How Are You Dealing with Business Cards?

By John Oxford

As marketers, we often have to review expenses and tactics to make marketing decisions for our banks. The most painful item in this review—at least in my humble opinion—is business cards. There, I said it. You can thank me later.

These overrated, 3.5 x 2-inch pieces of paper take up way more bandwidth for marketers than they could ever be worth. From the new hire to the newly promoted bank officer worrying us to death for his or her fish-bowl entry form at the upcoming conference, you’re dealing with people who are looking to their cards for a sense of personal validation. You may even be dealing with different divisions wanting different designs for reasons of their own. All this is costing you creative time, effort and money. Aren’t business cards just super-duper awesome?

This is the age of creating attention-grabbing content, selecting the proper delivery channels, converting your prospects into clients and using data to test, drip and re-market all of your efforts. Why are we talking about business cards here? Hasn’t LinkedIn destroyed the need for business cards (beyond using them as a quick tool to get spinach out of our teeth)?

All ranting aside

Here are some hints for perfecting your business card game—or at least some ideas to lessen the burden on you, Mr. or Ms. Bank Marketing Pro.

First, try to pass the buck to your human resources department. They do all the official hiring, so just make it part of the hiring and job promotional process. It probably won’t look as good as it would if you controlled the design and process, but you have bigger battles to fight.

If HR will not take it on, move to the next step. Set it up on auto-pilot with a printer and self-ordering system. If you can pull this off, congratulations. You can stop reading this column now.

OK, so let’s say you cannot, for whatever reason, pull off either of these suggestions, and you have to take responsibility for the cards.

What should you do?

If you’re among the many banks struggling for brand differentiation—working with a common bank name, commoditized products, etc.—you could  take the small step of making your cards different.

One idea: Break out of the normal size and create a card that literally sticks out. Because it doesn’t cost a lot, it may be one of the few tactics available to those who want to stand out, but are budget strapped in their marketing departments. Beware: the next complaint you’ll receive is that these cards do not fit in a desk business card holder—which is likely already packed with previous cards that were never given away. Yet the demand for cards will continue.

Other choices for a quick standout: Use super thick paper, emboss or deboss your lettering, choose different puffy inks or die cut the paper for a unique shape. Make them something other than white, bone, porcelain, eggshell or marble.

You might consider adding a photo to the card. Or including a QR code that scans to a video or website.

Or could you just do away with cards altogether?

What if you stopped producing cards, took the cost savings, and used it to ramp up your banking officers’ LinkedIn profiles? To that, I would say: “Yes, please.” But be ready for your bankers to say: “Fat chance. They are giving away a free iPad at booth 24 and I need a card to enter in the drawing.”

You could chew on the words of wisdom from this guy, who took 25 years to design the best card possible:

I have to give him credit. That card does stand out—and indeed, “it doesn’t fit in a rolodex because it doesn’t belong in a rolodex.” (Does anyone still have a rolodex?)

In the end, yes, folks in sales still need business cards for certain situations. And since we are obliged to take care of those who make the sales that pay our salaries, we must give them the best card we can create. Now, if they will just fax us their info, we’ll send it via bicycle messenger over to the printer for their new cards.

In the meantime, you can hear an in-depth dive on business cards and other tools for connecting as I hash it all out with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency on the latest Marketing Money Podcast.

John Oxford is director of marketing at Renasant Bank and co-host of the Marketing Money Podcast.