How to Turn Away Business with Your Business Card

CFC 2013 logoLots of lessons were learned at CFC this year. Here is one passed along to me by Laura Foley of Laura M. Foley Design.

What is the point of your business card? Is it to entertain? To make people think? To offer insight about your work? Business cards can do all of these. The main purpose of your business card, though, is to remind people about you and to provide contact information. So why is it that several people I met at this year’s Creative Freelancer Conference were handing out business cards that seemed to discourage follow-up?

I used to be a prepress designer at a quick-print shop where I designed countless business cards. At the shop, the rules of business card design were simple: Besides the person’s name and title, business cards needed the name of the business, phone and fax numbers, an address, and email and website information, if available.

Nowadays, there is so much more you can do with business cards to allow people to easily connect with you. Incorporating forms of communication such as Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles, Skype names, and QR codes on business cards allows people to choose the way they want to interact with you. With so many ways of being inclusive, it’s strange to see business cards that seem to actively dissuade people from making contact.

As much as some of us don’t like to admit it, we need to be somewhat corporate in our business dealings. We should dress up for client meetings, engage in marketing, and actively sell our services. We also need to take a professional attitude toward our business cards so that our clients will take a professional attitude toward us. That means giving people multiple ways to get in touch with us, not just our preferred methods. If we make people jump through hoops to get our phone numbers, email addresses, or website URLs, they might give up because it’s simply too much work.

I received two business cards that offered nothing but a Twitter handle for getting in touch. Here are the steps I followed to get more contact information for the first one:

  1. Go to Twitter.com and type in the Twitter handle.
  2. Read the profile information to see if there are any clues about the business name.
  3. See “@LikelyNameOfBusiness” in the profile.
  4. Remove “@” from the beginning of the business name, add “.com” to the end, and enter it as a URL in a browser.
  5. Land on business website.
  6. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen to find contact information.
  7. Click on first untitled icon, which returns me to the top of the page.
  8. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.
  9. Click on second untitled icon, which brings me to the contact information.

The second fact-finding mission was slightly easier; I only had to go through six steps to find an email address and phone number. But the ideal number of steps is one: read the business card.

Is Twitter a great way to communicate? Absolutely. But for many people it’s not the preferred method. Making people search for other ways to contact you, while it might be a great test of loyalty and patience, is not ideal when you’re trying to attract clients.

Another card was more mysterious, offering only a question, a URL, and some descriptive words. There was no name or other contact information of any kind. The website turned out to be a personal blog, which was weird because the person who gave me the card didn’t indicate that it represented anything but her business. Clicking through the tabs I found nothing that described what the card giver had told me was her specialty, medical copywriting. At least it was easy to find the contact information I was looking for; the link was in the navigation bar at the top of the landing page.

Here’s what my business card looks like. As you can see, I offer six Laura Foley Business cardways for people to contact me: mailing address, phone number, email address, website, Twitter, and a QR code that answers the questions posed on the back of the cards by linking to pages in my blog.

The lesson is simple: a straightforward business card accurately represents you and makes it easy for your clients, colleagues, and prospects to contact you. It’s entirely possible to create a business card like this that also expresses your creativity—I received many such cards at the CFC. While it might seem cool or trendy to include only one contact method, not to put your name on your card, or to otherwise deviate from the standard format, unless you are actively trying to exclude people from getting in touch, something a little more conventional is probably a better idea.

About Laura M. Foley

Laura Foley is a graphic designer and creative thinker who enables her clients to communicate effectively with their presentations. She specializes in Cheating Death by PowerPoint, transforming PowerPoint decks into dynamic marketing tools through training, consulting, and presentation design. She can be contacted by email (laura@lauramfoley.com), Twitter (@LMFDesign), via her website (lauramfoley.com/wordpress), or by snail mail at PO Box 453, Hubbardston, MA 01452.

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3 thoughts on “How to Turn Away Business with Your Business Card

  1. Lisa Youngdahl

    Another tip, make sure the type size is legible, and provides enough contrast against the background to be easily read. The variables available with size, die cuts and folds might make a great impression, but vital information needs to be conveyed at a glance. A graphic designer should know this. What kind of message are you sending your potential client if you’re not communicating your own business information?

    p.s. Years ago, I was also a pre-press designer at a quick print shop, designing many business cards. I currently teach graphic design classes at a local college; one class includes a corporate identity project. I’m rather surprised when I see working professionals ignore these marketing basics.

  2. Sheila

    I don’t know. While I agree that business cards shouldn’t be too clever or hard to decipher, I feel like their purpose is to serve as the *first* launching point into further contact. Far too many of my clients want to put their whole life story on the card.

    Being a designer, most people want to see my work, so my website’s on there. Or I find people want to call me, so my phone’s on there. If they need any other contact info it’s on my site, in the footer and on a separate contact page straight off the menu. I’d worry that I would appear too desperate if I put every single scrap if info on the business card, including everything seems a bit overkill.

  3. c0l0rfl0w

    I think they really should be clever but it depends on the line of work. For creative professionals, your business card appears to be just as creative as you are. Good or bad, it is that first moment of a snapshot judgement and it is what it is. I am thinking of switching to metal business cards. I used to have plastic cards and people raved about them and always remembered me and that line of work I was doing. I like accept print. com a lot.

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