Are People Using Your Business Cards to Clean Under Their Fingernails?

Jen Saunders

Let’s be honest for a minute; have you ever used a business card to clean the dirt from under your nails? I have, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. There have been times when I find myself away from a restroom, I notice grit under my nails, and I reach into my wallet for a random business card I don’t even remember receiving so I can give my nails a quick clean before ducking into a meeting.

Then there are business cards I keep because I admire the design and branding–I can recall who gave their card to me, where, and what our conversation was about. More importantly to touch on, I keep them for potential future business engagements. There are many opinions out there expressing that business cards are antiquated and a waste of money, as QR codes and digital swiping is free. Those in favor of digital also argue that you can’t lose the information, and the contact details are easier to store. But, be that as it may, sometimes the old is simply better than the new.

business cards matter

Old Business Relics can Bring New Clients

Gorak the caveman may not have used business cards to promote his dinosaur burgers, but they are still old–over 400 years old to be exact. Known then as tradecards, these first appeared in 17th century England (London) advertising a business on one side with a map to the merchant’s store on the other, as there was no standardized street numbering method at the time. One of the most popular ways for garnering business back when King Charles II ruled from his throne is still effective today (if done right). This article will examine why business cards are more effective at forming business relations and driving sales than the digital option while offering tips for creating memorable, professional first impressions not likely to be used as a tool for cleaning one’s fingernails.

business cards still work

Rock Beats Scissors, Paper Beats Digital

Something paper and tangible that you can hold in your hand beats abstract digital when it comes to making first impressions. When you use your smartphone to scan a QR code, your mobile device may remember the details but your brain is quick to forget. A business card has the power to stir one’s emotions that translates into memorable content, whereas soulless digital text leaves one completely indifferent. For example, a business card can rely on marketing psychology using color to convey a feeling. The card’s construction material can also stir emotions and create an unforgettable first impression. Using high-quality card stock with embossed lettering stands out like Michael Jordan in the middle of Tienanmen Square, and a card offering an overflow of sensory information like the rich feel of thick card stock and bright, compelling color will make your first impression stand out just as prominently, amplifying your brand even deeper into one’s psyche.

While sending contact information by digital swiping, email or text message is convenient, it’s also impersonal. Unless your potential client is extremely interested in you, these methods may not be as effective as you’d like to think. There is power in meeting a potential client face-to-face where you can make eye contact, have a real conversation, and put your business card in their hand.

business cards and inbound marketing

The Unsung Hero of Inbound Marketing

We all know what the inbound marketing funnel looks like–attract, convert, close, and delight. Even the best digital marketing agencies in New York City and Los Angeles will tell you the power of inbound marketing starts with blogging, social media, keywords and landing pages as prime components to the “attract” phase. However, business cards are widely responsible for driving people to these landing pages (they send people in the digital direction), if the cards are polished and intriguing to be effective dangling carrots. This is why the business card is more powerful than the digital swiping of information, and why paper beats digital all day long.

Business Cards that Make Strong First Impressions (Industry Matters)

Who remembers that scene in the film ‘American Psycho’ when Patrick Bateman and his associates “measure their manhood” by comparing business cards? Take a look if your memory needs a jog:

business cards

When it comes to making a strong first impression with a business card, you must first consider your industry and who your potential clients / associates are.

Doctors / Lawyers / Financiers / Wall Street – Clean and elegant with subtle luxuries on top-quality card stock. Traditional font or lettering that isn’t whimsical.

Digital Marketing Agencies / Photographers / Graphic Artists – Minimalist design on any eye-catching medium he it high-quality cardstock, wood business cards, or plastic. Uses clean yet modern font with bold colors contrasted by a white or black background.

Construction / Industrial –  Pattern or material like sheet metal cards or business cards with the look of concrete.

Extreme Sports / Fitness / Video Gaming – Loud and in your face with punchy font, and bold hot colors.

Industry and Shapes – Let the card’s shape reflect your service. For example, a mobile dog groomer could have a bone-shaped business card, an organic cold press juice bar a card shaped like a leaf, and a dive shop could have a business card shaped like a scuba tank.

business cards

Business Cards that Make People Trust You

If people don’t like you, they won’t do business with you. As a first impression-maker, the right business card can set the mood. In order to lower the walls of resistance people build when they feel they are being sold to, you need to first consider consumer psychology and tap into their needs and wants. The best business cards create split seconds where people can identify with you on a small scale. But even a minuscule level of emotional connection will put you in a big position to expand that space thus creating a gateway to an all important circle of trust.

In order to do this, you must first identify what motivates your consumer base to make purchasing decisions, and then create a business card in which design, color, and the message resonates with their mindset. What is their problem? How does your product solve their problem? Why is yours better than the competition’s? How can your product / company make their lives better? Remember, your business card it the unsung hero of the attraction stage in a robust inbound marketing strategy. Therefore, it too should reflect your landing page and blog. If it doesn’t, Old Hoss will use it to clean the BBQ sauce from under his finger nails before tossing it in the gutter.

business cards you can afford

The Best Business Cards are Effective and Budget-Friendly

It is true that high-quality business cards make an impact. But if it doesn’t make financial sense for you to spend $500 on 100 cards, then don’t. Even if you have to settle with a low stock card quality, a clever message can distract people from the cheap feel with a catchy tone and look. On the flip side, if you can afford to use high-quality card stock then by all means do it! If you are unsure as to how much you should spend on business cards in terms of value / quality, start somewhere in the middle. Get a medium to high-quality card stock, but don’t go overboard with gold foil lettering or other add-ons. Make note of how many cards you give out, how many lead to conversations, and how many conversations garner a transaction. So long as there is an ROI, next time you order business cards slightly raise the quality bar and determine if the extra investment pays off.

best digital marketing agency

If You are Big, Go Big or Go Home

If you get a significant portion of business from making first impressions with cards, and budget isn’t a concern so long as the business cards attract new customers, then go big, REALLY BIG. One of your goals is likely to blow some minds by offering people business cards so uniquely fascinating and attractive that they will show it to their friends and colleagues. Try considering some out-of-the-box options.  To evoke the avant-garde of business cards, consider wooden cards, 3-D cards, multi-purpose business cards (flat cards that are also bottle openers or flash lights), metal cards and leather business cards.

You want to attract new business. When a Toyota Corolla passes you on the street do you turn around and do a double-take? When you were a kid did you have a poster of one in your room? Have you always wondered what it is like to drive a Toyota up PCH 1? No; of course not. That is a daydream fantasy reserved for the Lamborghini. If your goal is to attract, and you can afford the “Lamborghini of business cards”, then use them. Just make sure your message and branding is set to resonate with consumers. And another thing, QR codes and mobile data swiping doesn’t turn heads, and it has zero horsepower. It isn’t sexy.
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Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.