Tuesday I attended a networking event. I met many interesting entrepreneurs and business professionals. I was also blown away by the number of butt-ugly, unprofessional and down right cheesy business cards that were passed out.

If you are seven years old and selling lemonade,  OK, I’ll cut you some slack. But if you are or expecting to sell at least $10,000 of good or services in year, you need to invest in an effective business card that best reflects your value, quality and expertise. Business cards are often the first impression a new contact gets and the lasting impression that is filed for future connections.

Buying a preprinted template is a big mistake no matter what industry you are in.  It implies you the smallest potato you can be and most buyers will not be turned on by this status as most are looking for experts with a history of success.

Even if this means skipping a meal to pay a professional to help you, your business card is one of the most important branding touch points.

4 must do moves to make sure your business card is working with you, and not against you.

1) Think differently
How can your card stand out from the pack of totally boring ones? Size of card, material that it’s printed on or does it have a scent?

2) Keep copy concise and compelling
A business card is not intended to be a book. In most cases,  your company name, your name, a graphic mark, your web site, email and phone is enough. Give them a reason to go to your website to learn more.

3) Use typefaces that are relevant to your brand
Society is conditioned to associate type with many brand attributes. A typeface can communicate innovation, creativity or a blue leisure suit from 1980. Select the one that best articulates your brand.

4) Leverage the white space and the back of the card too.
Sounds conflicting? Don’t fill every inch of the card with stuff. White space is good. This is the most cost effective way to communicate a quality  and upscale image. Think of an old yellow pages add vs. a stark Neiman Marcus ad, I rest my case. Use the of back of the card too.  Consider a simple image, a provocative question or your web address.

Investing in a memorable, on-brand business card is not an option. If you are a startup and you can only launch with two tools for your new business, make them a killer business card and a website. Then let your product or service carry the load until you can do more.

If you are interested in other ideas, check out an older blog on the subject of business cards and branding.

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