Business cards a portable, powerful marketing tool

By Kimberly Hilden, Herald Business Journal Assistant Editor
The Herald Business Journal
August 2001 Web Exclusive

Business cards may be small, but the job they do isn’t.

They are used in introductions and as references. They carry contact information as well as information about the business itself. And they get around: circulating your company’s name at networking breakfasts, business lunches and meetings.

“It’s rare to find a marketing method that’s more affordable, portable, versatile and readily accepted,” said Diana Ratliff, CEO of BusinessCardDesign.com and author of the e-book “Business Card Breakthroughs” (available at www.businesscarddesign.com).

Nowadays, that “marketing method” comes in different colors, with different lettering and different card stock. Some have photos on them, others logos only. Some are oriented horizontally, others vertically. And the information they carry has grown with technology to include phone numbers, pager numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses, Web addresses, etc.

To get the most out of your business card, it’s important to decide how you’ll use your card before you order it, Ratliff said.

“Will you tack the card on bulletin boards? Use it to get past ‘gatekeepers’? Give it to current clients? Introduce yourself with it, or give it to others while asking them to refer people to you?” she said. “That decision strongly influences the design and content. Most people are better off creating more than one card than trying to create one card that does everything.”

If your clientele is made up of businesses, the design should be a little more sophisticated, because those clients know a little about business cards themselves, said Andrew Ballard, President of Lynnwood-based Marketing Solutions.

“If you’re a new company, especially if you’re appealing to business … your business card says a lot about who you are. It says as much or more as your handshake does,” he said, recommending that, at minimum, a two-color logo be used.

Card stock is another point to consider. And views differ on its importance.

For a lot of businesses coming in to get cards made, the stock isn’t a major factor thanks to the advances in graphics technology, said Julie Lee, a graphic artist at The Alderwood Printery Inc.

“New technology for creating artwork has really changed, has gotten really fancy,” she said, allowing the artist to simulate textures visually, such as a marbled look.

But the weight of the card does send a message, Ratliff said.

“A heavier card stock implies that you’re going to be around for a while and that you take your business seriously,” she said.

If clients already take your business seriously, the card stock may not matter as much, Ballard said.

“If you are the manager of a Fred Meyer … as long as the corporate identity is there, it doesn’t matter how heavy the card is because Fred Meyer already has the credibility and brand recognition,” he said.

Creating a business card that works for you involves more than determining its use, its design and stock, though. The card must fit into your bottom line.

“Budget’s a big factor,” Lee said, adding that an order for 500 business cards can “run anywhere from $25 to $500.”

Luckily, color printing “is getting cheaper all the time,” she said. “Plus, with a lot of businesses, from real estate and in sales, pictures say a lot. People remember them better if the picture’s in there, and if you can get it in color, so much the better.”