Rethink your business card

BY CHUCK GREEN The business card—many of us use it more than any other single marketing item, yet it very often demonstrates the least marketing smarts. A conventional card includes a logo and some basic information—the name of the organization, the name of the employee, their title, phone numbers, and street address. What can you do to make your business card generate business? That requires a little “jolt thinking.”

Jolt thinking questions the basic premise—the what, why, and how of doing something. Even though design is a creative exercise, it is fraught with formula thinking—a newsletter is 8 1/2 by 11 inches, a brochure has a headline on the cover, text in the middle and a logo on the back, and a business card is 3 1/2 by 2 inches, printed on one side using a boilerplate layout and the usual information.

Jolt thinking is the opposite of formula thinking. It challenges you to examine your mission, strategy, and execution of a project. How? By answering three basic questions: What is the purpose? Why is it done the way it's done? And how can I do it most effectively?

INFORMATION CARD One of the “whys” of business cards is to get folks to hold onto it until they need it. And one way to increase the chance of having it saved is to incorporate information your prospect might refer to from time to time. While some folks print something general, such as a calendar on the back of their card, you might choose something that is specific to your field. For example, a grocery salesperson might print common weights and measures, a computer trainer could include a short list of keyboard shortcuts, or a social worker might list the toll-free numbers of resource organizations.

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REFERRAL CARD If you're part of an organization that recruits members—a club, a church, or a professional group for example—a referral card makes it easy to introduce the organization and invite a prospect to your next meeting. On the front there's a place to fill in the date, time and location of the next meeting, the address, your name and phone number. On the back, include a brief overview of the organization and any necessary details. Give each member a handful and encourage them to distribute them when they see an opportunity.

BILLBOARD CARD Jolt thinking often approaches a problem from a different direction. Most organizations ignore side two of their business cards. Why not use the blank side to present your advertising message? You can design it just as you would a billboard—a to-the-point message that can be understood at a glance. Use less than 10 words set in a readable typeface and some eye-catching graphics or a photograph.

NOTE CARD If you're often jotting down notes on your card, why not make it note-worthy? On side two, or on a second panel, include a lined section to accommodate notes you write before handing over the card. You might, for example, use it to write down prices, a date or time for a meeting, a product name or the name of someone in your organization your prospect should contact, or to jot down specifications.

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CARD PAD Do you have to meet your prospects face-to-face to give them your card? Not hardly. If your organization will profit from anonymous contacts, a card pad is one good way to make connections. You simply design your cards as you normally would, but print them on slightly lighter paper and have them assembled into pads. Any commercial printer can produce them. Tack the finished pad on a bulletin board, leave it on a table in a waiting room or on a retail counter—anyplace the audience for your idea, product or service might frequent.

COUPON CARD A conventional card contains passive information —a “jolt thinking” card generates business. One way to do this is to use your card as a coupon. Invite your prospect to use it to request a discount on their first or next order, as admission to an event, or to redeem it for a premium if they pay a visit. You can make your card look like a coupon or simply add a line such as “Bring this card in for a 10 percent discount on your next printing order.” Or, as the example shows, you could punch the card each time the customer presents as an incentive to visit more than once.

ROTARY CARD In many cases, you want your name to end up in your prospect's rotary file—once you get that piece of real estate you're bound to keep it for awhile. Why don't you make your business card a rotary card? It provides a visual cue to place it where you hope it will do the most good. If you're not sure whether to use the large or small size, most commercial printers can print a single sheet with both versions.

STICKER CARD A jolt thinker matches the solution to the problem. If you don't have many good opportunities to hand your cards out—think of alternative ways to distribute them. When you print your card on a label, for example, you can attach it to a package, a product sample, or on a booklet or brochure. Even if you don't foresee using a lot of stickers, ask your commercial printer to run 50 or 100 sheets of adhesive-backed stock when they're printing your conventional cards. It won't cost much and you'll be able to see if a sticker card it is productive for you.

WEB CARD As more and more prospects have access to the World Wide Web, business cards and other organizational marketing materials are being used to direct prospects and suspects to the kind of up-to-the-minute, detailed information you can offer online. If you already have a significant Web presence, you might consider a Web-oriented card that, in addition to providing conventional information, provides a quick index of your site.

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Business card checklist

Here are some of the many details you might include on your next business card. Have some additional ideas? Click here to add to the list.

Name of person
Professional/academic designations

Pronunciation of unusual names
Department/division name
Organization street address
Floor/suite/mail stop
Alternate P.O. box address
City/state/state abbreviation
Zip+four/postal code
Home street address

Voice phone/extension number
Toll-free phone number
Mobile phone number
Pager number
Fax phone number
Home phone number
E-mail address
Web site address
Networking addresses (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on)

Office hours
Time zone
Appointment fill-in

Name of organization
Mission statement/business description
Product/service categories
Resource info
Special offer
Organizational affiliations

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