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Nonprofit Consultants: Is your business card losing you business?, by Nonprofit Consultant Zone

Besides a website, a business card is probably the most important piece of business collateral you have. Like a website, it tells people that you’re “real.” It makes folks notice you and what you do. And the truth is, a bad business card will lose you clients. At best, they won’t take you seriously. At worst, they’ll take it as an example of all of your work, and be embarrassed to recommend you to others.

With all of its importance, I am shocked at how little consideration is given to what goes on a business card, one of the few takeaways in your sales arsenal.

Let’s look at a few essentials:

Feel: This may be the first thing that anyone notices. Humans are a tactile species, and that means that the “feel” of your business card is an essential element. What do I mean by “feel”? Paper quality. “Better” business cards have some weight to them. They’re of a thickness that says “this is real.” I have no survey to point to, but my impression based on my own experience tells me that given all other conditions as equal, the heavier business card translates into more better impressions, and more business.

Information: Oh, right, you want to say something on that card! Resist the temptation to put every single way to get in touch or otherwise view your work. Even though you may be able to put in teeny tiny font the addresses of all 10 social media networks you inhabit (plus your three phone numbers and five email addresses), it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Simple is better. Pick the most popular ways to connect. (For my thoughts on a fax number, look for my “Do you need a fax” article elsewhere on ThinkNP.)This raises another point… your physical address. More and more I see people’s physical address omitted, especially when one’s business is run from her or his home. No problem. This isn’t your driver’s license. Documents are rarely sent via paper anymore. However, be prepared to write it on the back of your card when someone needs it.

Graphics and Typeface: This is where most people spend a lot of time, and for good reason. These are the elements most see as an expression of “me.” I will never claim to be a graphic designer. That said, I know that clean, readable type is essential for communication. If nothing else, it makes your card more easily scanned by smartphones and other data input devices. the same goes for your graphics. You want something that’s not in the way of your message and the information you want your client to receive.

Color: Related to graphics and typeface, your “colors” are an essential visual element and make an impression, whether you want it to or not. There are plenty of sources that can tell you about the “meaning” of colors in various cultures. Pay attention to these studies. Be consistent with the rest of your branding.

QR Code: I heard someone recently say that the QR Code is the eight-track-tape of our age. Could be. What I know, however, is that short of directly scanning the text on your card, there is no other good way to make the bridge between the paper and electronic realms. If you want to bring your client to your web page, or a portfolio of samples, the QR code may be the easiest way. That said, it will be via their mobile device because I don’t know anyone that has a QR scanner on their computer. That means your website needs to be mobile enabled.

Size and orientation: Business cards have a standard size (and that standard differs between North America and Europe.) Some would suggest that making a different size, or orientation (vertical) makes it, and by extension, you, stand out. You need to weigh that ability to stand out with whatever pain it may be to use the card for its intended purpose. You don’t want to stand out so much that your card won’t fit into a device for card storage, and is unceremoniously thrown out.

Finish: The “finish” of a business card relates to how you imagining your recipient using it. What do I mean by “finish”? Gloss, matte, etc. It’s the coating (or not) that you have applied by the printer. If you expect your client to write on the card, then no coating makes it easier to apply all kinds of ink. This is important if you plan to use the back of your card. (See below.)

Corners: Square corners are “standard.” Rounded is usually an upgrade. Take your pick. I don’t see any particular advantage other than an expression of style.

The back: You pay for every square inch/centimeter of your card. The most underutilized? The back. I can’t count how many blank backed cards I’ve received. This is valuable space: use it! What can go there? Your motto or mission statement. A link to your portfolio. I’ve been very successful with “I met Matt : _______ [place], on ____________ [date] and I need to remember _____________ [to do]. Even if they don’t write on it in front of me, it’s a prompt for taking the next step from our conversation.

Much of what I outlined above is more than you’ll find with the cards you get for free from an online printer. (Not that online printers are bad. I use one.) Know, however, that you need to pay for even modest quality. (Please, pay at least enough to have the “free business card” printer’s logo removed from the back.)

In my opinion, a quality business card is essential. Next to a quality website (which, ideally, should coordinate graphically with your card), your card, and what goes on a business card, is your most important business advertising investment. Treat it like that.

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