Marketing – starts with the humble business card

Although small, business cards are crucial in marketing. My desk drawer is full of cards. Cards from editors and publishers, cards from current and former clients, cards from patent lawyers, web designers, hotels, restaurants, printers, photographers, bank managers – all kinds of business contacts and interesting people I have met through my work as PR consultant to technology businesses.

Swapping cards is part of the enduring ritual that we go through every time we make a new contact, along with shaking hands, and a quick conversation to get acquainted. There’s always a slight disappointment when a new contact says “I’m sorry I haven’t got any cards with me.” Sometimes that’s true, and the person is genuinely unprepared, but it can also be a polite refusal to agree to further contact.

Thinking where the business card fits into marketing, it will probably always be high on the list of “Marketing Touchpoints”. For most people starting a business, the card is the first marketing document they make. For established businesses, it is a small but vital piece in the increasingly complicated jigsaw of marketing actions.

Digital printing revolutionised business cards, and colour print is now possible without a large outlay, so most business cards are now a mini advertisement, with print on the front and back. The cards in my desk contain logos, straplines, bullet points, graphics – and one or two even show a photo of the individual. But not everyone is making the most of this tiny marketing tool, for example, not everyone uses the space on the back of the card to the full extent.

The business card that impressed me most was presented to me by one of the very smallest of businesses. It came from a one-man telecoms consultancy, and the card is not an ordinary card at all – it’s an 8-part zig-zag folding card where each section describes a different service that his consultancy offers. It is, in fact, a mini brochure – 500 x 700 millimetres in disguise as a card. How strange that a sole businessman would create this neat piece of marketing, when the hundreds of thousands of companies with professional marketing managers and far bigger budgets simply stay with the traditional card and never even think of doing anything different.