Editorial team AccountingWEB.co.uk
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Ten tips for accountants’ business cards

12th May 2011
Editorial team AccountingWEB.co.uk
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Over the years I have collected thousands of business cards, many of them from accountants around the UK. Most of them are almost indistinguishable from each other, writes Mark Lee.

I suspect that some accountants underestimate the value of an effective business card. And a fair number have business cards that look much the same as they did 10 or 20 years ago.

As ever I would be the first to say that if your current business card works for you, then stick with it. Mind you I doubt that there are many accountants who get an enquiry or a referral every time they give out their business card. It’s unrealistic to expect this of course.

Before sharing my 10 tips let me just pose a key question. 

What do you want people to do when you give them your business card?

To get in touch? To pass it onto someone else? To keep it to hand in case they should ever need to speak to an accountant (or a new accountant)? Or do you just want them to add your details to their marketing database and to send you junk mail? (That’s probably how you’d perceive it. They think they’re sending you marketing materials of course).

What people will do in practice depends on the circumstances that led to you giving out your card. If you play business card confetti and give them to anyone and everyone ‘just in case’ you deserve all the junk mail you get.

What you probably want is that your business card should be an effective marketing tool, a way to be remembered, to be contacted and to help you stand out from all of the other accountants that your contacts and clients meet. Maybe you simply want it to act as a signpost to your website?

Take a random batch of say, 64 business cards you have collected from other people in your profession and arrange them in an 8×8 square on your desk. Which ones stand out? I’ll bet it’s none of the plain black print on white card ones; do you want yours to stand out? If not, why not? If yes, how much? It can be counter-productive to have a card that makes people want to avoid you. But would you like them to show your card to others – because it’s different/better?

The ten tips of things to think about:

  1. The thickness of the card and how it looks and feels
    Do you want people to look at it and hold it and think quality or cheap? Most people will assume the same applies to you and your practice. Which impression do you want to give? A professional weight requires a minimum of 335gm². Many are 400gm². You know how awful it is to get a wet fish handshake? It’s the same with flimsy business cards. Your credibility is immediately lessened.
  2. Plan the key elements of your card
    Your name, your practice name, the fact that you are accountants, tax advisers or whatever and your contact details. Please remember to include what it is your business does. If anyone hangs onto your card you don’t want them to look at it weeks later and think “Hmm, John Smith of John Smith & Co. What does he do again?”
  3. Which are the most important contact details?
    If you have a local practice with clients popping by the office then your address is key. If you are based at home then it’s less important. So put your phone and email address first. Your website may be key. You will often want new contacts to visit your website to check you out, to see that what you say there matches what you said when you met and that there are some decent testimonials there too.
  4. Distinguish the personal contact details from the main business details.
    Don’t mix them up as this only serves to confuse. Your personal contact details will include your direct dial and mobile numbers as well as your email address. Some people deliberately exclude their direct dial or mobile numbers from the face of the card and add them on manually when giving the card to ’special’ contacts. What you say in such situations will be crucial.
  5. The font type and size
    Do ensure that people over the age of 50 can read the text on your card. If it’s not easy to read, what is the point of having the information there? There is no point squeezing loads of details onto your business card if no one is going to be able to read it.
  6. A professional head shot
    How do we expect the people to whom we give our business cards to remember us? As in – to remember who the person was who gave them the card? Are you happy to risk them forgetting you or mixing you up with someone else (in their memory)? Will your card be sufficient to enable them to recall who you were out of the hundreds of other people they have met? My card has a photo (head shot) of me on it – as I appreciate that people might not otherwise remember who Mark Lee is. I confess that it’s now two or three years out of date. I should get a new one done.
  7. Space
    If you are going to use both sides of the card do ensure that you leave room for the recipient of your card to make some notes on it somewhere. And ensure that any lamination doesn’t preclude such a sensible follow up activity. I know I’m not the only person who likes to note the date that I met the person and where we were. If there’s room I’ll also often add a note of what we talked about or any follow up actions I have promised.
  8. Your card should reflect your image
    Few professional advisers will be comfortable with the same style of card as would an artist or graphic designer. Some larger firms have introduced modern cards that the older members are evidently apologetic about or embarrassed to pass out when they meet people. If modern isn’t your style then don’t try to pretend it is. Not everyone wants a modern adviser. But they all want someone they can trust and who isn’t trying to be someone or something they are not.
  9. Does it help you stand out?
    If you want to stand out from the crowd ensure that your business card contains sufficient information about what you or your firm does. Are you “just” accountants or just tax advisers? Do you want people to remember what you do or what qualification you have?
  10. Is it useful?
    If you want people to hang onto your card, or to show it to other people, it needs to be useful. Could you, for example include some simple tax, bookkeeping or business tips? A reminder of key tax filing dates? Or something else that could be of value?

