Why Are YOU "Really" In Business?
"I wanted to be an editor or a journalist, I wasn't really interested in being an entrepreneur, but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going" - Richard Branson
If you are a true entrepreneur, you will know that to succeed, it helps that you enter a line of business that you naturally enjoy, and would gladly do even if you did not get paid(as tends to happen during start up). The truth however is that you are(I hope) in business to make money in a manner that is profitable - which will in turn enable you stay in THAT business you enjoy, for the long term. To achieve the foregoing purpose, you will need to do cost-effective and results-focused business marketing. One very important - but I believe grossly underutilised tool - for doing that is the Business Card.
I discuss in this article how you as a business owner, can better design your own business cards, to significantly improve your ability to market yourself to those who really need your services and/or products.
Marketing is about creating an impression - a positive impression - in the mind of your intended customer - that YOU or YOUR BUSINESS are more capable of meeting his/her perceived need or want than any others. The more successful you are in creating this impression about yourself/business in the mind of your target audience, the greater the chances that they will choose you over others who may offer the same products and/or services you do. This in effect means, you will be better able to achieve your major business goal of making MORE money, MORE profitably.
This Article Is Meant MAINLY For Non-Employees
Just before I continue, I wish to make the following clarification. The ideas I offer here are mainly for use by self-employed individuals (independent contractors, consultants, entrepreneurs/business owners) - i.e. people who are their own bosses and therefore take decisions that affect how their company is perceived or operates.
For those who work as employees in companies, it is likely that decisions about the type and design of business cards used will be taken with considerations relevant to the company's preferred mode of operation and business vision. I will therefore only say that persons who fall into this latter category, if they find what I say here of potential usefulness to their organisation(e.g. sales/marketing personnel) explore the possibility of bringing it to the attention of appropriate decision makers for consideration.
Is There A Rule Book For Business Card Design?
I am not aware of any rule book that actually spells out what information or details should or should not be on a business card: But if you know of any, I would appreciate your sending me a note about where to find it. :-)
It appears instead, that most people seem to have come to some tacit agreement on the most relevant pieces of information and features to adorn their cards with. Or maybe they just adopted what they found others doing when they entered into business for themselves. Either way, the point I'm making is that I believe each person needs to try and design a business card that works for him/her.
What Does The Conventional Business Card "Say"?
What I would call the conventional business card typically contains information that "says" the following(in addition to some graphics such as a logo, or artistic effects for aestetic appeal):
1. Who you are: Your name/title/business name, and possible qualifications that lend credence to your claims.
2. Contact Info: Phone numbers, postal/physical address, web URL/email(you do have these don't you?).
3. A Tag Line: Punchy phrase about your biz. BUT will these help achieve your purpose?
But the question could be asked: Does the conventionally designed business card work as well as it could be made to? I say NO. I say NO. In fact, after thinking about this issue, I have come to the conclusion that one word best describes the conventional business card - and that's "Passive". It's contents are not designed to be response-generating or action-inducing. I however believe one can adopt a card design that is more "Active" -- hence my efforts at finding an alternative that works, which eventually led to this article being written.
I have always been a bit of a non-conformist - with a penchant for "playing devil's advocate", "rocking the boat", "stirring things up" etc in a bid to challenge others to re-evaluate accepted norms for possible refinement - or total replacement. :-) If I find that the status quo does not offer me what I consider optimal returns towards achievement of a set goal(s), I immediately begin exploring alternative options to adopt, till I find something that gives me the results I want.
Based on the above, the question, for me - as a performance enhancement advocate - on the issue of business cards and how to get the most value from them is: What information do business persons NEED to put on their business cards, to help them MORE successfully achieve their intended purpose for handing such cards out to prospects ?
By the way, with a few possible exceptions, I assume here that the reader - like most people who give out business cards - does so because s/he expects that the cards will further impress(or remind) the recipients to make contact at a later date in relation to the product or service discussed. In my view the business cards many business persons give out are not properly equipped to achieve the full marketing impact potential they possess. Business cards, I believe, can be designed to play a more active - even though silent - role in the marketing and/or selling process.
