business cards dos donts

Business Cards Dos and Don’ts

Things have changed a lot this year. With the advent of social distancing, people are more wary of touchable branding like business cards. But even so, and even though some people say they’re going the way of the dinosaur, many movers and shakers still consider business cards to be the height of professionalism and style.

In some countries like Japan, business cards are a time honored tradition and important introduction across all areas of social life. They are also highly valued as a talking point, a way to break the ice when conducting business.

And while it’s a fact that a large number of business cards get thrown in the trash, if designed right they can be a vital way to extend your brand recognition and help you stand out from an ocean of emails or social posts. Kind of like a sleek, well-tailored suit, business cards still have their place in giving you that extra edge when meeting people. Plus if you think outside the box, they are valuable in many other ways.

This guide will take you through the ins and outs of making the most of business cards. From key design tips and innovative ways to use them, to the right business card size and the correct etiquette of handing them out (internationally and during 2021 social distancing).

Creative Ways to Use Business Cards

There are lots of great options to boost your brand profile out in the world, using well designed, custom business cards:

Online Deliveries

Show your customers a touch of extra class by adding an attractive business card to their shipping parcel. But it’s not just about being elegant. Giving people your Customer Support contact details goes a long way to building brand trust. Paired with asking “How can I help?”, you could insert “Let us know how you like our product” and add a social media link. This could be a useful tool to get more ratings.

Open for Business

If you have a brick and mortar establishment, welcome people back after the lockdown with a stylish mailout that includes business card printing with directions and/ or booking details. You could even use the card as a 10% voucher on their next visit, which is an excellent way to make sure customers keep your card and walk through the door.

Events

Use your business cards as an invite with a registration link, letting people know you’re holding an event at your premises. For example, restaurants could hold a chef competition or wine tasting, and beauty brands could do free makeovers.

Loyalty Scheme

Divide the back of your business cards into four or six blocks, and stamp them each time a customer comes in for a purchase or appointment. Giving people a discount when all blocks are stamped is a good incentive to keep them returning. And if you have an online store, you could print a code on the card which people can redeem at checkout.

Another option from our business card ideas is to give out a couple to your best customers, so they can hand them out to suitable people they know. Reward your loyal ambassadors with a good discount for every new person that books an appointment or buys something from your store.

In-Store Appointments

Make sure your customers don’t forget their appointments by writing the date and time on the back of your business card. A practical way to reduce missed bookings.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Bland, samey business cards will quickly be forgotten and tossed. Let’s look at how to make sure they achieve a strong, memorable impact for all the right reasons:

Information Tips

Before we get into design best-practice when you make business cards, here are a few ideas for the details you can include to make them more personalized and interesting:

  • Social Proof — adding your Trustpilot rating, or a quote from a high-profile customer to your business card can go a long way to boosting brand trust and appeal.
  • Accreditation — adding logos of trade associations or accreditations to your card is also a great way to build trust. In many countries, this adds important credibility during meetings.
  • Faces — personalization effectively makes your company stand out from the competition. And as any marketer knows, people buy emotion, not products. You could add your photo or even four people in your main team to the back of your business card. Smiling, friendly faces are an icebreaker.
  • Magnet — especially if you offer an ongoing or crucial service, like a hairdresser, plumber or electrician, consider adding a magnet to one side of your business card. That way people can always have your number to hand when they need your service, instead of going online and seeing your competitors.
  • Discounts — people love a bargain. You could design a business card with your main Sale dates on one side, so customers know when to visit your store or website.
  • Bilingual — if many of your customers speak a different language, like French Canadians, or Latin Americans, you’ll win diplomatic points by printing one side of your card in their language.

An added tip is that the text on your business card should sit no further than 5mm from the trim edge, so it doesn’t look squashed or run the risk of getting cut off during printing. There are other intricacies involved — like bleed, dpi (dots per inch), pixels, hex palette, file types, spot colors and the CMYK color model. But with a good quality Business Card Maker, all of this is automatically done for you.

Top Two Design Tips

A cheap or amateur-looking business card will do more damage than not having one. This was proved by a study that found that 72% of people judge a person or company based on the quality of their business cards. These are the main things to bear in mind:

Keep It Sleek

Don’t make your business card too busy. A cool logo is a must to instantly differentiate your company and build brand recognition. You’ll of course want to add your most important contact details, like cell number and work email. If you have a social media channel with strong social proof of how skilled you are, that would be good to include too. But don’t add social channels just for the sake of it. The point is that a website or print brochure is for comprehensive information, but a business card is for supplying essential details and making a fast but clear impression.

The worst design mistake you could make would be making business cards packed with so much information that it strains the eye. Also keep it practical with a clear font — while fancy cursive might look stylish, it’s hard to read in small print.

Likewise with going overboard on design and colors. Minimal and understated is the way forward for a classy impression. And always use a good quality paper, which is 16pt cardstock. Anything less will feel cheap.

Brand Strength

It’s really important to consistently add your logo and brand colors throughout every customer touchpoint, from your website and social media channels, to your business cards and any other printed touchable branding like tshirts and pens.
You want your business card to instantly convey the right impression of you and your company. So, for example, if you have a Mexican restaurant you’d use vibrant colors, whereas if you’re a consultant or financial expert, you’d keep it toned down in blue, black or gray, which demonstrates serious and reliable professionalism.

