by Ada Hasloescher
In the last column, we explored the various reasons why it’s a good idea to have your business cards with you at all times, especially when you are walking out the door for a business or social engagement.
Before we talk about business card etiquette, in the next installment, I’d like to start with the appearance of the business card itself. What does it need to look like? What information should be on it? What information should not be on it? How do you feel about having your photo on the card? Is that a good idea? If not, why not? What kind of paper stock is best? What color, font, and logo might you consider?
I can hear you running away already! Too many decisions—too many choices to make—I don’t have a picture of myself that I like—Do I have to have one? —I have my cards already and it took me so long to get them done; I’m not happy with them but I don’t want to think about going through it all again.
The first thing I would suggest if you do not yet have a business card is to go onto one of any number of printing websites, or visit an office supply store and put something—anything together and don’t worry about the look. You can (and will most probably) change the card later on. These companies do make it easy for you to design your own cards. They are cheap enough, and you can always use the less desired cards as a bookmark, once you redesign your card to the one that you really like. The goal is to have something to hand out NOW.
As to what should be on the card, there is the essential information that needs to be included and the nonessential information that you may want to include. I like to keep things simple, clean and readable. To use the vernacular, you don’t want it to be Ongepochket (Yiddish for “Messed up; excessively decorated; overly baroque”).
2. Title (Mediator, Esq., etc.)
3. Company name (if applicable)
4. Phone number
5. Business address
6. Email address
7. Website address
Now, I would like to address a few of the “essential” items.
Title: At the very least, you want to put the word “mediator” next to your name. If you are also a social worker, psychologist, attorney, etc. and feel that your degrees will enhance your authority, then, by all means add them. I included “Founder” of the Divorce and Family Mediation Center, LLC, as part of my title. Again, anything that demonstrates your strength as an expert in your field is a good thing.
Business address: Clients want to see a business address, and not a P.O. Box. You are conducting your mediations in a physical location and it should be on your card. If I were a potential client and didn’t see an address on the card, I would be suspicious.
Email address: You may think that this is a no-brainer. But, I do know some therapists, for example, that do not like to give out their email address to their patients and never include it on their business cards. If you are a therapist who is also a mediator, you may want to consider having two cards – one for your therapy practice and one for your mediation practice. Much of my communication with my clients is done via email, and not having an email address would greatly hinder my ability to communicate with both parties at the same time. You may also want to consider having multiple email addresses for specific purposes (personal, business, etc.)
My thoughts on the “Non-Essentials” are the following:
Photograph: When my business coach first approached this subject with me, I balked big time! I thought it was cheesy (only real estate agents did that), and I resisted it. But, what’s the point of having a coach if you don’t take the coaching? So, I took the plunge, had my photo taken and added it to my business card and my email signature line and my website and my social media sites and my handouts. What a difference it made! People think they know me even when they have never met me before. It gives me instant recognizability and a familiarity that makes social networking smoother and easier. I do have an inside joke with my family about the photo: I made them promise me that when I no longer look like my picture, they’ll be honest with me and tell me when it’s time to have a new one taken. Of course, you’re always going to select the photo that makes you look like a rock star!
Logo and tag-line: If you have a business entity, chances are you had a logo designed. Use it! And, if you have a tag line for your business, use that too! These are the sorts of things that will distinguish you from everyone else who has a plain vanilla business card.
Color/fonts/stock: My suggestion is not to go with something that will impede someone from being able to read the information on your card. Colors that are too dark and fonts that are too light or too small are no good. You don’t want people to have to take out a magnifying glass to read your card. Paper stock is important, too. With my first cards, I went with a really nice, shiny stock but eventually found that it was hard to write on it. Remember, when you hand out your business card, people will generally turn it over and make some notes on the back of it. If you use a shiny stock, the writing will smudge. I wish I knew that when I ordered them. Of course, I used them up as I had ordered 1000 of them. But when I ordered new cards, I went with a matte finish. And, one last thing: leave the back of the card blank for purposes of notation. My next installment will be “Business Card Etiquette.”
Ada L. Hasloecher is the founder of the Divorce & Family Mediation Center on Long Island, New York, a former board member of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation and a Founding Board Member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. She is also a trainer at the Center for Mediation and Training in New York City. Ada is frequently asked to present workshops and seminars on divorce mediation as well as professional practice development, marketing, building, and practice management.
This article was originally published in The Professional Family Mediator, Winter, 2013.