Think about it this way. Someone you speak with about your work could say "Can I have your card?", possibly because your conversation is interesting enough to them, that they want to be able to contact you at a later date to take it further. However, whether or not you do end up closing a sale with that person could depend on what your card "says"(if at all it has anything to say) to him/her AFTER you've parted ways.
Now, if s/he runs into ANOTHER person who "appears" to offer something similar to what you told him/her you could, s/he might just give that OTHER person the job. But if your card is THE type that "tells"(or reminds) her about specific unique benefits you provide that the OTHER person may not be able to match, s/he is likely to tell the other seller "NO", and come back to you. I say the foregoing here on the assumption that you do actually have a Unique Selling Proposition(USP).
In essence, my argument is that business owners can do a little more thinking to MAKE MORE OBVIOUS, the TANGIBLE BENEFITS they offer, which prospective - and existing - clients would find attractive, and therefore be willing to take ACTION to get. The business owners can then highlight those benefits in form of keywords and phrases on their business cards. Such business cards would subsequently have a greater marketing "impact" on those who receive them, increasing the chances of the prospects making contact at a later date.
A Comparative Analysis Of Two Similar Restaurants With Different "Sales Pitches"
Let's do a little comparative analysis. Say it's 12.30pm and you are driving on a major highway to the next city to do a presentation scheduled for 2.00pm. If you keep driving at the same speed, you estimate you should get into the city in another thirty minutes, leaving you just enough time to check into "Clear View International Hotel", take a shower, change clothes and move into the conference hall on the ground hall of the hotel where the presentation will hold. But you are feeling a bit thirsty and hungry, and worry that there might not be enough time to quickly order something to eat at the hotel(Please bear with me: for some reason, I could not think up a better "excuse" :-)).
Suddenly you get to a junction and notice road signs for two different fast food outlets poisitioned next to each other. For the purpose of this example, we assume that both places actually offer equally quick services and more or less the same variety of foods and drinks. The difference is in the way they describe - on their road signs - what they offer the prospect(traveller), who needs to make up his/her mind.
One sign says "Quik-Caterers! Get Our Quik Travel Meals & Drinks Pack(TM). Wait Max 15 Mins - Or We Pay!". The other says "Welcome To Jazzy Jaff's Fast Foods Restaurant And Bar".
You will agree with me that if many travellers - who are in a hurry - had to decide which fast food restaurant to stop at, they would pick "Quik Caterers" - not because the name sounds better, or more appropriate, but most likely because their road sign offers MORE information - using catchy keywords/phrases - about TANGIBLE BENEFITS the prospective customers can relate to.
Customers are likely to PERCEIVE that "Quik-Catering" is more capable of meeting their NEEDS than "Jazzy Jaff's". Now, imagine the information said to be on the road signs(or some of it) is used on business cards given out by the respective owners of the two restaurants. Chances are that Quik-Catering MD's business card would raise more eyebrows, and probably result in one or two additional queries or comments to him/her(regarding the service described) - creating "openings" for sales conversations to take place.
Look at it this way: Wouldn't you be curious to know(and test?) if Quick-Catering could really deliver on its Wait Max 15 Mins - Or We Pay! promise? It's an attractive - though unusual - offer, but if Quik-Catering only put it on flyers placed on the drinks counter in the restaurant(and not on the road sign or on business cards), less people would get to know about it and stop over.
What Does Your Business Card "Need To Say"?
A business card that keeps "selling" you to your prospect long after you're gone, needs to say what you do in a way that makes those fitting your customer/client profile more likely to realize they actually NEED your product(s) and/or service(s).
You can design your business cards such that they cut down the amount of "work" you need to do to generate potentially valuable sales leads. This is particularly important because many times we come across people who qualify to be our "perfect customers or clients" in first time meeting situations that do not permit lengthy discussions or interactions. So, often times we end up using an elevator speech, answering one or two questions that arise from it, then exchanging business cards.
