These days, the business world in general is hyper-focused on all things digital, and the field of business marketing in particular is obsessed with the internet. We’re quick to embrace the latest ways to reach any online audience, and we forget that offline promotion can be equally vital. The physical business card is a powerful tool in that arsenal.
Even the career behemoth that is LinkedIn has not abolished the business card. In certain fields and within specific age groups, these cards are a given. Even when networking in a tech-savvy environment, a unique business card can set you apart from the digital herd and make an immediate (and potentially long-lasting) impression about your enterprise.
Business cards remain a key component of branding strategy, and constitute a portable and professional form of advertising that you can give to anyone at anytime. Experts might disagree as to the role that business cards play in enterprise today. Unless poorly done, however, such cards certainly won’t damage your marketing efforts, and might provide a boost to your promotional endeavors.
And yes, many business cards will get lost or tossed, but with how simple and inexpensive they are to make, you can’t afford not to have some on hand. Let’s consider what type of business card is right for your enterprise, and how best to tackle the process of making your own business cards.
Design Your Business Card
The look and feel of your business card tells your contacts a great deal about your company. As Chris Akes of Grandapps.com, a mobile application development company, explains in a recent Forbes.com article:
“When I receive a business card, I create an opinion about the company as soon as the card touches my hand. Is it thin and flimsy? Is it thick cardstock? Was it printed? Was it embossed? Is it a traditional business card size? To me, having a quality business card equates to having a successful business.”
With that in mind, we’ll examine how to make a beautiful and professional business card.
Determine the Info on Your Card
The first step is to decide what information you’ll print on your business cards. There are the essential items, like these:
- Your full name
- Any credentials or professional designations you hold: These should immediately follow your last name.
- Your title
- The name of your business
- Your physical and/or virtual address (i.e. your website): If your company operates solely online, to appear more legitimate, you might decide to rent a postal box at a local shipping store. Such boxes provide a physical address to put on your business card and a place to receive “snail” mail. (Yes, many companies still prefer to do business via the United States Postal Service.) If you meet with clients in person, you might also explore joining a coworking space.
- Your phone number: Be sure to establish a designated phone number for your business that’s separate from your personal number. If you can’t afford an extra line or a separate phone, use a free service like Google Voice to generate a unique number that will ring through to your existing phone.
- Your email address: This address should be up-to-date, so you might decide to avoid older email services like Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail. Create a personalized email address, such as email@example.com, for as little as $5 a month through Google Cloud’s G Suite. Your email address may not seem like an important issue, but it’s crucial to project a knowledgeable and professional image on your card, and personalized email assists with this impression.
Other possibilities to consider adding to your business card:
- Your fax number: Whether to include a fax number depends entirely on your industry. Many fields still require an actual signature to legitimize their transactions, and some demand a paper trail to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. A fax machine fills these needs, and if connected to a landline, also provides an additional level of security not present with email for industries that handle sensitive information. If you need a fax number but don’t wish to purchase the machine or add the requisite phone line, you can sign up for an online fax service that provides many of (but not all) the same benefits.
- Your picture: A business card tends to include a photograph in industries where you and your business are interchangeable, like sales or real estate. Pictures are also an excellent tool to jog people’s memories as to who you are, particularly if you’ve met only once.
- Your social media accounts: Social media is not an appropriate marketing venue for every company, nor is every digital platform suitable for all industries. But if they are relevant to your field, list the usernames for your accounts on your card.
Remember, though, that a typical business card is 2 inches by 3.5 inches, so don’t try to squeeze too much information onto one card. Decide which elements are essential for your business, and if you need to include loads of information, consider a two-sided card.
Select a Layout for Your Card
Technology has made the actual design of your business card quick and painless. You can use an existing template, upload your own images, or combine the two. Websites like Canva or PicMonkey provide loads of free templates, though they do require that you sign up for an account and pay for premium feature sets. Select a style you like, fill in the blanks, and you’re all set.
If you’d rather stick with a brand you know, Google offers a Business Card Maker through its search engine, Chrome. Any of these websites will allow you to print your own designs, which we’ll discuss below, or you can order your freshly minted cards straight from the site itself.
If you’d like to print your cards at home, Microsoft Word offers business cards templates. Under the File menu, select New and enter “Business Card” into the search box. You should see a variety of templates available for download.
You can also import into Word templates from Avery and match the design you’ve chosen to the appropriate Avery business card paper, which is available at most office supply stores. Many of these chains also sell their own brand of paper, and the packaging ought to tell you which template style to select from Avery for purposes of compatibility. Avery also provides inexpensive printing services, should you find that printing at home doesn’t meet your expectations.
Whatever your chosen modality, here are some key factors to consider as you design the layout of your business card:
Your card should reflect the image you wish to portray. Do you seek a design that’s clean and classic or whimsical and fun? It depends on the nature of your business. Such questions are similar to those a business owner asks when designing a logo.
If you already have a logo, take your cues from that graphic, and be sure to include it on your card. If you’ve yet to create a logo, you can hire a freelance designer to draw one for you at very little expense on websites like Fiverr, or pay a bit more for a seasoned professional at places like 99designs. Once you’ve settled on a symbol that represents your business, don’t forget to trademark your logo.
Be consistent with your color scheme across all marketing materials. If you’ve already designed items like a website, brochures, or stationery, stick with the same hues and general mood for your business card. Keep in mind, though, that if you plan to print at home, you’re better off with a white or cream background. Ink is expensive and printing a saturated background can tax even the best of machines.
