“A Business Card Is Supposed To Be Useful But Not Memorable”

Business cards are a staple of communication in the business world, but their purpose has changed tremendously over the past couple of decades – especially as email has taken hold. 

There was a time when business cards were considered as a miniature brochure – they were colorful, full of content, and included eye-catching die-cut shapes or foil embossed graphics and logos. The more a business card stood out and was distinguishable from the others it was near, the better for the person whose card it was. In fact, business cards were often referred to as the “silent salesperson.”

The thought was that leaving a stack of cards at the checkout stand at a restaurant or store would have people taking them because they were so attractive. Then the content on them – much like a direct mail piece – would eventually connect with the person taking the card. People would take the cards because caught people’s attention, and then the hope was that some people would like the message contained on the card and call the number on the card to establish contact (this was before email and texting existed).

Business cards came in many sizes, from larger than typical, to smaller, to irregularly sized, to ones that were fold-over with multiple faces containing printing (some cards still do this but not near as many). Some cards were die-cut into shapes consistent with the business (homes, hammers, paint brushes, for instance).

Now, business cards are given out more discriminately. It’s not because they are more expensive – far from it. It has to do with the way we relate to people. Just as people don’t like receiving unsolicited sales calls and even have their numbers listed on “do not call” lists or use call blocking or voice mail to take such calls, people do pick up business cards at random. They typically receive them after an introduction or some personal connection to the person providing the card.

When we meet someone and want their contact information, we request their card. When someone meets us and wants to contact us again or add us to their database (“CRM”), they ask for our card or we provide it. The key difference in the way business cards were used previously and how they are used now is that previously they were given out even when they weren’t requested and people just collected them. Now, they are provided after some type of personal contact and introduction. people generally know or have met the person giving them their card.

The main issue with business cards today is their look, not in how they are used. For aging in place professionals working with an older clientele (and aging eyes), it’s vital that the cards be easy to read and uncluttered. Small type, fancy or difficult-to-read typefaces, too much content, and too little contrast can present issues for the people we want to read our cards and maintain contact with us. People should not need to use a magnifying glass to read a card. If it looks too challenging or difficult, they’ll just skip trying to read it and toss the card.

If we are trouble getting everything we would like to say or mention to fit on our business card, we need to question what we are trying to accomplish. Remember the purpose of the business card – today – is simply to convey our contact information. It is temporary. After someone gets our card and records the information in their CRM, they don’t need to retain our card. They can, but it’s not necessary to do so. We put our website, email address, and phone number (with area code!) on our card. They have everything they need to contact us in the future. As for slogans, taglines, bulleted sales points – those should all be on our website and don’t need to occupy the limited space on our business card.

A business card should look nice, but it doesn’t have to be pretty. Just the facts and the simpler it looks, the better.

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