Business Cards as a Marketing Tool – Beat the Trash Test!

Right along with letterhead, business cards are usually the first thing that new business owners get printed out. After all, they’re practically a prerequisite to doing business – it’s expected that if you take your company seriously, you’ll have cards ready to hand out.

If you take your company seriously âÂ?¦ now that’s a thought. Will your potential customer take your work seriously once they’ve taken a look at your business card? This is often the first impression a potential customer or client has with your company – is it getting the message you want across, or is it landing in the trash?

Take a look at your own business card, if you’ve got one – otherwise, just read through and take notes so you can avoid ending in the bin in the first place.

Size Matters

Traditionally, business cards are created on a 2″ x 3.5″ rectangle. Anything that is larger than this traditional size won’t fit in someone’s wallet, or in most business card holders.

By and large, the most common reason that people have over-sized business cards is that they were created on a personal computer and laser printed. There’s nothing wrong with taking the do-it-yourself approach, but make sure that you still keep the basics in mind!

Do-it-yourself enthusiasts should take a look at Avery products first. They create a line of ink jet, clean edge business cards in a variety of styles that are sized properly (following traditional guidelines) and result in a cleanly sized card. Start at their website,, to locate the sheets you want.

Paper Quality = Impact

The quality of paper your business card is printed on will have an immediate (usually subconscious) impact on your potential customer. If the paper is thick, heavy and sturdy, it creates an impression of your company as being reliable and strong. Flimsy paper with perforated edges (mark of a print-at-home job on cheap paper) will speak volumes of things you don’t want people associating with your business.

Again, I really can’t stress enough that if you keep the basics in mind, a DIY job is a good idea. Making business cards yourself can save you a ton of money, and you can print out the sheets only as you need them. When choosing your business card paper, though, spend some time looking around. These are the main differences you’ll find between business card paper, and what you need to look for:

1. Edges – Many business card papers you’ll find have perforated edges. When you separate the cards, it leaves a distinct “rough” edge that isn’t attractive. The reason so many people cave in and go for this option, though, is that they usually cost about 50% less than cards with smooth edges. Smooth edges will make your card look much more professional. Really, if it costs a little more but gets you one step closer to a new client, is there any question of what you should do?

2. Coating – Business card paper runs the gamut from glossy photo finish to textured paper. If you’re going to use a color photograph on your business card, definitely go for the glossy photo finish. The paper will cost you more, but the results are brilliant on an inkjet printer. Textured papers speak to the creative side of your business. Remember, though, that only inkjet printers will work with coating. Laser printers can be damaged by running coated or textured papers through them.

3. Distance Between Cards – Didn’t think this one would matter, did you? If you’re printing your cards yourself, though, it does matter. When you have a design that covers the background of your card, opt for sheets that have more space between cards. This way, your design can extend over the edges of the card without overlapping on the next card. There’s nothing worse than printing out a sheet of cards and seeing that they have a blank border all the way around them.

4. Pre-Printed Backgrounds – Some companies offer business card paper with pre-printed backgrounds. If you go for this option, spend a lot of thought on how the background you choose will work with your design. Your colors need to work together harmoniously, and the background should never overpower the contents of the card.

5. End Use – If you’ve got an inkjet printer, you might consider creating your business cards on magnetic card sheets. This option is really only for the service person who needs to be seen near the phone, though. If you have a business that offers in-home services that might require an emergency phone call (health care, medical supply, plumbers, etc.), this could be your “in”.

Take a look at the selection of business card papers Staples offers online – – they carry everything from standard uncoated paper to linen, and offer the option to have the cards you design printed up and delivered (at no cost) for you.

Color and Ink Test

This one is short and simple. First, grab your business card, and let a drop of water fall on it. If the ink runs, get ready to make up new cards – you run the risk of having your card illegible if a potential client spills a drop of coffee, or making a mess on their hands (and possibly clothes) if the card gets wet. Not nice.

Along the lines of ink comes the concept of color. At one time, the crisp look of black and white was enough. Now, it’s simply not able to make its way through the rest of the cards a potential client may be sorting through. Colorful cards can add to your professional image, when done right.

Take a look at the colors on your business card. If it’s black and white, head to the computer or your print shop and inject some life into your card. Yours has color? Great! But âÂ?¦ how many colors? Unless you’re looking at a photograph, your business card should be centered around a tight color palette of no more than 3 colors. Seriously, this is a make-or-break your card idea – too many colors will make your business look indecisive, chaotic, or worst of all, in bad taste.

Simple can be fantastic, so if you’re not sure what you’re looking for in color, try just adding a color logo or simple color line art to your regular black and white business card.

Match Your Image

It should take nothing more than a brief glance at your business card to know what kind of company you operate or work in. If you’re a designer, artist, or writer, your business card should be creative. Professional services running from lawyers to cleaning companies should be sharp, crisp, and no-nonsense. If you run a pet store, include an image of pets or a loveable mascot-type art piece of an animal.

The point is that if your card doesn’t match the image you’re going for, it’s time to toss the design out and do something new.

Mascots are perhaps the easiest way to create a nifty image for your business, and add color to your card all in one shot. Poul Carlson is widely known as the best in his field for creating really memorable mascot images. You can hit his website,, to find hundreds of ideas at honest prices – or grab one of the free mascots he offers.

Contact Information

Another quick but vital tip: Provide as many forms of contact as possible. Your potential customer should be able to reference your business card and choose the method of contact that they are most comfortable with. Include your voicemail, phone, fax, email, and website address in addition to your physical location if you have one. Make it easy to find and easy to read, and you’ve made one more step to toward staying out of the trash can.

First impressions are the ones that count – they are the longest-lasting, and the hardest to change. Invest in the best business card design you can afford, whether you’re doing that design yourself or paying a professional. Introducing yourself to a potential client is easiest with a business card, and for the few cents you pay per card, that money is well spent.

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