Are Business Cards Relevant Anymore?
To remain relevant in their markets, businesses are forced to integrate their time tested systems with a new interactive social mindset created by the boom of the internet and its media outlets. Many professionals find themselves wondering if it’s worth the investment to utilize ageing traditional marketing tools. Furthermore, for those that still believe, online sources for low cost (typically sub-par) printing have diluted the quality of these resources, making many wonder: “Are business cards relevant anymore”?
I’m here to tell you the answer is “yes”. However, only a good business card is worth the effort. Keyword: “good”. A bad card could actually do more harm than good. We will cover the difference between good and bad design later.
The History of Business Cards
The history of business cards goes much further back than your dad’s first sales job. The modern day business card is the product of cultural evolution dating back to the 15th century. The Chinese began using “visiting cards” to introduce themselves when visiting another house. Over the years this practice caught on in other cultures. By the 17th century the French & English adopted “calling cards” for use in polite society to announce oneself.
Soon enough, trade cards became very popular, and everyone was using them to advertise their stores and shops. Naturally cards became a staple in the business community to introduce yourself and your business. Professionals would carry their cards everywhere, touting their latest business venture, or their newest title.
How Business Cards Have Fallen
Years ago, just having a card was a big deal. If you could afford to print 1000 pieces of paper with your name on them, you were a big deal. Then along came the internet and its quick print shops. Since then over 25 million cards are created every day. 90% of them end up in the trash within 1 week. Considering the rise of social media outlets such as Facebook, many have formed the opinion that business cards are a small, if not superfluous, part of their branding and marketing tools. Social media is basically free, so why pay for cards when you can tell someone to find you on Facebook?
Mobile technology has put a lot of pressure on traditional media. Text message advertising, internet ads, CPC and SEO approaches seem trendier. For companies looking to modernize their business, many take print, ie. Business Cards, and replace it with techy, sexy, mobile and internet based campaigns. Technology has changed the zeitgeist of business marketing.
Can Business Cards Still Be Effective?
Years ago, cards would end up in a wallet, rolodex, binder or other reference device. Today these tools are no longer used as much, if at all. They have been replaced by online search, mobile apps and general disregard for traditional print materials.
Focus has shifted from long term reference to immediate impression, but don’t settle for just a one-time impression. Why not go for gold? Business cards can be effective long term tools if they are designed properly. A well designed business card will create a solid impression. Your cards are a marketing tool. Marketing is communication. Your cards can and will communicate for you, both during and after the moment in which you pass them on. Its up to you what they communicate.
What Makes Your Business Cards Effective?
Out of the cards you exchange, the ones remembered are the ones that were industry relevant, high quality & inventive. I remember seeing cards for an environmental consultant. These cards were actually random recycled materials such as used paper & torn cardboard, stamped with their contact information. Now that is an effective card. It not only creates a conversation, it was industry relevant and memorable to the point where I still remember it in detail today. That’s effective marketing. You want effective marketing…I know you do.
Marketing is more than just words on paper. Your business cards should be too. A mechanic may consider a card of metal with a screw driver tip. A tailor may consider a card of linen with a hem line. Cards like this don’t get thrown out, they get talked about. You want your business to be talked about. Its good for your bottom line. Cards that invoke thought are effective communicators. Your cards must do more than just look good, they must be good in every way.
Like I said before, only a good card will be effective. Template cards are not good. They are generic designs that end up in the trash. Studies show that custom, colorful and inventive cards are 10x more likely to be retained. However, cards can be “over designed”. A card that has too much will confuse its reader, and separate you from your intended result. An immediate response of “this is a pretty card” may seem good at the time, but “pretty cards” with too much color, images and wording will confuse its reader and diffuse its effectiveness.
Business Cards are still a very large part of your brand identity and marketing scheme. Don’t sacrifice your cards at the altar of trends. Let your cards separate your business from your competition by setting the trends. Business cards are one of the oldest forms of traditional business communications. Make sure your cards are say what you want them to.