The Right Way to Use Business Cards
by Kathleen D. Pagana
Business cards are a simple, low-tech tool you can use to keep your name in front of customers, vendors, and fellow retailers. Do you have business cards? If not, it’s time to place your order. If you already have your cards, do you know the rules of etiquette for using them properly? If you’re planning to attend any conferences or trade shows this year, be sure you go prepared with a stash of business cards, and take along these tips for how to use them. Back in your store, put your business cards in a spot where they’re easily accessible to your customers.
Here are some commonly asked questions about business cards. Read on to see how many answers you know.
Why do you need a business card?
Business cards are a great way to capture essential information in a quick and user-friendly manner. Every professional needs a business card to network. Most people love to receive a business card. It gives them a sense of being an important part of a team and having access to key personnel. Business cards can be clipped to a receipt, an order form, a note, or anything you might send someone. This quickly lets the recipient know that you are the sender, and helps him keep your contact information handy.
What information should be on a business card?
This will depend on the purpose of the card. Some basics include your name, position, store name and contact information, such as address, phone, fax, e-mail and website. If your first name is ambiguous (such as, “Pat”), add a title (for example, “Mr.” Pat Sweeney or “Ms.” Pat Sweeney). If you are trying to promote something, such as your store’s new hours or a special service you offer like framing or kids’ birthday parties, why not mention that on the card?
It is a great idea to have more than one business card if this will help target your business to a specific audience. For example, maybe the card you give to your customers emphasizes the fact that your store offers art classes, while the card you give out to vendors and other retailers contains information that you don’t want all your customers to have, such as your direct phone line or cell phone number.
Business cards can benefit by the personal touch. For instance, you may write your cell phone number on the back if you will be traveling and tough to get ahold of during a certain time period. That is a thoughtful gesture that will be appreciated.
Can I make my own business card?
For most business, the short answer to this question is, “No.” While homemade cards will give you an opportunity to test out what you have written on the card, they are usually readily detected by the perforations around the edges. For this reason, a professional-quality card is best since a business card is one of the first graphic statements you make about yourself.
For art supply retailers, the short answer to this question is, “Maybe.” Certainly you have paper in your store that you can use, and you probably have staff members who could design a great looking card for you. The question comes down to cutting it. If you can’t avoid the perforated-edge look, or you have trouble getting the cards perfectly square and of a consistent size, then it may be best to farm out the job to a professional printer. If cutting isn’t a problem, and you can make enough in a reasonably short amount of time, then consider offering this as a service to your customers. Making your own business cards is a good way to promote your papers, and because you can make a smaller amount at one time, you can frequently change what you are promoting on the card.
What are some common mistakes people make with business cards?
Passing out your cards like you are dealing a deck of cards. It is better to have a person ask for your card. One way to do this is to ask for his or her card.
Not presenting the card. Business cards should be presented with the content face up and readable to the receiver. The receiver should look at the card and make a comment. For example, “I see you sell airbrush equipment.”
Writing on the card without asking permission. In some parts of the world, such as Japan, you deface the card if you write on it without asking permission.
Not having your business cards with you at all times. Keep some cards in your wallet or purse. You never know when someone will ask you for one. A business card holder will keep your cards looking professional.
Not having a card and asking for someone else’s card to write on the back. This is rude. You should jot your information on a piece of paper. Then, make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Giving a card in bad condition. It is better to give no card than to give one that is soiled, bent or ripped. Men should not remove a warm and mushy card from their back pocket and present it to someone.
Does business card etiquette differ around the world?
Yes, it does. If you are traveling for business to a foreign country, check into this before you travel. Some countries (for example, Germany) are impressed by education and like to see all degrees and titles beyond the bachelor’s degree. Other countries have a particular way to present the card. For example, in China, the card is held in both hands when it is presented. In Saudi Arabia, the card should be printed in English on one side and Arabic on the other side. When traveling to Poland, bring plenty of cards and give one to everyone you meet. For more tips on business etiquette for international travel, visit www.executiveplanet.com.
The business card is sometimes described as “the handshake you leave behind.” It’s an easy way for your customers, business associates and peers to keep a reminder of their interaction with you. If you don’t have a business card, when are you going to get one?
Kathleen D. Pagana, Ph.D., is a teacher, speaker and the author of Bread, Butter, & Beyond: Dining Etiquette, the book that can help everyone be more confident at business meals and job interviews. For more information, visit www.kathleenpagana.com.
Advice From a Paper Person
by Kari Anderson
It’s true that people hold on to business cards. When looking for an illustration for this article, I found scores of cards that I had collected from previous trade shows, and some were more than five years old.
One that caught my eye was Lauren Pearlman’s from the Paper Connection. On her business card, Lauren put a sticker with her booth number and the year (“NAMTA 2002, Booth #624”). Lauren got the idea from a colleague in a similar business. “When the customer looks at the card later at lunch, at the hotel room, or when they get back home, the sticker provides an extra point of reference,” she told me.
Being a purveyor of paper, Lauren can use her own products to give her business cards a personal touch, and savvy AM retailers could follow her lead. “We use our own paper stock to make business cards and cover letters, especially when we want to show how well it prints and how versatile it is. However, we also use commercial paper stock when we need something printed fast and cheaply.”
If you want to use paper from your store as a backdrop for your business card, but don’t want to hassle with the printing and cutting, take your paper of choice to a local printer. “We’ve found local commercial printers will cut and print on ‘unusual’ paper stock that you provide,” added Lauren. “After a couple print runs, the stock is no longer unusual to them.”
Lauren encourages art supply dealers to utilize the talent and products that surround them in their stores when designing business cards. “I think an extra special business card speaks volumes. If your business stands out solely by your business card, then your customers surely won’t forget you and your store. They’ll be drawn to your talent.”