25 creative alternatives to the good ol’ business card

Creative marketing materials such as promotional T-shirts and free gifts are great when mixed in with a good helping of creativity. In marketing terms, to “blend in” is bad for business. You know that you and your business need to stand out and make a memory, and sometimes the traditional business card is just not good enough. Whether you are looking for employment or building relationships for your company, making sure your name sticks in the mind of your potential employer or client is key.

Best Alternatives to Traditional Business Cards: Dare to Be Different

Climbing the greasy networking pole can be tough work. “There is no elevator to success,” says a vinyl here at the Printsome office. But there are ways to make the process quicker, like getting a lift to access those who are farther up. Still, it is easier said than done.  

Those at the top of the pole are of interest to many people, which translates to being handed a mountain of business cards every day — and then some more. Naturally, after seeing so many, these become mundane and forgetful. In order to get in touch with the alpha dogs, you need to make an impression. You can keep calling them at their office, sending them a friend request on every single social network and “coincidentally” singing up to the same gym (even though it’s nowhere near your place), but that might come across as a little desperate.

It is probably better to just create a memorable moment with a business card so incredibly awesome that they will be telling their friends about you and not the other way around.

In order to create your own memorable business card you should keep in mind:

  • Design principles
  • Unusual materials
  • Special Finishes
  • Usability
  • How well it represents you
  • Layout and type
  • What information you’re including
  • Printing methods (if any)

And most importantly, break the rules! Once you know the basics it’s time to throw them out the window and start anew. Here are some awesome examples of people who created their own self-promotion guidelines.  

Conductive Ink

As the name implies, conductive ink is a special kind of ink that conducts electricity. When the card is placed on top of the smartphone, the conductive ink transmits the contact information to the phone. This technology is developed by a startup called TouchBase Technologies.

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Balloons

Personally speaking, I don’t know if printing your information on a balloon is the best idea because it is hard to read when it is deflated, which forces the receiver to stretch or inflate the balloon whenever they want to access the information and to me that just seems counterintuitive. Usually, people don’t want to work more than they have to. Much like a T-shirt, you can personalise a balloon by contacting the right printer.

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Beer Mats

Beer mats are a fun option for a business card, you only run the risk of having people use it as a, well, coaster. Having a water ring on your contact information might be fun or unprofessional, depending on the situation. It’s up to you to decide if it is convenient or not. If you want to personalise your own beer mat, you can always contact companies such as this one.

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Tools

These business cards are sure to make a lasting impression. If you want to create a business card that’s different from everything else, building something useful might be the way to go. Unlike other “creative” business cards, the information in here is easy to access and will be read every time somebody uses the tool. Metal printing is an unexplored area to most people, if you want to explore what it can do, you can start here.

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Bottle Opener

A useful business card that for sure will help out whoever receives it. Admit it, we all have at some point missed a bottle opener.

Stainless-Steel-Bottle-Opener-Business-Card-With-Blue-Logo-452716Source

Spice Sachet

To have your contact information printed on a sachet might be cute, but it renders your business card disposable since once it has been used it will only go to the trash. Of course, there is also the possibility that someone might decide to keep it, but even so, there is always the risk that someone might sit on it. To order your own printable sachets, you may contact companies such as this one.

business card alternativesSource

Coaster

They are useful and tend to be more durable than beer mats. If they’re made out of wood, then the better because it will only make it less expendable and more attractive to the eye. Woodcard is a company in the UK that lets you personalise wooden coasters.

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Coins

As sceptic as I might be about business cards that are too out there, I would still like to be there to see the face of a person when they receive a coin instead of the expected piece of paper. Coins are far more durable than paper, that’s for sure, and if someone confuses one of them for actual money then it might lead to a fun conversation. If you’re into this idea, then you’re in luck because coins are actually quite easy to customise.