Here’s some more helpful design info to steer you in the right direction when making your own business cards: Choosing the Right Font and Branding Colors.

Business Card Etiquette

Business card exchange, both in modern times and in different countries, is not done any old way if you want to make an excellent impression.

2021 Social Distancing

Follow these steps to get your business cards across during the current situation:

  1. Take out your business card and say you’ve had it newly designed. This lets them know you’re an evolving and established company, with style.
  2. Ask whether the person would like to take your card by hand, by leaving it on a nearby surface, or by taking a photo. Best to let the individual choose their own comfort level.
  3. If they prefer a photo, hold the card out, making sure it’s clearly visible. Ask them to take a pic of both sides so they get your details and your logo.
  4. If they say no problem and hold out their hand, exchange cards as normal.
  5. If they say yes to leaving it on a surface, place the card in front of their seat if sitting at a table, or if there are no suitable surfaces close by, ask them where they would like you to place the card.

If you do all of the above with a smile of good humor and a comment like “what a world we live in right now”, the exchange will be just as effective at breaking the ice as the traditional business card exchange.

General Tips for a Good Impression

Kind of like eating at a fancy restaurant and knowing which knife or fork to pick up first, this is how to exchange business cards with style:

  • In some countries the rules of excha
  • Have a couple or cards in an elegant cardholder. Digging out a scuffed card or two from your pocket is not going to impress.
  • In some countries the rules of exchange are more formal, cards are handed out at the beginning as a formal introduction and an indication that proceedings have officially started. But in the West, cards can be exchanged at the beginning or the end of a meeting. Assess the situation to find the moment when it seems most natural. And remember, card exchange is done fairly casually in the West, so don’t make it too big a deal or you could come across as pretentious.
  • If you have a multilingual card, always present it with the recipient’s language face up, to show respect.
  • Whether you’re in the West or in more formal countries, it will always win you points to take a moment of interest in a business card you receive, and compliment something about it if possible.
  • When ordering a print run for foreign travel, bear in mind that the standard business card size differs depending on where you go. In the US and Canada, it’s 88.90 x 50.80 mm (3.5 x 2 inches), while in the rest of the world it's 85.00 x 55.00 mm (3.35 x 2.17 inches). This matters for keeping cards in a cardholder or stacking them in a tidy pile.

International Norms

The last thing you’d want on an important business trip in another country is to cause offence, so here’s an overview of etiquette in different parts of the world. The first thing to remember in countries with more formal rules, is to always look at the card given to you before putting it away, preferably in a card holder instead of your pocket:

  • Africa — particularly in South Africa, offers the card using your right hand only.
  • China — your business card needs to be presented before asking someone for theirs. Use both hands, with the text facing upwards, when handing it over. If you’re printing cards specifically for a trip to China, bear in mind that gold lettering and the color red are considered auspicious colors.
  • France — exchange business cards after the first meeting. It’s important to print one side in French as that’s seen as professional attention to detail. Include your advanced academic degrees.
  • Germany — business cards are seen as a more personal and private exchange of information, given out only if contact is to be developed more extensively. They are not to be given out casually.
  • India — if you have a university degree or any other honorary title, be sure to have it printed on your card. Social strata are important in this culture. Always use the right hand, both for giving and receiving cards. English is widely spoken, so no need to print one side in Hindi.
  • Japan — the exchange of ‘meishi’ is a time-honored tradition, seen as crucial to proper social interaction. They indicate the official intention to move forward. Japanese people have custom business cards printed after leaving school and always keep them on hand, not just for business meetings. Give your card using both hands, and with a slight bow from the waist if the situation calls for being very respectful. In corporate meetings, title and rank are important details to have on your card. It’s also considered respectful to keep the cards you’ve been given cards on the table in front of you, until the meeting is concluded. If there are lots of people at the meeting, a helpful tip is to match the cards with the seating arrangement, so you can easily remember names.
  • Middle East — always give out your card with your right hand.
  • Russia — have English printed on one side, Russian on the other. Listing any advanced degrees you hold will give you extra leverage.

Takeaway

Without a doubt, business cards continue to have a valid place in the world. They convey established professionalism, added style, and are excellent ice breakers in more formal cultures.

And if you think outside the box using the ideas we outlined in this article, there are many more uses for business cards than meetings. Examples include letting people know your brick and mortar venue is back open for business, highlighting testimonials that boost brand trust, offering loyalty schemes, and helping people find you more easily with a convenient map.

When it comes to face to face exchanges, follow the steps we described to do it with style while making sure everyone feels comfortable in the 2021 world of social distancing. Also keep the international norms we explained in mind, so you don’t find yourself offending people without even knowing it.

Although it’s far easier, faster, and more affordable now to make business cards using a quality app, you also don’t want to forget our Top Two Design Tips. Keep it sleekly classy and use instantly recognizable branding that makes an instantly memorable impression for all the right reasons. In other words, don’t add too many details so that things look squashed, use a clear font, don’t go crazy with colors, and make sure you have a streamlined logo that suits your line of business.

Why Design a Business Card with Namecheap?

We’ve built a 20 year global track record of trust for giving our customers a range of vital web services, from domains, cybersecurity and hosting, to fully managed websites and performance enhancing apps. Namecheap believes in giving people the tools you need without the usual roadblocks — high quality, user-friendly and super affordable.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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