Business cards are the quintessential business-marketing tool. Whenever you go anywhere or have a conversation with anyone – about anything – you could be asked at any moment…

“Do you have a business card?”

Odds are the answer is ‘yes’. (And if not, it really should be!)

Here’s the real kicker though…just what is your card saying about your business?

Your business card is a mobile sales force for your business. It has to communicate everything about you, your business, your products and services in a glance. It has to reflect your brand… and it has to do all this even when you’re not around to provide back-up support!

Yes, you might hand your card to a prospective customer at an event or meeting, and they may add it to their contact file. Or they may pass it along to someone else who they think could use your help. THAT is the audience you need to think about when you are setting up your business card for printing… the person that has NO IDEA who you are or what you do!!

So to help you get the most out of your business card and make it an effective marketing tool for your business, I’ve created the Smarty Pants’ Top 10 Business Card Boo-Boo’s list. I split the list in two to keep this all in bite-size portions.


Boo-Boo #10. Lack of clarity with phone numbers.
It’s been the norm in more urban regions for years, so for them this looks like a no-brainer. But it’s only been in the past year that we in Alberta had to start using the three-digit area code prior to our local phone numbers. (Heck, I can still remember my Aunt and Uncle’s farm being on a party line! Dating myself, I know…)

Don’t assume that people will “just know” that you live within a certain area code. GIVE it to them. You also must assume too that your card will travel outside your local trading area – in fact, that’s what you WANT. Chuck the old cards that don’t have the area code and spring for a reprint.

Using too many contact numbers is also a fatal flaw. First of all, it crowds the space available – you do have limited real estate to work with here. Keep it to one phone number, one fax number, one email and your web address. If you are in an industry where a cell phone is deemed necessary – like real estate – then add that too… but that’s it!! Adding more than that simply makes it more difficult for customers to contact you. And you want to make it easy for them, right?

Boo-Boo #9. Using illegible fonts.
Improper font use is one of my personal bug-a-boos. The wrong font on a card flashes like a neon-sign: “This card is a D.I.Y. project!”

There’s a trend with young folks now in the “Goth” movement to use a lot of Old English fonts… don’t do it! Same rule applies for fancy script, and even some scrapbooking or handwritten fonts. You can’t read them!

Stick with clear sans serif or classic serif fonts. Remember that the smaller the font, the more white space you need around it to keep it legible too.

Which is another point really… nothing smaller than 8 or 9 pt. in size, depending on the font used. A VERY general rule of thumb: Your name in 10 – 12 pt size, everything else 8 – 10 pt. Use bold face on your name, phone number and web address – everything else use a regular weight. If your data doesn’t fit in the space you have, start cutting information… you obviously have too much going on.

Which brings me to my next Boo-Boo…

Boo-Boo #8. Cramming on too much information.
You’re not writing your life story here. Too many people try to make their business card act as a brochure or worse yet, a web site. Remember: limited real estate. Use wisely.

Keep the information to the essentials: Your name, your business name, your tag line (if you have one, and it’s advised), and your basic contact information from Boo-Boo #10 above (phone, fax, email and web address).

As for all those fancy letters behind your name for all those degrees you earned… the only places I’ve ever seen them have ANY significance is in legal/financial professions (LLB, CA, etc.), medical practices and post-secondary education system.

My first job was at an agricultural college, and there were occasions when I had to have an entire line of text dedicated to someone’s tickets and degrees! It was ridiculous, really. Out in the world of private business, all those letters just looks like alphabet soup.

The only time I saw people listing those degrees was in situations of professional certification. For example: if having a P.Eng. behind your name is essential to bidding on contracts, then put that on. Save the B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., etc. for your bio page on your website.

Boo-Boo #7. Can’t read the business name.
Oh yeah, it happens. Small businesses try to get ‘fancy’ with their business card or logo design, and jumble up the text, or have the name running in a circle so you don’t know where the starting point is. Talk about the frustration of chasing your tail.

This is your business, not a Grade 6 art project! Make sure that people can read your business name at a glance. If you’re not sure, show a few friends or customers hard copy samples of some of your ideas, and get their feedback. (I’m a professional designer, and I always ask for a look from “fresh eyes”.)

In truth, businesses are well advised to hire a professional designer to create their logos. But that’s another article…

Boo-Boo #6. Confusion between the business name and the tag line.
Sometimes the tag line sounds more like the business name, and vice versa. And if both are equal size and prominence on the card, there’s a double-whammy.

Easy solution: Your business name should be the largest piece of text or graphic on the business card. It should be eye-catching and the main focal point of your card – no one will be able to miss it. Your tag line should be smaller and secondary to that. Putting the tag line in italics or in quotation marks is a great way to say what it is you are selling.

That’s probably plenty to digest for now. You might want to pull out your own business card and have a look to see if you have any of these oopsies going on already!

To learn what else to watch out for, be sure to read Part 2 of this article to read the final five on my Top 10 Business Card Boo-Boo’s!

Author's Bio: 

© 2009 Patricia Simoneau. All rights reserved.

Patricia Simoneau, Creative Genius, provides creative brand image and marketing solutions to rural entrepreneurs looking for fresh ideas. Patricia works with clients in non-urban locales and makes their marketing more memorable! Sign up for her wacky and wise e-zine at and receive her FREE Bonus Report, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Small Businesses Make with Their Brand Image”.