Business Cards Should Have One Phone Number

by Dave Michels

Part of our business mating ritual involves the business card exchange. We don’t take it as seriously as the Japanese with the ceremonial bow, but generally business introductions involve a business card exchange ritual. The business card performs a number of functions. But at its heart, the business card has one purpose. That is to provide contact information. I think people get carried away with this – stop it.

In the good ol days, we had one number on our cards. Then we started adding more. We added fax, sometimes even Telex. We added direct numbers vs. main numbers and then our mobile numbers. That’s just numbers – we also add email addresses and now Facebook and Twitter ids too. Even with font size 8, white space is becoming extinct on cards.

This is all nonsense. A business card should have your postal address and a single phone number. That’s it.

  • Main number vs. DID: The number on the card should be a direct number or include an extension number. There is no reason to include the main number. For one, I can always obtain that through a directory service, and two I should be able to get there by pressing zero at the voice mail.
  • Fax Number: No. Fax is dead. If someone really wants to send a fax, make them call and ask for the number.
  • Mobile Number: For multiple reasons, the mobile number should not be on the card. There are a few solutions; call forwarding, simultaneous ring, and mobile extension. Call forwarding is simple, but manual. If you don’t want to miss a call while away from your desk, call forward your phone to your mobile (or home) number. The downside on most systems is you can’t cancel call forwarding from a remote location. Simultaneous ring is common on IP systems and allows for multiple phones to ring, it has the downside of messages potentially ending up in different messaging systems, but that’s only if you miss the call. Mobile Extension is a Mitel term, but many manufacturers offer a similar solution, it allows your desk phone to ring on your mobile – but unlike call forwarding the PBX doesn’t drop the call. This means the user can still transfer calls back within the PBX and unanswered calls end up in the corporate voice mail box.
  • Pager: No. Even if you have one, do you really want to admit it?
  • Home: Never. See Mobile number above.
  • Email: It was “cool” to include email in the 90s as most organizations still didn’t have it. But now, keeping your email private is more cool. The overwhelming amount of Spammers have put the email address on a need to know basis.
  • Facebook: No, facebook is more personal than business. Lines get blurring, but I suggest keeping it off. Send the information if you like to folks via email.
  • Twitter: Unsure on this one. Twitter is still too new. I don’t see a lot of risk assuming your tweets are primarily business oriented. I lean toward not including it unless it is a company Twitter account.

For small business, I have a few other opinions about cards. Don’t go so cheap. I am always surprised when I get a card that was clearly made on a home inkjet or has a Vistaprint logo on the back (means it was free). I really dislike business cards so thin they don’t even lie flat on a table. Professionally printed thick cards are not that expensive any more. Vistaprint offers them for about $25.

Business cards have changed over time. Not long ago the quantity of numbers on a card could (sorta) equate to status; “look ma four numbers”. Today, I think lots of numbers is the opposite – the person is either desperate for sales or their company can’t afford a decent phone system. I think realtors (as a class) are the worse – they tend to put 3-5 numbers on their cards…I’ve got a better chance of calling another realtor than making 5 attempts to reach one.

So consider one number on your next round of cards.