First Impressions

What does your business card say about you? In many cases, it isn’t as promising as you think, says Sonya Lowery, author of The Secret Language of Business Cards: And what your brochure is saying behind your back, (Jordan Maxwell Publishing; $14.95). “Don’t underestimate the power of a business card,” cautions Lowery, who is constantly surprised by the gaffes business owners make in the design and production of their business cards. To find out how to avoid the eight most common business card mistakes, go to

Lowery recommends the following to ensure you’re making a positive impression with your business card:
Stick with the standard size. Larger format or odd shaped cards can be cumbersome. A standard size card will be easier for people to put in a business card holder.

Consider offset printing. Though digital printing is generally cheaper if you need less than 1,000 business cards, you may want the design options and greater variety of color that offset printing can provide. And if you’re printing more than 1,000 cards, the cost difference between offset and digital printing is small. Anita R. Smith, president of Hannah Bea’s Pound Cake and More L.L.C. in Portland, Oregon, uses offset printing for her business cards and prints at least 1,000 cards a year.

Have a logo designed. “Clip art is not a logo!” cautions Lowery. A logo is like your fingerprint or your face. It’s a unique representation of your business. Clip art, which is used by different kinds of businesses, does not help distinguish yours at all.

Embellish the card. Embossing or hot foil stamping are expensive, says Lowery, but “anything that makes your card stand out lessens the chance of it being thrown out.”

Choose high-quality paper. Today’s standard for business cards is 100- to 110-pound paper stock, says Lowery, though she suggests using the type of paper common in your industry. Glossy stock is most often used by people in entertainment-related businesses. Those with more corporate businesses usually use matte stock.

Use the back. Smith has a map printed on the back of her business cards to help customers find her business. She also showcases her logo on the back. She reserves the space on the front of her card for her contact information.

Keep the design simple. Roslyn Ridgeway, CEO of DeRoz Productions Inc., an entertainment production company in Atlanta, includes basic contact information on her company’s business card, but not much else. She says it keeps the card from becoming confusing or cluttered.