How to create business cards that are
“actionable marketing documents.”
by Donald Cooper, CSP
Over the years, I have judged a number of business card competitions,
and I’ve discovered that many business cards completely miss the mark
when it comes to accomplishing the very purpose for which they were
created! Here are my thoughts on how you can create a more effective
Your objective is simple—to create a business card
that’s an actionable marketing document. The card should clearly
communicate who you are and what you do in a way that creates confidence
and gets you more business. Let’s look at the basic elements of an
effective card to see how yours might be improved. Take out your
business card right now, and check it out as you read on.
Ideally, to be an actionable marketing document, your
card should communicate the following.
The name of your business, your name and your title or position
What you do and for whom you do it (your target customers)
How you do it wonderfully or differently
How to contact you.
More than 80 percent of the cards I see leave out some of this critical
information. Many of them offer no clue as to what the company actually
Include your job title! This one is controversial, but
it shouldn’t be. People want to know who you are and what your position
is. Lots of folks tell me that titles aren’t important or that “everyone
in our company is equal” so they leave this important information off
their card. This is a big mistake! Everybody in your company is not
equal. People want to know if they’re dealing with a salesperson, a
marketing VP or the company founder.
The “for whom you do it and how you do it wonderfully
or differently” part can be communicated through a slogan, positioning
statement or even a well-thought-out company name. For example, when the
name of your business is “Speedy Muffler King” you’ve already
communicated a lot of information, whereas “International Digital
Enterprises” probably needs some clarification.
Your logo, slogan or positioning statement should be
included. They’re an important part of your brand positioning. If you’re
a member of an important industry association, its logo should be on
your card. This makes you an “insider.” If you have earned a degree
that’s relevant to what you do, or if you’ve won an important industry
or company award, include that. If you’ve been in business for 100
years, add that. These things all create confidence.
Make sure that your phone, fax, address, e-mail and Web
site info are all included and big enough to be read by people older
than 50. Include your area code with your phone and fax numbers and, if
you do business internationally, also include your country code. Make it
easy for people to find you and do business with you.
You’d also be amazed at how many cards I get that have
no street address on them. These are most often folks who operate
home-based businesses and they’re so ashamed of that fact that they
leave off their addresses. Big mistake! When I do business with
companies and they screw up, I want to know where to find them, and if
they don’t give me their addresses, I think that they’re actually
planning to screw up and that they’re trying to hide. Every time I hear
on the radio that the police are looking for some murder suspect, it
seems that these people have “no fixed address.” Don’t be a “no fixed
Some folks in sales and service positions (especially
real-estate agents) have their picture on their cards to make a more
personal and memorable connection with people, and it seems to work.
Management and executive cards, on the other hand, never have photos. If
you are going to use a photo, pick one that was taken in the last few
years so that recipients of your business cards don’t get a big shock
when they actually meet you!
How on earth do you get all this information on a
business card? Use both sides. The front of my card states who I am and
how to reach me, and the back states exactly what I do, including our
registered trademark, Human Marketing®; our most requested titles; and
the logo of my industry association, The International Federation for
Folks who disagree with me on this tell me, “I leave
the back of my card blank for people to write on.” But if you write on
the back what they need to know to do business with you, they don’t have
to write anything. And, trust me, if you put a little thought into it,
you can write better stuff about you than they can.
Have your corporate name, logo, business cards, fax cover page and
letterhead all congruently designed by an experienced graphic designer.
Each of these elements is an important part of your brand communication,
and getting them right doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Ask friends who
have neat looking stuff who they used. Most printers have graphic
designers on staff or know where to find them. Note: The nice girl
behind the photocopy counter at Business Depot is NOT a graphic
Grossly oversized or tiny little business cards may be
cute, but, mostly, they don’t work. My cards are 1⁄16 of an inch bigger
in both directions than most cards to subtly make impact and create a
little more space for my message, but they still fit in everyone’s card
the card stock
Choose the best, heaviest card stock available, with a nice, soft sheen
to it. If your printer offers only the standard flimsy card stock, find
another printer. It’s your reputation that’s at stake. The extra cost is
worth it. If you buy 1,000 business cards for $30, printed on inferior
embossed paper, you didn’t save money—you just wasted $30! Let’s be
blunt here. When you hand someone one of those awful thin cards, what
you’re saying is, “Here’s a cheap piece of crap to remember me by!”
There you have it—the basics for creating a better
business card that is an actionable marketing document. Evaluate your
business card, and make changes to ensure that it effectively
communicates and gets you more business.
Donald Cooper, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional),
is respected by clients in more than 40 industries as both a “thought
leader” and a passionate visionary in the areas of marketing, service
and business excellence. Drawing from his real-life experience as a
world-class manufacturer, award-winning retailer and business speaker,
he has helped thousands of businesses throughout the world to add more
real value to their customers’ lives and more dollars to their bottom
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