Business Card Backup

I was reading a very interesting note from Robert Scoble’s blog about business cards (Business card best practices) and it made me think. Many of the things he talks about are great advice, and some of them are very cool.

A great example of “cool” is the famous card of Matt Mullenweg (founding developer of WordPress — the software that powers that said simply: 1) Go to Google, 2) Type in Matt, 3) Press “I’m Feeling Lucky”. Very slick, and still works. [ed: try it with “clwill”, too]

Business cards say an amazing amount about you, and who you work for

Business cards are more than simply a way to communicate facts, they say an amazing amount about you, and the organization you work for. I think the Japanese and Koreans have it right in their rituals and reverence for the exchange of business cards. The guy who said on Scoble’s blog’s comments, “For an IT guy, business cards are strange relics of an analogue world” was simply wrong. Just as with titles (see my FAQ entry here), business cards aren’t a remnant of yesteryear, and you treat them as such at your peril. Even the most mole-like of dweebs meets people who want to know who they are.

CLWill's MS Card

This article made me think back about some of my business cards. At one point I had kept every one I ever had over my career. When I came across the three-ring binder of them a year or two ago, I realized it was time to move on. So I threw them out. All but my last one at MS. I worked so hard for that darn thing, I just couldn’t see throwing it out. So I saved a few.

That card was actually not bad, I think. Clean, simple, direct. Even though it violates Scoble’s rule #5, it doesn’t say what the company does, I think most people know Microsoft. And it leaves a lot of white space, I wrote a lot of notes on those cards.

Reading this article also made me shudder, and pull one of my current cards out of my wallet. Ouch… need to work on that. They look pretty, but they don’t say what I do, and they leave a vacant impression. And the back is empty — a terrible waste of space.

The thing I remember most about bad business cards is what people choose to put on the back. The front speaks loudly and clearly, but it is often the back that says the most. And here, people struggle, and often fail.

Of course, if you do business in a couple of languages regularly, you should have two-sided cards, one in each language. And if you work with the blind, braille cards are obvious. But beyond that, people just seem to have a lot of trouble.

I hope don’t need a checklist on the back of your business card to remind you.

Some of the worst examples of the back of business cards are the ones that trumpet something silly like their ISO 9002 compliance status. I am especially amused by ones that put the company’s vision or the company’s “values” on the back. Some HR person thought that would be a good thing, but most of these statements are meaningless drivel (see my post here) or are very internally focused (“treat every customer with respect”). I frankly hope you treat me with respect and don’t need to see a checklist on the back of your business card to remind you.

The back of some cards are actually useful for the recipient. Like one with a map to the store. Or a criminal lawyer’s card with your Miranda rights on it. Or a reminder of your appointment with your proctologist.

Some of the best card backs are ones that echo important messages for the company. Repeat marketing themes, or at least tell in clear, crisp terms what the company (and you) do. This is wasted space for which some bright marketer can surely find an excellent use.

So, I know I have lots of work to do with my cards. I’ll report back when I get my homework done. How about you?

2 Replies to “Business Card Backup”

  1. I’m a graphic designer who’s made tons of business cards. I agree with you about using the back and how it’s wasted space if not used. However, I have to mention that I’ve had and stll have countless clients that specifically want the back of the card to be blank. Reason being, it’s empty space they can use to write on. This is actually a great idea.

    How many times do you look around for something to write on and you already have a pen? If you’re like me the answer would be too often. I’m not suggesting that the back of the business card always be blank. As you said, it works great for criminal lawyers, but it won’t work great for everyone.

    A good idea would be to fill the back of the business card with a light color. Sites like offer colors to use for the back. That way the back doesn’t look too boring and you can still write on it.

  2. Thank you for this comment. I think you can have your cake and eat it too… Put some key information on the back, such as key marketing messages or important services offered, and still leave plenty of whitespace. It seems criminal to leave it blank (or even solid pastel) and let the chance to get a message to the customer slip away.

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