This issue, we look at the components of effective business cards and managing the business cards you receive from other people. This issueís article is an excerpt from Networking Zone, a guide for constructing your own business referral network. For a description of this information-packed book that will equip you the confidence and skill of the most accomplished networkers, click here.
Of all the marketing materials you will create, your most important tool is your business card. Because of its compact size, it is the piece that people most often keep. They tuck it in their pocket, billfold, or business card holder if you impressed them.
Your business card is the passport to everything needed to contact you. It should have these components.
Company name and logo. This is your identity. People may not remember your name but they will remember something that is visually different from all the other text on your business card. You donít necessarily need a logo but your company name should appear in visually distinctive typeface or font.
Name you wish to be called. You could list your formal name but the point of networking is to build relationships and make friends who will be able refer you because they know you well enough to call you by your casual, everyday name.
Title (optional). You donít need to put your title on your card. People are more impressed by your interest in them than by your title. A significant number of people donít put their title on their business card ó a practice common among female business owners.
Tagline or slogan. Sometimes your company name may not do enough to describe what your business does. A carefully crafted tagline can convey your mission and clarify your companyís product or service.
Mailing address. When I see a card without a mailing address, I tend to wonder why itís missing. Are they working out of their home? Are they a fly-by-night operation? Do they live in the city park? A small number of people who have their office in their home are worried that potential clients will think they are unprofessional. Today, the ability to work at home is respected and prized because of the quality of life and low overhead it can provide. You donít have to meet with clients at your home if you arenít comfortable. A restaurant or coffee shop can provide the perfect meeting place away from your home office.
Phone number. This is vital information for your clients. If your phone number changes, get new cards printed. Scratching out information on your business card is sloppy and makes you appear unprofessional.
Cell phone number. If you have a cell phone, put that information on your business card. Also include your cell phone number on your office voice mail recording. Plans can change at the last minute, and your client will appreciate the ability to reach you if they need to cancel an appointment at the last minute due to an emergency.
E-mail address. If you donít have an e-mail address, get it. In this high-tech, instant messaging, 24-7 world, sometimes your potential client will prefer to make their appointment with you or request more information via e-mail.
Website address. While not critical to the marketing success of many businesses, a website can be your living brochure. It has unlimited space, is graphic, and is inexpensive to update and distribute. If you have a website, display your website address on every marketing piece and in the signature line of your e-mails, and include it in your voice mail message.
The question isnít really whether you should use a professional; itís really about what kind of professional you should hire. Unless you are a skilled graphic artist, donít risk your reputation on your ability to use your word processing program and some digital clip art. A professional artist will guide you through these questions and choices to deliver a business card design that will easily transfer to your other marketing materials.
If you offer a premium product or service and seek a distinctive image, you want to seek out a graphic designer at an agency. If you donít need a high-end artist, save your money and use a self-employed graphic artist or the artist at the print shop you plan to use. Regardless of which you choose, be sure to ask to see their portfolio. Each artist has a particular style, and you will want to make sure his or her style matches the image you want to convey.
Cost may help you decide the answer to this question. Multiple colors are not necessarily more effective than a single color. If controlling cost is important, work with your artist to keep your costs down with a one or two-color design. Try different types of paper to provide a more distinctive look for little additional cost.
Fewer text and objects definitely create more impact in business card design. White space is that empty area on your card even though it isnít always white. It can lend an air of tastefulness to your design.
Besides having your own business cards, you will need a way to manage all the great business cards you will collect while networking. A great organizational tool can help you keep your leads at your fingertips. The more effective you are at locating contacts quickly, the more helpful you will be to others. Here are two popular tools. It doesnít matter which you choose as long as you organize them for mobility. Your networking friends will marvel at your ability to provide a needed lead quickly and effortlessly.
The handiest holder is a notebook-style folder with individual card slots. You will want to get one that holds the most cards in the least amount of space and carry it with you. Here are three ways to organize them.
Alphabetically by name. You can organize them by the personís first or last name or the company name.
Alphabetically by type of business. Itís common for effective networkers to have several contacts for one type of business. Consider organizing cards by type of business such as bookkeeper or interior designers.
By type of networking relationship. If you are in a networking group, you may find it easier to organize all your networking group friends in one section.
If you use a computer, consider using a PDA such as a Palm Pilot or Handspring. These data organizers allow you to create backups because you can synchronize your data and updates between the PDA and your computer. However, donít use a PDA unless you plan to synchronize your PDA with your computer regularly. Your PDA can fall victim to disasters such as dead batteries, damage from a fall, or loss. Without a backup on your computer, these disasters spell total loss of your valuable database.
A great way to remember names is to enter your new networking friends in your e-mail program as soon as you return to your office. Just typing all their contact information into your database helps imbed their information in your mind. They will be so impressed when you remember their name and company next time you see them.
If you want to manage your leads better, consider using a contact-management software package such as Act! that will synchronize with your PDA. Along with providing advanced tools for organizing your data, you can send a mass e-mail to a group of individuals that looks like you sent a single e-mail to a single individual. That can be a major time saver and it looks much more personal.
The benefit to using a PDA and computer database setup is that you can use your Find function to sort for contacts you are looking for by first or last name, company name, city, or type of business.
What does incredible customer service mean to you? How do you provide it and, more important, how do you ensure that your employees provide it? Share your ideas via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have specific questions and topic ideas, please submit them. I would be glad to address them in upcoming issues. For more articles, click here.
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Carrie Perrien Smith
President, Soar With Eagles
Release Your Potential
Soar with Eagles equips individuals and organizations with the tools they need to improve their performance by creating powerful strategies, improving communication, and strengthening employee commitment.
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