The most important aspect of your business card is readability, so choose your font(s) wisely. A complex font may be beautiful, but could detract from the purpose of your card: to advertise for your business. We recommend that you use no more than two fonts and that those fonts complement each other. If you use different fonts, your primary concern should be whether the name of your company catches the eye.
You might consider a unique size or shape to make your business card stand out from the pack. Remember, however, that this will make your cards more expensive to make and easier to lose. If your card is non-standard, it’s less likely to fit nicely into a wallet, card book, or other method of storage that people use for business cards.
Choose the Paper for Your Card
Here are some issues to ponder when you select business card paper. These choices are relevant whether you print at home or order from a service:
White and cream are the most common colors, and the easiest to print on at home. A bright-colored background may help make your card unique. No matter the color, be sure that the text on the card is legible.
Type of Card Stock
Regular card stock is the most affordable option, but a premium or thicker stock will result in a sturdier card. Some card stock is coated in plastic or made from linen, and if you print your own cards, you may have to test whether your machine can handle this special paper.
The average business card is printed on stock that is 14 to 20 points thick (1 point = 1/1,000 of an inch), though you can purchase stock as thick as 32 points. Don’t use anything less than 14 point stock. It will make your cards seem chintzy. Spend a bit extra on thicker paper to make your cards look more professional.
If you plan to print on both sides of your card, choose a thicker stock so that you can’t see the other side and so the ink won’t bleed through during the printing process. Look for business card stock created specifically for two-sided printing.
Nature of Finish
You can choose between a gloss (shiny) or matte finish for your cards. If you have a lot of images or graphics on your card, a glossy finish will help them pop. If your card is mostly text, a matte finish lends a classic and traditional look to your card.
Another consideration is that a glossy finish is harder to write on than a matte finish. This becomes problematic if you plan to hand out your card at events like trade shows or networking get-togethers. Since you meet a lot of people in a short amount of time, many people take notes on the back of business cards to help them recall the conversation. If people can’t write on your cards, it could hinder the chance that they’ll remember you.
Decide How You’ll Print Your Business Cards
To determine where and how to print your cards, take the following factors into account: how many cards you need, how soon you need them, and if you’d like to experiment with a process that may not produce ideal results. If you only require a few cards and you desire them right away, it makes sense to print them yourself. However, you might find that the quality doesn’t compare with professionally printed cards. If you’re able to wait a few days and prefer a large batch of cards, order from an online printer. You’ll be happier with the overall product. We’ll walk you through both options, though, so you’re prepared for either eventuality.
Make Do-It-Yourself Business Cards
To print your own business cards, you’ll need a high-quality laser or inkjet color printer. If you own a laser printer, select a black and white template for best results. You will also need proper business card paper, either pre-perforated so you can separate each card with ease or a heavier card stock that you can carefully cut apart yourself with a ruler and a utility knife.
First, check that the template you’ve chosen matches the layout of the paper you selected. While most pre-perforated business card paper holds 10 cards per page, they can be arranged differently. Print a test page on regular paper, and hold it up to the business card paper to ensure that the design and your paper properly align.
Next, set your printer to produce the highest quality results. Double-check that you’ve selected in your settings the type of card paper you purchased, i.e. the proper size, type of finish, etc. If you’re printing on both sides, choose that option as well.
Finally, manually feed the business card paper into your printer, and print one page of cards. If you like the results, print more, but only a few pages at a time. Multiple pages might jam your printer, and you may find that printing cards quickly drains your ink and lowers the quality of the card.
If you have an inkjet printer, let the ink dry before you pull or cut apart the cards, or they might smudge. If you’ve used pre-perforated paper, carefully fold along the perforated lines before you separate the cards, and do so one a time. Tear too quickly or disconnect too many cards at once, and you may rip the cards or ruin the edges. If your paper isn’t perforated, place a ruler along the side of each card, and slowly run the utility knife along the ruler to cleanly cut them apart.
Use a Printing Service
As you can see, printing your own cards is a detailed process, with much room for error. If you have the time and resources, we recommend that you order cards from a printing service. Not only will you spare yourself potential headaches, but you’ll also receive a more polished product.
The complementary design websites mentioned above all provide printing services for an additional fee. Vistaprint, Moo, and Overnight Print are also excellent low-cost design and print websites. Most offer expedited delivery, but if you need professional cards in a hurry and cost is not a consideration, consult your nearest FedEx Office, UPS Store, or other local printing shop.
Make Your Business Cards (and Yourself) a Valuable Resource
Now that you’ve perfected your business card design, you want to be sure that people hold onto them. There are two ways you might accomplish this goal.
First, make your card a valuable resource in and of itself. Add something useful to the back of the card that would make individuals desire to keep it. A realtor might supply a table that demonstrates cost of housing based on down payment amounts or changes in interest rates. A small store could print a coupon or an incentive for return customers. A life coach can list sources of inspiration. A restaurant might provide a guide to tipping. The possibilities are endless.
Second, make yourself a valuable resource, as well. Instead of simply handing someone your card, during your conversation ferret out definitive ways that you might assist the individual. For instance, if you sell insurance and you’ve learned that your contact has a newborn baby, as you give them your card, you might say something like, “I know how scary it can be to plan for your child’s future. I’ve helped many families to feel safer and more secure should anything happen to their property or (god forbid) to them. If you’re interested, I’d be delighted to do the same for you.”
Such specificity and sincerity is likely to have a notable impact, and that person is more apt to touch base in the future when they have a need that you might fill. Combine this recollection with a delightful card, and you just might be in business.