With new printing technology and innovative designs in all shapes, colors, textures, and sizes, business cards, more now than ever, are one way to highlight you and your business in a crowded market.

It’s advertising space that you pay for, so why not use it?  Entrepreneurs want more from their business cards at a time when the number of new businesses is increasing exponentially and the competition is fiercer than ever.

In a global marketplace, local businesses are not only competing against each other or worrying about the big-box chain next door. They’re also competing against companies across the globe. That means companies need to differentiate themselves from the jump.  And many begin with their business cards.

Business cards are the least expensive and most cost-effective way for anyone who wants to build a business so put some thought into it.  Or hire a designer that thinks outside the box, or rectangle in this case.

Professionals – doctors, lawyers and accountants, for instance – might stick with the classic black type on white stock.  For these cards, the standard 411 applies: your name and title, company name, phone and fax numbers, physical and e-mail addresses.  But if you suspect your card may get lost in the crowd, or worse, find itself in the circular file, it’s time to step away from the norm.

And the options are seemingly limitless.  Embossing and raised fonts add style, and heavy stocks and textures may be something contacts remember.  But these extra morsels can be costly, so it’s important to consider the quantity you’ll need, bearing in mind that unit costs decrease for larger runs.

Your business card should be appropriate for the industry and designed for effective pursuit of the target market.  Visually, they should be very easy to read.  An advertising agency that prints on a plastic card with a font that’s tough to read probably wouldn’t help drum up much business.

We consider business cards to be mini-billboards.  They should list contact information on the front and highlights the services provided on the back.  This covers all the pertinent information and answers the important questions: who, what where, why and how.

I, personally, recommend a subtle change: square-shaped cards. Slightly bigger than the average 3.5 inches by 2 inches business card (my personal cards are 3 inches square), these cards allow owners to stand apart from their competitors.  Most people will throw out a 3.5 X 2 inch, plain white business card with black ink before the square card with vibrant colors – it’s a fact.

Baseball cards typically feature a person’s photograph and corporate logo on one side.  The flip side includes a description of the athlete’s past performance, along with their team history.

This tells the bearer of the card not just the who, where, and what.  It also answers why.  It’s a summary of the athlete and provides a personal touch of what the company or person can do and makes them stand out.

One client, a personal chef, includes recipes on the back of his card. And a client with a public relations firm, highlights on the back of his cards nine words one should avoid when writing a press release.  This offers added value.  It’s something useful that people are inclined to keep.

You should try to avoid your business card fitting into the everyday Rolodex.  Why?  How many times have you made a follow-up call to a potential client and they say, “Your card is sitting on my desk.”  This is a good sign because it hasn’t been “filed” away with the rest.

If you are in a competitive market, I would also recommend a proactive approach with your business cards by including discount codes, or by transforming them into coupons.  You can track how often the cards are used and get a quantitative result, instead of handing it out and not knowing if it resulted in business for you or not.

I like cards that are printed on both sides, if the material is communicated well.  I’ve produced cards with maps or other graphics on the back.  For doctors, try listing patient hours, and include a space for something handwritten, like a patient referral.

Your business card should make people WANT to call you.  To achieve this, it all starts with the design.

I’ve been designing websites and print materials for 20+ years and I’m passionate about technology and helping people. Your marketing materials can be your first and last chance to make an impression – make it a good one!

You may reach out to me directly if you would like to get started on your business’s marketing materials design project!