There has been some debate recently over whether anyone even needs a business card anymore. I spoke to PR specialist Lizzy Shaw about this.
Bradford Shimp: Are business cards dead?
Lizzy Shaw: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I seem to be getting (and giving) more business cards than ever. Of course there are various electronic ways to exchange contact information, but I do think that most people still prefer to exchange physical cards. At networking events or other encounters, it’s great to be able to write on the card for future reference. I tend to write the date, place or event and then anything I need to remember in order to follow up properly, such as any information I promised to send along, introductions I promised to make, etc.
BS: What is wrong with most business cards?
LS: Well, it depends on the use of the card. But for networking events or other occasions of this type, common mistakes that people make with their business cards include (in no particular order):
1. Intricate, unreadable fonts for the copy – people need to be able to read your card
2. Intricate, unreadable typography-based logos – people need to be able to read the name of your company
3. Intricate, unreadable art-based logos – same as #2
4. Font size that is too small for important info – like the company name, phone number or email address – or your own name!
5. Card color that is so dark, the information is hard to read – it is also very hard to write legibly on a dark card
6. Card stock that is so glossy you can’t write on it – even with a sharpie
7. Odd-sized or shaped card stock that can’t easily be slipped into a pocket or card case
Many networking events or business encounters take place in ill-lit rooms – it’s important to make it easy for people to get and see your most important information. And it’s important to have a good amount of white or light-colored space on the card for writing – a blank back or at least minimal writing/information on the back is good.
Put it this way: if your purpose at an event or meeting is to network and make it easy for those you meet to contact you, then you need a simple, beautifully-designed card that is easy to read – with all the pertinent information easily accessible.
If you are an artist or designer or other creative person, you can have cards that are as imaginative, arresting, interesting and different as you’d like – in amazing colors, card stocks or other materials as you desire, in any shape or size that you desire; but for the kind of event described above, it’s good to have another “business” card to hand out as well.
BS: Should you print something on the back of a business card?
LS: Printing on the back is fine as long as there is still room to write. Some people have designs or information printed on the back, but they have used lighter colors which can be written over easily. That’s good too.
BS: How can you make a business card stand out?
LS: With great graphic design. If you are not a designer yourself, find the best designer you can afford. Look at their portfolios and show them what you like and what you don’t like. But great use of color and design is what makes a card eye-catching. I happen to have a fabulous business card, if I do say so myself. I have an amazing designer with whom I work – she is worth every penny!!! (www.nicnormanstudios.com). My business card reflects all my ideas of what I think makes a great business card:
Strong graphic design
Great, EASY TO READ typographical logo
All contact information easy to read – and in a great font
Lots of white space
Here is an image of my card (I have blacked out the address line):
BS: What are some ways to improve upon the traditional interaction of just handing someone a business card (and hoping they will call you)?
LS: Well, this seems super-obvious, but I don’t just hand my card to tons of random people at an event. If I have conversed with someone and there is a reasonable possibility of making some business or personal connection with them, THEN we exchange cards; I do try to follow up with a personal email either later that day/evening or the next day; this may include following them on Twitter, “Liking” their fan page on Facebook, etc. If I feel like I made an extra-great connection, or if we have promised to exchange some information, I will usually call them the next day.
I don’t know how to improve on this. There is NO substitute for a real connection with people. If I go to an event and all of a sudden I am added to all these random email data bases, or if I get emails that are obviously sent to a mass, I am turned off by that and don’t respond. We all get a million emails a day; just because I briefly met someone at an event, that doesn’t give this relative stranger the right to add me to their mailing list without permission, or badger me for help or information that I have neither the time nor inclination to give. Please always treat people with courtesy, be respectful of their time and DON’T mass-email every attendee of an event – that is rude, unprofessional and a nuisance.
BS: Are there good alternatives to business cards?
LS: Well, of course there are all kinds of electronic ways to share information; web-enabled cell phones and PDA’s can of course exchange virtual “business cards” and there are many apps out there for this purpose. But as I said above, I don’t think there is a substitute for a real connection with people; business cards are a tangible projection of your business personality; they speak for you when you’re not there, so have a good one!