Business Cards…Your Most Important Piece of Literature - copyright 2010 by Ernest Valtri
Originally published in the Bucks County Association of Realtors’ February 2010 newsletter
As small as it is, your business card is your most critical piece of literature. Most importantly, it speaks for you in your absence. A day, a month or years after a potential client acquires your card, what will they recall about you when they look at it? What thoughts and feelings about you will it evoke? Your card is often all a person will have to remember how you’re able to help them since you won’t be there to explain or update anything about yourself. It is the most likely piece of tangible information about you that will be kept for the longest time.
A top quality business card goes well beyond simply offering accurate contact data. In addition to providing objective information like your phone number, address and perhaps a picture of yourself, your card should portray you in a positive way, present feelings of professionalism and remind the viewer of what an excellent service provider you are.
How can it do all this effectively? By using effective design, layout, printing and, if you’re including your picture, excellent photography. Let’s begin with design. It should be special and as unique as possible. If you use a template offered in a catalogue from your real estate company, a printer, a mailing firm, or any similar template source, you’re immediately handicapping yourself. Templates are great if you’re only goal is to save money, but that’s the sole advantage a template offers. Otherwise, you’re grouping yourself in with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of competitors who’ve chosen the same template. When such a card is on a table with other templated designs (at an open house for example), you’ll blend in with all the rest. Seek out a graphic designer that will listen to you carefully, understand your goals, accommodate your ideas, offer additional ideas if needed and create your own unique design.
What’s layout? It should be more than just half of the rarely explained “design and layout” catch phrase. Layout is the effective arrangement of the design elements in any composition, whether it’s your business card or the Mona Lisa. Those design elements include all the shapes involved; pictures, words and empty space. Yes, words and empty (or “negative”) space are, in this context, also shapes. It’s the relationship between all these elements and between the elements and the borders of the composition that a top graphic designer can manipulate to your best advantage. Done properly, this will keep your viewer’s attention on your business card (or advertisement, post card, brochure, masterpiece Renaissance painting, etc.) rather than quickly losing them.
Once you have a picture of yourself you like… your smile, expression, body language, hair, clothing, everything seems right, is it really ready? Possibly. Is it over or under exposed? Does it have one of those dated “high school yearbook” frames around it? Is there an equally dated, tacky backdrop behind you? Though you’re looking at the camera, is your body facing the right way? Is your clothing really perfect? Are you really perfect? A top level graphic designer or photographer can do wonders with a little time and the proper Photoshop skills. Minimize wrinkles, eliminate blemishes, whiten teeth, reduce that double chin, lose a few pounds, glamorize your eyes and hair a bit… the list of enhancements may be unending.
How about the physical quality of your business card? It should be printed on heavy stock in full color with the best offset printing press the print industry offers. Full bleed printing, which allows the printing to run off the edge of the card, should be standard, as well as the option for glossy or matte finishing. Use the back of your card too. It is an opportunity to double your marketing message that a fair print vendor should not charge more for.
Grab a handful of random business cards some time and see which ones stand out. It’s quite likely they’ll be the ones designed and printed with thoughtfulness and professionalism… qualities holders of your card will hopefully associate with you.
by Ernest Valtri,
Owner, Object Design, Inc., Doylestown, PA
215-489-3102 / www.ObjDesign.com