A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Business Cards: Show-Wins, No-Wins & Show-Loses

This is the first in a series of posts about a new subject close to my heart as I prepare to order a batch of business cards.

As we go, I'll explore why my last card failed years ago...and what goes into a great card. But let's keep these posts short and simple, easy to digest. There are so many things to consider--from card stock quality to finish to layout to fiendishly difficult copy--that today we'll start with just three basics. Here are the cardinal No-Win, Show-Win and Show-Lose rules.

The No-Win Cardinal Rule

You must have a great business card that represents you and your work. Your situation is No-Win without one. You have too many rivals, all screaming for sales and all handing out their cards. Professionals have business cards. We don't patronize losers who scribble their names and phone numbers on napkins. You're in a wilderness of signs and you will sink without a sound unless you heed this first Cardinal Rule. You don't need just a card but a great card that generates interest and heat...gives a sense of who you are and why you are different...and makes it easy to check out your work.

Accept this first rule and you're set to proceed. Go with no card or cheap card or amateur card...and you'll weep as you listen to this guy:

The Show-Win Cardinal Rule

In most places the next advice would be served as the finale. But it's something you should be thinking about from the get-go, from the very first thoughts of your card:

The way that you'll present your card is part and parcel of the show. If you've got a gold Cadillac among cards, you still won't get much mileage if you have to fumble to find it...or pull a battered specimen from your shirt pocket or purse. If your card is the winner it must be, then present it with casual, confident flair that people are sure to remember.

Easy does it, though. Beware of seeming to strain for the high notes. I once knew an artist who handed out cards as if they were hosts at a Catholic mass. First came the pricey card case which he delicately opened. Then he held the case in both hands with a reverential look. Within the opened case you saw different versions of his card, each with a different photo. And you were invited to take one...his eyes saying to swallow it whole but don't chew.

A more offhanded manner and an engaging 'Help yourself' would have turned that scene around

The Show-Lose Cardinal Rule

You must know your core card audience. Handing out your business card is a form of direct mail. In a blind direct mail campaign--e.g., sending Tweets to all your followers--the 'conversion rate', the percentage of those who will actually buy, is said to run somewhere from one to five percent. You can certainly better your chances with a terrific business card and a dynamite presentation.

But let's repeat: know your core card audience. Many people love collecting cards or are too shy to refuse one. By and large, you'll be wasting your money handing your cards out at random. Worse, you'll be wasting both money and time, if you're an ebook writer, debating with paper book snobs.

One final form of Show-Losing: if you have produced a classic card or have a cool, unique campaign, overcome the temptation to share it online. For pirates sail among us. And those who'd gladly sit on deck and watch you drown will plunder you without any sign of remorse.

Screw the pirates.

And know who your real friends are.

That's it for now. See you next week with further thoughts on business cards.

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