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The small but mighty business card

You might not give it a lot of thought, but the humble business card comes with a wealth of history and some important etiquette guidelines. So the next time you pluck one of your Cyan-designed business cards out of your card holder, here are a few things to consider!

A card-sized concise history

According to experts, the earliest use of business cards dates back to 15th century China where ‘visiting cards’  were exchanged to announce the intention of a meeting between upper class dignitaries. Back in Europe, a similar practice began in the 17th century amongst the elite where calling cards would be left with a servant before admission would be granted into a house. Alongside this exchange, businesses began producing trading cards to promote their business services and location.

In the 19th century business cards began to look more like our modern variations as they came alive with colour made possible by the invention of lithographic printing.

Business card etiquette in exchange

Although we have come a long way since the ‘elite’ beginnings of the business card, some general guidelines still remain to ensure your use of this essential business accessory never fails to make a good impression.

  1. Store your business cards in a holder, so that you always have a crisp and clean card ready to exchange
  2. Show respect upon receipt of another person’s business card by pausing to look at their card before carefully storing it – avoid throwing it straight into a drawer or bag!
  3. Whilst their use in business is commonplace, some might regard business card exchanges on social occasions as ‘showy’. It’s always best to politely initiate a business card swap in a one-to-one situation.
  4. Do not write on the other person’s business card (if you must, do so in private)

It is particularly important to check the etiquette for international business, for example in Japan and China cards must be presented and received with both hands as a sign of respect.

Make the right marketing statement with your card

  • Ensure your business card is consistent with your branding
  • A good design will help catch their attention and portray the right image
  • All text must be clear and legible (a unique design is great but the important part is sharing contact details)
  • Double check all details are correct before printing!
  • Keep cards in a neat condition – a bent or torn card is not going to create a professional impression
  • Don’t use silly job titles unless very relevant for your company brand. In return, we promise never to refer to ourselves as Marketing Ninjas.