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Condoms

Businesses like saytwithacondom.com allow you to personalise everyone’s favourite latex device. Such a design may be a good idea for someone that works in the nightlife sector, sex industry or a company looking to teach safe sex practices. While a condom may have positive connotations (protection, fun, sex) it might also have negative ones, it is disposable and if you carry it with you for too long it starts being a reminder of the lack of physical intimacy in your life.

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Rubber Band

Like Balloons, the rubber band forces the user to stretch it if they want to read its content. In this context, it might work since as a trainer, he is most likely interested in clients who want to make an effort.

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Ring

Rings have been used to convey messages since the beginning of civilisation so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to put their contact information in one of them. The above image is an example of a wearable business card which doesn’t necessarily have to be just rings. How about wristbands? Caps? T-shirts? 

random business cardsSource

Fortune Cookie

Everyone loves fortune cookies! Even if you already know that the message you’ll get on the inside is complete nonsense, you still want to open them. I once received a contact information printed on the package of a fortune cookie. It was cute. It caused a positive impression at the moment. I ate the cookie and saved the printed sachet — you know to add her to my contacts, and stuff — only for it never to be seen again. Don’t ask me where I put it because I don’t know. I probably mistook it for the leftovers of a snack and threw it away. I remember the experience, but I never got to add this person to my contacts which is the ultimate goal of a business card. Still, depending on the occasion a fortune cookie might just be the proper way to introduce yourself. Please check out places like Cracking Cookies if you’re interested.

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Gameboy/Arduboy

Arduboy is a device the size of a credit card that looks like Game Boy. It runs on Arduino (an open-source programming company) and it is designed to play video games, but it can also showcase your résumé if you’d like. It might be impressive, but the ploy would end up being expensive if your ultimate goal is to hand it out like you would a business card. You can pre-order yours now for $39.

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3D Business Card + 3D Specs

A good starting point to create a unique business card would be to imagine a way to represent what you do. Easier said than done, I know, but when people manage to find a way, the results can be quite amazing. Take this example where designer Tyson Junkers wanted to show to potential clients his work in 3d design.

3d-businesscards

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Lego Figures (official and unofficial)

The original Lego figure business cards belong to senior executives at the Lego headquarters in Denmark, but since the news of their existence broke out, many have tried to copy them. Lucky for you, if you are fond of the idea, you may now order your own figurine or you can also buy an original Lego card holder which is pretty neat.

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Design Your Own Action Figures

Using an action figure as a business card may sound like a bit too much, but in the right context, it might just be that extra something that makes you stand out. This scenario could be the toy industry, for example. The example is a picture from Swedish photographer Jens Lennartsson. He created 400 action figures of himself to send along with his portfolio to potential customers. This might just be the most epic case of self-promotion ever. To read more about his process, check out the post he wrote about it on his website.

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Matchbox

Matchboxes have been used to promote bars and restaurants for a while now, but it hasn’t been until recently that they’re being considered to promote people as well. Matchboxes present the same problems as other disposable articles we’ve seen on this list, but on the bright side, it might lead to an interesting conversation during a cigarette break. Personalising matchboxes is surprisingly easy, you’ll just have to order and submit the artwork as you would do with a t-shirt.

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Beef Jerky Business Cards

Talk about making an impression! These cards sure look cool, but as the manufacturer himself said, they’re more of a novelty than anything else. The material falls apart and it’s not edible. Still, they’re pretty wicked. If you want to introduce yourself in a meaty fashion, meatcards.com can take care of your needs. They’re based in the US but make international shippings.

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Combs

Designer Fabio Milito designed this business card/comb for the hairdressing salon MODhair. Personally, I don’t think there would be a better presentation card for a hairstylist. It not only tells what they do but also the kind of attitude they have.

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Pegs

In this example, pegs are not the presentation tool per se but are holding the traditional business card. This is a simple way to bring attention to something that might otherwise be conventional.

