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Susan Straub-Martin
Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator
Bellevue, Washington
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What Does Your Business Card Say?

I have been networking for about three years now for my business and I have picked up many business cards - some good and some, not so good. What does yours say...about you?
Written Nov 08, 2011, read 5226 times since then.
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Getting business cards for your newly formed company is a relatively easy process these days. You can go to Staples, Vista Print, and other sites like these to find a wide array of template business cards. All you need to do is pick one that is right for your business. They are cheap and you can get a few hundred for next to nothing.

So what does this say about your commitment to your business? "I am in a hurry, these things don't matter. I am going to be handing these things out like water, why bother spending my time and energy on them?" 

What it's really saying is - "I don't believe in my business." 

Don't make this mistake. Think about it, your business card is the first printed piece your potential clients see. A business card is a very tactile expression: it's like a good hand shake. You will be measured by it. Your clients will say to themselves things like: Does it feel substantial or flimsy? Do they care enough about me to hand me a well thought out marketing piece? Are they here to stay or a fly-by-night outfit? How will they treat my business?  They are really sizing up you and your brand.

What does yours say...about your brand?

It seems like a small and very minor thing: after all it is just a business card. Think about it this way: it is the first impression you make, you only have one chance to make a first impression, do it right. 

I know I come at this with a bit of a prejudice because my job is to make you look good to your clients. This is what a graphic designer does. So yes, we care.

It is not just about a logo or a great design, it's what it says about you to your clients. A great business card says that you have taken pride in your business and you stand for quality in all aspects of who you are and what you do. I am amazed and saddened by what I have seen.

I have seen Marketing people that get paid handsomely to craft the right words and ideas for clients that use stock template business cards for themselves. Would you trust them with your image? I have seen Real Estate Agents that sell high end homes that have "free" Vista Print cards (Vista puts their logo on these cards, are you advertising them or you)? EEK! 

Start small with your marketing and branding.

That little piece of real estate 2" X 3.5", has big branding and marketing power. Yes, it should have contact information this is essential, but it should also reflect your company, your purpose and your style. 

I understand it seems expensive to spend money and time on such a small item in your arsenal of marketing pieces, but it is money well spent. We don't hand out many brochures anymore, we send clients to our websites, Facebook  business pages and Twitter addresses. 

This little card is your gateway piece: that volley across the net, the hub to all of who you are as a company. Working with a graphics or branding designer can give you credibility right from the start. As an entrepreneur you need help with many things, but your outward appearance is one of the most important. 

You want to project the professional that you are. You spend money on your hair, your clothes, your car and a well designed branding package rounds out your appearance to your clients. 

So go ahead and pull your business card out of your wallet or purse and really examine it. What is it really saying about you and your brand? Look at a card that someone handed you. Why did you save it? What about it do you like? How did it touch you as a potential client? This is how you want your client to react to your cards. If you don't like what your card is saying now, find help. Our Biznik community has many talented designers and we are here to help you.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave comments.

Learn more about the author, Susan Straub-Martin.

Comment on this article

  • Graphic Designer 
Issaquah, Washington 
Kevin O'Conner
    Posted by Kevin O'Conner, Issaquah, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    (Hi!)

    I agree. I know folks who have Vistaprint-made cards; I recognize the design whenever I see a Vistaprint commercial in print or on TV.

    Whether or not one chooses to use a graphic designer to put together a business card, one should definitely put some thought into it, rather than just picking out a generic design and slapping their info onto it.

    Though my business is not quite ready for prime time, I did take the time to properly design a business card. It's distinctive enough that I invariably get a positive response from people I give them to, even before they've seen anything else in my portfolio.

    I would also recommend looking into non-standard sizes. Moo.com, for example, uses what is probably the European standard size (they are a UK company, after all); it's a little narrower and a bit taller than regular US business cards—close enough in size to not be inconvenient, but just different enough to stand out from the rest of the stack.

  • Trainer, Marketing Consultant & Partnering Strategist 
Bainbridge Island, Washington 
Paul Travis, CMC
    Posted by Paul Travis, CMC, Bainbridge Island, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Susan, I completely agree. Though I AM trying to figure out what you did previous to three years ago -- did you not network? :)

    The base case that you didn't mention is an equal shame: "No, my business is new so I don't have cards yet". Translation: I'll do them when I figure out all the answers (only problem is, we rarely do!)

    PS. I'm chuckling about the fact that there is a Vistaprint ad just to the right of this text box I'm typing into . . .

  • Business Coach For Therapists 
Amstelveen, Noord Holland Netherlands 
Monika Denes
    Posted by Monika Denes, Amstelveen, Noord Holland Netherlands | Nov 10, 2011

    How true! After some 15 years in business, I got myself my first cards... from Vistaprint... (never needed any before, I seem to be really good at my job. No networking either.) You know, those blue ones, that everyone has?

