These Business Cards Are Crap

A few cards bring back memories. As for the rest, who are all these people?

I’m going through a pile of business cards that I “collected” at a recent industry event so I can write my follow-up cards and emails. Sadly, the majority of cards don’t make it easy.

The company names could be anything from realtors to lawyers. (Strutz & Associates anyone?) The job titles range from acronyms to the nonsensical.

But, and this is where I’m really shocked, the quality of many of the cards—in terms of the paper, printing and design—is, let me put it mildly…crap.

The paper merchant whose card doesn’t really tell me he is a merchant (see lawyer example above). Adding insult to injury, the artwork is pushed so far to one side that I can only explain it as a mistake on the cutting end.

Then there’s the vp of production at a large (very large) publishing company whose business cards are on the flimsy side (less than 100-lb. cover). Again, we seem to have an issue with cutting cards properly.

And how many large corporations gloss varnish their business cards, which prevents me from writing on them? Too many! I have a habit of making notes on cards to help jog my memory when doing my follow ups, but not for this particular market development manager.

Do as I tell you, but don’t do as I do.
We might be moving to the digital age in oh so many ways, but we still need business cards. Wait…Make that, “We need great business cards.”

Extra thick paper, foil stamping, an unusual size, an additional fold. We’re all trying to convince print buyers, designers and marketing managers that print is important and beautiful. So step up to the plate.

Show them what paper and print can do. Make that oh-so-important first impression…well, impressive!

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 

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  • aspireforbill

    "…& Associates" is code for "I’m working on my own and want to look bigger"

  • Realistic Printer

    Nice try there. Find me someone who will pay for all the frills and pretty stuff you mention and I’ll be happy to charge them for all that stuff. They won’t pay for it because they don’t care about it and the life of a business card today is about 5 seconds. As soon as it’s scanned into my smart device, it either goes in the drawer or in the circular file. Printers need to make more money but they don’t make it on business cards, they lose it! We live in a digital age. The days of impressing people with business cards is over.

  • John Valleau

    I agree with you except for one point. You can get thick glossy cards with UV coating on one side. This allows for writing on the back.

  • over here in this line

    I paid only $20 for these cards. Can you tell?……Yup

  • Danny

    Business cards represent you and they represent your company! (and printers need to remember by default the card represents them too) Some people like to appear "high tech" and have everything in a Smartphone but not most people. Everybody who is somebody wants to have a business card to hand out when they meet a new person. . . and most want to hand out something they’re not embarrased by. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’m offered an apology along with the business card.

  • Sabine Lenz

    @ Realistic Printer – Printers need to make money… I absolutely agree, but you will find it harder to convince someone of the great quality and service you can provide, if your own marketing materials (and business cards) do not entice.

  • Mary Moreno

    We always get compliments on our business cards, we change them often and try to come up with new ways to sell ourselves on this very small but very useful little item. I don’t think business cards are going out of style despite smart phones. You only have one first try to make that first impression and if your card says that you Design and Print you had better be showing that you can!

  • Realistic Printer

    Once again a columnist who is out of touch and refuses to face reality. Print is going away. The only print that we will see going forward will be considered "absolutely essential" in accomplishing the marketing and sales efforts of a given company. I can appreciate somoene’s love for paper and art, but folks, we’re talking about print here. Glamour left print when technology landed on the desktop, C2P and automated color correction and ink density controls on 8 color perfecting presses reduced the operators to mere button pushers. Just like big box companies have destroyed the once thriving mom and pop small to medium print shops of yesteryear, Vistaprint, Shutterfly, Mimeo and others are driving independent printers out of business daily. Manufacturers and their technology are reducing the need for real artisans and true problem solving high quality employees. Print failure rates are nearly 4 per day according to analysts and it’s not going to get any better. Now that print is considered a commodity, price is all anyone cares about. There is only one Walmart. One more thing, Sabine. With the consolidation of the paper industry, your love of paper options and choices is shrinking exponentially. Look at Mohawk’s recent press and how they’ve rolled up and eliminated over 70% of their offerings. When there were two color presses, paper meant something. Now that we have 6,8 and 10 color presses (all financed to the gills I might add) nearly every piece that comes in is full bleed and 80% coverage. So where is the value in the paper you describe? Paper is a liability and the green squad is putting more and more downward pressure on every company out there to reduce their print and this means that paper mills are also being pinched. Face it folks, we’re all in a rapidly shrinking and dying industry. In one more generational cycle, print will only be relevant to a tiny minority. Now that we simply produce a commoditized product, the only way we can every survive is to become bigger, more efficient and fight amonst ourselves for the few crumbs that are left.

  • Colour_Time

    Great article! We couldn’t agree with you more! We recently did a few blog posts about business cards, finishing, etc, as well. We’re at if you get a chance. :)

  • Realistic Printer

    Good luck to you ostriches who deny your future. Printing is no longer about value add. It’s about price and turn. But keep your head in the sand. You’ll be on the chopping block the next time the board goes over the numbers. Yes, if you’re a designer, maybe you need a great business card. If you’re a printer, call me and send the goofballs who spec paper that is four times the price, colors that take hours of prepress time to hit and I’ll be happy to refer those losing customers and designers to you so you can frustrate your management and lose money hand over fist while smart, profitable and well executed jobs are running on my presses. :)

  • kiaprinter

    Get President Obama to issue a decree that all businesses must spend at
    least $500 on each individual card and then you will get the kind of cards
    you love to receive. Vistiprint can sell you cards cheaper than I can buy the paper. Price drives the market every time. Good hunting on quest for the
    ultimate business card.

  • Vista Print running the show

    If we as printers would join together in a law suit like Germany did against Vista Print for unethical business…….. Just maybe we could make some money off of our printing of business cards. This author who did this article must not work directly in the printing business/shop or she would have re-phrased some of what she has spoken. You can’t make a customer spend more money than they have. Plus how does everyone else and how would this author handle a customer that comes in and ask’s, will you match Vista Prints prices on business cards?

  • Doin fine in the sunshine

    Sounds to me like someone has anger issues, we are not all in your boat, there are plenty of industries where print is still necessary it’s all about finding the right fit and always offering new and exciting options and not putting all of your eggs in one printing basket, I’ve found those options but it looks like you have plenty of time on your hands, perhaps thats where the anger comes in?

  • Robert Bloecker

    One of my sales people’s favorite tactics when someone hands them a flimsy card, is to turn around and hand them one of ours. 24pt board with 4 color process with a dull AQ finish on it. They wait for the customer to say "wow, what a great feeling business card." Once that happens, the sale makes itself. Yes, there are the vista-prints and the 4overs doing cards for under 20 bucks for 1000 cards, but, quite honestly, let them. At in Las Vegas, we have always specialized in doing high-end custom printing. Let the low cost people waste their 12 bucks on vista cards. And when their competition wins the sale because their marketing materials gave the correct impression, they will get the point.

  • I .D&P

    @Realistic Printer – So far in all of your postings you have come off as very negative in every opinion. Maybe if you were to focus on being positive, your potential customers and current clientele would be more apt to spend more of their money with you for their printing needs. Printing and design will always be needed. It is a matter of you finding that market to insert yourself and make it necessary for customers to return to your business.

  • Thomas Clifford

    Long story short, innovate of die. Print is a widget. Differentiate yourself or be like all the other print lemmings and walk off the cliff. Great article and better comments.

  • 918Printery

    Want to see some extraordinary cards that really stand out. Look for Letterpress Business Cards.