While most of the business world pushes for a full-digital shift, I would just like to take a few minutes to talk about one very important physical networking tool: business cards.
Yes, I know the digital thought: What’s the point? Nowadays, everything is done through email or social media, and I always have my iPhone/Android/Tablet/other wi-fi capable device with me so I add contacts instantly. Why do I need to carry actual cards?
Because, my friends, business cards don’t just give away your information to new contacts; they show part of your personality, which is important. Ask anyone trying to fill a full-time position and they’ll tell you that yes, degrees and qualifications matter, but whether your personality will mesh with the rest of the staff is a huge deciding factor. Business cards help by showing your personality through design.
Let’s bring a bit of science into this: ever heard of sensory marketing? It’s a term used by marketing agencies when they talk about using all of the customer’s senses to get them to buy products. Sight and sound shouldn’t be the only things affected when pushing a product. To effectively have people remember something (your personality), you need to get them to touch, smell, and even taste the object; the more senses an object affects, the more likely it is to be remembered (science!)
Since you know I’m talking about selling yourself as a product, you might be a bit weirded out now; rest assured, I’m not saying you should have your new contacts lick you. Our goal here is to conjure up memories of your meeting, by using the physical sensation of touching the card and the sight stimulation from your business card’s design. The card brings extra sensory elements into your meeting, which bumps up the chance for remembrance.
But so what, you might say. People can see my personality by talking to me, so this doesn’t justify carrying around physical cards. Well, there’s actually another good reason for having cards on you: timing. Have you ever been to a networking event where there were just so many people you wanted to talk to, but didn’t have time to get to all of them? No worries! Before everyone runs out for the night, quickly go up to the people you didn’t get a chance to have a full conversation with and offer them your card and the option to talk later. Since you didn’t have a real conversation, where information about yourself would have come up naturally, the card can tell people who you are and what you’re looking for. And if they’re good networkers, they’re going to follow up with all of the people they met that night, which includes anyone who handed them a business card. Bingo—there’s your shot.
“I love the idea of business cards, but where can an intern/recent graduate like me get some fancy-schmancy business cards without giving my wallet a heart attack?”
Never fear, folks. There are plenty of options for getting business cards on the cheap without sacrificing quality. Here are some of my favorite places to get cards (and some extra goodies as well):
My friends and colleagues have mixed feelings about Vistaprint, but I’ve never had a problem with them; they’re pretty good for cheap business cards. The have tons of stock designs, plus an option to upload your own photo. On their site, premium cards will run you $14.99 (not including shipping,) though Staples uses Vistaprint’s designs as well and only charges $9.99 for 250. I don’t know if it’s the same quality paper, but I don’t see any indication on either website that it’s not the same. Vistaprint does have a “free” option (you still pay six dollars for shipping, so it’s not entirely free), where you can get 250 personalized cards without the premium price, though you are limited to using only 45 of their designs.
Goodie Alert: Instead of going directly to vistaprint.com, go to fandango.com (this sounds weird, but bear with me.) Find some movie you want to see, and look towards the top of the page; you’ll see a button that says “get free tickets.” Click on that, it’ll take you to a free trial offer page, where you can complete one sponsor offer and get a free movie ticket. Vistaprint is always listed as one of the sponsors, usually with either the free 250 business card deal or a $2 tote or mug. Click on that offer and proceed as usual on Vistaprint. You’ll get your 250 free cards, AND a free movie ticket and only pay the shipping for the cards (6 dollars) and a fandango fee (1 dollar). So, cards and a movie for 7 bucks. You can’t beat that.
I love these cards. The paper they print on is incredibly sturdy, so it’s quite hard to bend them. The quality is astounding and there’re so many options: you can have matte printing, or a have a glossy sheen added to the top, or gloss everywhere (there are other options, but I really like gloss.) Their stock designs are pretty cool. They have the standard plain colors and patterns, but they also feature some neat photos and original drawings for you to use. But what’s really nice is their “add photos from Facebook” option, which allows you to upload any image on your Facebook profile directly onto the card. A pack of 100 cards is $30, so it’s not terribly expensive, though there are cheaper options. Check out Moo cards here.
By far the cheapest way to make kick-ass business cards is to print them yourself. All you need is a business card printing software (if you have Microsoft Office, open up Publisher and choose the business card option) a design program (Paint comes standard on all PCs, though if you want something fancier, Gimp is free) and some paper. Or, if you want to save time, buy the pre-perforated paper made specifically for printing cards. Just load it into your printer, then punch out the cards when they’re dry—no scissors required.
There are tons of other places to print cards as well. If you don’t like any of these options, a quick google search for business cards brings up about 306 million results. Kinkos prints cards as well; just bring your image with you, either printed or on a flash drive.