10 Reasons Your Business Card Sucks

Do you view your business card as a simple formality, or a powerful sales, networking, and marketing tool that can embed your person and brand in customers’ minds, motivate callbacks and generate sales?

Unfortunately, most professionals are in the former group. They print business cards that are less inspiring than tiring. And chances are you’re in this group. Thus, I present 10 reasons why your business card sucks and what you can do about it.

1. They Minimize “You”

People do business with other people, but many business cards spend more space on the company and brand than the person handing them out. Make sure your name is big and bold, along with your contact information to help establish customer relationships. Your company’s logo should be smaller than your own photo.

Image Source: Meandering Along by Jessica Martincic

2. You Have a Mug Shot

OK, so your assistant finally wrangled you in a corner for that mug shot your designer has been asking for, and you look like a raccoon caught in a garbage can. If you want to get a mug shot taken, break the law. If you want to convince customers to do business with you, take a shot of you in action, in a positive light.

Image Source: Realize Business Cards by Thomas Høyrup Christensen

Don’t constrain it in square borders; instead, have it take up half of your card or the entire background. No photo at all is better than a pre-coffee photo snapped in a dim corner of your office.

3. No Tagline

A great tagline tells customers what you do, how it benefits them and serves as a memory hook. Don’t forget to include one on your business card.

Image Source: Global Phalanx by Jonathan Lavender

4. No Offer or Call to Action

A great offer (something other than “free consultation”) will entice customers to take the next step in the purchasing process. Put your offer on your business card, front or back and tell customers what they need to do next to take advantage of it.

5. No Added Value

Customers keep things that have value. If you want prospects to keep your business card handy, give them something useful: a discount, a sports schedule, a checklist or brief how-to guide.

All of these can fit succinctly on the back of your business card. Make it relevant to your customer base, and your business cards won’t be threatened with File 13.

6. Mundane

If your business cards look like everyone else’s, you’re missing the boat. Experiment with different sizes and shapes: square, jumbo square, slim and custom die-cut business cards. Try contrasting colors, bold text and symbols. Make your business card stand out and command attention.

Business Card Stamps
Business Card Stamps by Jorgen Grotdal

7. Forgotten Technology or Trends

If you want to appear progressive and cutting edge, do not miss the opportunity to incorporate technology or new design trends into your business cards. Use it to promote a viral video, collect email addresses for follow-ups and more. Also, don’t forget to include your social media handles so customers can connect with you online.

Image Source: 23rd5th

8. Poor Printing

Considering printing your business cards on your desktop printer or local copy center? Think again. Not only is the quality of ink and paper suspect – and as such reflective of your own quality – it’s more expensive. You can print premium business cards on professional paper stocks cheaper than doing it alone, and you won’t have any of those perforated edges cheapening your brand – and personal – image.

9. Never-Changing Cards

If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s why professionals never change their business cards – or, if they do, it’s a couple of times per decade. I know printing in volume is cheap, but printing business cards in general is cheap – dirt cheap, in fact.

Use business cards to help promote seasonal and special offers by printing a few versions every year. You don’t have to change your branded image, or even the front of your business card; but mixing up your business card with different deals on the back and perhaps a slight logo alternation (a Santa cap on your logo, for example) will help add a touch of personality and attention-getting prowess – not to mention targeted marketing – to your marketing efforts.

10. Zero Creativity

Come up with fun and unique ways to engage your prospects and get more attention for your company. If you’re going to a business conference, for example, hand out business cards with relevant and fun trivia questions on the back. Or, offer a fun game, story, or fast facts.

Make them into humorous trading cards, or make a quick scavenger hunt. The goal is to get prospects sharing and talking about your business, so they’ll remember you when they get home and when it’s time to buy.


  • AnneH.

    All excellent reasons and why business cards are important for marketing yourself or your business. Thank you!

  • guest

    Logo alternation with a santa hat?? So much time and effort is put into creating an effective logo, and seasonal “add ons” is something we strongly discourage clients from doing. It kills the integrity of the brand. Changing your business card several times a year is really an unnecessary expense and just seems tacky. 

  • Rob_McKenna

     If you create a really strong logo, a santa hat never hurts.

  • Kes Williams

    Hi Brian, we at Graphic Force Ltd, see the 10 mistakes every day. We are given eagerly at networking and meetings company cards and we cannot believe some of them.
    One of the worst mistakes we find is spelling and wrong phone numbers.

  • Schay G.

    @ Anne H. I found this very helpful for my new biz. I was wondering, are you in business for yourself & what do you do?

  • Martin

    A Santa hat, just like an explosion, is always effective.

  • Parker

    Does anyone actually use QR codes? It comes down to, if you want a strong business card, hire a professional to do it.

  • What company makes metallic business cards like the ruler card in the conversation? Or even good ones? I once got a rounded edge square metallic card from an advertising company. It was something I kept for a long time. Really simple and outstanding.

  • Karnper

    Great suggestions. I am a graphic artist and will definitely keep your suggestions in mind. Most times, however, customers are not terribly adventuresome. Especially when you are designing for multiple employees within the company.  Another big limitation is that they want to include so much copy on the card, not a lot of room for visual interest. Love the photo suggestion. My card has my face, anchored to bottom, just from the nose up, looking up.  I have gotten so many comments and compliments.

  • Funny how people don’t realize that the business card says it all – especially what YOU think of yourself…  Also very important to hand them out – I am always telling clients that if you don’t hand them out, how will people know about you?  Also in agreement about the mistakes.  Watch where you get your cards printed – they don’t necessarily tell you if you have mistakes.  My clients are very important to me and how they look reflects back on me so I’m not sending out anything under my name with mistakes that could have been prevented.

