The Cost of a Cheap Business Card

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We’re all heard them - radio ads that offer “free business cards” from large, national print companies. But just like everything else that’s advertised as “free”, there are some hidden costs you should be aware of.

The Upsell

Many business use the term “free” as a way to get you in the door, making you a captive audience to the other products and services they offer that aren’t free. You’ve seen this tactic a lot, and sometimes in slightly different forms, but the ultimate goal is to get you to spend more money than you initially wanted to spend, including heavily marking up the cost of shipping to make up the loss.

The Quality

Have you ever had someone hand you a business card where the paper is so thin you can see through to the other side? Or the ink coverage is inconsistent so solid areas instead look splotchy (or worse, it looks like it was photocopied a hundred times)? How about a card that was clearly cut incorrectly, so all of the information is slanted at an angle? A business card is often the very first chance you get to impress someone with the visual aesthetic of your brand. It’s a chance for you to make a statement about the quality and professionalism of your work. If the printing, paper stock, or cut alignment is sub-par, you’re sending the wrong impression.

The Advertisement

The company’s that offer free business cards take a calculated risk that they can upsell you into selecting a paid product. If they can’t, however, they have found a way to still get value out of your transaction. Business cards are by nature meant to be shared - handed out to other individuals on a regular basis. Every card printed by these company’s comes with their own logo printed on the back - piggybacking their advertisements on your cards, and, therefore, your business. It’s crucial to keep a potential customer focused on the value you can provide them. Confusing your pitch with an advertisement from another brand will make it harder for your message to come across.

Devaluing Your Brand

This is the highest cost to the free business card deal. You value your business - if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be working so hard at it every day. So why would you undermine yourself by devaluing your own brand in literally the same gesture as introduce yourself someone. When you hand someone your business card, you are saying “I am proud to be a part of this brand and I want to share it with you.” As soon as that person reads “Printed for free at” on the card, they are going to think that you don’t consider your business valuable or worthy enough of quality business cards. It would be similar to walking into a job interview wearing sweat pants. You may be the most brilliant mind in the room, but if you don’t show that you value this opportunity by dressing appropriately, you’re not going to be taken seriously.

Free business cards may seem like a great deal in the short term, but you always have to consider the long term impact of the choices you make, especially as it relates to your marketing. At Grid, we value the impression that your brand makes from the first introduction, like a business card, to the last interaction, such as a follow up service call to make sure the client is satisfied. Let us help you build a marketing strategy that addresses all stages of the interaction.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Jay Cross.