By Trey Ryder
SIN #1: Your type is too small. Few things provoke as many negative comments as type that's too small to read. In an effort to achieve a corporate or high-end look, artists often choose fonts that are painfully small. Don't. Make sure your prospects can easily read the words on your card.
SIN #2: Your fonts are hard to read. To achieve a high-end look, many lawyers turn to scripts and even Old English typefaces. Unfortunately, they're nearly impossible to decode. How often have you looked at a business card and then rolled your eyes because you didn't have a clue what it said? A business card that people can't read is worthless.
SIN #3: You print on top of a photograph or illustration. Some lawyers put an image or photo on their card and then print words across it, called overprinting. Don't do it. Overprinting makes the illustration hard to see and the words hard to read.
SIN #4: Your letters are spaced too far apart. Several years ago, artists started putting a lot of space between letters in the same word to gain a sophisticated look. (You might know this is called kerning.) They could take a five-letter word and make it as wide as a ten- or twenty-letter word. Few things look as artificial or amateurish as letters that are pulled apart in an effort to create a highbrow effect. If you're sophisticated, people know it. If not, they know that, too.
SIN #5: Your fonts create the wrong image. Fonts are not just a matter of personal preference. Their lines, curves and serifs create a certain look. Formal or casual. Contemporary or traditional. Elegant or comic. Lawyers often choose a font they like without realizing that the font doesn't convey the image they want to communicate.
SIN #6: You use too much foil. Foil stamping can look professional when used with discretion. But commercial printers get excited when they buy a new foil stamping machine. For the next few months, everybody who walks out of their shop has foil-covered business cards that look like an explosion in a paint factory.
SIN #7: Your information is hard to find. When prospects look at your card, they want some piece of information. Often, it's your phone number or email address because they want to contact you. Make sure you put information where prospects can find it quickly and easily. Otherwise, you'll end up frustrating the same people you want to attract.
SIN #8: Your card stock is flimsy. People see your card's colors and fonts immediately. But many lawyers don't realize that people also draw conclusions based on how your card feels. Rough or smooth. Heavy or light. Firm or limp. Make sure your card's feel is consistent with the image you want to project.
SIN #9: You use cheap, raised, plastic lettering. It's called thermography and people like it because they can feel the letters rise off the card. The fact that lettering stands up to coffee stains is hardly a reason to buy it. Thermography is fine for a plumber or car mechanic, but it falls short if you're looking to convey an upscale, dignified image.
SIN #10: Your information is out of date. Some people think they can't order new cards until they use up all their old cards. They may even cross out the old phone number and write the new number above it. Spend the money. Order new cards.
SIN #11: Your card looks more like an ad. Lawyers sometimes design their business cards so they look like small display ads. More often than not, this is a mistake. Prospects often need a good amount of information before they decide to hire you, but on your business card is not the place to put it.
SIN #12: Your odd-size card doesn't fit into business card holders. In an effort to stand out from the crowd, some lawyers use cards of unusual sizes. True, this makes you different, but not always in a positive way.
SIN #13: You give your toll free number to everyone. When you print your toll free number on your card, you're inviting the world to use it. Consider printing only your local phone numbers on your business card. Then, when you want someone to have your toll free number, write it on the back. The person receiving it will think he's special -- and you have much tighter control over who uses your toll free line.
SIN #14: You put too little information on your business card. Prospects and clients may prefer to reach you in different ways. One may like email; another may want to send a fax. When you give prospects and clients different ways of contacting you, you're more likely to offer a method that they find convenient.
SIN #15: Overall, your card is too much. For a dignified, professional image, aim for a card that is quiet, graphically appealing and understated. When a client hands your card to a prospect, in two seconds your prospect draws conclusions based on what he sees. That small piece of card stock projects the image, substance and depth of your entire firm. Don't underestimate the importance of a good business card. When you want a new image for your law firm, make sure you hire a competent designer. What your card says -- and how your card looks and feels -- are too important for an amateur.
© Trey Ryder
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