My Marketing Thing

Promotional material tips: business cards

Ernie the business card cartoon

The humble business card. So small, yet so powerful. Let’s call him Ernie. 

Not all our business comes from the internet. Some of our most powerful connections can come from actually meeting a real 3-D person – and handing over Ernie (your business card).

Not just because they can use Ernie to look on your website or contact you directly. Ernie can help the conversation along. Ernie can explain what makes you special.
An Ernie scenario 

You’re alone at one of those business networking things. This one is even more horrific than usual. There’s a sea of people, but none of them familiar. Those who already know each other clump together like survivors on a life raft. Meanwhile you’re paddling along hoping for someone to shuffle over and create some space for you.

This doesn’t happen, of course. Bastards.

Fortunately you come across another lonely paddler, Dolores. Talking while paddling can be hard work. At least you both look engaged.

You try to explain to Dolores what you do for a crust, but the waves are getting bigger and the room is getting louder. Dolores is looking puzzled. So you end up pulling out Ernie and passing him across like a floatie. It works. Dolores’ eyes light up. Why? Because:

  • Ernie answers all her main questions:
    –  Name of your business
    –  What you do that’s different and how you can help (in your tag line)
    –  Your name (qualifications/credentials, if necessary) and where you can be found
  • Ernie looks fabulous
    You immediately go up several notches in Dolores’ estimation because the cardboard is firm (emitting confidence) and the design is easy to read, engaging and professional. 
  • Ernie is a visual cue
    This can make all the difference, because many of us are more visual than auditory in how we receive information.

Dolores asks for another Ernie because there’s someone else she knows who is likely to be interested in what you do. Hey, this networking thing isn’t so bad after all…


After the networking thing

Back at the office, Dolores checks out your website (the web address is on Ernie, of course). The logo on Ernie is the same as what appears on the header of your website. Dolores immediately knows she’s in the right place. Ernie is part of the family. You go up a few more notches in Dolores’ estimation. Branding continuity is a beautiful thing when it comes to building confidence.

Once Dolores has checked out your site, she adds your details to her contact list and slides Ernie into her business card folder. If her contact list is ever lost (computers are great when they don’t send your hard drive into an abyss), she knows Ernie is there as a quick reference.

And there’s no need to pull out Ernie from the folder to get all the details, because all the important information is on one side. Super easy. Unlike some, this Ernie slides in nicely to the folder. He is just the right size. The ones that aren’t the standard dimensions always get thrown out because they don’t fit into the filing system.

Other people’s flyers, brochures and presentation folders are cumbersome things to keep. Ernie is much easier, so he’s saved from the circular file.


So what have you learned from this tale?

  • Have an Ernie that clearly states your name, your business name, what you do and why you are special (conveyed by business name and/or tag line), and how to contact you (if you don’t want to put your actual location down, have a PO Box address – just a phone and email looks half-baked)
  • Make sure all these details appear collectively on ONE side of Ernie
  • Have an Ernie that’s well designed, well printed and on decent, firm stock (i.e. cardboard)
  • Have branding continuity from Ernie through to your other promotional materials
  • Don’t make it hard to put Ernie in a wallet…
    …business card holder or presentation satchel (they often have a plastic pocket or 4 cut slits to slide your Ernie in there).
  • One exception to this rule above…
    …was a photographer who had a concertina design for her business card, making it an immediate portfolio of her work. Six panels all up. Spiffy. And still using the regular dimensions with firm cardboard (but not too thick to be cumbersome).
  • Make sure your Ernie is inflatable (just kidding)


3 extra quick tips 

  1. Be careful with die-cutting
    i.e. fancy-trim irregular edges (e.g wavy edge). It can look impressive but be expensive. Unless you’re a printer or designer, it’s probably not worth the expense. I’d generally opt to use the money for internet marketing development.
  2. What to do on the back of your Ernie
    Don’t repeat the information you already have on the front.
    Instead you can:
    (a)  List some key benefits.
    (b)  Keep it blank so you can scribble additional information on it.
    (c)  If you have the kind of business that involves regular appointments (e.g. a massage therapist) you can use the back to write the next appointment details and give the card to your client.
  3. “I remember faces, but I don’t remember names”
    Okay, photographs on business cards is usually a tacky look. However, I have seen one with a semi-transparent b&w image that looked incredibly sophisticated. It was representing a shmick graphic design company. Consider it.

Printing a professional business card is fast and cheap. Don’t print them out on flimsy card at home. You will look unprofessional and that’s going backwards. You’re better off not giving a business card at all.


Don’t have your brand worked out?

Read my other posts on branding design:


After these simple steps, you can go forth and proudly offer your fabulously professional Ernie – and even enjoy paddling around those crazy networking events. Bon voyage!


This post was written by Megan Hills.  Megan is a writer, cartoonist, marketing consultant who quite likes hanging out with Ernie. Find out more about Megan.

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