The Art of an Elegant Business Card

So you want to know the answer to the classic question “What do I put on my business card?”

Take a quick trip into the psyche of your target audience and use the information you find there to create an effective marketing piece — on a canvas as small as the palm of your next client’s hand.

The Art of an Elegant Business Card

It’s that time of year. Once a year I “bite the bullet” and
take a hard look at my printed marketing materials to evaluate how I’m
presenting my business and myself to existing and potential clients. What does
your business card say about you? Go on, take one and look at it. Does it properly
represent your professionalism, experience, and expertise? If it is less than
perfect, this month’s column will help you turn it into a more effective
business tool.

It always hits me in the fall, just before I attend the annual IVAA’s
Summit for Virtual Assistants. Since my business is writing and marketing, how
can I show my face if my own materials are less than perfect? Simply put…I

The fall is “conference” time for many industries – and
the NAR conference is just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to ensure
that you have effective cards in time to distribute at your own fall events.

A business card is:

  • A quick, easy, and universally accepted method to introduce yourself to
    clients, potential clients, professional contacts, and peers
  • A marketing tool to indicate your preferred method of contact and direct
    individuals to call

Less is More

Many people try to include everything possible onto this tiny 2×3.5 inch canvas.
Resist that temptation!

When deciding what to include on your business card, less is ALWAYS more. Powerful,
effective business cards take full advantage of the blank “white space” to frame and accentuate the text on the card. Cards with clout aren’t
cluttered. They have a name and a couple contact options—that’s
all. To give your business card clout:

  • Don’t spend valuable space on your card stating the obvious
  • Make sure it projects the image you want others to see
  • When writing the content for your card, remember that the more you include,
    the less powerful your statement
  • Don’t use every field offered in the standard business card forms
  • Write each word carefully and if it’s not essential, omit it

If you list all your designations, professional memberships, and affiliations
on your card, your basic information will be lost. Most of your clients won’t
be impressed by all the acronyms after your name, since they won’t even
know what they mean. Save this information for your website or brochure, where
you have space to elaborate on what your credentials mean and how they benefit
your clients. Keep your card simple.

Start with the End in Mind

Before you begin, determine what you want the card to accomplish. Many people
miss this essential step. They forget to target market with their business card.
Instead, they create an overwhelming volume of content that buries essential

Business cards are a first contact and primary information tool. My own card
doesn’t include my multiple e-mail accounts, my IM handles, or even my
physical address. It only includes the information required to reach my goals:

  1. Get people to my website to learn more about my business and the services
    I offer. This is accomplished by the logo. To include my URL again would be
    redundant and would crowd my card.
  2. Be interesting enough to encourage a call. My toll free number was selected
    to match my business name and be easy to remember (1-800-Wicked-8).
  3. Present my business and my own name in a format that is aesthetically pleasing
    enough to keep. This is accomplished with rich printing effects and high quality
    paper rather than something run-of-the-mill and “slick.”

My card has my logo (which now includes the “dot com” for cleaner
marketing materials and a super-short tagline), name, office phone, 1-800 number,
and primary e-mail address. That’s it.

I made the decision to eliminate my fax number – that information is
on my website and most first contacts aren’t made by fax. And, even callers
staring at my old business card while talking to me ask me for my fax number
and then say, “Oh, I guess it’s here on your card” when I
give them the number. Most people confirm a fax number before sending anyway,
so why clutter your card?

The Art of Writing Your Business Card

Like any writing project, the art of creating the perfect business card is
not determining what to include. The art is in determining what can be removed
to make the remaining message crisp, tight, and effective.

A business card should be:

  • Memorable – it should make a statement
  • Clean and uncluttered – a good representation of your organization
    skills and professionalism
  • Easy to read at a glance – offering essential contact information

A business card should not be:

  • A wallet-sized resume
  • A compendium of every possible contact method
  • A miniature billboard

If you include a business phone, extension number, home phone, cell phone,
pager, fax, toll-free, and voice mail number on your card, you have cluttered
the pristine canvas of this would-be marketing tool leaving your potential client
wondering how to reach you.

Too many numbers are intimidating—not professional. Too many options
make your card less customer-friendly. Use your card to direct clients to your
preferred contact method. Simplify a potential client’s contact options,
rather than increasing them.

Include a single number or (at most) a local and a toll free option. If your
main business number is on your card you can forward it to your cell when you
leave the office, and set up voice mail to automatically answer if you don’t.
Clients won’t call a multitude of different numbers trying to reach you.
If reaching you is difficult, they won’t bother.

No Place to Cut Corners

I believe in cutting corners wherever possible. I know the best marketing is
publicity (achieved through community and professional involvement) and excellent
referrals (achieved by going above and beyond to keep clients happy) – neither of which requires cash layout. I recommend and utilize methods to cut
costs in many areas of running a business. However, I will not cut corners on
business cards. I’m spending more on my business cards this year than
most small businesses will spend on a three-year supply of letterhead, and as
frugal as I am about many things, I spend this money with a smile.

Business cards are far too essential to just “throw” together to
get them done, and too important to ignore any detail. Personally, my cards
are simple and elegant with an extra punch of embossing and a touch of foil
on thick, rich, textured paper. They are appealing to sight as well as touch.
Since that small card is often a potential client’s first (and lasting)
impression of you and your business, don’t skimp. Don’t be tempted
to “print them yourself” on a computer printer.

Consciously or not, people associate the quality of your service with the quality
of your business cards.

Now, realizing that your business card is an extension of your professional
persona – check your card again. What does it say about you? Does it represent
you well? Are you proud to distribute it to anyone, anywhere? If not, it’s
time for a business card facelift.

© Copyright 2003 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft

This October 2003 article appears in the monthly “Word Magic” column
in the newsletter.