10 Business Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

10 Business Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

10 Business Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Everyone should have a business card, right? Whether you have a business, a nonprofit, a local organization or are looking for a new job, you need a way to leave people with important information. But most make big mistakes on their cards.  Do you?


To write this post, I grabbed ten random business cards from a stack I received last week. So you can see I didn’t have to look far for examples.


So if you are ready, pull out your business card, lay it on the desk near your computer, pull out a pen or highlighter and be ready to identify the mistakes you are making


Here are the 10 business card mistakes people make:


#1 Small font size – Some of us have perfect vision.  But if that’s what it takes to read the letters and numbers on your card, you are asking for trouble. Because most of us don’t.  So today (or before you print your new cards), please walk them around to a variety of people and ask a simple question: “Can you tell me what this says?”


#2 Glossy paper – One way I can make your card more usable and memorable is to make some notes on it before I leave you.  But if you have a varnish on top, you make that hard.  Will your cards get a little dirty without it?  Yes.  But I’d rather be able to write on your card. And ask you to keep your cards out of your wallet.


#3 Light font color – I mentioned font size up above.  This one’s about font color.  It’s also about contrast.  So if your card uses a font that is too light (grey, for example) or one that is too close to the color of your card, I won’t be able to read it.  And if I can’t read it, there’s a good chance I will send an email to the wrong address or call the wrong phone number.  Or just give up.


#4 Design inconsistent with website – Whether your business is just you or you + 100 others, there is great value in having a card design that integrates the look and feel of your brand.  So if you have a website, a store front, a product line look or anything else, shouldn’t the look of your business card be consistent? Few of us have enough money to be driving thousands of people to our site or store everyday.  But you can at least create more recognition of your brand via integration of your marketing materials.


#5 No links to social media sites – If you use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to attract people to your brand, shouldn’t you include links to those sites on your business card?  It’s a great way to encourage more fans and followers.  Simply by letting people know how to find you. Can’t find the space?  See #10 below.


#6 No email/web address or bad email – Amazingly, I found two cards without an email address.  And one without a web address.  Just a phone number.  What if I’m not ready to talk live yet?  There’s always a place to send people.  Don’t have a website? Use your LinkedIn profile (as long as you aren’t too lazy on LinkedIn). And then there were two cards that had a nice logo and business name combined with a gmail address. That lowers your credibility in my eyes.  Especially when it is so easy to get an email address with your own custom url.


#7 Printed on poor quality paper – I have a friend who owns a consulting business who charges in the five figures for their services. When I got their new business card recently, I was disappointed to pick it up and realize (instantly) what cheap paper they used. Please don’t “cheap out” on the paper.  Your brand matters to people.  And often the first and early impressions are based on things like your business card.  Would I pay $10,000 to someone who has a paper-thin business card? Would you?


#8 Shares too much information – Some cards are so full of information that you really don’t know where to start.  A business card is not a good place for your elevator pitch. It’s a place to entice people.  To draw them in and guide them as to how they can learn more about your business or services.  Are you over-delivering on your card?


#9 Includes no brand promise or tagline – Every person, company, organization or nonprofit needs a clear and compelling brand promise.  Here are a few brand promise examples if you need them. They quickly tell your story and tell people why you are relevant (or not).  Without a brand promise, your card is simply a contact card – a lot less interesting. Not sure why you need a brand promise?


#10 Does not use back of card – I believe in white space (room around the content that makes your card easier to read) so I always recommend you use the back side of the card.  If you put your brand promise on the back, you can hand someone your card with that side facing up (and saying the brand promise out loud).


So what other mistakes are people making?  Want to send me your card for feedback?  Use the contact form to get in touch.


Need some new cards? Check out the business cards Tiny Prints can make for you!


Here’s a photo of my card – you can offer your feedback in the comments!


marketing, branding, business strategy, social networking, coaching, consulting, ideas, business cards

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Tim Tyrell-Smith – who has written posts on Fix, Build And Drive™.

About the Author

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Comments (22):

  1. Tim – Great article and I would make one additional comment – make the information you want people to see stand out. On my business cards, my phone number is in the middle of the card and it is a larger font and bold. In line with your comment about too much information, making certain items bold or bigger directs people to what you want them to see.

    In addition, what is your thought on using fax numbers on a business card? Personally, I don’t like to see them and don’t recommend them unless receiving faxes is an integral part of your business.

    • Hi Reuven – Thanks for those additions. I like the idea of emphasizing a certain communication form. If you want phone calls, I could see over-emphasizing that aspect. The only reason I would add a fax is if you know your target market appreciates it. Seems old school, but for some it might be the right tool.

