By Mark Lee
Two years ago I wrote an article containing ten tips for accountants' business cards. What follows is an update to that piece, with a special focus on start-up practices.
What are business cards for?
Business cards bear your business information so that someone you meet can get in touch with you at a later date. You might also give your business card to people who want to pass on your information to others they think may be interested in your services.
As a start-up practice, do you need a business card? Almost certainly, you do, if you want the people you meet to remember you, recommend you, and refer you. How else will they know how to get in touch with you? Business cards are the accepted way to facilitate future communication. You could try larger documents, but those are more relevant and appropriate for larger more established firms looking to grow.
What needs to be on your business card?
Your name, your business name, some words that make it clear you're an accountant, one or two phone numbers, your e-mail address, and your website (if you have one).
You may also want to include your LinkedIn profile page, your Twitter account, and any other web-based resource that provides your contact details.
Fifteen mistakes you don't want to make
- Bland: An old-style, plain white card with a minimalistic feel and little on it won't help you to stand out, so it might not be retained or ever looked at by anyone who gets it.
- Difficult to read: There's little point in squeezing in loads of information that's too small for most people to read easily.
- Difficult to write on: While I would encourage you to ensure that your card stands out, I'm not a fan of plastic cards or those that prevent the recipient from writing on them. Good networkers do this so that they remember where and when they met the person who gave them the card. I also make a note on the business cards given to me as to something about the person or our conversation. Ensure you leave room on your card for this.
- Too many phone numbers: One landline number and one mobile number are all you need these days
- Generic e-mail address: You want to minimize the likelihood of anyone thinking you're less than serious about your start-up practice. So get a dedicated e-mail address – even if you have yet to establish a website. Accountants who use Gmail, Yahoo, or other generic e-mail addresses come across as amateurish compared to those with "real" business e-mails. And please, include your name in the e-mail address rather than "info@" – the card is to help people contact YOU. One e-mail address is all you need.
- Too clever: One of the commentators on my earlier article suggested the use of QR codes. I have indeed seen business cards that contain little more than a QR code. Somehow I think that's getting too clever and reduces the prospect of people getting in touch. Make it easy for them, not hard.
- Boring is optional: It's a huge mistake to assume that everyone who has one of your business cards is going to remember the person who gave it to them days, weeks, or months later. The person probably meets loads of people who give out business cards – possibly even more than one or two accountants. Your business card, like you, needs to stand out and act as a reminder of you - the person, the accountant who handed it out. Personally, I like the idea of including a good quality professional head shot on the card as it makes you instantly more memorable.
- Too much information: Yes, your card needs to stand out, but it shouldn't be confusing. You might be, say, a member of Sage's Accountants Club and want to let people know you can support the product; however, you really don't need to include the logo that takes up space on a business card that's really there to communicate your contact information.
- Amateurish design: There's really no excuse for this anymore. What impression do you want to give? Are you a professional or not?
- Cheap and thin: This follows on from the above point. A professional weight card (typically printed on 80–100 pound card stock) indicates that you're serious about business.
- No mention that you're an accountant: It's amazing how often I see business cards that simply reference something like "David Cameron of David Cameron & Co" but fail to tell me whether the firm is one of accountants, solicitors, estate agents, or whatever. And don't assume everyone will recognize your firm's logo as an indicator that you're an accountant.
- Giving your card to strangers:No one refers work to a business card. It's a huge mistake to simply shove your business card into people's hands at networking events, or anywhere else for that matter. What do you expect they'll do with a card they received from a stranger they haven't even spoken with?
- Giving your card out too early: If your name is unusual or hard to pronounce, you have a perfect reason to give out your card at that start of a conversation. For the rest of us, it's simply rude. Far better to ask for someone's card after you've been chatting for a while. Then wait to see if the person asks for yours. If people aren't interested enough to ask for your card, what's the point in giving it to them?
- Doing without business cards: This would work if you want to shout out to everyone you meet that you have only just started your practice and that you're not really serious about it. But I don't think that's likely to prove a successful strategy to help build a start-up practice.
- Printing too many cards in one go: Many start-up accountancy practices take awhile to find their feet and to decide their real business focus. This can take months or even a year or two. You probably want to avoid undue expense, so get your cards printed in batches of 100 or 200. Print enough to ensure you always have some with you and you're happy to give them out when asked, but not so many that you're tempted to scatter them around too freely.
What tips do you have regarding business cards for start-up practices? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
About the author:
Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog. This and his e-books are for accountants who want to stand out and be more successful in practice, online, and in life. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts.