Printed Business Cards for Real Life Events 101

This post is pretty long, but this is because it has actually three parts and I did not wanted to make a series out of it.

Part 1: is about printed business cards in general and why you need them. I used my personal experiences to illustrate my statements. Part 2: The benefits of Networking and the role Business Cards play in it. Part 3: Where to buy business cards online. I used three services as example which I used myself. Part 4: e-Business Cards, Address and Contact Management and Online Networking.

The Affiliate Summit West is in about two weeks now. If you are attending this event and never did attend a real world industry event before, remember one thing. You will meet people for the first time in person. People you might know for years already, but only communicated via Email, Telephone, Snail Mail, Instant Messenger, Forums, Blogs, even Web Conferencing using a Web Cam.

Now attending a real life event is a bit different and things that are so obvious if you just think about it for one second are often forgotten. It happened to me too. It was fortunately only a very small and very specific event, but it was a bit embarrassing anyway. Business Card that reflect the business or project you attend the event for.

I had business cards, alright, but they are for something else and not really related to what I was doing to make me come to this event.

I almost did the mistake again before I went to Search Engine Strategies. I had only one week to go and realized that I still don’t have appropriate business cards. I went online and ordered some.

Because it was late already, expedited shipping was the only option that had a chance of getting the cards on time. Shipping and Handling cost me more than twice than what I paid for the cards itself. I got the Cards on the morning before I left to San Jose, phew. That was close.

I used quite a few cards at SES, but that was nothing compared to what I used at CJU in September. SES was about Search Engine Marketing and Optimization and there are not too much new partnerships and relationships you can initiate or reinforce, but CJU was about Affiliate Marketing and it does not matter if you are an Advertiser, Affiliate, Vendor or OPM, there are a lot of people that are (at least) potentially relevant for your business.

Now CJU was a Network specific Event and it was already a “Networking Frenzy” compared to SES. Imagine Affiliate Summit which is relevant for everybody in the Industry.

Trust me when I say: “There is no such thing as taking too much business cards with you.” when it comes to those kind of events.

Why Networking
Don’t expect to meet and talk only to a handful of people while you are at the Summit, maybe the few you plan to meet and have special arrangements with. That is not how it works or how it is supposed to work. You will come across a lot more people than you would think. With some of them will you may be do something together in the near future, with most of them you won’t.

But that does not matter. Who knows, you might ending up doing something together in the more distant future or you might discover that it might be a good idea to work together, may be even while you or the other person changed jobs and works for a different company. It will help you at the beginning to build a professional relationship because you can refer to the event and that you met at least once in person. It does not matter if you or the other person can remember all the details of that engagement or may be not remember at all. What matters is the fact that you were talking to each other and thought that exchanging business cards is not a bad idea.

That simple fact will alone will make you stick out the noise a bit and increase chances that the other person will at least take a closer look and try rather than filter you out and ignore you. You also have a direct point of contact that might be able to help you to get in touch with somebody else in the same company, somebody where you could not get through yet directly for whatever reason. Did I mention that it also helps in your branding efforts? You might not end up with a new business partner, but a new customer, or just get referred to and get business indirectly.

Considering all those benefits I have to say that the low cost of Business cards are a real bargain. More to where to get your Business Cards in the next chapter.

Tip. Sort the business cards you get from people away. Either sort them by Event or simply write the date and name of the event on the back of the card.

Where to get Business Cards
Everybody who thinks that getting Business Cards is difficult, time consuming, requires special skill you don’t have or is very expensive….wake up… you didn’t get around on the Internet yet, don’t you?

I tried three services myself and will share my experience with them and cost with you. There are much more services out there and it does not hurt to try another if you like the offer.

Keep in mind that switching services is not always easy if you want to re-produce exactly the same business cards at the alternative Service. It is always fairly easy to re-order cards from a service where you ordered before because they have all the preferences (paper, color, size etc.), information on it and layout on file.