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Pocket Square

Melanie Yugo designed these pocket squares to promote her business Mobile & Making. The unique design went along with her position which she describes as “Creative Experience Designer” because it encompasses many different disciplines. Square pockets are useful and are not replaceable unlike other devices on this list.

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Post-It Notes

Probably the most inexpensive and simple devices to reproduce of all of the options on this list, post-it business cards are easy to make but will cause an impression nonetheless. Aside from being endearing, you don’t have to call the printer when they run out. Once you’ve made the stamp, you can produce as many and whenever you want.

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Weapons

Tiny plastic guns that shoot rubber bands! What more could you ask for? Oh, wait, it gets better. You can make one yourself! Just download the instructions and you’ll be on your way to create a lasting impression on your next networking event.

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Sponges

The example was designed by the Brazilian agency Fields 360 for a manufacturing company called Mundo do Condomínio. The image seems like a render, not an actual prototype which makes me wonder if it is actually possible to print on sponges since the material is designed to absorb liquid.

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Stamps

Designer Mikey Burton along with Cranky Pressman created this stamp for a Computer Arts Projects challenge. The premise was to take a spin on the traditional business card and I think they’ve succeeded. If you want to order a stamp with your contact information, you can do so by clicking here.

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Wristbands

The below image belonged to a startup called Skanz. When people scanned the code it would immediately take them to your Skanz profile page where all of your contact information would be available. My first thought was “Why won’t people just print a QR code on their business card linked to their website or LinkedIn profile?” The bracelet just seemed unnecessary. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought that way because unfortunately Scanz doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still the wristband idea as inspiration for your next business card.

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3D Business Card

designer-superheroe-card

Our friend designer Ryan McGuire designed this cool business card that presents him suited up on the cover and with a shirt opened up a-la-Superman on the inside. This is a fun and unexpected way to promote yourself, it is both an animation booklet and a business card. Not to mention that the quality of the paper and the print are superb. In case you were wondering, we got this presentation piece when Ryan sent our coworker Hayley an envelope with some of his famous bunny stickers!

Business Cards: How to use them properly

How to take care of your business cards

If I were to ask you for your contact information right now, could you look at me in the eye and quickly produce a crisp card that is up to date and represents everything your business stands for? That’s how it should be done. Always carry a supply of cards with you to be ready when the moment comes. If you have to give an excuse like having freshly run out of cards, waiting for the printer to deliver your re-supply or simply having forgotten to bring any, you will make a strong impression – of being unprofessional.

Only hand out clean cards, unless a scuffed and worn look is what you’re going for as part of a conscious design decision. Most people will frown upon a dog-eared card you just dug from your wallet and will, therefore, doubt your business. Carry your business cards in a protective case to ensure their mint condition. Additionally, keep your carry case in the same place at all times so you always know where your cards are. If you start patting your pockets, you will be shedding credibility fast.

Also, don’t be that guy who whips out a ballpoint pen to cross out that old website, email address or phone number before presenting a card. Your business cards become rubbish the second your contact info changes, so off you go to the printer no matter how many of them you might have stockpiled.

As for the look and feel of the cards, find a designer you trust to deliver a card that graphically represents your brand. Make sure you follow the standards of your industry on how much contact info you display. Website, email and phone will be a good idea, your social media profiles less so, unless you’re in business as a YouTube celebrity.

How to hand out your business card

Contrary to the way some people seem to shed them, your business cards are not promotional or marketing material. Select the people you hand them to with discretion instead of following an aggressive strategy of making it rain. Inflation will make you appear desperate or plain annoying and devalues your card.

How to use business cards

Successful networking is not pressing your card into the palms of hundreds of people. Instead, identify potential referrals, qualified leads or future contacts and then consciously choose to exchange information. Don’t force your card on others, but ask for theirs. It will place you in control of being able to follow up later. Only giving out your card will have you waiting for calls that may never come.

