You know for sure that everyone you meet, and want to stay in touch with, has the latest technology for exchanging information digitally, and knows how to use it. Not everybody has a smartphone. Not everybody knows how to use their smartphones. Not everybody has the correct version of the app you want to use for getting and giving contact information.
You can risk looking forgetful or fly-by-night. Humans at our current stage of evolution still seem to be paper-oriented creatures. (Unless you’re networking with a time-traveler from the future, or Vox from the planet Xibatron.) If someone asks you for a business card and you have to reply, “I don’t have one”, they can get the impression that you walked out of the office without them by mistake. Which can make you seem flighty. Or they may think you haven’t been in business long enough to print cards. Or that you jump into and out of business ventures frequently. Either way, not having a business card can lessen your credibility.
You don’t mind getting submerged in the flood of information that’s coming at your prospects. When you look through your stack of snail mail, what are you likely to pull out and read first? How about a handwritten envelope? The same principle makes a printed business card noticeable in the tidal wave of e-info that your prospects cope with daily.
Let’s admit it: Printed business cards do kill trees. So, let’s make sure those green wonders don’t die in vain. Here are suggestions for making your printed business cards an effective marketing tool:
Pick pleasing paper. Choose a paper stock that’s inviting to touch. Maybe a little thicker than the average card. Not too much texture on the surface, but maybe not perfectly smooth either. And make sure the color of your paper stock will not change the colors of what’s printed on it, whether that’s a full-color photo, or your company’s logo. No mustard-yellow paper for your bright red logo, for instance. (I speak from bitter experience.)
Use both sides. This helps because we all have so many pieces of contact information now. Using both sides gives you more room to spell out custom URLs and social media links.
Change the size. Since your card probably doesn’t have to fit in a Rolodex anymore, can it be a different size? How about a larger card that folds down to the traditional 2″ x 3.5″ size?
Change the shape. Rectangles aren’t required. Can your print vendor change the shape, even slightly, without increasing the cost by much? Ask about rounding the corners (also called radius corners), or using an existing die from a previous project.
Print fewer cards at a time. Contact info and job titles change fast. Print in smaller quantities at a time to stay flexible. If your card has to include a fancy, expensive touch (like a custom die-cut, embossing or foil-stamping), see if you can print “shells” with areas left blank, so the shells can be put back on the press and overprinted with that new info in smaller batches when the time comes. Printing fewer also gives you more flexibility to try including more or different information on your card. For instance, you could try adding a QR code to your card, print 50-100, and see how people respond.
Have more than one card. Who says you can’t have two (or more) different versions of your cards? Try a version with more contact info, or different types of contact info. Maybe a version that emphasizes one of your company’s capabilities more than the rest.
Consider an un-card. I’ve seen fortune cookies, military “dog tags”, oversized movie tickets, wooden clothespins, playing cards, guitar picks and drink coasters used as the basis for outstanding business cards. For inspiration, collect examples of business cards you like before you re-design or reprint your next batch of cards.
Using Your Business Cards Well
Now that you’ve got a new batch of cards you’re proud to hand out, here’s a refresher on using them well:
Stash ’em everywhere. In multiple places: briefcase, pockets, glove box. In each of these places, store the cards in some kind of case that’s a little different. It can be a conversation-starter.
Use them at the right time. Try to get out of the habit of thrusting a card at your contact too early in your first conversation. Build rapport by finding things in common first, then exchange cards just before you part ways.
Ask for (and give) seconds. When you’re exchanging cards, ask your new contact for two of his/her cards. Look for opportunities to pass that extra card on to a third contact who might need your new contact’s services. Likewise, offer two of your own cards.
Make notes, discreetly. Most of us need a memory-jog by the time we sit down to actually do something with business cards we’ve received. As soon as you can do it politely, write a few notes about your new contact on the back or in the margins of the card you just received from him/her. But avoid writing on a person’s business card in front of him or her. This can make you look forgetful, or make that person feel as though you’re defacing what he/she just carefully handed to you.
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