I tried, and FYI. VistaPrint and iPrint have an Affiliate Program via Commission Junction. Deluxe Forms and Checks has an In-House Referral Program.

All three offer other services like Custom Checks, Envelopes, Brochures, Stamps etc. There are differences between them when it comes to the details. If you want to get more than business cards and know already what else you need, check first if the other service is available. I show the cost for 500 business cards. Some allow to order 250 only, but I would not recommend that.

You can not use my three orders to compare the price of the three services. They varied a lot, but each order was unique and different from the other. I am not trying to compare apples with apples here.

The price differences between each service for simple, 1-color, text only, one-sided, standard paper business cards is only a few dollars, maybe (I did not check), but IMO are the low cost compared to value of business cards enough reason not to get cheap and become a bargain hunter. I believe that VistaPrint is for this specific type of product the cheapest one, but does not offer special stuff Deluxe Forums offers for example. This is not a claim and I won’t go and spend the time to get the facts to back it up. If you want to save a $1 or $2, check for yourself :).

Tip: Don’t get cheap when it comes to the selection of the paper for the cards. Don’t use the default. Spend the few dollars extra for higher quality paper. Trust me, you and the person you give the card will be able to FEEL the difference.

The Cost – General Overview
Cost for 500 Cards depending on design and “fanciness”: between $15 – $50
Shipping Handling $10-$15
Expedited Shipping and Processing: $30-$50
Their offers are very classic. You can tell that they do this stuff already for a long time since a time when Internet was not even a word yet. The Website is a bit “clunky” to use and not exactly intuitive. You will not find any Web 2.0 features, but they can get away with it, because their offers are very specific and not too flexible. I missed the option to provide a custom logo via Image. I am sure there are ways, but I did not see them.

I decided for a design that uses a very unique printing style which I did not see and VistaPrint or iPrint. If you touch the card, you can feel the text. It’s like engraved into the paper which is pretty slick.

The design offered a number of fonts to choose from and only two colors. I guess that it has to do with the method used to print the cards.

My Order:
Name: Bus. Card, Vellum, 2 Clr. Quantity: 1000, Color: WHITE, Cost without Tax and Shipping: $36.95
I ordered 1000 instead of 500, because the difference in price was significant. Cost for 500: $29.95. 1000 which is twice as much only cost $7 more.
iPrint offers a lot of design templates. More than the other two for sure and without counting. Good for everybody who wants a business card that is somewhat unique and no design skills whatsoever. They offer a lot of customization features, but the interface to make those changes is really cumbersome to use. Don’t let me select “Element X” from a drop-down, 1/xx Inches from another and then click “Up”, “Down”, “Left” or “Right” and all that only if you select the tab to move elements around. There are a lot more tabs to choose from to change text, font and font sizes etc.

Web 2.0 Baby! I ended up creating a screenshot of a background I liked and used a Graphic Program to design the Card and removed all elements from the layout but 1 image. I struggled with the Image Size and exact dimensions IN PIXELS since I used a basic Tool called PaintShop Pro for it and not some professional software like Photoshop which allows you to work in DPI’s

The Preview which is updated in real-time (which is cool) is actually matching the end result. Check the “Bleed” and don’t put stuff right at the borders. The manufacturing process used for general business cards does not allow that much of a precision. Make sure that it does not hurt the layout if the cut is 1-2 pixels too far in or out.

My Order
Name: Full Color Business Cards, Quantity: 500, Base Price: $23.99
+ Special Paper, Cream Ribbed: $11.00
+ Back of Business Card Charges, Additional Side Charge: $15.99
Total: $50.98

They offer also a bunch of templates and an editor which I did not check out, because they offer something that did me skip the editor testing altogether and pick that option right at the beginning.

VistaPrint offers templates for various graphic and design programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and others for download. The Templates have the exact measurements of the Business card size of your choice.