Some days later, the executive you gave your card to(and who at the same event went on to receive not less than four additional ones from "others like you"), sits in his/her office staring at your card. Among other things, s/he may struggle to recall where/when during that cocktail dinner s/he met you, and what again it was you said you could do for him/her that sounded so good!
This kind of dilemma faces many people who receive the conventional cards I earlier described. Of course s/he sees on the card that you are a CPA, or Certified Coach etc. What s/he does not see on THAT type of card is something(keywords, phrase etc) to help him/her see or recall the "slant" in your offering that sets you apart from others who may offer anything like you do. The result? S/he puts the card back in the desk drawer(or worse: the round filing cabinet - aka "Waste Paper Bin") and (probably) forgets it. Why? Because s/he cannot find a compelling enough reason to take the relationship further by giving you a call.
Think back to the two fast food restaurant signs comparison I did earlier and imagine you are a decision maker for a large company that's trying to choose a caterer to supply snacks to be served at their Annual General Meeting. Looking at the business cards given to you by the MD of Quik-Catering and that of Jazzy Jaff's, all other factors being fairly constant, you are likely to get the "impression" that Quik-Catering will be able to meet your needs more readily, because they sound (from what they say on their road signs and business cards) that they're already thinking along the lines of proving the value YOU seek.
What It Could Look Like: A business card that "sells" you looks different from any your prospect has seen, and creates a lasting impression that sets you apart from the crowd. You can print your information on the front - and leave the back blank, or print on both sides. From testing various designs, I have found that it is useful to leave some blank space on the back for writing answers to "Date We Met?", "Where We Met?", "Notes/Comments" etc prompts that are printed on it.
Actually Jeffery Meyer([http://www.succeedinginbusiness.com]) suggests that you write answers to the earlier listed prompts on the back of cards you get from others - so YOU can remember them, and what they are about. I have taken it a step further and designed cards that let me, "the giver", write that information on the back of cards(which I take with me, as Meyer advises, to important meetings/events) I'm giving out, so as to "help" my prospects remember ME.
Click here to view a web page showing images of sample business card designs that incorporate the features I have discussed in this article(I also offer a FREE downloadable copy of the Corel Draw template I used to create them). Incidentally, my business cards have sort of "evolved" over time as I played around with the ideas I had - until I settled for a particular design/layout. You may also find it useful to let your creativity loose so as to arrive at the best design for your work.
A Business Card That Works Will Help You Market More Effectively & Efficiently
Jeffery Meyer once wrote that to avoid the "feast-famine" syndrome that can plague a business which fails to ensure steady inflow of new work, one must continually search for new customers - and "weed out" hopeless prospects who cost you marketing effort, time and expense, but give you no jobs. For instance, he advises that you take the repeated non-return of your phone calls by a prospect as a sign that s/he does not feel a compelling need for your product or service. Instead, divert that marketing energy and expense towards recruiting NEW prospects.
I believe a business card with the right balance of USP information and aesthetic appeal, can help a business owner use his/her business marketing time/effort more effectively and efficiently. This is because s/he will be able to use the card to create opportunities for discussions about useful benefits of the products and services s/he sells, in a way that will impress a prospective client or customer who happens to be looking for such returns.
It is true that "buyers" tend to be undecided when considering a purchase, but when the "seller" points out the USP s/he offers, AND IF they coincide with the buyer's felt needs, the buyer can become quite "sure" of what s/he wants, to the point that other "sellers" would be unable to influence him/her. Think about some products or services that many people use year in and year out(inspite of the presence of many competing brands), and you will find that they do so because certain needs they consider important are being met through the continued use of those products and services.
