A little bit of history
While the business card is perhaps now rather overshadowed by other more colourful or digital marketing media, it is, in fact, one of the oldest marketing tools around. The business card has roots dating back as far as 15th Century China. At the time, cards were used for personal rather than commercial purposes, and were used to announce the intention to visit a family or household. These visiting cards later became the calling cards, used by potential suitors when courting. A well-worded card could open doors to new social circles.
The development of mass printing methods, meant self-promotional cards became more readily available and were soon adopted by tradespeople who handed out their cards to promote their activities.
The business cards of today are maybe more sophisticated in their looks, however, their purpose remains more or less unchanged – self-promotion.
What to include
So what should you include on your card? If you are working for a very large organisation, the chances are, the decision about what type of information to include on your card will likely have been made for you. So here we will focus on the small or medium sized business where perhaps a decision is being made on how best to proceed in order to define a clear and consistent way forward across the organisation.
In smaller businesses, perhaps in the case of the sole trader, where the business and the person are harder to separate, the card may be more about the business. However, in larger organisations, the card is more about the person. That said, the details which may be included on a business card used in either setting could be similar.
Your corporate identity should be a key element of your business card design. If you have a logo, it should feature clearly on the card, so recipients know which organisation you represent.
The fonts, colours and style used in the design should be those outlined in your brand guidelines (if you have them) or should be consistent/complimentary with those used in your logo.
The fonts used for your contact details should be clear and large enough to read easily. If your brand font is a serif font, you may need to check that the numbers are OK to read.
If you are likely to be using the cards in the context of a business meeting or where a future business relationship is desired, then you should include your name on the business card. If the card is being left by a member of a larger organisation who would not normally be the point of contact, then it might not be appropriate to include a name, but to use a generic card instead.
If your role within your organisation is likely to be pertinent to the context in which the card is being given, then you might choose to include it.
If your role requires professional qualifications, you may choose to include the appropriate abbreviations or acronyms after your name. However, for more general graduate or post grad qualifications which are not directly related to your activity, it may be less appropriate and perhaps even detrimental to do so.
It might be useful to consider that there could be several “layers” of contact details available to you– personal, local and corporate. The decision about what to include on the business card will largely come down to context. Here are some examples of contact details at different levels:
- Mobile number
- Direct landline
- Email address
- Personal social media accounts/channels
- Office landline / function based phone numbers (sales, after-sales, accounts etc)
- Generic email address
- Local postal address
- Non geographical landline numbers
- Web address
- Head office/PO box/Registered address
- Business social media accounts/channels
As the term suggests, you should include the types of contact details which you wish people to use to contact you. If your activity requires you to be outdoors all day, with no office back-up, it might not be appropriate to include a landline number. If your activity makes it difficult to answer the phone at all, then perhaps it would be more appropriate to use an office landline number (answered by someone else, and instead use an email to contact you directly.
Whichever contact details you use, they should be the most convenient ways for someone to contact you (convenient both for you, and for your client).
Adding a postal address may add gravitas to your identity, but only if it is a commercial address, or an address where you are prepared to receive business visitors.
You may choose to prefix your contact details with small icons, abbreviations, or just leave them as they are. 25 years ago when people were less familiar with the internet, email and mobile phones, it was perhaps more necessary to use a marker before each element. Now it is sometimes just a question of making a detail stand out more. Whatever you decide to use, it is best to be consistent across your business stationery and marketing materials.
Personal social media accounts are perhaps most appropriate when your business is about YOU – ie you are a performing artist, personal trainer or consultant. Even then you may choose to have a separate persona account which you just use for professional purposes. Youtube and tiktok work well for certain types of activity. Of course, LinkedIn is the dedicated business platform, and is ideal if you are an individual working within a larger organisation.
If you have a business social media account you may choose to include an icon or handle on your card.
You should only include links to social media accounts on which you are active and willing to use as a point of contact. Visitors to social media pages will expect you to be present and ready to respond rapidly at any time. There are tools within the various platforms to enable an automatic response if you are unable to respond in person and these can work well to buy a little time in the first instance.
Business card inspiration!
As in days gone by, when well worded calling cards could open doors, a cleverly thought out business card can make all the difference. The aim is for the card to be read, and most importantly, retained. So, in addition to being smart, easy to read and practical, the savvy business owner can look to introduce another purpose to their card. Here are some examples of things to add to your card:
- Additional information about products and services on offer
- Details of the next trade fair
- An inspirational quote
- A business/management tool
- A mnemonic device related to your activity
- A special offer or discount code
- A competition or raffle number
- A dedicated space for notes, appointments or a quote
- A mini calendar
- Emergency first aid/CPR instructions
- Tread gauge for tyres
- Time/step calculator for navigation
- Stopping distances
- Metric-imperial conversions
Although we are now operating in an environment where physical meetings are being replaced with virtual ones, the business card still plays an important role. It can help ensure you create that positive impact when you have those face to face meetings and increase the probability of your potential customer or client getting back in touch with you.
Planning on having a business card designed? Get in touch and we’d be happy to help with ensuring you get the content right for your business. Check out our business card design page for more details.