Business Cards – 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Your business card is your calling card. It should be a tool that will get people to remember you and contact you for business. But if your business card is poorly designed, has important contact information in unreadable fonts, or looks unprofessional, it will be useless. Be sure your card works hard for you by avoiding these 12 common business card mistakes.

A business card is one of the most important and cost-effective marketing tools a business has. It helps people remember you after they return from a meeting, and it gives them a way to contact you in the future. Scanning applications for smartphones let your customers scan your card and transfer your contact information to their phone, too. Yet too often, small businesses make mistakes on their business cards that prevent the card from making a great impression. For instance, there’s a good chance that if the look and quality of your card is shoddy or unprofessional, it may be thrown into the trash.

You don’t need to be a professional designer to come up with a good business card. You can make it an effective marketing tool by avoiding these common business card mistakes. 

12 Common Business Card Mistakes to Avoid

1. Omitting Important Contact Information

Your business card has a dual purpose. It’s a tool to remind people about your business, and it’s the source of contact information that will allow customers and prospects to reach you. No matter how nice your card looks, it won’t be as effective as it should be if it’s missing important contact information.

At the very least, the contact information on your business card should include your business name, your name, title, address, phone number, website, and email address.  

2. Not Including Your Address

Homebased business owners often don’t like to include their address on their business cards. But people expect established businesses to have a physical address. If your business card is missing an address, it can make prospects question how long you’ve been in business and how long you’ll stay in business. If you work from home and don’t want to include your home address on your business card, consider getting a post office box, a business mailbox at a UPS store, or a virtual office address. If none of those options are in your budget, at least include a city and state on your business card so customers have some idea of where your company is located.

3. Having a Card That Blends in with All the Rest

One mistake that’s common to many business cards is that they are mundane and unimpressive and soon become a faint memory. Leave someone with a card that looks great, feels great, and clearly defines what your business does — and you and your card won’t soon be forgotten.

There’s absolutely no excuse today for an unattractive or unprofessional-looking business card. Use the many software templates and examples of sample business cards that are available online to help guide your decisions about what should go on your card. Among the many places to look for free business card templates are online printing companies, Microsoft,, and various printer manufacturers. To find templates, search online for the term “business card templates.” 

4. Using a Poor-Quality Card

An acquaintance of mine just printed up some “homemade” business cards. She spent five dollars for an Ink-Jet business card kit to print 100 business cards. I was very impressed initially with her card: great use of colors and fonts, and the layout was pleasing to the eye. Then I held the card in my hand: it was feather-light, and I could feel the perforations around the sides, which were already peeling. There was also a fine white line running through the red ink of the company name.

Lesson: Don’t skimp on money when it comes to business cards. You want good stock paper, print that doesn’t bleed from a drop of water, an attractive logo, and a card that feels substantial and pleasing to the touch.

A poor-quality card implies a business that will have poor-quality products and services. Rather than attracting business, this type of card would most likely repel prospective customers.

5. Having a “Mystery” Business Card

When someone looks at your business card, can they tell immediately what your business does and which specific business of that type you are? (That is, are you Joe’s Taxi Service or Bob’s Limo Service?) If not, you’re not likely to get many calls or referrals. To help with that identification, be sure to include your logo. If possible, the logo should have some connection to what your business does or what you’re selling. For example, UPS (United Parcel Service) for 43 years had a logo on their business cards that showed a string-wrapped parcel sitting above the carrier’s shield.

6. Not Providing a Unique Selling Proposition

Many businesses miss the golden opportunity of utilizing their business card to its full marketing potential. Your card should state at least one very powerful reason a customer should do business with you. For example, an auto service center’s business card that reads in part, “complete automotive repairs” and “all work fully guaranteed” lets people know that the center handles all types of repairs, and builds trust by mentioning the guarantee.

7. Using an Oversized Card

The standard business card size is 3.5 by 2 inches. Common sense dictates using a traditional-sized card. Bigger business cards will not fit in wallets or most business card holders. Smaller cards stand a chance of getting lost or overlooked. Chances are an odd-sized business card will end up in the trash. 

8. Print That’s Too Small

Does your business card have a font size so small that you need to hand out a magnifying glass in order for it to be read? Beware of this practice. You may be able to cram more information onto the card with a small font, but what good is it if people can’t read it? A good guideline is to use a type size no smaller than 7 or 8 points. Your name point can be a little larger, about 9 points, and the company name usually looks good at about 12 to 15 points.  

9. A Cluttered Card

An appealing business card does not contain the print content of a novella. Too much print looks busy, is difficult to read, and looks unprofessional. Simple is best. Sort out the information and keep only what’s totally necessary for someone to know your name, your company, what you do, why they should use you, and how to reach you. If you have too much information to put on the front of the card, remember you can use the backside, too. The back of a card is a good place to add a link to sign up for your email list, for instance.

10. Inadequate or Poor Use of Color

Spice up your business cards with a little splash of color. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes. For example, just as restaurateurs use the color red for its appetizing quality, the judicious use of red in a business card is very visually appealing. Avoid the common mistake of grey print on a white background; it lacks contrast, and the print is difficult to read.

On the flip side, don’t make the mistake of color overload. Too many colors that don’t complement one another will make the card look busy and will detract from the content of your card.

11. Not Including Email Address and Website on Your Business Card 

Many people use email instead of making phone calls. And people who want more information about your business often want to learn more without a sales pitch. So, they go to your website and read about you there.

Although you could refer people to your social media pages, you don’t own the pages and don’t own the contacts. You can’t even control what gets displayed to whom unless you buy ads. So, if your email address and website are missing from your card, you’re likely to miss out on some business.

12. Cards That Don’t Get Distributed

What good is having a box full of business cards if they’re just sitting there collecting dust? It would serve you and your business better to apply the old axiom, “Use it or lose it.” What can you lose? Business.

Always have a supply of your cards wherever you go. Give them out when appropriate, and while you’re at it, don’t hesitate to give out more than one. Invite people to pass the extras along to others who might need your service. You might be surprised at how often this can result in a referral.

For those times when you can’t network in person, be creative. Drop one or more business cards into the packages you ship to customers. Send out greeting cards to customers to congratulate them on their birthday, thank them for their business, or wish them well on a holiday. Drop a business card or two into the greeting card. Put a card in any printed invoices you mail to customers. While your company contact info is already on those invoices, the customer is likely to discard the invoice after they pay you. But they might save your business card or give it to a friend who needs your services.

RELATED: How to Design the Perfect Business Card

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