In the age of digital alternatives – is the business card making a comeback?


Exchanging business cards when making new business contacts is still a very common courtesy these days. But how can you get your business card to stand out from the crowd or even better ensure that it doesn’t disappear into the hidden depths of somebody’s desk drawer or worse into the round plastic or metal mini-archive beneath their desk?

So how do you leave a lasting impression with a “small card”? I have taken a look at what the market has to offer those searching for an alternative to the ordinary (common or garden) business card.

The first providers of business cards that you come across in Germany via the common search engines are the major players like Vistaprint, flyeralarm and Onlineprinters. Large quantities and comparatively low prices – yet what about that lasting impression? It’s the finishing that makes the difference and what determines how far a particular contact will go – particularly in retrospect. Industrial providers thus offer various grades of paper and card and extra (UV) coatings, hot foil stamping and/or lamination – plenty of decent cards at low prices.

Pricewise we are talking between around 0.05 and 0.70 Euros per card, depending on purchase quantity, chromaticity and finishing grade. Here a high degree of automation and express service are the name of the game. Mark you, according to a survey by the CEWE Group, more than 96 % of respondents regard using a business card as making sense, quite irrespective of the information on the card or whether the person giving the card has some kind of website. So we don’t need to ask about the benefits or relevance of business cards.

Letterpress business cards featuring blind contour die-cutting (Source:
Letterpress business cards featuring blind contour die-cutting (Source:


But what about the impact on people, who often hold coated or laminated products in their hands?

To be honest a gloss-coated business card doesn’t wow me particularly. It’s standard and not necessarily something for the discerning customer! Modern-day print providers, who are seeking to appeal to business customers and consumers and at the same time be competitive, have to be more creative with regard to what they offer. It’s also a fact that, as far as modern print products are concerned, haptic details play a key role – a combination of visual and tactile experiences enhance that impression.

In the print industry’s past the production of business cards was also a lucrative business for smaller printing companies. Nowadays plenty of consumers resort to mass-produced items from major players – price expectations and quality standards can often be met by the online ordering tools. But now customers are looking for something special, not off-the-peg. Something that will definitely stick in the memory and will make people appear to be contacts that are well worth pursuing.

Business card with passe-partout (Source:
Business card with passe-partout (Source:

The renewed revival of the business card, but this time in a new guise: providers of letterpress business cards are able to accommodate various finishing techniques on a small card. The options range from unicolored die stamping through finishing in the form of colored edging. But you have to dig deeper into your pocket for this. Assuming a certain purchase quantity (usually 100 copies), boutique print manufacturers offer business cards that are priced at 1 to 3 Euros (!) each. The card is guaranteed to have an individual character as well as a visual and haptic impact.

You may well ask why people should fork out so much money for an “analog” business card, when they can get the interactive NFC version from Moo for around 1.80 Euros per card… Well now, the near future will show how using NFC technology will benefit networking and maintaining relationships.


“The letterpress business card combines visual and haptic attributes – premium quality therefore dominates the upper price segment.” – Bernd Zipper

Letterpress business cards can therefore lay down a memorable marker and thus justify higher prices. Letterpress-method cards are usually printed or simultaneously printed and embossed using veteran platens and various grades of card, mostly grammages significantly in excess of 300 g/m2. If uncoated, higher-volume papers are used, the embossed printing method can be applied producing an aesthetically appealing look and feel that a gloss-coated-only product cannot convey.

Print as artisan artistry

Providers of these elaborate business cards usually call themselves boutique manufacturers and do business in the form of sole proprietorships or limited companies. Here are just a few examples in Germany: Letterjazz Print-Studio, Hochdruckgebiet – Letterpress Manufaktur, Wolf-Manufaktur or LetterArt Printing Studio. Most of these websites convey the impression of craftsmanship and target discerning business customers and consumers. They don’t come across as being too colorful or ornate.  Any gimmickry? There’s none to be seen here. Print is being offered as artisan artistry combined with customization. Unfortunately some of the letterpress providers still refrain from offering configuration tools or even an online customer contact option. Delivery lead times are usually stated at up to five days, orders can be expedited upon payment of a supplement – some even provide an overnight service – shipping can be arranged. Some providers still seem to prefer classically personal communication – face to face, by phone or e-mail. I can imagine that customers, who know exactly what they want and are under time pressure, would prefer to go with those providers that offer a greater degree of ordering process automation.

Source: screenshot of; the new online store has been up and running since mid-March.
Source: screenshot of; the new online store has been up and running since mid-March.

Customized print products are the future

How much are consumers prepared to pay? For in excess of 300 Euros you get 100 letterpress business cards in a rather plain finish (compared to all the finishing options available) – printed in mono- or bicolor majuscules and they all feature colored or laminated edges.

Alternatively you can have your cards printed by a Polish production facility with a German website (LetterArt Printing Studio). A rather simply configured letterpress business card – again at an order quantity of 100 – costs around 0.70 Euros including sales tax but not including shipping. Irrespective of which print provider you order from, you are provided with a networking tool that is certain to differ in several respects from the card of others in terms of features. That’s because high grammage gives these business cards a premium look and feel.

My Take: Only those people, who opt for a visually appealing business card with a certain 3D effect, can leave a lasting impression. In this respect low-quantity products from the letterpress segment provide a great alternative, especially if you consider trends in other industries, where quality standards are rising again. Many consumers are prepared to pay more for a product with that extra touch of class than for an off-the-peg  product. One question still remains to be answered – everybody has to make up their own minds whether ten times the standard price or even higher is acceptable!

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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