with me. How often have you wanted to include a personal message for a contact, or leave yourself a quick note after getting a card?
If you do this, make sure you choose an uncoated paper stock, otherwise you’ll be left with a mocking space and a smeared note.
This one works particularly well if you do lots of face to face work, or if your personality is a major selling point of your brand.
If you’re going to put your face on your business card, make sure it’s a high-quality picture you’re going to be happy looking at for a long time!
Leave it Off
No matter how tempting it is to get artsy with your business card, don’t forget that readability should be preserved at all costs and that a heavily decorated card can actually be more distracting than helpful.
As with anything, there are always exceptions, but you better be sure you’re doing it right!
They may be cute, but they are probably also making your information hard to read.
I know I said how much I loved my dad’s clipart duck, but let’s face it – that was the 90’s and I was probably thirteen. Let’s do better.
A header font and a complementary body font can work, but don’t go crazy. It’s overwhelming.
A business card shouldn’t contain any information that doesn’t serve a purpose.
What are business cards used for in 2020?
Being able to pull out a business card adds an air of legitimacy, and it can certainly make you feel like a professional if you’re just starting your business. But you know that.
Starting (or Finishing) a Conversation
Having a business card is a great way to either start or end a conversation when you meet someone. Being able to put your most important information directly into your customer’s hand a great way to help ensure they’ll come back and make a purchase.
In case you didn’t know, spam is bulk email (sent to a list and not just one person) that’s sent to a person who didn’t verifiably request it. If you meet someone at a networking event and add them to your email list, they may not necessarily remember you. If you exchanged business cards, that can be viewed as implied consent.
Keep in mind that they still need to be able to opt out if they choose not to recieve more emails from you!
Making Your Business Card Stand Out
Going the extra step to make you, your business, and your business card stand out can make a big difference.Even small changes can make a big difference in a pile of same-old-same-old cards.
Choose the Perfect Stock
Whether you’re working with a local commercial printer (we always use Velocity Printing in Easley and they are hands down one of the best printers I’ve ever worked with) or going with a national printer like Moo or VistaPrint, get the best quality stock that makes sense for you. Find out if you can get samples so you can decide which card feels best in your hand.
While you’re at it, if you’re placing the order, make sure you know the difference between coated and uncoated. PrimoPrint has a great explanation of the difference:
Coated paper has a matte or glossy finish. It’s usually very smooth with a slight shine, sometimes with a high shine. Regardless of how much the stock shines, the coated paper makes your colors appear brighter.
Another advantage of coated paper stock is its resistance to wear and tear, water, and dirt. This keeps your printed materials looking crisp and professional longer than uncoated stock.
Change it up
Did you know that you can update the look of your card and still have it look like a, well, business card? Try turning the content on it’s side and creating a vertical business card. Make the background a solid color. Round the edges. Make smart use of a UV spot coating. Even small changes can make a big difference in a pile of same-old-same-old cards.
Ditch the Card
If you really don’t think a traditional business card will work for you, don’t use one! You know your business and your customers best. Find what makes sense for you and run with it!
Are you already using a non-traditional business card? I’d love to see it! Tag us on Twitter or Instagram and show us what you’ve got!