“You get what you pay for.” We’ve all heard that one and while it is generally true, you might actually get less when it comes to business cards.
Written by: Jason Marshall, President, United Uniforms USA Inc
As a teen, I remember my first business startup. I had zero cash and little more than what I considered a great business idea. With my uncle’s computer, I plugged away at my own business card layout and printed out a hundred DIY tear away business cards. These were distributed proudly to family members and friends. I could only imagine what my peers were thinking. I think at best it would be a “That’s the spirit…” as they took my flimsy card and stowed it with more important looking embossed cards with razor sharp corners. I’m a big fan of analogies so I also find it comparable to riding your bike without training wheels for the first time. “You did it and welcome to the big leagues but, we aren’t going to let you bike across town just yet.”
Fast forward a few years and I was embarking on my own true entrepreneurial endeavor. I was young for the demographic I was catering to and knew I needed to make an impression. So I had professionally printed business cards made. I created a card that opposed the complacency of my competition, a card that paralleled the quality I promised to clients, a card that triggered a conversation. This was invaluable to me as it gave me a voice and garnered the attention I needed to stand out. My total investment was about $40 and I’d essentially put my competition out of the league with a first impression. Indeed, I got what I paid for.
My current company, United Uniforms / Sew Shore, was recently tagged as a business card referral in a local Facebook group. I thanked that referral and offered some information about our company and prices to the person seeking advice. It’s not unusual to see a few friendly competitors pop up soliciting their business as well. In fact, I’m usually pleased to see local businesses taking care of our area. But this post was different as it was bombarded with Vistaprint referrals. As a small business and Naples native, this was almost insanely insulting. I was insulted out of frustration for what I considered to be professional quality and service versus what the consumer was accepting as professional quality and services. I felt compelled to write an article focusing on five reasons why you should source your business cards from a local printer versus an online company such as Vistaprint. So, as you read on, consider whether you are getting what you paid for.
#1 Your brand’s identity and reputation - First impressions make a significant impact on your business. A great first impression could sway a potential client from looking any further for your services, or it could be the bar that your potential client holds your competitors to. Your business card is an extension of that first impression. A poorly designed and flimsy card could give the illusion that your company cuts corners and has little concern for details and end results. Why not leave it to the professionals? This is exactly what they do, and the reason they are in business. Draw the same parallel for your own business services. Do you think a graphic designer would make a great attorney, plumber, or building contractor? A great designer or printer can create a brand identity for you, and ultimately save you money down the road. Your printer or designer also has accurate knowledge of the product and services they are selling you. Most consumers are flying blindly into these decisions with online services, and those online providers know it. The product that you are buying into are not apples to apples with the product that your local printer can guarantee, or even provide physical examples of. Take pride in your business and your brand, and set yourself apart from the standard templates used by fly-by-night companies. If the White House is requesting bids for your services, what will the quality of your business card say about your company?
#2 Quality - As previously mentioned, the quality of your business card speaks volumes to what your company or business accepts as “quality”. It is not just the card stock that you choose but also the printing, design, and layout that impacts the quality of your business card. A well designed card will accentuate your logo, easily identify the card holder, and include your business details. A great design will set you apart from heavily used templates with a unique layout that still identifies your company. Print quality varies amongst the various styles of printing. Offset printing, letterpress, and thermography cannot be replicated via the digital printing that many online printers default to. Quality printers also monitor alignment, print registration, and edge bleeds. A professional designer can assist in this but, DIY’ers are typically unaware of the importance of those factors. The stock of your business card is probably the most easily identifiable characteristic of your card’s quality. However, not all card stocks are equal… even if they both boast the same stock weight. Consider the analogy of 5 pounds of frozen Indonesian shrimp versus 5 pounds of fresh jumbo gulf shrimp. They are both technically 5 pounds of shrimp but, the gulf shrimp will be superior in quality. Make sure your product is apples to apples when pricing and get what you pay for. Your local printer will also have physical samples of available card stocks and print styles for you to touch and feel.
#3 Pricing - Pricing is often the the primary motivator in the decision making process. This day and age, it’s almost assumed that online pricing is more competitive than a brick and mortar store. Therein lies the biggest problem, assumptions. I challenge anyone taking the time to read this article to check the prices of several local retailers before making your decision. Companies like Vistaprint are attractive for what they present to you on the surface but, the end result is a completely different price point. For example, my company United Uniforms / Sew Shore offers 1,000qty standard business cards for $40 (plus shipping). Vistaprint advertises 100qty standard business cards for $16 (plus shipping), attractive right? However, their cost for 1,000qty standard business cards is $80 (plus shipping). My company’s minimum order is 500 business cards but, we’d still be $20 cheaper than Vistaprint’s 500 cards. I’ve found the United Uniforms / Sew Shore’s prices, as well as other local competitor’s prices, are cheaper than many of the largest online printers. In fact, I’d be happy to match Vistaprint’s business card pricing for 500qty or more and I’ll waive the freight for print-ready graphics or for existing customers that we provide embroidery or uniform services to. What else can we provide you that these online retailers can’t to change your mind?
#4 Customer Service - Customer service is the cornerstone of well established and successful businesses. A one on one representative that caters to your needs is invaluable and a rare commodity for online retailers. A local printer or graphic designer will assume responsibility for your order and will genuinely back the products they sell. Should there be any issues with your order, you can directly speak to your local rep unlike being passed around a telecom directory. Customer service is not limited to sage advice. It’s also an extension of the physical customer experience. A local printer will provide stock samples, a showroom, a place of business to visit and visualize the entire process beyond your business card. When you buy locally, you are building a one-on-one relationship with a business generally interested in what you do or what you need.
#5 Supporting local business - I’m hoping that as a reader of this particular article, you either work for a small business or have your own company which is why you’re reading a lengthy article on business cards. Please consider the impact your business can make on a local level. For example, I promote many of my client’s businesses through my social media pages and word of mouth. Most of the companies providing services for my business and personal needs are also my clientele. Our company donates to numerous organizations across our local community because of the revenue generated at our business. Do you think the online store that is overcharging you would ever contract you or your company’s services? Do you believe they would take the proceeds of the business they do with you and donate to your local region? These are important things to consider because, this impacts your business too! What if your target demographic outsourced everything to an online provider or sourced all on-site services from out of state? Would you still pursue opening and running your own business? I can say that we will continue doing what we do because we can offer guaranteed quality, an equal or better price, and personal customer service. Our clients know this and run successful businesses because they do not compromise or cut corners. Give your local spot a shot. You’ll learn a thing or two, including each other’s name without collecting sensitive data and auto-enrolling you in programs…
What’s that about collecting data? Did you know that many online retailers such as Vistaprint sell the data you provide? Selling your data is one way companies counter their lower prices, even though we’ve uncovered they really aren’t lower. You usually agree to this by accepting the terms of agreement when submitting your order, it’s all in the fine print that we’re all guilty of disregarding. Even though this practice has become quite common, it’s no excuse for auto-enrollment programs. Your auto-enrollment is disguised as a rewards program that debits your card $15 dollars a month. In this case, you're getting something you did not want to pay for. Some auto-enrollments are unrequested magazine subscriptions that “fit your interest” and can only be cancelled by the company that submitted your info! That’s right, you’ll have to go through Vistaprint to get the subscription cancelled. If you don’t believe me, do some investigating on your own and search Vistaprint’s practices.