I recently returned from the Convergence 2007 conference in San Diego. At such events one acquires a neat little stack of business cards. I finally got around to entering them into our CRM system the other day and I had some interesting observations.
Firstly let me just say I love my CardScan. It eats up those little cards at a decent rate and the OCR is reasonably reliable. The CardScan is a very popular piece of kit and most serious sales people own one (they work with Microsoft CRM and some of our competitors). However it seems that people love to design insane business cards which the CardScan has some troubling coping with. I don’t blame the CardScan: I blame the business card producer. Some areas which I found problematic where:
· Company slogan where the company name should be.
· Overlaid graphics which plays havoc with OCR.
· Insane text layouts (strange justification, portrait instead of landscape etc).
· Non standard phone number formatting.
· Non standard card shapes. This was by far the most common and worse ‘feature’.
Manual Data Entry
I opted for a mix of Card Scanning and Manual Data Entry as I wanted to have the ‘full customer experience’. I found many business cards extremely inefficient for manual data entry. Frequently I encountered cluttered fonts, small font sizes and the worst offender: white text on a light gray background. After a couple of dozen cards I found myself entering more data in the system for the cards with better usability and only the bare minimum for the crappier cards. Consider this: after I enter your card (with as much info as I can stand to enter) I shred it.
Business Card Suggestions
Here are some simple suggestions for those of you about to design/re-design your business cards:
· Landscape layout.
· Standard Card Size with square corners.
· Use a single font for the entire card.
· Keep your logo away from the text.
· Make the font as large as the card can handle.
· Do not use a narrow font (eg. Arial Narrow).
· Use bold and italics with caution. A bold company name is bad. A bold or italicized URL is not.
· Test your prospective card with an OCR device.
· Place complex ancillary logos (eg. Microsoft Certified Partner) on the back of the card.
· Create at least twenty fake cards and practice some data entry.
· For multi-lingual cards do not mix languages. Use one side for one language and the reverse side for the other.
· Format the mailing/physical address using the standards set down by your country. Most of the cards in my ‘stack’ fail to meet these standards. Examples: Australia, USA.
· Place some text on the back of your card which describes your role. Charlie Wood, one of our ISV Evangelists does this. His card was a ‘hit’ at Convergence.
· If you are going to create a ‘sexy’ card then really make it sexy. Don’t do half a job. The sexiest cards I ever say were from a printing company back in Australia. Their cards were a mix of transparent text and holograms. Now that was sexy. Steve Wozniak’s Metal Card is sexy. Putting rounded corners on your card: not sexy.
Performing a business process ‘for real’ vs. ‘designing a process’ always brings up new subtle revelations. I redesigned my contact layout a couple of times creating an optimal pattern. This is what I ended up with. For some reason we use the Last Name, First Name full name concatenation rule. It drives me nuts as Microsoft is a very informal company where we typically refer to people by the first name or their email alias (eg. Bill or BillG). You will also note that I have removed the Salutation and Middle Name from the form. Since we aren’t using this DB to conduct marketing I found these fields to be redundant. It is trivial (<1 minute) for me to re-add to the form if a user requests it. Since my name is on the form an internal user can make this request quickly and easily.
BTW: The persona drop down matches our Persona Model. Essentially it is a form of arbitrary contact segmentation.
Overall I found that the usability of a business card had a profound effect on my impression of a person/company. Are your cards getting the impact they deserve?