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Business Cards: Make Them Work for You

by Cathie Izor

When you meet a new business contact, your business cards (and theirs) can be powerful tools to promote your business and improve your knowledge. But, you need to know how to use and design them effectively.

Using Business Cards

You have your cards in hand. Now, how do you use them?

Exchange contact information, after briefly talking to a new business contact. Ask for the other person's card first. If they ask you for your card, great! But, if they don't ask, don't offer it because you can be perceived as pushy. You have their card and that's enough for you to stay in touch.

Write notes on their business card to help you remember them. Otherwise, if you walk away from a meeting with 10 new business cards, you may not remember who was who. Describe their appearance or something you talked about.

Offer your help so that you can maintain the contact. In your conversation, you may offer to find out something for them. Or you may want to refer them to another person you know. Note this on their card. Then, make sure you follow-up.

Ask for their help. You may find that they have a referral for you so you will want to follow-up on that. Or, they may know about a resource, such as a website, that they think could help you. Make notes on their card so you can follow-up with the right person.

Be considerate and personal. Make your business card exchange after a genuine conversation. Don’t just hand out cards to everyone you meet. Make the friendly contact first.

Follow-up.  After receiving someone's business card, follow-up with a note card. Enclose your business card and make some comment that personalizes the note.

Designing Business Cards

Make your business card design effective. The appearance of the card and what information it  includes also affects how well they work for you. The next time you are getting low on cards or want to redesign them, critically look for ways you could improve them.

Ask friends to look at your card and suggest changes. Ask them to give you honest feedback. If they know you want to change them, they're more likely to suggest improvements. If they know you have just printed 10,000 new cards, they might shy away from saying what could be better.

Evaluate what information you include on your card. Does it give the contact information you want to use? If your business is not easily understood from the name, make sure the card gives a brief insight into what you do and why you are an excellent provider.

Consider the readability of the words on the card. Is the type size large enough to read easily? Check that your background color and type colors are coordinated so that the lettering has good contrast to the background.

Include your photo. Recipients of your card will better remember you and won't have to scribble notes on the back, such as, "tall, black hair, glasses, friendly, wart on nose."

Use the back side of the card. Make the back of the card a place for additional useful information. Include a QR code that links to a free and helpful article on your website.

Allow some writable, white space. Even with your photo, you or the person who gets your card may want to jot down a note or two to remember you and do a follow-up. Also, make sure that the card surface is not so glossy that you can't write on it.

Project an image that is a good fit with your business. If you have a fun business, your card should show that. If you have a business where people must trust your judgment, then DON'T include that photo of you skiing into a snowbank. Design, color, typeface, layout and other elements show an image for your business.

Get a professional designer involved for the best result. After you figure out what kind of image you want, and have gathered the needed information, work with a graphic designer to get a professional result. Ask to see business cards they have designed to see if they are likely to have the creativity you want. But don't just turn over the project to the designer and accept whatever she or he gives you. If you're not sure you like it, then work with the designer on revisions. Here's where asking your friends to look at a draft design can help. Since this will be new to them, they'll spot things you may miss.

Proofread, proofread, proofread. When you think your card is ready to print, ask a few more people who have good proofing skills to take a look for errors. You can easily overlook errors that others may see.

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