I don’t go through business cards as quickly as I used to. I don’t collect as many either. I think I know why. Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You’re chatting at a networking event with a new acquaintance and remark on each other’s Twitter handle on their badge. You both pull up your mobile Twitter application, go to the other’s profile, follow them and add them to a list. Done. You’re connected. You could do the same by using your mobile LinkedIn application or bumping Pokens or iPhones. How many times have you done that and walked away without even thinking about exchanging cards?

But we still need cards. Not everyone is active on social networks. Sometimes cards are just easier. Plus how else can we win a free lunch from the card bowl at our favorite restaurant? Andy Sernovitz featured a smart business card in a recent post on Damn! I Wish I’d Thought of That. His uncle has magnetic cards showing the Packers schedule. Andy points out that his uncle’s card, unlike many, will be displayed on people’s refrigerators for all to see throughout the football season – more marketing punch for his money.

If you’re not a sports fan, what other handy info could you include?

  • Cooking equivalents, for example, 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
  • Metric conversions
  • Fahrenheit/Celsius conversions
  • Local school year calendar with important dates marked

Cards like this also make good trade show swag – they’re both useful and easy to tote home.

Andy’s post was timely for me since I’m thinking about my next order of business cards. Since I’m focusing more and more on freelance writing and blogging, my cards need to reflect that. I’m even thinking about different cards for different audiences: perhaps one for my primary audience, the association industry, who needs help with blog strategy, content and marketing; and another for a broader audience who needs website and marketing copy.

Before I print my new cards, I’ll work with a designer to create an overall look for my Reid All About It brand. The cards will reflect that style. Cards are often the first impression someone gets of your business. You could go for quirky, like this Mad Libs style card. That’s fun, but it’s not me. Make sure your card design is appropriate for your brand.

effective business cards

Know your market. Guitar shop "cards." Flickr photo by MikeBlogs.

Going to a conference or trade show soon? Print cards specifically for the conference that remind the person where they met you. If you’re exhibiting at the show, include the booth number and tell them why they’d want to visit – what’s in it for them? Include the conference Twitter hashtag and a link to a special landing page for conference attendees on your website.

QR (Quick Response) codes are the latest trend for business cards. These codes are scanned by smartphone cameras to automatically pull up website URLs or contact info.

Here are more tips for business cards:

Make it very clear on the card how you can help a person or company. Don’t assume that your title makes it clear; be more descriptive than that by using a tagline.

You have limited real estate and attention span. Make every word count, even in your contact info.

Use both sides of the card. One side can focus on how they can connect with you, and the other side can focus on how you can help them.

Make your cards user-friendly.

  • Leave some white (or light) space so people can jot down notes about you.
  • Use the largest size font for your name. Don’t make middle-aged people squint.
  • Glossy finishes are difficult to write on. Consider other finishes.

In addition to your website URL and email address, add your Twitter username to your card. Don’t load up your cards with all your social profiles; just add the ones that can assist your marketing.

Remember, your card is part of your professional brand. As Tim Gunn would say, make it work.

One last thing, and judging by all the rants I’ve seen on Twitter about this, I’m not alone in feeling this way: You don’t have permission to add me to your newsletter list just because I gave you my business card. If you’d like to tell me about your newsletter, do so in an email first. Give me the option to opt-in; don’t force me to opt-out.

What other business card tips do you have to share?