I used the Photoshop one. It had a white background and one layer that shows the “bleeding” area where you should not put any content. When done, remove the layer with the bleed lines and flatten the image. Then upload it to Vistaprint.
Straight forward.

My Order
Name: Personal Business Cards, Quantity: 500, Cost: $14.99
Note: I selected premium paper and not the normal one which is cheaper

If you want to provide your own design and/or Logo, I recommend VistaPrint or iPrint. I can only recommend to check the Deluxe Forms offer, if you want a really cool 1-2 color / no graphic Business card that is very unique.

If you have design skills or a designer at hand, go with VistaPrint, download the templates, send them to your designer, upload the result and you are done.

If you want to get a nice colorful business card, maybe or maybe not include your logo, have no design skills, but would like to have a stylish business card, check out iPrint with their short of a million different design templates.

The Sample Cards
I don’t show the VistaPrint card example, because I will not take it with me to the Summit. It’s a basic design with colored company Logo and the usual stuff. Only printed on one side.

Here are the two cards which I will take with me to Affiliate Summit. Which one do you like better? Should I give everybody both cards? Should I let the other person choose? Should I decide per person which card design would be more appropriate? Like the Classic Design to Veterans like Linda Buquet, Jeff Molander, Beth Kirsch and the flashy and colorful one to: Jim Kukral, Sam Harrelson, Scott Jangro or Vinny Lingham? What should I give to Wayne Porter or Shawn Collins, classic or flashy? mmhhh 🙂

Classic – Deluxe Forms   Flashy – iPrint

Electronic Business Cards, Address Books and Networking
They fit the topic so I just wanted to mention them.

Business Networking Sites/Contact Management
Xing (OpenBC)

I wrote in detail about the two services before. It followed quite a discussion. Conclusion: Each is unique and slightly different purpose. Each is optimized with this in mind. Only you can decide which one fits your needs the best. Worst case, create an account for free at both sites. 🙂

Address Book/Contact Management

Plaxo is less for Networking but for Contact Management. It syncs the Address Book in Plaxo with your Computer Address Book. You can send your Contact Information to others and automatically request that they provide their contact information (via Web Form). If your contact is also a Plaxo member, your address book is updated automatically if your contact changes anything and so is your contacts address book if you make any changes to your contact information.

All three offer Plug-Ins for MS Outlook and Outlook Express and Browser Toolbars.
The basic service is free, but each offers additional professional services you can subscribe for if they make sense to you.

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

9 Responses to Printed Business Cards for Real Life Events 101

  1. Personally, I don't have pre-designed business cards. I've taken a cue from Hugh McLeod of and carry around blank cards. If I meet someone I want to give my info to, I'll write the info on the card that I think is important for them to have and perhaps draw a little picture or include some poetry.

    Normally, I just write something like "Google 'Sam Harrelson'" or "" with a little caricature of the person I'm chatting with or of Wayne Porter. It's slow and inefficient, but it works for me.

    I've used many variations of cards for years and years. While I'm sure they worked in some long tail variation, I always felt the card exchange itself was kind of an awkward drug deal where you try to be discreet as you pass off the goods. Making the construction of the card part of the conversation by creating them on the spot solves that awkwardness for me and allows them to be customized on the spot… which says a good deal about how I view marketing in general.

    Great piece, though. Most informative and practical thing I've read in a long while! Theory and ideas are fun, but practical info like this is a great way to share ideas and create some new ones.

    Thanks for making me use the brain cells on a rainy Sunday morning!

  2. I use business cards for two different purposes:

    1) I have a normal business card with my full contact information on, which I give to merchants, network contacts, other affiliates, and anyone else who I want to be able to get in touch with me.

    2) I have promotional type business cards (really just a business card-sized advertisement). I don't put contact information on these. It's just an ad and the URL. I give these out to potential customers, leave them with tips at restaurants, leave them in waiting areas, post them on public bulletin boards (the corkboard type, not forums), etc. They're a cheap, easy way to get the word out. I know one affiliate who leaves cards on subway cars all over New York.

    Also, if you sign up for VistaPrint's promotional newsletters, they send out offers fairly regularly. The best ones (80% off) will give you 1000 full color cards for $7.99. (The best deal is usually advertised as 250 for $3.99, but additional quantities up to 1000 are usually discounted even more.) With standard shipping, that's usually around $15 total (plus $5 if you're using a new uploaded graphic). I keep enough printed up that I can wait for the next big sale.

  3. Sam,

    you will get the "flashy" one from me, which is made of a considerable amount of old school hand-pixeled stuff. Almost like hand written 🙂
    Your approach is certainly interesting and it will people also help to remember you when they look through their collection of business cards.

    I don't know if that would work for me though. I gave away several dozen cards, what I wouldn't have using your approach since you think twice about it, if you need to write something custom each and every time. But that requires that you already know if you will do something with the other person very soon or not.

    My handwriting is also ready bad. I must have gotten that from my dad who had a phD and is a scientist. I write fast and the only person who is able to read my "Sauklaue" or "kakografio" (Esperanto). There only seem to exist a word in Esperanto for that german word mmh.


    I also like VistaPrint although they throw sometimes a bit too much promotional stuff at you at once.

    I thought it to be important to be fair and also show other services out there, regardless of my personal preference, because I noticed the subtle differences between them and that my preference does not necessarily be the preference of somebody else.

    The Engraving kind of style from Deluxe Print is kind of unique. The Card looks ordinary at first glance, but different if you take a closer look and stick out big time if you touch it.

    Thanks for the tips about the discounts though.

  4. Carsten, if you really want to make those cards work for you, come visit the CardScan booth at Affiliate Summit. Exchanging business cards is only 1/2 the story. Shameless plug over.

  5. Jim Kukral says:

    I barely leave my office, except for the summit twice a year and a few other speaking engagements, so I don't use cards a lot. However, I find them VERY useful when I do go out.

    What I recently saw was a card that was designed withe persons photo on it, plus their contact information, then, they had little check boxes that said "I wanted to follow up with Jim Kukral because" then check boxes "To do a deal" "to buy advertising" etc….

    So the person can remember days or weeks later why they talked to you. Plus, either a blank back or note lines on the back.

    Sam's idea is great too, assuming you can draw.

  6. Chris Kramer says:

    We used to go to conferences armed with flyers and kits and realized nobody wants to drag this stuff home with them on a plane. Somebody in our office had the idea to create individual business cards for each of the affiliate programs we manage with key points about the programs on the back. Since we run so many programs, nobody would ever be able to remember all of them from just my business card. So far we've gotten a good response from people who got them from us the last Summit and at CJU. There is nothing more frustrating than making a connection with someone and having them tell you "I just ran out of cards!".

  7. Mike Allen says:

    I like your idea Michael about the generic card and the professional one. I did the same thing.

    As for keeping track of all those cards, Alyssa, you're right: CardScan is definately the way to do it. I'm planning to take mine with me on my next trip and scan my cards on the plane on the way back (if I don't do it in the hotel before I leave).

  8. PrintGuy says:

    Great post. I suggest using the one with full color because full color always attracts more attention and helps the person remember you.

    Regarding your printing options I think you could have done better by going with The prices are competitive and the quality is unbeatable.

  9. Hey PrintGuy,

    The summit was last week, but I know that you don't care much about that. Thanks for the comment and for the pitch of your site which is related to the topic.

    I looked at your site and think that I would go rather with any of the three I mentioned in my post. Not only are your prices too high IMO, but also the lag of customization and preview of the business card with my information is a bummer.

    When I added a "custom" card did I miss the option to provide any graphics, company logo etc. I don't hope that this will only be available after the order was placed.

    Sorry, but I suggest having a look at what the other three are doing. At least offer as much as (Live Preview with custom text).