Designing your business card the way I describe is more likely to result in the card continuing to "sell" you to a prospect, even after you've parted ways with him/her. The card - each time s/he looks at it - will through its contents remind him/her that you offer THAT unique benefit s/he wants or needs. Of course not everyone you give your card to, will call you back to give you work! Life itself is about percentages. So, what I am saying is that a higher percentage of those you give out your cards to, are likely to get a better understanding of what you can do for them(or for someone they know), and so call(or recommend you). You'll consequently get more sales leads, and/or opportunities to close more sales.
Your Cards Cost Money - Aim To Get A Return On Your Investment In Each!
Print Them Cost-Effectively: I believe most individuals who work for themselves might find it more useful to design and print their own business cards in the quantities they require them. Due to the unpredictability of business generally, one or more bits of information on the card you use may change in a way that will make it necessary for you to re-print another set. If you already have thousands of cards printed, and suddenly discover a need to re-print, all the money spent producing the obsolete set would effectively go down the drain.
You can avoid this. If you have a template setup in Corel Draw to print ten standard size business cards on an A4 sized embossed card paper, for instance(and have used colors economically in the design) your home/office printer should be able to generate a set of cards for your use over a few weeks at a time. As your business operations grow, and you become more certain for the long term about the information you have to put on the cards, you may be able to more safely produce larger quantities of cards.
Think Before Giving Them Out: Considering that you would want the cards you give out to have a pleasing appearance, that complements the USP information printed on them, one expects they will not be "cheap" to produce. That's why you may want to make sure every one you give out counts.
If you can form the habit of thinking of your business card units in monetary terms(each of mine costs approximately $0.143 US Dollars equivalent), it might help you decide whether or not to put it in an envelope to just about anyone you're mailing something to, even when you don't know who they are or what they do. That would be like shooting in the dark - only this time you would be doing so, with MONEY!
If I send out twenty five letters in envelopes to different prospects for instance, and put a card in each, I know it implies I have spent at least $3.575 US Dollars(aside from the cost of envelopes, paper, stamps etc).
Business marketing yields better results when properly targeted at the right audience. You could for instance staple your business cards, to letters you are sending out to CEOs of certain organisations you hope will find your products and services potentially useful. Every time I want to give out a card, I ask myself: Am I sure this is going to help me get increased marketing exposure for my work, that could lead to more business? You might want to ask yourself a similar question periodically.
ONE LAST THING: Read Michel Fortin's Ten Commandments E-book
What I have proposed in this article will require anyone who wishes to try out my ideas to re-visit his/her business concepts and philosophies with a view to distilling the "value" s/he is truly capable of delivering to customers. To do this successfully, I want to seriously suggest you download and READ Michel Fortin's "Ten Commandments of Power Positioning" e-book.
Visit his website at http://www.successdoctor.com and learn how you can get a copy of his excellent e-book(I got mine about 4 years ago). It offers many very practical and tested ideas about how you can market yourself or business more effectively to customers, so that they see you as their preferred provider of your product and/or service range.
To accurately define keywords and phrases that best capture the VALUE you can deliver to your customers, the "Divide and Conquer" concept described by Fortin in his e-book, when properly applied, will help you arrive at the most appropriate ones. Fortin also provides practical real-world relevant tips for crafting YOUR OWN tag lines and elevator speeches; developing press kits etc.
Read that e-book(I actually printed mine out and had it sprial bound) from first to last page as many times as you need to fully understand it, and try applying what you learn to your business through the exercises suggested. By the time you are done, you will know what to say about your business(and also HOW to say it) in your speech, and on any of your business marketing media such as business cards, signs, flyers, letterheads, website etc.
Question: How will you judge whether it's working or not?
Answer: (1). If more prospects make contact with you as a result of your re-vamped business marketing - which incorporates your re-designed business cards - THAT will be evidence that it's working. (2). When your newly acquired clients/customers continue to patronise you and DO NOT express any regrets for doing so(by way of product returns or unwillingness to give referrals/repeat business), THAT would reasonably suggest they are satisfied you deliver the value you "promise".