Not long ago, I had 1,500 business cards printed up with the logo of The Simple Dollar on it, a ten word description of the site, my name, my email address, and in large letters along the bottom, www.thesimpledollar.com (spanning the whole card). When these arrived in the mail, my wife rolled her eyes at this: “Do you really need business cards to promote yourself? Isn’t that a waste of money?”
Yesterday morning, I participated in an interesting breakfast conversation with an old friend. At the end of the conversation, I casually mentioned that I had been having great success as a blogger and handed him the card. Last night, he sent me an email that he had spent four hours reading The Simple Dollar and had sent the URL to a bunch of his acquaintances.
In a nutshell, individual business cards are only as useful as you are. Here are some reasons why individual business cards may be worthwhile for you, whether or not you run an individual or small business.
It’s a tangible reminder of what you have to offer. I actually have two different sets of business cards now: one for individual computer consulting in the community (I help people select computer systems, set up home networking, and the like) and another for The Simple Dollar. I give these out to different people based on the circumstances – are they more likely to want to visit The Simple Dollar (non-local people, bloggers, etc.) or are they more interested in a local service I can provide (local people)?
It lets you jot notes on the back to give away. I do this all the time with my consulting cards: I’ll write things like the specs they should look for when looking for a digital camera or something to that effect right on the back of the card. That way, they take the card with them and have a reason to look at it again, reinforcing the meeting we had in their mind.
It provides a portal to accessing what you have to offer. In the instance of my consulting cards, it contains my phone number and also appropriate contact hours. In the instance of my Simple Dollar card, it contains the site URL (for seeing what exactly it’s all about) and my email address (for getting ahold of me directly).
In short, it’s just a quick way of making sure people remember who you are. If the interaction is positive (and especially if you add value to the card by putting information on the back), the card will create a positive reminder of the meeting and perhaps result in positive things in the future.
Should I have a business card? If you are providing any sort of service at all in which you would like the person you’re conversing with to recall at a later time, then it is worth the cost of the business card to have one in your pocket. Do you have a non-personal blog? Are you involved in any sort of individual consulting? Do you sell anything at all? If any of these are true, it’s worthwhile to have a small pile of business cards.
What should a card contain? A business card should contain three elements:
Something that is visually striking This will increase the likelihood that the person will remember you. In some cases, a picture is appropriate; in my case, I used the bright Simple Dollar logo on one and a laptop on another.
A written reminder of what you have to offer Make sure the text actually reflects what it is you offer: a word or a phrase that defines the reason you would want them to remember you and remember what’s on the card.
Contact info If you have a website, your card should include the URL and your email address. If you’re doing local consulting, it should include your phone number and perhaps your mailing address. In most cases, if you will be dealing physically with the person, you should include your phone number and mailing address.
What should I spend? Spend the money to get them printed professionally if you’re going to get them done at all. You may even want someone to consult with you on the design before you have the first batch printed. However, that doesn’t mean that every bell and whistle is necessary, either; just make sure they’re crisp and clear and present you in a positive light.
How does this save or make money? Directly, business cards don’t save or make a dime, but indirectly, they set you up for long-term success if you present them well. For example, giving the business card to my friend actually cost me the amount of the card and didn’t give me anything directly, but I did gain a very happy reader and a person who is now evangelizing the site to others, which is far more valuable than that card will ever be.