Card Sharp

Success is in the cards when you've got a business card that conveys the right message. Here's what to look for.

A business card is an integral part of any good marketing plan.For its size and cost, it's probably the most powerful part. Ofcourse, you can't expect your business card to tell the wholestory about your company. What you should expect it to do ispresent a professional image people will remember. A business cardcan make or break a client's first impression of your company.In fact, this little card makes as much of an impression as yourpersonal appearance-the suit you wear or the briefcase youcarry.

Choose a card style that's appropriate for your business,industry and personal style. If you're a funeral director, forexample, you don't want to be caught handing out day-glow cardswith cartoon figures on them. If you're a mechanic whosespecialty is converting old Beetles into dune buggies, a formal,black-on-white engraved card will probably be dropped into thenearest circular file. When crafting a design, start with the stylethat best supports the business image you wish to project. To helpyou get started, here are five different card styles for you toconsider:

  • Basic cards. A basic card is usually printed in blackink on plain white or cream stock. This is a good style to choosewhen utility is all you need. It's a no-nonsense approach thatcan appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed byfancy design features-the people who want "just the facts,ma'am." The design is simple, and the information is clearand concise.
  • Picture cards. Having your face on your card-whetherit's a photograph, a drawing or a caricature-helps a contactremember you the next time he or she sees you. Images representinga product or service, or a benefit your business provides, can helpyou communicate your business better than dozens of words. A splashof color (rather than just black and white) is often helpful on apicture card, too.
  • Tactile cards. Some cards are distinguished not so muchby how they look as by how they feel. They may use nonstandardmaterials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges,folds or embossing. Tactile cards tend to be considerably moreexpensive than regular cards because they use nonstandardproduction processes such as die cuts. But for some businesses,this more unusual card may be worth the price.
  • Multipurpose cards. A card can do more than promote yourname and business-it can also serve as a discount coupon, anappointment reminder or some other function. It may also providevaluable information that the average person may need. For example,a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guestswho are walking around the local area. A card of any type can bemade multipurpose by adding any of these types of features.
  • Outside-the-box cards. A wildly original, fanciful orextravagant presentation can draw extra attention. Creativity knowsno bounds-except the amount of money you wish to spend. Someexamples are cards made of chocolate or that folded out into aminiature box to keep small items in.

Now It's Time to Order

Once you've settled on a basic idea for your business card,it's time to head to the printer. There are four primaryconsiderations when ordering business cards:

  • Weight. Most business cards are printed on 80-poundcover stock.
  • Finish. Of the three available-smooth, linen andlaid-the smooth finish is the most popular.
  • Color. Right now, two-color cards predominate. Ifyou're selecting from a catalog, there are between five and 15standard colors to choose from. If you have another ink color inmind, your printer can show you a Pantone Matching System book,which includes every shade under the sun.
  • Quantity. It generally pays to print more cards ratherthan fewer, because the printer's cost is primarily in thesetup.

Design Resource

For more detailed descriptions of the different types ofbusiness cards, take a look at It's in the Cards. In it,Ivan Misner, Candace Bailly and Dan Georgevich review more than2,000 business cards from 10 countries and select more than 200examples of some of the best, which are shown throughout the bookin full-color.

One Final Tip

Though this may sound like obvious advice, it might cost youanother trip to the printer if you don't heed it: Include theessentials. This means your name, title, company name, address,phone number (or numbers, if you want to include your cell), e-mailand Web site. If someone wants to contact you after receiving yourcard, you sure as heck want them to be able to.

Compiled from articles written by Kim T. Gordon and IvanMisner previously published on Entrepreneur.com.

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