Two-sided business cards (two sides to the story)

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Construction worker with business card

two sided business cardsRecently, one of our company’s most successful sales representatives made an unusual request.  He asked, when we reprint his business cards, for us to include on the reverse of the card a “card” for a community non-profit organization he has established. The non-profit (it is charitable in intent but not a formally registered charity) has absolutely nothing to do with our business.

My initial reaction:  “Yuck” — sure, the cause is good and worthy, but it doesn’t seem terribly professional to link two unrelated things on the same card. While our business supports and encourages employees to be involved in community activities, directly linking the two worlds on our business cards seemed jarring and inappropriate.

Accordingly, while I’ve now made it a practice to respond to inquiries and requests both internally and externally with rapidity (thanks to some wonderful advice from Bruce Johnson), I “sat on” this request for a few days, then started to write my “no” email . . then stopped.  After all, this sales representative is our most effective sales person and maybe, just maybe, there is some reason for the link.  In any case, the card will certainly be memorable.

We polled people around us for response; the salesperson through his Facebook network, while I asked readers of the Construction Marketing Ideas LinkedIn group for their thoughts.

One reader, the outgoing president of a local construction association, said he asked and received permission to include his association business card on one side and his personal business card on the other.  This would seem to be a highly powerful and effective way to connect the person’s association/community leadership with his own business and (if the association doesn’t mind) would really be good for personal branding.

This response, through the LinkedIn group, is more intriguing:

That sounds like a good idea as i have two businesses the main one as a building contractor and a secondary as a dog psychologist just finished a kitchen renovation when the subject came up about dogs ended up getting 3 referrals for dogs, i know it might have a reverse affect as well by the jack of all trades mode so maybe a bit iffy ????

That’s a new one for me — a dog psychologist/building contractor?

Another person wrote:

The community organization on YOUR business card becomes a lasting endorsement by your company of that group. If you/you firm beleive in & support that groups activity & message and will likely continue to support it, then it seems to be a win-win. On the down side, an incident within the group or some bad publicity could translate back to your firm…guilt by association.

Undoubtedly, business cards create lasting impressions.  I cannot imagine a large corporation would be able to set out a two-sided business card policy that would meet branding/systematization requirements.  Can you imagine  the chaos if one employee used the card for his personal dog psychologist services and another promoted a political cause for which she is passionate . . . multiplied by the number of employees in the organization?  On the other hand, our business encourages employees to get out and contribute to the community, and we in fact support upwards of 20 to 25 per cent of work time for community/association activities.  While much of this voluntary work is industry/business-related, I believe sincere community involvement beyond the business has real value and so support it. (Notably, when you meet with business community leaders — the individuals who rise to the executive ranks of key industry associations as well as their own successful businesses, you’ll observe they also spend a lot of time on community service initiatives.)

My conclusion:  I think it is a good practice to allow the two-sided business cards for public service and community work; but I wouldn’t go so far as to link an unrelated business on the same card. Do you have your own thoughts on this issue?  Please comment.

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