I routinely encourage audience members to give me their business cards at the end of conference talks. They do so if they would like me to send them copies of slides and other materials I reference during my presentation.
As many of my audiences are accountants this affords me the opportunity to compare and contrast hundreds of their business cards. So much so that I now add the following comment when I invite them to pass me their cards:
If you give me your cards I will send you a copy of the slides etc as long as I can read your email address. I’m astonished at how small or pale this is on some business cards. What is the point in having a key piece of contact information that is hard to read?
If you don’t have a card with you, just jot down your name and email address on a piece of paper. I ask for your name as I don’t like addressing emails to Dear info, Dear mail, Dear admin or Dear enquiries and if that’s how your email address starts I have no option unless I know your name. Again, why would you not want people to know your name?
I have written previous blog posts offering tips to help accountants ensure their business cards work well for them. Whilst many accountants have great looking business cards, many still do not. So below I offer a summary of the 11 most common business card mistakes I see accountants making. You may find it helpful to check yours against this list.
Also, of course, if everyone (or enough of those) to whom you give your business card then follows up with you, engages you or refers other people to you, then all is well and you should ignore all that follows!
Plenty of accountants include on their cards something specific about the services they provide, niches on which they focus or a neat tagline that helps them stand out from the rest. All of these, done well, can work for you. I’m no marketing expert so will not attempt to tell you what you MUST do with your card. I simply offer here 11 mistakes that it’s easy to avoid.
Before getting onto the common mistakes let’s just remind ourselves as to the reason for a business card. I suggest that it is to provide the person to whom it is given sufficient details for them to get in touch with you – and for them to know why they might want to do this. Also for them to remember you – beyond the next 24 hours or so. Will they remember you in a month or two when they look at your business card for the first time in weeks – especially if, since meeting you, they have met 2 or more other accountants?
1 – info@ admin@ mail@ enquiries@ etc
Email addresses that do not start with a name are generally a turnoff as they lack the personal touch Why not use your name? It’s even worse on websites where there is often no reference at all to who YOU are.
2 – firstname.lastname@example.org or @yahoo.com or @gmail.com etc
Email addresses that use a generic email service look unprofessional and suggest that you are either new in practice, are not serious about growing your practice or are very much behind the times. None are great signals. You can get you own email address very cheaply even if you do not have or need a website.
3 – Tiny and/or pale font
Either the information on the card is worth including or it isn’t. If it’s too small or faint to read then it might as well not be there. Too many business cards seem to have shrunk the font size to fit in more information such as email addresses, linkedin profile links and a promo message. But if we can’t read it easily you’re wasting your time.
4 – Crossed out email address on card and new handwritten one added
Talk about unprofessional. Think of the impact this has. New contact details means new business cards. There’s little point in finishing off an old batch of cards if the people to whom they are given mark you down as unprofessional.
5 – Multiple office phone numbers.
You should only need one office number unless you personally operate from multiple offices. Even then you could make it easier for callers by utilising a central phone answering service, installing a switchboard or adding an auto-redirect (when engaged or unanswered) to your mobile number.
6 – Two email addresses on one business card
Why would anyone do that? It’s not like having separate local and city office physical addresses. Make it easy for people to contact you; don’t force them to wonder and to choose.
7 – Flimsy and cheap looking card
Your business card is a memory aid for when you’re not there. Do you want to be remembered as a cheap amateur?
8 – Mixed up personal and business contact information
So many business cards have evolved with little thought apparently given to where newer info should be added. It’s so much easier if the business name, address and switchboard number are evidently separate to your personal name, title, mobile, direct dial and email address.
9 – Glossy or dark coloured card
I’m not the only person in the world who likes to make a note on the back of business cards I collect. We do this so that we can recall where and when we met and what we have promised to do by way of follow up; or simply something about you that will make it easier to remember you. I know it’s great to feel that your card stands out from the rest, but will people still recall you and where and when you met etc if they cannot note this on the card?
10 – Forgetting to include ‘Accountants’ or any similar style reference
A surprising number of accountants’ business cards have a clever brand name or even just the individual’s name but no indication of the nature of the business service they offer. Of course if you’re ‘tax specialists’ you might put that instead of ‘accountants’. Remember too that even if you’re a member of the ICAEW and use the authorised logo, not everyone will recognise this so it’s not sufficient. And whilst a marketing ‘guru’ may have suggested you call yourselves something like ‘business growth specialists’ you still need to use the word ‘accountants’ (or whatever) to help the person who looks at your card, some time after you gave it to them, remember what you do.
11 – Squeezing everything onto one side of the card
All cards have two sides, why not make use of both sides. Larger firms might put personal contact details etc on one side and the firm’s details on the other side. Or you might use one side to highlight specific expertise, interests or services. Don’t just list everything that most people assume all accountants do. That’s a bit of a waste of space.