messy pile of business cards
Do you have enough business collateral to last you for the next few months? Heck, do you even NEED business collateral?

Business cards, letterhead and envelopes, oh my!

In my last post, A New Year’s Checklist, I shared a basic checklist for your business communications in the new year. This week, I want to focus on your business collateral, specifically business cards, letterhead and envelopes.

Do I need printed collateral?

It used to be that when you set up a new business—or new employee—printed collateral was first on your list. Business cards to hand out, letterhead to communicate and envelopes to mail. However, in this digital (and environmentally more aware) age, these pieces are far less useful. I have never had letterhead for my business and rarely use envelopes. I also have a box of 250 business cards that I don’t give out very often. But if asked, I would get business cards every time.

Let me share a business card story. I’m a knitter. It’s not a hobby to me, it’s a lifestyle. Every week, I get together with my best friends and we knit in a local coffee shop for three hours. A few weeks back, there was a lull in our conversation, and I hear from a table behind me, “…and then we just need to find a graphic designer.” Reaching into my wallet in my knitting bag, I pulled out a business card and walked right over. It turned out, they run a group I’m familiar with and probably don’t need my services, but this planning team now has my card. Maybe someday.

Wait, what’s the wifi password here?

I serve on the board of the local chapter of my professional organization. I’ve volunteered at several events where I’ve met a wide variety of colleagues, potential clients and potential partners. We’ve met in those places where there might not be paper, cell service is sometimes spotty and it’s kind of loud (yeah, networking at bars isn’t my favorite thing either). Sure, we can swap phones, follow Insta accounts and set up LinkedIn to find new contacts near me, but am I going to remember how I met them? And just as important, am I going to capture all the information I need?

At a conference this fall, I connected two people who I thought should know each other. One of them was a new meet but the other is one of my favorite people, Michelle of Marktime Media. Michelle pulled out her business card, flipped it over and proceeded to write where they met (she even had space on her card that noted “where we met”). It was so brilliant. But more than that, it was easy, and it was quick. No stopping the conversation to fiddle around with our phones or forgetting where we met. And now that new person knew exactly how to get a hold of Michelle.

Let me share one more of my own business card stories. Two years ago, I attended an event centered around WordPress (for designers, developers, users, vendors). I didn’t know anyone there and ended up meeting Rene, a WordPress developer. Rene is from Pittsburgh but was in town for WordCamp and to see family. To my amazing luck, she sat by me and we started talking. Not only did I make a friend (and conference companion), I made a business contact. We exchanged business cards and went our own ways. SInce that meeting, Rene has sent several amazing clients my way and has helped me out with answers to my own email marketing. We’re still trying to find ways to work together on a project, but that little piece of paper we swapped two years ago has paid itself back in so many ways.

Recently Rene shared with me (and the world) a fantastic tip about a social profile link. This is a URL that sends people to a website page made up of links to different ways to connect digitally (you can find my page here). And with all of the important links on one page, you have an easy link to share with people on your business card or on your social profiles. (Check out Rene’s post, “Creating a customized social profile page” where you can see a sample of her own business cards featuring only the connect link).

Great, so I need business cards. Do I really need 250 of them?

In the olden days of yore, your option was to order 250, 500 or 1,000 business. And if you go through a lot of cards, it makes sense to order them in the larger quantity (price per piece usually lowers for the higher quantity). But a lot of people don’t need that many cards. When I ordered my business cards, I went with 250 cards even though I knew it was far more than I would go through with any speed. But I also chose to go with that many because I wanted to try out a new printer (they did a beautiful job).

There are many vendors online who print great business cards in low quantities. Vistaprint and Moo.com are two that my clients will often use. Moo is slightly more expensive but their quality is better. Both offer different papers, prints and sizes (though Vistaprint is frustrating in their decision to not use standard sizing for anything. This matters if you’re submitting artwork sized to the standard 3.5” x 2” business card specs).

That being said, I suggest you consider getting at least 250 cards (if your budget allows). When you have a lot of cards, you tend to be less stingy in giving them out (you know you’ve eyed that “free sandwich” drawing at your favorite local spot) and less likely to run out before a big event or meeting. Assume every card use could turn into a business relationship. Also, extra business cares make fantastic bookmarks, luggage tags or ownership cards when you loan things out to friends.

What about letterhead and envelopes?

Do you send out a lot of letters? Mail things? For some people, these documents are integral to their business. For others, like me, they are not. I doubt I’ll ever need to print letterhead and I have labels for those very rare instances I mail things (though I did get a bunch of envelopes with my holiday cards that I have on hand if I need now).

There is also the option of digital letterhead. This is a document that you can use in Microsoft Office but has been set up with artwork, colors and styles to match your letterhead. This allows you the flexibility to compose letters on the fly, save as a PDF and email them out.

Inventory!

There are a lot of ways to keep in touch with your current and prospective clients and your business collateral is likely one of those ways. If you haven’t done so recently, take an inventory. Figure out how much you’re using and how much you need. If you’ve got enough for three months, consider doing a visual inventory of your collateral:

  • Is the content correct?
  • Does it include your social links if appropriate?
  • Is the logo correct and does it look good?
  • Are the colors right?

This would also be the time to ask if you are happy with your business cards. Maybe it’s time to update or refresh your brand… but that’s a post for another day!

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