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The New Face of Business Cards - Part 2: What Not to Do

As discussed in The New Face of Business Cards part 1, with all of the new options for providing your contact information and the need to provide it for potential customers and clients quickly, the ability to stand out from others is essential. With this need comes added peril. In part two—what not to do—we'll explore some of the business card pitfalls and why to avoid them.

What not to do:  Forget to proof
Even if you are having a professional designer, printer or engraver make your business cards, proofreading is essential. If you are using a design service such as vista print or iprint, ordering a proof is also important, no matter how good the layout and design may look on your screen. Doing a final, careful, detailed, meticulous proofing will allow you to make sure that everything is spelled correctly (including phone numbers and e-mail address), spacing, colors and image placement. If you are doing your cards yourself, print a set in draft so that you can see how they will look. Finally, have someone else whom you trust look at the card and ask them for an honest evaluation of it.

Why proofread/order proofs? So that your final card doesn't contain any mistakes that could detract from business, and to avoid the expense of having to reprint them.

What not to do: Over design
You want a smashing card—one that pops, that stands out—but you don't want one where the design detracts from the information on the card or a design that is ultimately distracting and difficult to read. Pay close attention to how many different fonts you use on the card and font sizes.  Sure, a hyperbolic design will stand out from the other cards in your recipients' card files, but you want yours to stand out for the right reasons.
Why not over design? You want the recipients of your card to read the information and be able to do so at a glance.

What not to do: Over clutter
In part one, enhanced business cards were discussed, which by their nature, provide more information than the simple business card. The question is, in addressing the issue of listing your specialties, how do you keep from over cluttering your business card with too much information?  The list of specialties does not need to be a mini résumé or everything that you do. Instead, it can highlight the things that you do most, maybe the most cost-effective offerings or services that you provide, or just a sample of what you do and what you want to be known for or contacted about the most. One way to help keep your card clean is to use the two-column method where one column lists your contact information and the other column is a bulleted list of some of your specialties.

Why not over clutter? You don't want to overwhelm the recipients of your business card with so much information that they never really read it and call on you.

What not to do: Forget to include your title/professional description
So you have your business card, with the company name, your address and other contact information, and in the case of the enhanced card, some of your specialties, but you forgot to include your title. Without it, how is someone who receives your card going to know what your role is—and how that role can help him or her (or others that he or she might pass your card onto)? What if you work for Avon, and are a recruiter and not a sales representative and someone calls wanting to order product? You can't help that person with a sale and have to pass the information on to someone else and have wasted his or her time and yours—and we all know how precious time is these days.

Why not forget to include your title/position/role? You want to give recipients of your card every opportunity to know exactly what it is that you do in as concise information as possible.

What not to do: Provide too much contact information
Let's face it, today, we all have multiple ways to be reached—land lines, e-mail addresses, and social networks—in fact, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. On one hand, you might think that you want to provide all of the possible avenues for reaching you—after all, it gives people more options to reach you. However, in reality, this "cast a wide net" method, can however, be confusing for you and for recipients of your card. If someone wants to reach you, and you have several e-mail addresses or telephone numbers listed on your card, you may end up with that person sending or leaving you messages on all of them. To which do you respond? Do you have time to read or listen to the same message from the same person on all of those modes for communication? Pick one e-mail address to use—preferably your business e-mail address. If you want to be able to make your own statistics for where and how people are finding you, you could use a different e-mail address for your card. That way you will know immediately that the person contacting you found you through your card either directly, from you giving them your card or indirectly, through a referral from someone to whom you gave your card.  For telephone numbers, don't give out any numbers where you don't want to receive business calls. Since you work from home, unless you have a dedicated office number, you might want to put your mobile number on the card instead of the home number to avoid receiving calls during family time or other times that you are "off the clock." Keep it simple. You also don't need to include your Twitter, Skype or social network badges, profiles and handles. Having them on your Website should be sufficient, and eliminating them from your card (unless you really want to be contacted for business that way) will also help keep your card from being over-cluttered and over-designed.

Why not provide too much contact information?  You don't want to confuse your potential clients and customers and you want to make it as simple and convenient to contact you as possible.  You can always give them the other ways to contact you once you have established a professional relationship.

The business card, whether it is simple or enhanced, is often your first contact with potential clients and customers—it's your self-referral for your business. Keep them clear, concise and clean and you will be well on your way to having the professional edge over the competition.

Further Reading/Resources
Bizymoms.com Expert Corner Article: "The Professional Edge—Business Cards and Other Marketing Materials."
IRS Small Business Guide
Marketing Essentials: Part 5—Behold the Business Card (from Smart Fuel)
Non-toxic Networking by Jennifer Gniadecki
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Right Words for Any Occasion by Erika Swanson Geiss (pp. 11-12)
Women Entrepreneur.com
Women's eCommerce Association International (WeCAI)

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