After shaking hands, one of the rituals of meeting in business is to exchange business cards. It's almost a reflex reaction. Over the years, business cards have changed in shape, size, colors and textures. At times, they have been miniature CDs, slabs of metal, and micro booklets. Sometimes, these variations are interesting and relevant, but many times, they are just silly in their attempt to stand out from the crowd and make a meaningful first impression.
In the world of electronic communication are business cards now dead? Have the email signature lines and the Web links inside them replaced a card? Will they go the way of paper stationary, writing letters and pay phone booths? Most people say that a business card is still necessary even just because it is a tough habit to break when meeting new people.
Complicating the business card debate is that many business people are now “independent contractors” that have to print their own cards instead of having them magically appear on their desks at their new office. Many people even have printed multiple cards to fit the many businesses or roles they may be pursuing at a particular point in time.
So what information should be still be on a business card or in an email signature line?
- Office phone and cell phone: Who is at “the office” anymore?
- Mailing Address: Have a real street address, even if it is the home office. P.O. boxes are still creepy.
- Slogans: Separates what the company does from the rest of the market. Think of it as the “unique selling proposition”.
- Social media handles for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn: This makes it easier for customers and prospects to connect with you.
- QR codes: a great way to tell a bigger story right at the mobile device.
- Fax: Almost as dead as paper stationary.
- Titles: Be careful of being “the one man band” and having the title of CEO. It looks pompous.
- Pagers: Unless you are a doctor or a bicycle messenger, leave it off.
- Misspellings: Have the card proofread. Receiving a card at a networking event where the person’s title is misspelled as “principle” instead of “principal” is a fatal mistake.
- Print that is too small: 95 percent of the population over age 35 need reading glasses. They shouldn’t need to put them on to read a business card.
- E-mail: It’s fine to use a free service like Yahoo! as a back-end mail server, but spend some money to get an account that looks more professional. While firstname.lastname@example.org may be functional, it is very amateurish. Get an address that includes the company’s domain name and forward it to your Yahoo! address if necessary.
- Home numbers: It sets a bad precedent.
Remember that the business card is not an art installation. Don’t reinvent what has worked for years. If a business card is still important, grab ten favorite examples. Study them by noticing their font choices including type size and color combinations. Although the logos and paper stocks vary, good business cards are very simple. Forget the gimmicks. Simple business cards still work.