When you ask for a business card, people will most likely reciprocate. Of course, always give out your business card when being asked for it. Hand it over with confidence and in a way that the person receiving the card has no trouble reading or accepting it. Be careful not to juggle things – stick your phone in your pocket or put your pint down if you have to!

If you receive a compliment for your card, accept it and move on. Unless the person you just met really wants to go into composition details, design discussions should only happen between you and your designer.

How to properly receive a business card

Along the same lines, you can comment a card when you receive it, but keep it simple. Pick a single detail such as the logo, a clever business name, title or a layout choice. Your compliment attaches value to the card just received and can help break the proverbial ice. But by all means, don’t start comparing cards, it’s inappropriate. If you suddenly turn into Patrick Bateman, you will only come across as weird (and slightly homicidal).

If it’s not immediately clear, it’s professional to ask how a person can best be reached. After all, you are going to follow up – why else take someone’s card? Exchanging business cards facilitates a future connection, but it does not add the other person or their business to your network yet. Get to know their services before you need them. If all you have left later is the physical card and nothing else, chances are you won’t act on it. Capitalise on the personal meeting you had afterwards!

It will help you to write down the circumstances under which you have met a person on the back of their card so you can later place their information in context again. But notes to yourself should happen in private, not in front of the card owner – unless it’s a reminder of something you agreed upon such as sending a proposal.

How to organise your collection of business cards

So you have collected stacks and stacks of business cards, now you’re ready to file them away. But in 2015 we’re living in a world of digital nomads, coworking spaces and remote work. Rolodexes are retro. To organise your cards efficiently and act on them effectively, you have to go digital.

Rather than risk bleeding thumbs by entering all the information into your phone manually, be smart and use a business card reader app such as CamCard or FullContact Card Reader. There are plenty of solutions for Android and iOS to scan, manage, sync and exchange business cards, so get on it. Once you have everything in the cloud, follow up with your new contacts. As an entrepreneur, send an update about your product, service or development in your business; as a professional, information relevant to your industry can be a great way to continue the conversation you started in person.

International business card etiquette

business card guide

To hand out and receive business cards, use your right, the hand of discretion – especially in international business. As with all business etiquette, the exchange of cards with foreigners offers an opportunity for missteps, so familiarise yourself with foreign standards beforehand. Here are some examples:

  • Doing business in China will require a translation using simplified Chinese characters and the appropriate dialect. We might find it tacky, but lettering in gold is auspicious in China. Tradition requires your title to be included, and cards are offered with both hands.
  • If you’re doing business in India, put your university degree or any honour you might have on the card and always use their right hand when receiving and handing out.
  • The Japanese will make a ceremony out of the exchange and receive cards with two hands. Their culture puts emphasis on status and hierarchy, so listing your title is a must. Only offer quality cards in spotless condition, and offer received cards the same respect as you would extend to the person.

Key takeaways of business card etiquette

  1. Only hand out your business card when requested, but actively ask others for theirs.
  2. If you don’t intend to contact someone, don’t ask for their card. Always follow up on cards you have collected.
  3. Regularly connect with your contacts to integrate them into your network.

Final words

If you follow these key points of business card etiquette, your level of networking professionalism will be exemplary. Your contacts will want to follow up with you and remember the great impression you made when you reached out to them.

Do you know of any Business Cards tidbits that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below or through any of our social media outlets. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.

Got any more cool examples of creative business cards? We would like to see them! Please, share them with us in the comments below or via any of our social media networks. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.


Print on Demand

Here at Printsome, we’ve always supported creative endeavours which is why we’re proud to announce our brand new ‘print on demand’ service.

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From the moment you connect your online shop (like Shopify) with our platform, anyone can buy one of your designs. We deliver all over the UK and Europe. Drop shipping has never been this easy.

Why worry about inventory or logistics when we can take care of that? We deal with the boring stuff so you have more time to do what you love. To find out more, simply visit our brand new website by clicking on the banner below.

 

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