Are Business Cards "Vintage"? Paper Still Matters!


Business Cards Paper Matters

When we launched Tin Shingle, we dug very deep in our #smallbiz souls to realize who our audience was and what type of businesses needed our service. The easy answer to who our audience is, would be, "It's people with storefronts or online shops, and service professionals." Not so obvious however, but equally important are the artisans out there, who may be a musician, an artist, a sculptor, or a designer of one-of-a-kind things. These types of business owners are more passionate and into their art than they are into marketing, and usually aren't obsessing over our message of "Hey! Do XYZ to get the word out about your business!" They are more focused on honing their craft. We wanted to gain their trust and let them know we "got them" right away with our first impression. The good news for us?  Thanks to some planning and design work, by the time our business card landed in their hands, we've done just that. In fact, we have never encountered such a strong positive reaction to a business card. This is the story of how we achieved it:

When planning our cards, we immediately thought that the first impression we would have with artisans (and anyone we encountered) would be through touch. Therefore, the texture of our business card was very important to us. I was designing it, and I'm a lover of paper. I prefer to read the newspaper and hold magazines. I love trade paperback books. So this business card had to feel special in the hands of our potential readers and members. They had to know that Tin Shingle would give them something special in return. 

We came up with the name "Tin Shingle" because we loved the concept of someone hanging their "shingle" (aka store sign) outside of their shop. As for "tin", it's a resilient metal, and so are so many of the small businesses that read our articles, listen to our classes, and dig deeper with membership. When Sabina and I were brainstorming, we could almost feel our brand, even though we are a website and not a storefront. We wanted to touch it, and so wood also became important to us. Wooden business cards were awesome, but too much for our budget.

When I called my usual online digital printer, I stressed the importance of the paper, and asked for paper samples. I've worked with printers for years, and have stood in giant print shops while huge print runs for magazines or sales materials shoot through the printing presses. I've even worked in a blue printing shop for architectural plans! This form of printing is called "offset" printing and is a dinosaur now for business card printing, especially for small businesses like ours. But, my digital guy couldn't give me a straight answer on the paper. What he wouldn't say directly was: "No, we can't do that. Yes, we are giving you our standard paper that thousands of small businesses print on every day and feels the same as anyone else's."

Which honestly is fine for most brands. But we wanted that special feeling. So I speed-dialed my old friend Rick at K2 Printing and almost fainted when his number didn't work. Did they go the way of the dinosaurs!? Oh no! I Googled them next from my mobile phone, and thank goodness, the search gave me a different number. K2 Printing had changed their phone number, but had entered it into Google Places and put it on their Contact Us page (note to all of you with a location...using Google Places is a must!), so Google pulled up the phone number for me for me and I tapped it from my phone. Rick was still there. Only Rick was also offering digital printing, which meant low digital printing prices. However, an added bonus for me, this meant I got my pick of paper, and I had Rick on my side to send me samples and guide me through the perfect paper for our business cards.

Working with the old school of printing means that you are extremely well taken care of. Well, that's Rick's policy at least. When the business card was ready to proof, he sent me a printed sample. But for my picky eye, it wasn't perfect. I forgot to mention the other challenge for our business card: it was an unusual size. We wanted it square with rounded corners, with full color bleed to the edges. That meant that Rick's machine had to cut the cards after they were printed. When this happened, the digital color flaked off the card. So the cut of the card wasn't crisp.

I called Rick, feeling horrible that I was about to be so picky, and asked what he could do. Of course he had a solution: he'd add a layer of acquiesce coating onto the cards to really lock in the color before the cards were cut. But, the sacrifice was that we'd lose the feeling of the paper because the coating would be there. The coating was smooth, like vellum.

I agreed to the coating, and let go my obsession with touching paper. Sabina received her cards in the mail days later and began passing them out to everyone she met. The reaction was amazing. She'd call me from a dinner to tell me how much the person liked the card. This would be from a vendor at a farmers market, to an editor at the Wall Street Journal. Sabina gets out more than I do, and a year and a half later, she is still telling me about the reactions she gets from people touching the card. They love it. When I get out and about, I usually see local business owners and artists. They are a tough sell. After experiencing the happy reaction from the person I give our card to as they turn it over in their hands, anyone from a bakery owner to a car dealership, I now look forward to handing out my business card without feeling pushy.

Our goal was achieved. We wanted trust at the very first touch of our brand. We also wanted to stand out when we handed people the card.  Fortunately, we were able to achieve both.  We knew how to get them, and we kept those points as major factors, even though the easy and expected answer was to design a card and quickly send it to a digital printer online somewhere. The care is good at these digital printers, but even in this digital age, the story of our business card is  a reminder that people still appreciate thought and touch.

PS: The flower pattern on my nails is a nail wrap sticker from Kiss.