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Tad Dobbs
Graphic Designer
Trophy Club, Texas
Greatly helpful
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out of 10
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Are You Playing With a Full Deck?

Even though digital technologies are becoming deeply entrenched in the marketplace—the business card isn't a thing of the past. Learn to make your printed cards one of your strongest marketing tools, while leveraging the strengths of new smart phone technologies.
Written Feb 24, 2010, read 2178 times since then.
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With the advent of electronic banking, you still wouldn’t leave home without your trusty credit card. And if you think that the digital age has made the paper and ink business card a thing of the past, you may want to ask yourself some of the following questions:

Have you ever had feelings of inadequacy?
Don’t limit yourself. Be prepared for every networking opportunity. Not everyone has a smart phone or the latest app to easily upload your digital information. Anyone can take a printed business card, so be prepared to go analog. Whether your give out your card at a convention, meeting, or chance encounter—your business card is more than just a little piece of paper—it’s a vital marketing tool. It’s often the first contact your prospect has with your brand.

Excuse me, could I get your number?
It’s your business, so don’t play hard to get. And just as an obnoxious flirt will likely spend the night alone—a card that’s over-the-top is also a turn off. Keep it simple. Think of your audience, what you want them to know, and how you want them to feel about your brand. Finally, get to the point and put the most important items first. Place your key information and preferred method of contact up front, and leave extras like your URL or tagline on the back.

Have I seen you somewhere before?
A well-designed business card is like leaving a trail of jellybeans leading back to your business. In fact, it’s one of the few pieces of collateral that never gets thrown away. I once worked for someone who literally had thousands of business cards, bundled in rubber bands, and stored for “safe keeping” in his desk. But, whenever he came across a card that really stood out in his mind, he’d show it to everyone in the office like it was a priceless collectible.

Hey, Buddy, can you spare a dime?
If you’ve ever felt the dread of being approached by a salesman in a cheap suit, you may want to reconsider cutting corners on the printing and design of your card. While you can find bargain-basement solutions for digitally printing your card online, it’s important to realize you’re sacrificing quality to save 25¢ per card. After all, have you ever taken a whiff of those discount “just like designer” perfumes?

Want to try something new?
Designing a digital version of your card is a complement and not a replacement for the printed version. Sure, you could just scan your card and transfer the contact information to your smart phone, but why not take the opportunity to add a little finesse? It will show that you understand the latest trends—and that you know how to translate your brand into new media. You probably didn’t scan your brochure to create your Web site. Give your business card the same respect. Design with the specific medium in mind, and you will see better results.

The printed business card is definitely not an endangered species. However, if you ignore its potential, you may go the way of the eight-track. When you take the time to invest the same care in designing your card that you would for your Web site, packaging, or advertising—it will strengthen your presence and help make sure that you stay on the radar.

Learn more about the author, Tad Dobbs.

Comment on this article

  • graphic designer 
Cleveland, Ohio 
Deanna Taus
    Posted by Deanna Taus, Cleveland, Ohio | Feb 25, 2010

    Hi Tad - as a graphic designer who creates collateral on a daily basis - your title intrigued me. You are correct on all points. I would love to have seen business card examples for each of your points. And I really want to see/learn how to do a digital version of a biz card. What does that mean exactly. An HTML thing, a JPG attachment to an email?

    Keep up the good work and smart marketing.

  • Marketing & social media consultant. Graphic designer. 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
Alexandra Golaszewska
    Posted by Alexandra Golaszewska, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Feb 25, 2010

    Good article, Tad.

    About the digital version... I don't like it when people have an attachment on every email, whether it's a logo or a card or whatever. Once I'm working with that person, it can be really difficult to find important documents when every message has a paper clip next to it.

  • Marketing & Communications Director 
Seattle, Washington 
Carrie Bancroft
    Posted by Carrie Bancroft, Seattle, Washington | Feb 25, 2010

    Tad, would love to hear your opinion about business-card-sized brochures (eg, a 2-fold business card that allows for a mini-brochure layout when opened). Helpful...or overkill?

