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Bargain Business Cards: Bad for Business

Contrary to popular belief not all business cards are created equal. Sure, $16.00 for 100 business cards sounds pretty lucrative to the small business owner looking to save money where they can, however, this is TRULY a case of “you get what you pay for”.

A business card’s sole purpose is to represent you and your business, yes? They need to make an impact. Business cards are advertising and are a key part of your brand. So why would you want to skimp on something that is intended to be the face of your business and speak for you? One of the biggest challenges you face using bargain online printers is branding conflict/confusion. The online printers offer templates that are easy for customers with no design experience to use. The problem is that, of course, these are available to everyone–the part that makes me want to bang my head off of a door is that right in the commercials they try to convince consumers that everyone can be a designer! I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen the exact same template used for multiple businesses or varying markets within small communities.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. I had a dear friend who owned a spa and she used the green swirl and leaf template (lets face it, we all know exactly the one I am talking about, proving my point without the need to continue, but I will). One day I was in a bridal shop looking for a bridesmaid dress and from across the room I spot her cards on the counter along with some others. It seemed logical, promoting a spa in a bridal shop, when I get to the counter I realize that the card is actually for a DJ business, not her spa. Huh. That’s not not good branding for either of them, they are in completely different industries and yet they have identical business cards.

The second example of brand confusion that I recently ran into was when a client came to me to design her business cards. She had collected a few cards of others in the same market as hers, as she was flipping through them and laying them out she realized she had two of the same (or so she thought). There were two business cards with those cute little owls on them (again, you know exactly the ones I am talking about, further proving my point), only they weren’t for the same business but were two cards for two different businesses with the exact same product.

The very idea behind branding and advertising is to create a unique, consistent, and easily recognizable look for consumers to quickly identify your business. If you and 20 other people in a 30 mile radius all have identical cards none of that is happening.

Now, I’m not here to shame you or tell you that using a freelance designer is the only way to go (it is the only way to get a truly custom card though), I am here to tell you to be aware. If you absolutely must us an online printer do your homework–spend some time walking around the local area looking at bulletin boards and businesses, collect business cards (even if they aren’t in your industry or relevant to you) and for the love of humanity, before you order, look through the cards you have collected and avoid using templates that others are using. I also ask that you please understand why freelance designers have no possible way to be competitive with a $16 box of business cards, we are designing you a custom look for you and only you, and the vast majority of us do not own a printing company where we can gang print your cards with 40 other peoples (this is how they can print them so cheap)–expecting us to compete with that is seriously devaluing what we do. Now the question you have to ask yourself is how much do you value your business.

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