Beware "free" business cards

Beware "free" business cards

Sometimes “free” is just too expensive.

Take those free business cards you can order online. While their quality and appearance can be quite nice, they often gossip about you behind your back. They may be sending subtle, negative messages about your company and you, which can undermine your best efforts at marketing. Let me give you an example.

At a recent outdoor event, I happened to meet a woman whose company provided technology services. One service, in particular, seemed like a potential good fit for one of my best clients. After a brief chat, we exchanged business cards and went our separate ways. Later, I looked at the back. It read: “Free business cards from Vistaprint.”

Unfortunately, this completely undercut her credibility. I couldn’t help thinking, “If she can’t even afford business cards, how successful could she be? How could I possibly refer my important clients to her?”

That’s why I was surprised that the WSJ’s Startup Journal touted these freebies recently. Hey, I’m as cheap as the next guy, but I always discourage clients from using free business cards. Why?

Because they sabotage the integrated look and feel your marketing materials require.

To present a professional image to prospective clients, your ads, brochures, web site, business cards, etc. must all share a single “look”. What kind of message are you sending to potential clients or customers, when your business cards, brochure and web site look like they came from three different companies?

Important: I’m not knocking online printing companies. Some are excellent. I’ve been delighted with the prices and service from GFX, among others.

I’m saying, don’t cheap out on something as crucial as your marketing materials. They’re the “best outfit” you wear to meet with important clients. Do it right. Here’s how:

  • Budget the money and make the investment. Yes, investment. You can expect quality to yield higher returns.
  • Hire a good designer — not all of them are expensive — to create your logo, letterhead, business cards, brochure layout.
  • Hire a good copywriter to help you articulate your message. (Sometimes both designer and writer can be found under the same roof.)
  • Spend the money for quality offset printing. Tip: Always shop around and get several estimates for any print job. Prices, like quality, vary widely.

Hire professionals — you’ll be glad you did.

An expanded version of this article is available on my website. It joins many other business and marketing articles.

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