How many business cards have you received in your career? One hundred? One thousand? Have you noticed that 80% of them were wholly unexceptional? Maybe you hadn’t paid even that small amount of attention to them…they get tossed pretty quickly.
I’ve been creating cards for several clients lately and wanted to share the big takeaway with you.
Small changes to your business card can make big impressions.
So, what does that say about using business cards as a means to make positive personal connections with people? Primarily that it’s not about being dramatically different. Although you can certainly rely on the shock-and-awe effect of cards made from precious metals or chocolate, there’s no reason you can’t make a lasting and valuable impression on a budget.
Your Business Card is a Tool For Building Social Capital.
By Social Capital, I mean the forming of networks where “transactions are marked by reciprocity, trust, and cooperation.” By crafting your message to reflect these values, you acknowledge that you intend to provide mutual benefit. You can do this with simple one-sided cards for $20 and a single sentence like “I’m here for you.”
Let’s look at some of the many ways we can use printing technology to emphasize your message of trust and provide value when networking.
The simple way to demonstrate that you value the interaction with people you exchange cards with is to use heavy cardstock. Consider 16pt as minimum weight. It’s affordable and prevents your new friend from mistaking your message of reciprocity for a sales receipt.
So many of our interactions these days are digital that the feel of a business card between your fingers is going to make an impression. Fortunately, high-quality papers are among your basic bizcard options almost anywhere and many types of stock are available. Try recycled t-shirt cotton cards for a soft, slightly textured feel.
If you are okay with spending a little more, consider doubling up with 2-ply cards, or go all out with 3-ply. I’ve used Luxe cardstock from moo.com, which feature a colorful stripe around the edge of the card and is so substantial that people try to pry the plies apart, assuming it is folded. I’m sure that you could kill someone with one of these triple-thick monsters but that would defeat the purpose of networking with them now wouldn’t it?
Embossing and Letterpress
For an enduring vintage or high-end look to your cards, consider embossing. Used to stamp text, logos, or artwork into your card, it creates a raised embossing on one side with a matching (reversed) debossing on the other. The more subtle version, which does not go all the way through to the other side of the card is often referred to as embossing but is technically a blind letterpress. With or without ink, they are wonderfully subtle, tactile experiences that are miles ahead of your standard flat card.
Unless you are snapping cards at tourists on the Vegas Strip you’ll want to go easy on the gloss. Stick to spot gloss (also called spot UV) to emphasize certain aspects of your cards while leaving the flat, silky surface of your cardstock accessible. Combine spot gloss with inked text to highlight important info and add a bit of posh.
Spot gloss without the ink can catch the light to reveal a logo, tagline, or graphics, providing for a joy of discovery that rewards a closer look. Consider clean white cards which can be gorgeously minimal with strategic spot gloss or, although it is more expensive, black cardstock which rocks pretty hard with splashes of gloss.
Raised Spot Gloss gives a slightly embossed feel that’s cheaper than actual embossing, much shinier, and much more professional than the “puffy ink” people used to write on their sneakers in the 80’s. Like, totally not rad.
It works much like spot gloss but to more luxurious ends. Use a single line of gold or silver text to boldly message your value to clients, or position your high-end product with gold foil on black cardstock. It also comes in a dozen other hues so consider foil as a way to complement strong colors in your brand palette. There is also a Raised Foil option if you’d like to add a more tactile surface to your card without embossing. As with gloss, a little foil goes a long way, so unless you’re in the used car business, you might want to go easy on the shiny.
One of the most dramatic ways to make an impression is to hand someone a non-standard card.
Square cards and adorable Mini Cards can come across just as classy and upscale as standard sized cards while being conversation starters. Or for a subtle difference, try European sized (85 × 55 mm) that’s closer to that of a credit card, allowing you to literally stand out from neighboring US sized (89 × 51 mm) cards in a wallet.
Round Corners are often available for a small increase in price and make an outsized impression, emphasizing any round shapes in your company branding. With the comfortable familiarity of a playing card, round corners are wonderfully casual, but take care when combining with square cards or you might end up with 500 tiny drink coasters.
There are many advanced options for your die cut card that let you create almost any shape or effect. Cards shaped like puppies or footballs are cute and can be absolutely perfect for your dog-friendly sports bar, though I wouldn’t recommend them for your accounting firm.
To get the most out of die cutting, talk to a designer who loves business cards as much as I do and they will doubtless share some of their favorite tricks. The two of you are limited only by your creativity. Think outside the box!
For example, if you’re really intent on making a splash with your swimming pool business, take a 2ply card with a die cut revealing a printed area of water and add raised spot gloss to create a sparkling, rippling pool. Super Combo x3!
Pick A Card, Any Card
My favorite business card trick is actually a magic trick. Moo.com allows you to print a different image on the back of each of your business cards, a feature they call Printfinity. There are many reasons I work with these guys regularly, but Printfinity is the icing on the cake.
Perfect for realtors, photographers, and the like, you can fan out your cards displaying multiple examples of your work, and coax your audience into participating in a forced draw card trick. I’ve found this to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek experience that makes a lasting impression whether you pull it off or fail miserably. Who can forget a card imbued with cheesy close-up magic?
Don’t Forget the Message
Once you’ve mustered all your creative prowess, had your good ideas printed, and are ready to hand out your new cards keep in mind that it’s about that message of reciprocity, of value, and of trust. Hand out a quality card that has thought put into it and show people that you care enough about your relationship not to waste their time with just one more piece of networking detritus.
If you’re curious about business cards and how you can make a big impression feel free to ping me directly. I’m always happy to talk shop!