Social media links
I doubt that many accountants are including their Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media links on their business cards. But if you have accounts on the more mainstream sites it makes sense to include them on your business card.

Would any accountants with unusual business cards like to share their ideas here? Or debate any of the tips shared above?

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB.co.uk and chairman of the Tax Advice Network. Visit his personal website and blog.

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Replies (16)

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By memyself-eye
12th May 2011 21:42

Eh?

Business cards?

You have too much time on your hands....

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By Bob Harper
13th May 2011 08:24

Old and new

@Mark - going back to basics like the good old business card and seeing if there is something new is a good idea.

This guy is a bit over the top but he has a couple of good points click here.

On a more serious note, Quick Response (QR) Codes are interesting. For firms who want to dip their toe into mobile marketing and link their offline networking with their online content, they should have a look at this video click here.

With QR Codes your business card can link directly to your LinkedIn profile; people are then only one click away from connecting to you.

You could get them to connect to you while you are with them. To encorange people have a free tax planning report or something useful on your LinkedIn profile. From there you can nuture relationships using LinkedIn's direct messaging capabilities. This is marketing one step at a time, permission based and positioning you as a valued contact.

Keep in mind QR Codes can also be used on all forms of offline media and can take people to a video or landing page on your Website. You just need a bit of creativity.

I am thinking about using a QR Code with a competition I am running. We can put the code on a mailer and people scan the code and get the entry form on their mobile phone. It just makes responding much easier and should boost the return on the campaign.

Bob Harper

Portfolio | Marketing for Accountants

 

 

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By Trevor Scott
13th May 2011 09:34

I actually agree with Mark on this one....

Business cards are very important and like a CV it is better to have more than one version of business card, each leaning toward the market you are aiming for. In both instances it is vital to utilise the opportunity of the message presented in the form of the business card to send the appropriate message to the client. Would you really want to give the same version of card to a prospective client who is a sole trader (perhaps with tax facts on the back) as opposed to a corporate accountant/executive (crisp and lean/clean)? 

I don't put personal details on a business card, but I do also carry "visitors cards" (they used to be commonly presented upon visiting someone, on a personal basis, at their home .... and in some high class circles they were once presented to learn whether they were "at home" for you) which are in fact still used today (though for slightly different purposes) by some people! 

Colour is fine, but gimmicky cards don't fit into the professional environment.

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By carnmores
13th May 2011 14:18

pictures

excuse me ! if you must stick one on your website

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By Growth partners
14th May 2011 21:14

Pictures?

Please, putting a photo on your bsiness card is right up there with putting a photo on your CV. It sucks. Nobody likes it and it always looks nothing but cheesey.

If you've made an impression when you meet someone and exchange cards, then that person will remember you. If you haven't then they won't. Simple as that.

There are a few good basic reminders here for us, but please skip over the head shot tip.

Chris

www.mybusinessfd.com

 

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
15th May 2011 11:41

Have to disagree with you Chris re photos

Not sure what research or experience leads to you to beleive that 'nobody likes it'.  You're perfectly entitled to hold a personal view to that effect of course.

As someone whose business life involves a heck of a lot of networking I can assure you it's a definite plus when trying to remember each of the 10-20 people I spoke with at an event and whose business cards I am looking at some time later.  And I'm not alone, I know that from many conversations with other business people who encounter a variety of accountants and others when out networking.

The issue isn't whether someone is memorable for a few hours or days but whether we can remember them and recall anything about them some weeks or months later.  Given the way the human brain works a photo is bound to help aid recall.  It's one of the reasons why so many memory training techniques involve the creation of pictures in our heads.

Mark

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Nigel Harris
By Nigel Harris
17th May 2011 12:15

Photos - do it right if you're going to bother

I think you're both right. So many photos do indeed look downright cheesy. However, as Mark says, a photo will help people remember you. My advice is simply, if you want to use a photo, get a professional photograper to take it (and update it regularly). I know it will probably cost a lot more than the cards themselves, so have a photo session to produce photos for your website and brochures at the same time. A cheap, tacky photo will convey a cheap, tacky image so don't bother unless you're prepared to do it right.

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By Bob Harper
17th May 2011 12:34

Stinky Business Cards

We are just getting ready to launch a sideline business and are looking at scratch and stiff business cards; it goes with the brand StinktySites. What could accountants do that who show a bit of creativity and personality?

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing for Accountants

 

 

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By cymraeg_draig
17th May 2011 14:20

Who bothers with business cards ?

 

No one keeps them, if you want one you can never remember where you put it.

Total waste of time and money.

 

 

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
19th May 2011 11:40

Sample of biz cards collected at events this week

Am binning 4 of them as they came from Biz card shovers. We barely spoke. The cards give their company names and their titles/positions but give no clue as to what they 'really' do or even what the company does. Pointless frankly.

None have photos - 2 days on and i can recall each of the faces but doubt that I'd recognise them if i don't see them for a month or two.