  2. Excellent points about business cards, Tim! I like how the shape of your card mirrors the red, yellow, and green dots in your logo, as well as your use of accent colors.

    One point I would add to this post is: use a QR code. I’ve used both QuikQR and Qurify to generate a QR code. There’s no sign up, and they are free, quick, and easy to use. With how many folks have smartphones, it makes it simple for contacts to scan your card to get to your website (or wherever you want them to go).

    • Yeah those are fun – glad you noticed! 🙂 So I’ll tell you I’m still unsure about QR Codes. Not because I don’t see the utility, but because I worry that the # of downloaded QR Code readers is highly dwarfed by the # of QR codes being used by marketers. And they take up so much space! But for the right market…absolutely. And you are right to bring it up. What do others think?

  3. I think the Facebook link and Twitter # tag look tacky.

    If they want to find you on social media, they’ll find you.

    Just because a company shows at a popular convention annually, doesn’t necessarily mean they should put their booth number and the convention address on their business card.

    Unless, of course, you’re selling booths at the convention. :/

    • Hey Chris – Thanks for sharing your reaction. I guess the SM piece works for some not others. I think for those on the fence, it gives them an easy way to get there. But I agree if they are not interested, they won’t go no matter how much you prompt them. I don’t think, though, that your convention analogy works as a comparison. SM is available all the time to anyone where a convention typically happens once a year in a single city and for a particular industry. I want to invite people to engage with me. So, tacky or not, I want them to come find me. Different strokes. 🙂

  4. How are you supposed to write on the card if you take up all the space? [contradictory #2 and 10]
    Filling up the back with the brand promise ensures that little space would be afforded to any person trying to write on your card in any legible size.

    • Hey Kevin – Fair point. But, that’s why I leave a lot of white space. Yes, I use the front and back but there is still plenty of room to write a quick note – just tested it based on your comment. Here’s what I wrote on the back of my card “Good resource for social media – Call Tuesday” and in words as big as my brand promise. And that’s all it is – a reminder of something they can do to help me or how i can help them…

  5. Great insights, Tim. One of those things that I don’t pay a lot of attention to, but the graphic designer that I used to develop my business cards violated much of your insight. I’ll now know better!

    • Hey Jim – You’ll note that a number of my “mistakes” are ones that affect utility (i.e. can I read the words). Sometimes these practical issues are lost for an overall design impact. I don’t blame graphic designers for that, but this is where you need to step in as the person who will actually use the card and make sure it will have the impact with your network that you want. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Can we get some opinions on people using QR codes on biz cards?? Personally… I hate it because they usually just link to the person’s website. Why would you link to a website? My eyeballs can’t read a QR code… if you are going to link to a website why not just type out the URL? Having to use my phone to scan the QR code is a lot of work to just go to a website.

    Now, I am all for a GOOD use of a QR code on a biz card. How about linking to a short 30 sec intro video? Now that is a cool idea.

    Check out this GOOD use of biz card AND QR code: In this case the person tells you what the QR code is for and also gives you a place to make notes. GENIUS! http://goo.gl/5633j

    • Hi Leah – Like the idea you shared re: the short video and the card you shared in your link. Use of a QR code should be practical and of some value. My only beef with QR code use that it takes up valuable space. And in a world where not that many people have a reader, it has questionable value. Of course this varies by population and industry.

      • I absolutely agree with you, Tim. I am rarely a QR code fan. And my problem isn’t really with QR codes… its with the “strategy” (or lack thereof) in which people use them! Just because QR codes exist, it does NOT mean you have to use them!

  7. great and informative article, we are in need of new cards and will definitely use these tips!!!

    • Thanks Lesley – glad this helped you…

  8. Ooo, good tips. Really need to get mine reprinted – when I got them back I realised I didn’t have my email address on them. Dumb hey?!

    • Hey Vicky – Dumb? No. But unfortunate! Sometimes we create our materials in a hurry and in a vacuum. Glad this post helped you!

  9. Hey Tim, not sure if perhaps you changed your web/business tag line since this post last year, but its different now to the picture on your card. Can you notice it?

    Previous was; Marketing, Social netowrking and Business Coaching.

    Now is; Brand Marketing, Team Development, Marketing Coaching

    Maybe time for a new set of cards…:)

    • Hey Danny –

      Yes, I changed the focus (a natural iteration) and new cards will be coming. Sometime soon. Thanks for noticing 🙂

  10. […] Twitter links and phone numbers. Tyrell-Smith suggests devoting the back of the card to a logo and brand promise— a short phrase that explains exactly the services you can deliver to a client. This leaves room […]

  11. Thanks for posting. I will be sharing this with my audience tomorrow!

    • You are welcome, Paige. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: