Handing out business cards has become a common, if not expected, practice that follows closely on the heels of introductions. Clarifying names, affiliations, titles, and contact information, this undisputed king of business tools has been the workhorse of many a successful connection.
With the advent of mobile devices and electronic communication, there has been a bit of jostling about introduction hierarchy, with some working to shove business cards to the back of the room. While the need for the transfer of contact information continues, the preferred method of transfer progresses in fits and starts, continually turning back to the tried-and-true business card to do the job.
QR, or ‘quick response’ codes made the first effort to displace the iconic card. A quirky little square of digital barcode that often cleverly disguise logos or other signs, the QR code came on with a flourish, but seems to have lost some leverage over time. One had to read the code with a smart phone app, which prompted the affiliated website of the business to pop up on the tiny screen.
Many did not know how to use the code, or did not have the proper app installed on their device, and couldn’t use it. It may be that mobile simply wasn’t ready for the technology. QRs were showing up everywhere, and their use, or should we say, misuse, confused people about their purpose. The QR code may return in force if someone figures out how to properly market their business with it. For now, however, it’s dead.
Then there’s the ‘bump’ technology that allowed two phones, high-fiving each other with a tap, to exchange selected information. While that was a fun, novel, technology, it’s a move most reserved executives proved they weren’t fond of. Additional issues sidelined the bump. Again, as technology grooms itself, the bump could return after a little tweaking and transformation.
While we’re waiting for the next big thing in electronic file sharing or ‘e’ business cards, there’s a proven strategy. The printed business card, unpretentious and reliable, conveys your contact information in the simplest of formats. Some are basic and straightforward, some are clever, others are humorous, but they all get the job done.
The problem with printed cards is a simple one. Once the information on the card is transferred to your normal storage method, the card loses its value, unless, of course, it is printed on something cool. While ‘cool’ often means ‘expensive’, it doesn’t have to.
Brilliant ideas can often pay big dividends, especially if the idea translates well to the business at hand, or is useful in some way. Think key chains, water bottles, paper clip devices, pens, or jump drives. Print also becomes outdated. Businesses move, change names, get new phone numbers, or close, none of which is noted by static letters printed on dead trees. Still, it is an accepted, simple, inexpensive way to let clients know how to get in touch.
If you’re in business for yourself, or looking for work, this is a great time to flaunt your experience. You can give yourself a title, an image, and a style all your own. Here is where your experience truly comes into play. Even if you don’t have a degree, you can tout your strengths with a professional look that emphasizes your best, most relevant work.
An engineer who had worked for decades for an international firm, yet lacked a formal degree, was able to hand out his own, personal card upon retirement as he sought freelance contracts. His card? It branded him brilliantly as “An engineer with a lifetime of making things work.” The card was tastefully illustrated with simple caricatures of the tools of his trade, a T-square, a triangle, drafting tools, and plans. With this clean, easy-to-read card, he ended up winning a contract building models for a space program. What have you done that you’d like to do more of? Consider your knowledge, create your card, and seek out work where your expertise will matter.
After you’ve decided what to put on a card, you’ve got to have it printed. Many programs exist to print your own cards. Word of caution here is, unless you are printing something very simple, or are certain you can make the card look crisply professional, best let the experts handle the execution. Design is also best when simple unless you’re truly skilled at designing and branding. Printing must be accurate, and trimming perfect. If you can’t do that at home, take it to someone who can.
Whether you end up designing and printing your own cards, or handing them over to a print shop or ad agency, keep the following in mind:
- Make it readable.
- Make it simple, yet tell your story.
- Make sure all contact information is included.
- Proofread your information. Not once. Not twice. Three times. Then have someone else proof it.
- Use legible fonts that are appropriate for your business. The more creative and fun your business, the crazier your typeface can be, as long as it’s easily read.
- Select an appropriate colour of stock to print on. You almost can’t go wrong with white. Colour, however, has its place, so choose according to nature of your business.
- Choose as high a quality stock as you can afford. Flimsy cards might save you money, but they send the wrong message.
Many people choose to print what’s called a calling card, simply stating their name and contact information. If you’ve not decided what to call yourself just yet, or if you’d rather not brand your name, simply print your name and contact information in an attractive, legible font, and distribute at your discretion.
You only need business cards if you want people to call you, email you, visit you to do business, or get in touch with you to offer you a job. Business cards save you the trouble of writing things down on cocktail napkins, torn scraps of paper, or, heaven forbid, your hand. So, do you need a business card? Thought so. Get to work!