The cards that describe the business or who it's for on the back are the best of the bunch - though one has a dark grey background so I can't see the notes I thought I'd made on the back ;-(

One has a lime green back with tiny print - some in black and some in white - it's almost illegible due to font size and colours.  Almost pointless.

Now I'm going off to do some real work! ;-)

Mark

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By carnmores
19th May 2011 13:48

carried out a straw poll with some clients

they all agree that its horrible and for panjandrums only - they would chuck them in the bin , no sleight ohf hand required there .......

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PAH Accounting Devizes Wiltshire
By Phil Hendy
19th May 2011 14:47

Make sure yours isn't the one thrown in the bin

Mark has it absolutely spot on. Only question is the photo - I agree a professional headshot can help, but it has to be a good quality photo.

Social media links are also important - I include my Skype and Twitter contact details. Make it easy for people to find me and find out about me.

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
19th May 2011 21:44

Thanks

Appreciate the supportive comments and added wisdom from others.

For those who disagree - that's fine too. Each to their own.

Mark

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By cheeeetah
20th May 2011 02:51

Biz Card Ideas

For me, biz-cards from customers and suppliers are a way of collecting their contact details, for entering on Outlook, which syncs to phone.  Then, I tend to sellotape the card into the project file like other papers (which is almost a bin-action) .

These days, who still uses a biz-card-FILE like a phone book?  I used to have one for about 8 years, where I was collecting biz-cards like stamp collecting.  Did I use it to contact people?  To find people?  To find someone who could do certain services etc?  No way!!!   It was Internet/Outlook/mobile as the weapons of choice……for years. 

Stand-out cards?  Well they are fun for a moment and can cause a brief effect but once the details are transferred, that is the end of it. 

I read once that the best business card is one written by hand on torn pieces of paper – the recipient won’t forget that person!  (If that’s how you want to be remembered.)  But, like the proper cards, the info gets entered and the card/paper gets binned. 

So, photo………… Unless it’s going to be scanned onto a computer/phone for later recollection, I suspect it would just be a topic of fun, like a passport photo.  Though I appreciate at network meets it could be helpful.  Maybe two biz-cards are needed, then: one for normal use, and another for those network meets. 

I feel it’s vital that the card states your line of business.  Ideally it would be part of the business name, but if not, it needs including somehow.  If 2-siding, you could also list out the various specific services on the back (leaving that useful bit of space for notes etc).

I liked the idea about having the card legible for the weak eye-sighted types.  (I just tried to read off my own email address – not so easy……not so good.)

When you start looking at making an impression with the biz-card, too much info is an issue to consider.  eg, in one of those fiction films, Sherlock Holmes’s card just had his name.  Not even his address!   Interesting. 

What could you drop out and what should you keep on the card?

When I see a card with main number AND direct number, and fax, and cell phone and and ……..it all seems too much.  What is that all about?

If you have a website, the fax number is unnecessary on your biz-card, so we can skip that.  It is only good to show it if you are working from home and want to project something better than domestic by boasting the two numbers (voice and fax).  Otherwise, the other person will be in their office when/if sending faxes and can easily get it from your website.  (Gets them looking at your website too.) 

If there’s a main number AND a direct number........well, it is YOUR biz card; just show the direct number (and don’t describe it as “direct number” – makes it look like you are trying to seem extra important with your OWN phone line).  And why would they want to speak with the receptionist/filter if they have your direct number?  Let them get the main number from the company website. 

When planning to meet a customer, or following a meet, consider sending them an email with a standard signature containing those general contact details.  It is much easier to transfer onto their Outlook/phone etc.  (You could even have a photo with the email if really keen.)  That would possibly reduce the workload requirement from the biz-cards. 

And what about the new hi-tech phones.  Maybe they will be the preferred solution for passing over biz-card details, rather than the bit of cardboard.

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By russellsteedman
21st Oct 2011 04:33

As a designer of business cards...

I am a graphic design graduate with 12 years industry experience and I also happen to work for a family business which is an accountancy practice. Even with extensive experience in this area it always takes something like seeing our logo next to other logos (such as when we sponsored the Edinburgh Film Festival recently) on a page in the catalogue to realise even a design which seems perfect can actually melt away when shoved up against other, more outstanding logos.

The same goes for business cards - or even more so as they don't even have the fortune of being scanned visually in the same place. I've come to the conclusion that, if possible, go for a large logo on one side - with no other visual clutter - then keep the other side for the information.

When it comes to colour think in a very basic way. An eye-catching painting usually uses only 1 colour as the dominant colour and perhaps uses a small flash of a complimentary colour in an area which one wishes to draw attention to.

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By peterlashmar
10th Feb 2015 11:07

Business cards

On the reverse of my card I have details of how to link in to our website to register for our free monthly tax newsletter. This encourages a recipient to take the card to their computer - hopefully at their desk.

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