Are Business Cards Actually Hurting Your Small Business Marketing Efforts?

Even with digital media, SEO, tweeting and websites, marketing with business cards is still one of the most powerful and effective ways to spread the word about your products and services, especially for small business owners.

It’s funny how business works. Small business owners are typically highly scrutinized and need to have all their ducks in a row to make a good impression. On the other hand, large companies can goof up – like Chipotle staging a fake social media hack – and it’s all good. I can’t change the world, but I can help you survive it … one helluva business card at a time.

Business cards are marketing 101 for most small business owners. Some choose DIY, while others spring for pricey printers … but we all know we need them. So the question becomes, “are you putting the right stuff on your business card to effectively market your small business?”

You see we don’t expect business cards to sell for us, but they should at least say SOMETHING GOOD when we’re not around. What does your card say about you?

  • Paper-thin cards created with card stock from Office Max say that while you recognize the need for business cards, you don’t or can’t want to invest the time and money to make them stand out.
  • One-sided business cards say you have the basics covered, but didn’t take time to take full advantage of this marketing tool.
  • Alas, high-quality business cards (sturdy, color and well designed) say that you know and care about your company’s brand.

Even as a marketing professional, I’ve committed all three crimes.

business cards for small business
Business card design by

So, yes I stand up. I am a marketer and my business cards used to suck.

But I’m much wiser now and am happy to pass on my 5 tips for business card success.

1. Add your photo/memorable product image.

How many times have you gone to a networking event, come home with a card and totally forgot what the person looked like or what they were even offering? I do it often. So I thought, if I’m forgetting faces, other people are too.

Fix: Slap your face right on the card so that when they look at it, they’ll remember you. This is especially helpful if you travel in close knit groups where you’re likely to see the contact again. Don’t want to have your face plastered on cards, opt for a memorable product image. A picture of a fresh hairdo works for a hairstylist. How about a photo of a baker’s most tantalizing treat?

2. Tell what you do.

So you’d think with a name, “BAAB Writing and Marketing Services,” no one would ever ask what I do. But they do … and often. So to fix that, I clearly spell out my core services and added a short tagline. I also dropped the president title. While it sounds good, it really holds no meaning in a room full of entrepreneurs … who also call themselves “president.”

3. Use the back of the card.

I was so embarrassed when I’d share my business card and people would flip it over and see that it was blank. What a waste! But you live and learn. Now the back of my card promotes my free marketing tips. Next phase: we’ll add a client testimonial back there.

4. Don’t get too creative.

Creativity is great when it comes to business cards because you want to stand out. But you don’t want to be so creative that you card ends up in a filing cabinet because it’s too big to fit in a wallet or business card holder. Steer clear of oversized business cards. While they sound good, the recipient really doesn’t know what to do with it, except file it away. Next phase: we are looking into multi-use business cards – maybe it’s a keychain or an in case of emergency key tag.

5. Don’t write in your contact information.

If you need to write in your new number, website address or email, buy new cards. Please stop this practice as it portrays you as cheap and a cheap business owner will not use the necessary resources and time to provide superior service. If you happen to be in between cards, get the other person’s card or email address and offer to connect via email. You can also get the person’s address and send a nice note and fabulous new business card.

What’s the Word: Business cards pack a powerful punch when marketing small businesses, but you can blow it with poorly designed cards. Just a few tweaks can have you recouping money spent on quality cards.

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