Business Cards: Debating Form vs Function

Business Cards: Debating Form vs Function

I’m having a strategic and philosophical discussion about business cards again. What do you think about them? Essential? Cheesy? Do they need to be designed, or can black text on a nice card stock do the trick as long as it says what you do? Let’s take this apart.

What is a business card?

  • A way to enter those raffles that get you a free meal at your favorite restaurant if you’ll listen to an insurance salesman’s pitch over dinner.
  • A way to hand out your information, phone number, email address and a few details about your business.
  • Something flashy that can open a conversation about what you do.
  • An exchanged business document that says, “If you need me, or any of my services, call me.”

I’ve just had a very interesting and slightly heated discussion about business and business cards with an Austin luminary. And I actually value his opinion, but I’m not sure we saw the world in the same way. We certainly disagreed about our two business cards.

Here’s the diminutive Moo Card (TM) business card I was sporting today.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 12.27.00 PM

Immediate problems:

  • Too small
  • Can’t read it
  • I’ll throw it away

Immediate wins:

  • WTF?
  • Wow, this is cool.
  • Hey, look at his card.
  • What’s this called?

Okay, so I agree with my friend today on the problems. BUT… I have a different opinion of the purpose of a business card today.

He said, “I’m going to throw this away. But in my mind I’m going through it and wondering if I have anyone that needs any of your services. So this a failure. I’d never hire you.”

I asked, “Would you have thought any less of me if I had said, ‘No, I don’t have any business cards.'”

“No, I wouldn’t have.”

“And yet you gave me your business card first,” I said.

“Yes, that’s what business cards are for. Here’s my card, if I ever have need of your services…”

And then I thought I had him, “Okay, but in the two-way exchange I now have your information. I’m the one tasked with reaching out and following up with you. I don’t really care so much about you sending me an email or calling me on the phone.”

He smiled back at me. “But I want to put you in my Rolodex. And with a card like this, that will never happen.”

Damn. Okay, so he took the first goal.

“All right,” I said. “How about this scene. I’m at a business networking meeting, and I’m collecting cards. What’s the purpose of the business card at that time?”

“Everyone is looking to increase their networks of opportunities.”

“And, in my opinion, the object of MY business card at these functions is to get noticed.”

“Oh, this one will get you noticed alright, as people hand it back to you saying they can’t read it.”

“Yes, perhaps,” I agreed for the moment. “But, at this same meeting, people were passing around my business card and saying, ‘Look at this. Isn’t this cool?”

“How old was this group?”

“Mid-forties to late fifties. And there my card was a conversation starter. In a room full of business cards, mine stood out. And everyone wanted to know what I did.”

Perhaps I scored on this point. But he was unconvinced. “Don’t be mad at me,” he said. “But I think you’re really missing the point.” And I’m sure he was right. But I’m not sure I was trying to make the same point.

And I went for the close at that point. “So as the hunter it is my effort now in using YOUR business card to connect with you and get my information into your database in a different way. I want into your digital inbox. I want to be a contact in your email program and ultimately a speed-dial on your phone. If my business card is boring and my business pitch is poor, it’s going in the trash either way.”

“Yes, but my inbox is flooded by 1,000 of messages every day.”

“Okay, but you’ve given me your business card, expressing some desire for me to contact you. And that’s the part of the relationship I’m going to follow-up with. Even if I don’t have a business card at all.”

“Yes, but…”

I’m sorry that he missed the coolest part of my business card, one that would’ve driven him even more bonkers. If you flip it over, it says Fluent Search. So in his eyes I can’t even decide on a business name, much less a dumbass card design.

What do you think? Does a plain and simple business card get you leads? And what business are you in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I guess the real answer will come in the form of an email back from him when he reads this post, less than an hour after we had the conversation. Then we’ll see if I got in his digital Rolodex. (grin)

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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