Powerful Paper: 3 Ways Business Cards Plague You

At the Natural Products Expo in Santa Ana, the air outside was warm and welcoming with pink and yellow tulips blooming around the entrance of the conference hall. Inside, everything was lit by plane-engine sized fluorescent lights and the air was dense while thousands of people bustled around promoting ‘natural’ things. That alone was enough to kill anyone’s buzz. So it was wonderful when I initially met Johannes (inserting new, exotic name to protect the innocent). I felt invigorated and at the time, highly valued his intriguing ideas, interesting business concepts and professional energy. He was the kind of person who could transcend that soul-sucking environment and seemed as if he had it all…traveled the world, worked on sustainable projects with large, reputable partners. In fact, it was so ideal that something seemed fishy.

Then, Johannes handed me his business card [WARNING:  This may be offensive to some readers. Don’t be defensive, but by all means, be objective…]. Subtly…well, almost lacking consciousness entirely…three elements of his card revealed some things about Johannes that had me slowly retreating.

Do you know what they were?

Perforated edges (are you laughing?):

Johannes had bought the rip-apart business cards from an office supply store. Yes, I know that this is likely a budget-conscious decision, but if this is absolutely the only choice you have, you’re better off cutting them out yourself. Even better, make them at home and if you have a big event coming up, enlist the time of a couple friends to help. Your own unique touch will send a significantly better message than Avery ever intends to do on your behalf.

Thin paper:

Similar to the aforementioned, thin paper can come across as cheap and lacking in attention to your own business and reputation. I wanted to say, “Johannes, this is the ONLY thing people will have to remind them of you when they go home. It deserves a little more thought.” Did Johannes want to do business because it was a good opportunity for both of us, or merely because he needed money?

Shoddy printing and design:

“Is this a temporary company?” I wanted to ask. While he'd presented concepts that sounded exotic, his logo screamed ‘H & R Block.’ It didn’t represent his message, his passion or even business perspective. One is better off handing out a card simply with a name and phone number…or even with something slightly 'mysterious' like @nateballard has done by merely including his Twitter handle.

This may seem minor in the grand scheme, or perhaps some people may even think I’m rude, but please trust me. Or better, admit that you’ve had similar thoughts and join me in joking about marketing’s dark side. Business cards are important. They are a mini physical representation of your business and are often the only things reminding your contact – who just might be a significant client – that you exist. If you don’t think this matters, you might as well network in your pajamas. As for Johannes? Tell me how you think that story ended…