  • project manager + sustainable design  
Snoqualmie Pass, Washington 
chris lyons
    Posted by chris lyons, Snoqualmie Pass, Washington | Feb 25, 2010

    Tad, thanks so much for the time you put into the article. Good info to keep us thinking simple!

    Chris Lyons www.hyakmarket.com

  • Special Education Teacher, Hypnotherapist, Professor 
Los Angeles, California 
Dr. Caren Rich
    Posted by Dr. Caren Rich, Los Angeles, California | Feb 25, 2010

    What should be on a business card?

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Deanna, Thanks for your comments. I haven't seen any spectacular versions of digital business cards yet, but I think that designers will soon begin changing that perspective. Smartphone apps like SnapDat are opening the doors to creating graphics and using your logo in a contact list format similar to creating a custom landing page in Twitter. Another really interesting twist is the use of augmented reality with business cards. Here's a link to some pretty cool examples. http://jobmob.co.il/blog/augmented-reality-business-card-designs/

    I definitely don't recommend attaching a jpeg to all of your outgoing emails for the very reason that Alexandra lists below your comment.

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Alexandra, You make a very important point about jpeg attachments for email signatures. I've had many clients ask to have an htmal email signatures or even worse a jpeg to attach, and I generally am able to steer them away from this mistake. Aside from being annoying to recipients in the long run, if you have a large company those constant little attachment can add up quickly to start clogging your email server. Plus, the inconsistencies of email apps doesn't guarantee that the recipient will ever see the graphic. I do however advocate creating a text only signature with any pertinent contact information especially social media links.

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Carrie, I'm not a big fan of brochure cards, mainly because you're taking 2 important pieces of marketing, combining them into an awkward size and expecting both to perform as well as they would on their own. I'm a purist in that I feel that a business card should be just about introducing your brand and your self. It should contain the bare essentials for contacting you while creating a visual punctuation mark to help your prospect remember your company. Your brochure should be a piece that you use to sell your service/product to a prospect that probably already has some familiarity with your brand. If your business card is too large or contains too information it will be thrown away, since it won't fit in a rolodex, business card holder or wherever your prospect keeps their other cards. I do recommend having fun with the shape or size of your business card while staying roughly in the standard 3.5" x 2" shape or the much more contemporary 3.5" x 1.75" shape. Also, your brochure won't be able to communicate very well if it's the size of a business card, because the copy will be too abbreviated or too small to read. It's important to spend the same time developing the tone and style of your messaging to differentiate your brand as well, and brief bullet points won't do that.

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Chris, Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment. I'm glad that you found the article to be helpful, and more importantly that it's inspired you to think simple.

  • Special Education Teacher, Hypnotherapist, Professor 
Los Angeles, California 
Dr. Caren Rich
    Posted by Dr. Caren Rich, Los Angeles, California | Feb 25, 2010

    Loved this article and have to figure out what business to go into. I 'm a special ed. school teacher, college professor and hypnotherapist. I will pass this on to my college students, parents of my middle schoolers and clients. Great read, especially since I normally would have deleted this topic. Off to inspire others!

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Caren, I recommend keeping just the basic contact information on your card. Your company name, your name and the easiest way to contact you are the most important. If you have a fax number and getting faxes is a part of your business (there are still a few people out there that do) then include that. If your title isn't that important to your prospect then don't include it. Unless your a C-level, VP, specialist (photographer, illustrator, etc.) or licensed professional (CPA, MD, etc.) then I don't think your prospect will care that your the assistant social media analyst. Titles mean different things at different companies, and more often then not are just status symbols within an organization.

    Also, do not ever include a picture of yourself on your business card. I can't think of any instance in which I've picked a dentist, realtor or lawyer because I thought they photographed well or attractive. A website URL is a must, and social media links are becoming equally as important though admittedly I don't often include them on business cards.

    Basically, just decide what is the easiest route for prospects to research your company and contact you for more information. Follow the K.I.S.S. principal, and you'll get better results.

  • Graphic Designer 
Trophy Club, Texas 
Tad Dobbs
    Posted by Tad Dobbs, Trophy Club, Texas | Feb 25, 2010

    Caren, I'm glad to hear that you didn't delete the article. ;)

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