Sunday, September 03, 2006

My Card Fetish

I've come to the inescapable conclusion that my lot in life is collecting business cards. If I ever feel the need to heat my home with a wood-burning stove, I won't have to split any logs for years. In fact, I could probably start a small electrical-generating plant with zero fuel costs for the first 90 or so days!

But, it's worse than that. I also have a fondness for creating business cards. As a never-sleeping seeker of the almighty dollar, I find myself wearing different hats several times a day. Sometimes, I'm the manager of an investment trust. Other times, a property manager. Add in corporate pilot, flight instructor, and aviation consultant, and you can see that carrying a fist full of different cards to describe my work is a must. I consider it one of life's little challenges to create the perfect business card to match each hat.

My business card is an advertisement for my services and nothing else - if I just wanted to give someone my number and e-mail address, I could whip out a pen and write it on their hand! Like any advertisement, it's a waste of time and money if it doesn't jar the recipient into specific action. I use every inch - front and back - to invite the reader to start a relationship with me (and invite their friends to play).

There are certain conventions for a business card. You can avoid making your new contact play hide-and-seek by following these tips about free business cards. But, once the expected information is in the design, it's time to start turning your business card into a tool instead of a tooth pick.

Colors: white or linen background, black text. Save the color for something really special. My favorite use of color is to highlight the job title. This requires striking a balance between size and weight to make sure that your name and job title flash into the reader's mind first and second when looking at the front of your card. Something like this:

Tom Jones
Anarcho-Capitalist

There is a very specific reason for highlighting your job title. That specific reason is to make the card recipient ask, "What the heck is a (your job title here)?" to which your only response can be, "I'm glad you asked. I help companies just like yours..." That's sooo much more profitable than "Nice to meet you." "Nice to meet you, too." If your job title doesn't make people ask what the heck it is, get a new job.

Font: pick one easy-to-read font and stick with it. If you are a party clown, sell it with the text not with the font. If you're not a party clown, don't make your biz card make you out to be one!

Logos: keep 'em small. Your business card is to advertise your services, not your company's. Unless you work for an internationally-recognized, publically-traded corporation, the brand recognition (if there is any) is worth zilch. Your company's logo is ONLY used to say, "Hey, we employ this guy." Anything bigger or flashier just detracts from the "do this now" message you are trying to convey.

Contact Info: only include it if it links the recipient DIRECTLY to you. Direct phone (even better if it's toll-free), fax, cell phone, e-mail. Strongly consider including your home phone. It's been my experience that NOBODY calls the home phone, but I know it gives folks a warm fuzzy (especially if you engage in personal services). Any web site addresses on your card should link to a business offer from YOU PERSONALLY without requiring any forward slashes. For example:

www.mikejones.com - include it
www.ge.com - forget it
www.zippylube.com/offers/tjones.php?qid=115254 - are you kidding me?

Back of the card: prime real estate to advertise you and your services! An unscientific poll of the cards stacked on my desk reveals that about 10% of folks put some sort of message on the back of their card. Out of approximately one million cards I've collected in the last two years, though, only two have used this area somewhat effectively. One had a table with 16 coupons to various businesses printed on the back - the card looked expensive, and I'm sure it's retained more than most, but I would never give up the space on a card I'm paying for. The second had a copy of a form that I use daily for transmitting flight plans to the Flight Service Station, so it stays in my wallet at all times. Others list benefits of working with the company or regional office numbers. The all-time hall-of-fame example of the WORST use of the back of the card, however, has to go to the company that prints their mission statement on the back of their agents' cards. Worthless!

When you hand your business card to someone, make sure you hand it with the back up so they can see it. On that face, your introductory, every-one-can-benefit offer should be printed:

For a free copy of my e-book

Six Car-Shopping Tips that
Salesmen Don't Want You to Know

go to www.mysite.com

Another good one is:

I BUY UGLY HOUSES

$500 Cash Referral Fee

go to www.mysite.com for details


Designers: the free business card site linked above mentions using designers if you aren't very creative. I don't recommend using designers for logos or any other marketing reason because their goal is to make money making flashy things. Your goal is to sell your services. Those goals are rarely reconcilable.

As always, have fun making your cards and handing them out. I do!

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