The business card is changing with the times

Imagine conducting business without the Internet. We have come to rely on email as a primary form of communication and on websites as destinations for researching products and services.

Still, not all business is conducted in cyberspace. We are human after all, and we continue to rely heavily on face-to-face impressions and tangible marketing pieces when making decisions about with whom we want to do business.

Enter the business card. What do you do if you meet a potential client but it’s not the appropriate time to deliver a full pitch? You give them your business card, of course, and bank on the fact that you have made a favorable enough first impression that they will consider you when they’re in the market for what you have to offer.

In the old days, that prospect would come to your place of business or call you on the phone when they wanted to learn more about your product or service. Today, over 800 million consumers have access to the Internet, and it has infiltrated our daily lives on such a basic level, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re going to head to the Web for the pre-selling research once conducted in person.

So how does that affect the information on your business card? According to Kim Engel, designer and president of Branch Creative in Traverse City, the prolific use of the Internet has prompted most of her clients to include their website URL’s and email addresses on their cards, often in place of their phone numbers.

“So much business is conducted online theses days, the email address is more prevalent than the phone number,” she said.

Ron Olsen of Mitchell Graphics in Petoskey, a company focused largely on direct mail services, agrees that website information is a key element of his clients’ marketing pieces.

“Speaking from a direct mail standpoint, customers are using the back of the direct mail piece to state what they are offering and direct potential customers to their website for additional offers or more information,” he said.

And what of the physical address? The Internet has also made it possible to work from remote locations, and business once conducted in downtown office buildings and storefronts is now carried out in home offices and cyber-markets.

“So many people are working from home now, and aren’t equipped to see clients at their home, so they don’t want to use their physical address,” said Engel.

Engel has noticed another marketing trend brought about by the Internet revolution. Because businesses are relying so heavily on their websites, a relatively inexpensive medium to update and change, to communicate information about their companies, they are using other printed marketing pieces less.

“The business card is always your first impression and networking and handing out business cards is still so important in the business world, but people are forgoing a lot of other marketing pieces. The use of other sales literature has dropped,” she said.

The money saved by producing fewer printed marketing tools allows her clients to afford more elaborate business cards.

“I’m designing a lot of fold-over and flip-over cards, and I like to use paper that’s a little out of the ordinary. I’m also doing a lot of four-color work with a lot of graphics, rather than just one or two colors,” she said.

Statistics show that a graphically-appealing business card may be just the thing for making a memorable impression; people recall a picture 80 percent more than words or dialogue.

And if graphics are good on a business card, what about video? Blue Water Video in Traverse City produces mini CD-ROMs the size a standard business card that can be customized with a multimedia presentation that includes audio, video, photos, graphics and charts.

“A video business card is a way to get a short infomercial into the hands of a prospect,” said Ed Girrbach, principal. “The biggest problem in sales is getting a few minutes for your pitch; it’s difficult to get undivided attention. This provides the opportunity to give a personalized message in a video format. Your prospect can then watch it when they are ready, with no fear. It can be very powerful.” BN