    Then I saw what I am doing and was embarrased to hand them out.

    Now, after 18+ years I've done a compromise - I designed my own. Not great (not bad either), but a step in the good direction. Life is a journey... and so are my cards.

    Please, don't come down hard on people just for their cards - they might be better at their work than at presenting themselves.

  • Illustrator / Graphic Designer 
Washington, D.C. 
Michael Auger
    Posted by Michael Auger, Washington, D.C. | Nov 10, 2011

    Great article Susan.

    In addition to your name and contact info your business card also features your companies greatest asset: your logo! This image requires careful thought, planning and design. It should work well at any scale and be rememberable.

    Yes, there are business card designs out there with stock images you can buy for cheap. But, if you believe in your business a professional logo is worth investing in.

    I am a graphic designer with the skill and experience to create the brand that will set your business apart from your competition. Drop me a line when you are ready for the big time.

  • Regional Director 
Harker Heights, Texas 
Rhonda Nori
    Posted by Rhonda Nori, Harker Heights, Texas | Nov 10, 2011

    This was an excellent article.. I've been in business for several years. Wow!! this article made me pull out one of my cards and examine it.

    I am always in the Media's eye as well as meeting several Industry people. It's true you only have one chance and a few minutes to represent you; because you are your business...From the CEO to the assistant.

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Kevin great comments. I love Moo.com they offer wonderfully creative products. I use both sizes of their business cards and love the weight.

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Paul: Yes I was networking, sort of...I had a very public position and worked with business owners.

    I think it is always good to have something to hand off, so the folks you meet can reach you. Make it a good piece. Thanks for your input and I love the fact that Vista Print showed up on the ads. Cracked me up too.

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Monika:

    Thank you very much for your input. People do look at cards this way, but I agree, it does not reflect the good work one is capable of. It may not be a persons profession or capability, my brother is a scientist and I would not expect that he would think about what his cards are projecting, but it is like a good hand shake, the better it looks and feels the more confidence it also projects.

    Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Thank you for your comments Michael. Much appreciated.

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Rhonda: Thank you so much for your comments. It is funny sometimes we don't really examine our own cards. I change mine up every now and again to keep them fresh, not saying this is for everyone, but it is good to look and see what is still relevant.

  • Founder of kids footwear company 
The Woodlands, Texas 
Ken Proctor
    Posted by Ken Proctor, The Woodlands, Texas | Nov 10, 2011

    Susan -

    Quite insightful! My company is named Twig(footwear) and I had my business card printed on wood(cardsofwood.com) which is quite brand appropriate. I also gave myself an interesting title(even though I own the company). "Frontman". I hope people realize I have a sense of humor and that I am not hung up on a power trip. Apparently, the title and card really resonates with folks!

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 10, 2011

    Ken: How cool to have wood business cards! Great branding idea given the name of your company. Great example of how to use your card as a great branding piece.

    Cheers!

  • Interior Designer & Coach 
Kirkland, Washington 
Nancy Meadows
    Posted by Nancy Meadows, Kirkland, Washington | Nov 15, 2011

    I completely agree with you, Susan. It often is the first impression we give to the world. We may not even be the person who passed on the card. One other point, is to not forget the real estate on the back of the card. A suggestion would be to put your free offer there to drive them to your website. Once there, you can continue to further your brand and it's a great list builder.

    www.nancymeadowsdesigns.com

  • Bellevue Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Toy & Book Creator 
Bellevue, Washington 
Susan Straub-Martin
    Posted by Susan Straub-Martin, Bellevue, Washington | Nov 16, 2011

    Thank You Nancy. I so agree use the real estate wisely, even if all you do is put a quote on it, it is an insight to you and your personality.

  • CEO from ladyimpress.com 
shenzhen, guangdong China 
lady impress
    Posted by lady impress, shenzhen, guangdong China | Dec 13, 2011

    i agree with you, thank you for sharing

  • Specializing in Injury Treatment and Anti-Inflammatory Diet 
Woodinville, Washington 
Kimberley Barker, LMP, CNMT, NTP
    Posted by Kimberley Barker, LMP, CNMT..., Woodinville, Washington | Mar 26, 2012

    Great article. I designed my own cards for years before making the leap to have them done by a professional. What a difference it made, not only to business but also to the way I viewed myself and my business.

    I am updating my cards again, but this time to really focus on a niche market. Having a skilled and knowledgeable designer is invaluable. Mine doubles as a business coach of sorts, helping me make little decisions that have a big impact.

    Thanks for the article.

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