While the information that goes on our business card has changed with the advent of social media, replacing fax numbers with Twitter handles, the business card is still a critical part of your real-world networking strategy. Much like your online real estate, when you meet potential clients and contacts in person, your business card is not only the first thing they see, it makes a lasting impression.

A well-designed, compelling business card can help you make important connections and boost business. If you are not in the position to hire a professional designer or spend a fortune on business cards, there are five things you need to know before moving forward.

1. Image is everything! Design your business card appropriately, keeping in mind the kind of customers you are looking to attract. Potential customers will form an opinion about who you are and what your company is about based on specific visual attributes of your card, including paper thickness, font choices and color scheme.

2. Avoid clip art! Clip art will ruin your business card because it almost always looks cheap and diminishes the image of any company. In fact, you should only add graphics to your business card if you are sure it will help reinforce your branding.

3. Consider using a QR code! A QR code is a matrix barcode readable by smartphones and is great for connecting your offline and online marketing materials. QR codes can be used to create memorable features on your website and reward those you meet in person for reaching out to you. QR codes are all the rage these days and putting one on your business card shows that you are on the cutting edge.

4. Avoid clutter! The two most important pieces of information on an effective business card never change; your phone number and email address. The simpler the business card, the more effective it will be. In this day and age, it is tempting to add your Twitter handle, Skype alias, Facebook links and IM nicknames to a card, but these are extras that you can introduce into the relationship once it is solidified.

5. Don't be a cheapo! There are lots of places where you can get 1,000 business cards for free. However, if you want your card to stand out, the cost of shipping isn't enough to offer true distinctiveness. You will need to invest time and money into producing a quality business card if you want to make an impression.

Copyright 2011 dzine it, Inc. graphic design firm All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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