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By Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

One Of Your Best Marketing Tools Is In The Cards

Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

Y our business card usually is the first contact someone has with you or your business, so it should make a powerful and positive first impression. A card’s small size sometimes fools many into dismissing its effectiveness or considering it nothing more than a necessary printing expense.

Business cards are serious marketing opportunities if you use them. They should be unique without being overly clever and should give as much information as feasible. The most effective business card conveys a consistent image of a company. As discussed in previous columns, your marketing materials should carry a uniform look and message so as not to confuse prospects about who you are and what your company does. Your corporate identification package including business cards, letterhead, note cards and envelopes should show a clearly defined company brand and image.

There are many elements to consider when designing this small business tool that will define your company to the thousands of prospects who receive it. Will information be printed vertically or horizontally?

Will the card’s print be in flat or raised ink? Will it include photographs?

Will it have a white background or another color? Will there be information on the back of the card?

Whatever you choose, don’t fall into the low-priced trap of creating your business card on your computer. A well-designed business card is an effective advertisement for your business when it is developed with your specific market in mind. And while you can ponder various paper colors and finishes, business cards should always be printed on heavy paper, such as #65 cover stock. Heavier paper sends a message of strength and durability.

Keep Information Timely And Readable

One critical rule of business cards is to keep the information up-to-date. The returns gained when prospects are able to reach you through current contact information printed on the card far outweigh the inexpensive cost of updated cards. And remember, a card with a previous associate’s name struck through and the current company representative’s name written in does not count as up-to-date.

You should also make certain your contact information can be easily read. This seems like an obvious statement that should go without saying; however, tiny type is a favorite style among designers these days. Although it may be trendy, it’s difficult to read and can be exasperating for the recipient.

How Much Information?

Some business people think of their business cards as mini-billboards, but they forget the rule of thumb for billboard advertising: Don't include more information than can be read while traveling past at 60 miles per hour. In other words, don't overdo it! Name, title, address, phone and fax numbers, as well as e-mail and website addresses are important. A tagline, three or four bullet points to outline your products or services, or maybe an added photograph may set you apart from your competitors.

Design To Your Target Audience

When designing all of your marketing materials, you must consider your target audience, as well as how they receive and process information. Make certain your design fits your market segment. If you’re a business consultant or an attorney, you might opt for Times Roman type, darker inks and Classic Laid paper to create a more conservative look.

Overly colorful, flashy cards that carry photographs, inspirational messages or compelling quotes probably are not the best fit for industrial equipment manufacturers, although they may work well for motivational speakers and life coaches. But be careful — if you’re not knowledgeable about how to put graphics and type to work for you, you can send the wrong message. Make it a priority to design to your industry and target audiences.

Supply And Demand

Printing a visually appealing business card with up-to-date information is the first part in the two-part punch of business card marketing. The second part is what you do with it.

We’ve all known business people who ordered 1,000 business cards two years ago and still have 800 left in the box. If that person is you, you need to explore why you haven’t been distributing the cards. If you dislike your cards, throw them away and order some you’re proud to hand out.

It doesn’t take a large convention or trade show to bring customers and business owners together. Informal meetings, chamber of commerce or civic functions, and networking groups are some of the best times to exchange business cards. If the person you are speaking with seems interested in your product or service, don’t hesitate to offer that person a business card.

Always have a liberal supply of cards with you, even when you’re attending a non-business function such as a basketball game, or grocery shopping. Not having business cards with you is a significant marketing mistake. Aside from appearing unprepared, you’re missing an opportunity to make money.

Being asked for a business card is a compliment. It is an invitation to sell in a world where more than 3,000 marketing messages each day encourage us to tune out other advertising media. Not having a business card at that critical moment is subtly offensive and sends a nonverbal message that you’re not serious about growing your company, or too forgetful to be entrusted with someone else’s business.

To avoid those embarrassing moments, keep business cards in several places such as your car, briefcase and desk. Make checking for business cards part of your daily routine, ensuring that you always have an adequate supply.

Strategic Use

You might also consider developing a strategy for using your business cards to actively promote your business.

That strategy could be as simple as including a business card with all of your correspondence including business letters, thank-you notes and products you ship.

Another idea is to ask at least one business associate per week to take 10 of your cards and pass them along to those they know or meet who might need your product or service. Offer to do the same for them.

October 2005