300 year-old handshake: Making your Business Card work in today's economy
March 22, 2009
[Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of contributing guest author posts from LinkedIn users. Today you hear from CEO of Moo.com, Richard Moross, who outlines ways for professionals to stand out from the crowd with your business cards. Did you know: you could create a set of Moo business cards by pulling in information from your LinkedIn profile?]
I started moo.com because of an obsession with great design, a love of the web and a desire to combine both in a business which would help people unleash their creativity, stand-out, connect and prosper.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and for nearly 300 years the humble business card has been the primary tool for transferring business information to new contacts in a universal and memorable format. Even today, in the exciting, digital world of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, this simple, tactile product goes from strength to strength. Indeed, the more digital the world becomes, the more powerful useful offline tools like business cards become.
They may only be little but it's what you do with them that counts. As a serious platform for promoting your business, I'm often surprised by how unremarkable people choose to make their business cards. They are, after all, the ultimate direct marketing tool - something that your potential customer or client is given in person, takes away, and hopefully keeps forever.
Here are my top 10 tips for creating remarkable and memorable business cards; cards that will help you and your business stand out in these difficult economic times.
1. Thought: Whether you are having your cards designed by a graphic designer, or creating the look yourself, take some time to plan your cards. Look at the cards you've collected over the years to see what elements you like, and incorporate them into your design. Your business card may be the first and last thing a contact remembers you by, so make sure you are really happy with them. (Browse our ideas pages and flickr pool for some great ideas and design tips)
2. Individuality: Your card should say something about who you are/what you do. It should be personal and show off the scope of what you do, and be easily recognisable as YOUR card. When the recipient is flicking through their Rolodex, your card should jump out and remind them of you.
3. Impact: Your cards should be remarkable. They should spark interest and should prompt further questions about your cards, your business, yourself. Use a bold image, statement or novel shape to grab attention - don't be shy, this is all about attention. Don't let the exchange of your business card be the end of a conversation, but rather the beginning of one. It should stand out from the crowd and make an impact.
4. Relevance to recipient: Are you handing your card to an existing client, a headhunter, a stranger? Tailor your card to the recipients to maximise the effect. Hand over a card that demonstrates your awareness of who THEY are, and what they might find interesting about you and your business. Take an interest in who they are and they'll take more notice of who you are.
5. Context: Are these cards for you to take to meetings, leave on tables or pass out at events or trade shows. The different environments that you might want to use business cards should affect the look and purpose. If you are handing them over you can use your charm (!) to complete the story that your cards start to tell. If you are leaving them to be found, you'll need to tell the whole story in the card. And if you are at a trade event, use them as promotional tools to give discounts, send people to your website and grab attention.
6. Quality: Your card should make an impression both to the eye and in the hand. Impress your contacts by handing over a card that feels great as well as looks great. A thick, smooth stock or using a recycled, pure stock, with highest quality printing can make a long-lasting impression.
7. Get the details right: Your card should make it easy for someone to follow up and contact you. Provide correct contact details in a clear, legible way. Don't over-clutter with unnecessary information (e.g every social network you have ever joined up to), but make sure that a potential client knows how to find you.
8. Up to date: There's no point in handing out cards with old information, images or product news. Use your cards as an indication of what you are up to at the moment. If you have a new product or service, showcase it on your cards. If you use them as sales tools, but no longer stock the product or offer the service, make new cards. Order your cards in short, inexpensive runs to make sure you don't lose money by having piles of out of date cards. Don't forget to recycle the old ones though!
9. Presenting the card: The Japanese have an established, formal etiquette for handing over cards in order to set the right tone. You don't need to go that far, but do think about how YOU come across when handing out your card. Make sure you look presentable and smile and make eye contact. Though it sounds silly, it can make a big different to being remembered. Also think about how you take out your card. Rather than dragging them out of a suit pocket or the bottom of your bag, why not carry a smart card holder to keep your cards neat and clean and make a good impression when handing them over.
10. Use them!: There's no point in making the most beautiful cards to then keep them in a desk drawer - get them out there. Keep a stock of cards in your briefcase or bag at all times. When you go to a meeting or event, hand the cards out to anyone and everyone. You never know who will be the person to follow up, so give yourself the best chance possible.