Does your business (cards) pass the WIIFM Test?

As a communications consultant, I collect business cards. Luncheons, evening mixers, business events. As a designer, I always toss a few into the “You’re Doing It Wrong” pile.


You want customers that stick, then you have to think like the customer. All this talk of engagement and relationships and community aside, let me tell you a secret: Customers mostly think about about one thing, “What’s in it for me?”

Most cards fall into one of two categories: 1) over-designed exercises in cleverness — that only artsy, creative types could ever use or 2) boring, generic infodumps – that often say nothing.

If your business card – or website, PR or blog – if your branding doesn’t communicate WHO you are and WHAT you can do for the READER, the audience, the customer – then it’s not communicating at all.

Look familiar?

This business card is a fake; no small businesses were harmed in the mock-up of this card.

Picture this: you meet someone 2.56 minutes at some business networking thing, along with 23 others. Did they do or say anything to make you remember them, make this generic card stand out?

It’s not like they handed it to you then tripped down the stairs and fell off the speaker’s stage. (Oh yes, I did that once; not total face-planting on the floor, but enough that more than a few people noticed. Ahem.)

I’ve got a stack of these. I could contact so and so, by phone or email. But to what end? WIIFM to take the time to go to the website, figure out who you are and WHY I need YOU?

Paper isn’t dead – yet

QR codes, Twitter, LinkedIn is the Rolodex-meets-Resume. Fine. But the business card ain’t going the way of the dinosaurs any time soon.

When I design a business card – as part of a brand identity package – I make smart use of limited real estate: 3.5 inches by 2 inches. Times 2; if you’re not using the back, you’ve wasted every penny you spent on printing.

Rule of 3: three strengths, three features, three points of contact. The more vague your tagline, the more b.s. that reeks from your ‘creative’ job title – the more explicit and accurate your features need to be.

You may not know the whole story – and boy do I not like what I designed (see also, cobbler’s shoes syndrome) – but my card tells you something about what I do: Public Relations and Social Media, Design, Meeting Planning, wrapped in a Communications-flavored bow.

Business cards are easy examples of a first impression – and what impresses others are the details.

Can you imagine a restaurant website that talks about how great the food is, but doesn’t tell you what kind? Or searching for a lawyer but the blog or business card doesn’t tell you they do tax law, not intellectual property? If you’re firm specializes in building hotels, say that – everywhere.

Ask a friend – one not really familiar with your business – to take a closer look at your business cards, your website, your trifold brochure. Do they pass the WIIFM test? If not, call me.

Want More? Keep Reading.

11 thoughts on “Does your business (cards) pass the WIIFM Test?

  1. You go girl. Great stuff here. Even if I do own perhaps an excessively clever card. I don’t care. But I will pass on your advice for sure!

    1. Your card is actually inspiring me to try something a little different w/ mine. I still can’t get the ‘design’ right but I’m being even more explicit, listing a few of the many things I can do – all of which are communication. And for business; even thinking of putting some sort of tagline on there to the effect of: If your business isn’t communicating, then you’re not doing business. I’ll send you one if I ever make up my mind. 🙂

  2. You are so right Davina. I had this internal debate before SoSlam about how relevant paper cards are, especially with a tech crowd, but they are still alive and well. If the people at the forefront of social media are still using them, you know they are still relevant in more traditional crowds.

    B cards are a part of your first impression. But you make a great point that the best ones help answer the WIIFM question. Wish I had read this before designing my cards… 🙂 Good stuff!
    Adam recently posted..The Secret Service Summit: John DiJulius Interview, Part 4

    1. I JUST got out of a meeting with a client – prepping for a renegotiation to do more work, integrate various projects – and I used this example. Amazingly enough, he got it – he could picture all the crappy business cards he’s seen that frankly, don’t do any business; see also, website, brochures, email campaigns, everything else.

      Working on a new design for myself – still ‘hate’ it – but they’ll at least me more explicit about the comprehensiveness of what I can do. Perhaps a little tactic-heavy, but better at answering the WIIFM question.

      I loved the cards you did for SoSlam – that ‘I met Adam ______’ was such a good touch. And I could not agree more about the paper cards still being relevant; walk into a small business expo or a Chamber meeting, walk to wall smartphones – and business cards being shared. FWIW.

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