Everyone has been in this situation before: you attend a large networking event with food, drinks and networking and inevitably by the end of the evening you cannot remember most of the people that you met. Your brain merged everyone all into a Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe and you’re left with nothing to remember them by but an inconspicious business card. After many years working in corporate and being given my business cards, I simply accepted them as-is and never gave it much thought about its importance. It was not until I became an independent consultant and started running my own entrepreneurial business that I realized I had the need for business cards and the opportunity to design them. Entrepreneurs take note: business cards are actually more complex than they appear! It is one of the most strategic decisions you will need to make for your business. There are some basic reasons why your business cards are vital to your marketing success. This piece of paper represents your brand image; it’s your “brand ambassadors.” How can your business cards help you stay memorable at a networking event and accurately reflect your personal brand? With full disclosure, I do not know everything there is about business cards but I do know that the best practices in marketing can also be applied to business cards. Here are 3 marketing best practices to consider when creating business cards.

1. Differentiate yourself

People are bombarded with marketing at every minute of the day and when it comes down to the moment they are ready to buy, the brand that is memorable will be a huge factor in their final purchasing decision. At a recent networking event, after each conversation, I handed out my business card and without fail, every single person commented on my unique square-shaped business card and many surprised “OoOhh!” on the velvety smooth texture of the card. Many people even connected the dot about me, “You’re a marketer, of course your business card would be awesome!” This is a priceless first impression about my brand that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

“It is a marketing best practice to ensure that you find ways to differentiate your brand and value proposition.”

Since you have only one chance to make that first impression, it is critical to properly represent your brand and communicate your value. Ideally, you want people to know how simply amazing you are at the very first interaction. So in a networking situation where you rushing to meet a lot of people and blindly accepting business cards, it’s important to be memorable and stand out. Quite often people don’t even look at what you gave them until they get home and may confuse your business card for someone else they talked to or worse, don’t remember talking to you at all. Well, that means you have lost a networking opportunity and the money you spent on that card was a huge waste. I selected a square business card because there are 20 reasons why square business cards are pretty slick and I wanted my card to immediately communicate that I am different from the pack. Some people will find my square cards annoying because it does not fit in with the rest of the pack but that’s precisely the risk I am willing to take in order to stand out. There are also other unique card shapes to consider as well, such as slim cards and rounds cards. There is nothing really wrong with sticking with the standard size either as long as you find another way to differentiate yourself, such as paper type (kraft, linen), design orientation (vertical), color (bold, bright), corners (rounded) or even texture (embossment). Challenge yourself to do one thing that is unique with your business card. You will find that it is a great return on your investment. People will remember you long after they met you.

2. Delight your audience

Who doesn’t love surprises or appreciate that someone thoughtfully designed a special experience for them? Sometimes networking process can be very forgettable; you attend one, you’ve attended them all. From the introduction, to small talk about weather, to what do you do, to nice to meet you, to here’s my card, and the finale, let’s keep in touch (but not really). How can we interrupt that robotic process with something that makes them think, “Oooh, you’re interesting. Let me keep your card and add you on Linkedin later and send some referrals your way?” It’s time we find ways to surprise someone at the very first touch of your card. How did I achieve this with my own business card? I selected silk paper for my business cards and it is like touching a soft velvety rose petal. It is still paper but feels as soft as a baby’s bottom! I never heard so many delightful squeals from grown people as when they touch my business cards. It was worth every single penny and I did not have to spend a lot at all.

“It is a marketing best practice to delight your audience and make them feel that an experience was personalized just for them.”

How did selecting the most premium cardstock for my business card had such an immediate impact on my brand? Perhaps this simple difference in texture amongst a world full of hard surfaces that we touch all day, that people found it refreshing and sentimental. Perhaps by providing people with a sense of warmth and comfort at the first interaction is a nice and welcomed change of pace. There are many other genius business card ideas for every career out there. Challenge yourself to be as creative as possible and as your budget allows. Either way, you must explore a way to surprise the person that you hand your business card to and they will remember how happy you made them feel and they will want to stay in touch with you and hopefully, even recommend your business to whoever they meet.

3. Brand when you can

If people have trouble remembering your name, it won’t be much different for them to remember your company’s name. Business cards create a strong brand identity and speak volumes about who you are, what you offer, and how serious you are about marketing yourself and business. At that recent networking event, of the dozen people that I talked to, five people (42%) did not have their company logo on the back of their business card. What a loss of opportunity to have the last word, “Remember me.” The standard is having your logo prominently centered and in a contrasting color on that back of the business card. Instead of the usual yellow circle logo design, I opted to feature my company name without the confines of a circle so that it can be a larger font-size and overlaid as a white font-color on a dark gray background, which is quite a contrast to the front of the business card.

“It is a marketing best practice to promote your brand at every given opportunity.”

While it’s fine to have other content on the back of your business card, just make sure you have your logo on there too. Carefully assess if what you added is as valuable as ensuring your brand is remembered. What’s more, two out of the five business cards that I received (40%) had absolutely nothing on the back. It is more than worthwhile to pay a little extra for the chance to subliminally etch your brand into someone’s mind. Lastly, one out of the two blank business cards used a home computer to print their business cards and the perforated cardstock felt flimsy and had jagged edges. Ironically, despite their efforts in having a business card, I probably would have a better impression of them if I had never received anything at all. Business cards are very cheap and often time less than $8 for a 500 pack (that’s less than 2 cents per card!) and there are discount codes galore online. When you do the cost analysis, you will see that it is cheaper than the cost of paper, ink and the printer itself. There are many things you should do-it-yourself (DIY) and it’s cute and respected, but your business card is not one of them. It is highly recommended that you order your business cards from a professional place, go with the double sided option and put your logo on the back. If all that they remember is your brand then that’s considered a big victory.

Your brand should reflect the kind of professionalism that people have come to expect and you’d want for yourself and your business. These three basic marketing best practices of differentiating yourself, delighting your audience, and branding your business that should always be applied when creating your business cards.

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