  • Hello

    Mosy of this is just about the worst advice i’ve ever heard, and as a Graphic Designer, I get some pretty weird requests from clients… different sizes? they are that size for a reason! they need to fit in your wallet! Santa hat? what?! Tag line? you should be using your cards to network, not expecting them to do it for you! oh dear…

  • Stephen

    Nice article. All I would say about different card sizes is that they need to fit in a wallet. Many people hand me vistaprint cards, which are not only printed on cheap stock, but they don’t seem to fit in my wallet.
    Some great examples above. Love the cards in point 7. They look like nice letterpress prints.

  • JCfromDC

    Expensive die-cuts and wierd, but creative fold-out cards are nice… if, If, IF,  the company is involved with packaging and die-cutting, but for a start-up, or very small enterprise (like mine), it is a horrendous expense, not to mention frivolous.Agree with most ponts. I have made several of the misteaks on my own, including too smal a name and phone. I am going two-sided next round: logo, nmae and phone on front large; Services, tagline  and smalller logo on reverse

  • Ignotum

    Terrible advices. Better to leave a professional this matter

  • Laurenlindorinan

    ¬¬ It’s completely different. I watched. If it sounds “the same” to you… it is because you’re not listening. They are both right… business cards are important. ;) ciao!

  • Designer

    Point 8 is about the only thing that makes any sense here?

  • Bill McConnell

    I frequently get compliments from clients who have benefited from unique cards i’ve designed, but I agree with Hello — odd sizes usually don’t work. 

  • jvmediadesign

    This was going along good until the QR codes. Have you looked into how hard those have bombed by any chance?

  • Bleh

    Please tell me you’re trolling everyone there. Please.

  • Bpalmer

    Dear Brian,

    Your headline sucks! “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” I wouldn’t even take the time to read an article that starts out, “10 Reasons Your Business Card Suck.” You could have started out with something pleasant such as, “How to Improve Your Business Cards.” Using a critical, negative, judgmental headline isn’t cool; it’s immature. Be a professional. Using all of you expert writing skills to attract readers – all readers – even those who are bothered by a headline such as, ” “10 Reasons Your Business Card Suck.”

  • Paul Bayley

    10 Reasons Your Business Card Sucks

    As you claim to know all about effective communication I would have thought you would have got the grammar in your main headline correct. Surely it should read:

    10 Reasons Why Your Business Card Sucks

    Also initial capital letters on every word is a bit un-necessary

  • Marc Smee

    Make a Business card look like your business sign , business name what you do and contact info   which leads your eye through the message clearly and concisely no microscopic contactact tel mobile email  like 99% of printers serve up to their customers.

  • ~ Great tips Brian! I totally agree with you!

    An excellent designed business card can help one to get that next big sale or land their dream job!

  • Gina Turner

    I have made 100’s of hand cut cards for a small business. Sample attached. The ghost (that did not match the design, popped out when opening the card. This was a sample. There were also individual one sided cards in the shape of a coffin. Brilliant idea for a man who drove a hurst around for his business. 

  • Allthewiser333

    I don’t have an exact answer for you, but perhaps a dog tag company could make something like that?

  • Gina Turner

    This is not a newspaper headline. Chill out. We know that. Just as I am doing with my own work. We know Caps, lower caps, grammar, punctuation, etc. What about the people who text illiteracy? That pisses me off even more than what you just said. Isn’t it in the same context? 

  • Gina Turner

    Feel your card. Or make the card feel you.

  • Some great points, but one or two moots. Business cards don’t need calls to action. They are points of contact, not sales brochures.

  • Katherine Tattersfield

    QR codes are literally forgotten technology. No one uses them.

  • Kevin

    I personally believe QR codes were stupid from the very beginning. In fact when someone gives me a business card with a QR code it has the opposite effect on me. I dont think they are all caught up with tech at all, they are clearly someone who knows nothing about tech but trying to seem like they do.

  • $871048

    All this seems to be missing the point. I don’t ask for cards or offer them unless potential engagement has first been established by a meaningful conversation. At that point it does not matter if the business card is a design masterpiece or a torn cocktail napkin.

  • Jacob

    not sure about the “different size” tip. It can work or go awfully wrong. I usually chuck out cards that don’t fit into a card holder. Also seasonal cards, special offers (what???), or changing them too often makes for a confused identity – at the very least – or in the worst case makes you look cheap… Photograph on a card… careful better execute very cleverly. Get a professional to shoot, are you going to spend 500 bucks? If not, forget it…

  • tauseef

    i think u r right mate , i too didnt liked the idea of the santa hat beeing so detailed , i never noticed the logo.

  • Hasan Jensen

    I am sure some people at Google would disagree with you :)

  • wow.. i disagree with 75% of this.. (i only read 75% for the record).

    QR codes were doomed to be on the outs as soon as they were launched.. no iPhone users use them, and they were predicted to be extinct by 2016 or something.. I talk my clients out of them on their business cards if they ever want one… i mean how hard is it really to type “remax.ca” ? honestly, it’s 40-something real estate agents who are keeping the QR code alive from my experience…and: they’re ugly as sh!t from a design perspective…and never – NEVER cheapen your business card by turning it into a coupon.

    Such bad & tacky advice.

  • Thumbtag

    I see a lot of people are anti-QR code. How about Near Field Communication? By adding an NFC tag to the back of your existing business cards, all of your contact info (plus a small photo or logo) can get saved into your client’s phone with a simple “tap”.

  • reality


  • berong

    Why not post you own business card here so we can see how great it is?