July 15, 2015

Business Cards - What Information Should it Contain and Not Contain - Some History First

Let's talk about the future of the business card, but to understand it, the history of the business card comes into play.

Business Cards existed before the phone thus early business cards would have name, company, mailing address, title and usually some tag line about the product being solicited.  The term "Traveling Salesman" was coined - They would travel with Business Cards and order forms so people could reorder product after the salesman left.  Imagine the pace of business - a snails pace compared to today.  Business Cards were printed with a process called "relief letterpress" - one sided, one color at a time and one up - that is the reason most real old cards were one color - Black.  Every feature would double the cost of the business card.  Back then we saved business cards out of necessity; we even treasured them.  Business Cards were also the icebreaker, the grease that made it easier to introduce ourselves - not much different then today.

Let's move the clock forward about 100 years - the early 1980s - about when I was starting my career.  Cards were still pretty much one or two color and one sided, but now they contained a telephone number (for about 90 years).  Business cards were still printed relief letterpress, but efficiencies were being played. Gang printing similar cards was common so to reduce production costs by as many cards as you could put together ( 4-up would reduce production costs by 75%).  Multiple spot colors, logotypes and raised printing (Faux Embossing) was common on most Business Cards.  Everyone had a business card; we still saved and distributed business cards out of necessity.

A few years ago, I was talking about the printing business with a tech CEO friend of mine.  I stated that "even the business card has a limited life - look at all the cool apps on our smart phone that allow us to share contact information" (remember bump?).  His response to me was not what I expected - "We hire a lot of kids out of Stanford, Berkley, the Ivy schools . . . The first question they all ask after getting hired is 'where do I get my business cards'".  This made me think of my first set if business cards - they made me real and legitimate.  They still do today.  They are what we lead with - they open the conversation - they do it with a little grease.  We did so with prowess.

Bring on today - you can print anything on your business card;  full color, two sided, pictures - anything.  Your card has become a mini brochure.  You can do so at a much lower cost (inflation adjusted) than could be done 140 years ago, or even 30 years ago.  Today, there is so much more information we want to get out: Email addresses, Website URLs, Cell Number, Fax Numbers (why, I do not know), etc, etc...

OK, So Finally the Gist of this Article.
So, what should be on a business card today?  Name, title, cell, company phone, mailing address, some slick tag line (The Makers of Quality American Made Widgets) and finally pictures, maybe of you on the front (maybe not) and your product(s) on the back (Maybe).

So, what should NOT be on a business card today?  Your website URL.  Your website is to get you found - you have already been found.  Sending a prospect and/or client  to your website only introduces them to competition and alternatives to you - be careful.  Yes, there are many exceptions to this - there may even be the need for alternate cards.  Maybe you put your Facebook page or your Twitter name - all better then a web URL (IMHO).  Evaluate your situation and how your cards are used / perceived - and how you want them used and perceived.  Remember, they have found you already.  If your client wants your web address, they will ask - If they cannot ask (they will if they need it), they will find it in your email ("Bill@AmericanWidgers.com") - if it is not there (like you are using a GMail address) call me, we need to fix that.

Also, kill the fax number; does anyone still use one?  Does your fax work? Again, there are exceptions (not many).

Its 2015 everybody, let's evolve.

Bob Leonard
561-371-4113 (Call My Cell)  
512-593-8830 (in Austin)

We do business all over the Northeast, Austin, South Florida
and in the SF Bay Area (actually Everywhere). 

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