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Better Business Cards

What your business card says about you

Think a jazzy business card will make a potential customer remember your business? Possibly, but maybe not the way you intended.

"Most business cards rely on exotic fonts, illiterate color combinations and small type that's hard for middle-aged people like me to read," says Jeff Duntemann, editor of Visual Developer Magazine. "As a result, most cards not only miss the mark but are completely dismissed, along with the business."

It doesn't have to be that way, says Lynella Grant, author of The Business Card Book (Off The Page Press). "The average person receives more than 3,000 commercial messages each day, so business cards need to stand out from all the clutter," Grant says. "[Cards are] the handshake that a businessperson leaves behind."

And that handshake should be firm--literally. A flimsy card may give people reason to think your company is insubstantial. Grant says the feel of a business card is part of the all-important "body language" that makes a lasting first impression and helps strengthen the credibility of your business.

Don't be wishy-washy in your wording, either. Carefully craft your image and message to show you know exactly what you're doing. "People can come across as 'newbies' if they say something like 'Joe Smith and Associates' or 'Joe Smith Enterprises' on their business card," Grant says. "The word 'enterprise' immediately suggests that a person is wearing many hats but has no real focus to his or her business."

Instead, create a benefit-oriented card that simply states the product or service being offered, like "Joe Smith, Web Page Designer." When you have one small space to communicate the entirety of your business identity, it's better to be clear than fancy.

Julia Miller is a Los Angeles business writer specializing in sales and marketing.

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