Does Your Business Card Take Care of Business?

Earlier this week, Danealle Marshall of a BNI chapter out of Orlando, Florida, BNI Gold Partners, reached out to me via Twitter to ask a great question that a lot of business professionals will face during their career.

I love this question. Why? As I often say, giving out and receiving business cards is an extremely powerful part of connecting with new contacts. That being said, sometimes your business card can be what sparks someone’s memory of you. Why wouldn’t you want yours to stand out?

In 2003, I released a book with Candace Bailly and Dan Georgevich titled “It’s In the Cards!” In this book, we discuss the powerful tool that is your business card, and how so many people may be under-utilizing this networking tactic.

ID-100275566To answer Danealle’s question, and to build off of some of the ideas we published over a decade ago in the aforementioned book, here are four things that I have seen in my years in business that have really elevated some business cards.

  1. Mix up the orientation. It is such a small change, but making your business card vertical instead of the more traditional horizontal orientation can really help it stand out. People receive and look at innumerable horizontal business cards on average, but you are likely able to remember the last time you saw a vertical card.
  2. Utilize graphics. And no, I don’t just mean your company’s logo. If you include your Twitter handle, consider using the Twitter bird logo instead of using the word “Twitter” on your card. Another option, though use with caution, is including your picture. This can work, but only if the rest of your card is completely spot on and has more of a creative feel. I recommend this more for marketing agencies, or those more right-branded ventures.
  3. Color your card accordingly. Have you ever heard that fast food companies frequently use red and yellow in their logos because these colors subconsciously promote hunger? Think about your product, and about your brand, and if you choose to use color on your cards (which I recommend to at least do minimally), use a color that conveys what you want contacts and consumers alike to associate with your brand.
  4. Consider your company and alter your card accordingly. I’ve seen some very cool cards that really cater to what services or goods a company provides, but I will warn that these can get costly. I’ve seen a video company with cards shaped like a clapboard, and a software engineer whose cards looked like HTML coding. Where this gets ineffective is where you take it too far – bakeries should steer away from an edible business card, despite the appeal.

Have a question you want me to answer in a future blog post or podcast? Write me at AskIvan@bni.com to submit your questions.

How and When to Deliver Your Business Card

Last week I posted a blog entitled “Leverage Your Smallest Billboard” about how to make the most of one of the most powerful marketing tools you have available to you–your business card.  A few days after that post went up, I received an e-mail from one of my blog readers asking if I could offer some details on the best way to go about distributing business cards when networking.  She specifically wanted to know if there’s any way to tell when it’s the right time to offer your card to a new contact.  So, in answer to her request, today’s blog post is all about how and when to deliver your business card.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How many times have you been to a networking function and had people come up to you and literally push their cards into your hand or pocket?  Such behavior is business card abuse, and it warrants a phone call to the business card police.  I call these people “card pushers.”  They come directly from the school of power networking, where they’ve been taught to “Sell! Sell! Sell!”–and to do so at networking events by forcing their cards on every person they meet.  Their goal for each networking event is to get rid of as many cards as they can, under the illusion that simply having a card automatically makes you part of their network.  They make no real effort to develop relationships.  Being on the receiving end of such aggressive card mongering feels awkward; you are being directly sold to, with no consideration of your interests or needs.

Does this sound like a cold call to you?  It is–except for one thing.  The seller is not safely out of reach at the other end of the line–he’s breathing in your face and grabbing your hand.  It’s a situation you’d like to avoid, right?  Then make every effort not to impose it on anyone else.  Don’t hand out your business card unless someone asks for it.

That’s right.  You read correctly.  I’ll say it again to make the point.  The best way to use your business card is not to give it out if people don’t ask for it.  If you practice this rule while networking, you’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have on others.  You’ll find it refreshing, liberating, and, most important, controlled.  You are now assured that peoople who ask for your card actually want your card.  As a bonus, you save money and trees!

So, you may be asking yourself, what happens if I want to give someone my card but they don’t ask me?  It’s simple . . . ask them for their card.  More than likely, they will then ask you for yours as well.

After reading this, what do you think?  Do you agree that this is the best way to hand out your business card when networking?  Do you have any creative tactics for getting your business cards in the hands of others outside of the networking event environment?  If so, how have these tactics paid off for you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks! 

 

 

Leverage Your Smallest Billboard

With your business card, you have an opportunity to hook yourself into the minds of people you meet while networking.  Sure it’s a lot smaller than a roadside sign, but it can be as effective as a catchy billboard nonetheless.

Business Cards

(Image courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For its size and cost, the business card is probably the most powerful marketing tool you own.  Take one of your cards out right now and look at it.  Does your current card accurately reflect your business’ personality–and your own?  What kind of first impression does it make?  Is it memorable?  If  not, it will probably get tossed into a drawer full of ancient, bent, forgotten cards or dropped into the nearest circular file.

Of course, you can’t expect your business card to do all the heavy lifting by itself.  It can’ t tell the whole story about your company.  It’s not a brochure or a catalog.  It has limited space, so you have to choose your words and images carefully.  Nevertheless, your card should present a professional image that people will remember.  A business card can make or break a client’s first impression of your company.  In fact, this little billboard makes as much of an impression as your personal appearance.

Choose a card style that’s appropriate for your business, industry, and personal style.  If you’re a funeral director, you don’t want to be caught handing out Day-Glo cards with cartoon figures on them.  If you’re a mechanic whose specialty is converting old VW Beetles into dune buggies, a formal, black-on-white engraved card will probably be thrown out.  Start with the style that best supports the business image you wish to project.  Regardless of the style you choose, make sure the impact remains consistent.

Here are five different card styles for you to consider:

  • Basic Cards–This is a good card style when utility is all you need.  It’s a no-nonsense approach that can appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed by fancy design features.  The design is simple and the information is clear and concise.  A basic card is usually printed in black ink on plain white or cream stock.
  • Picture Cards–Having your face on a card–whether it’s a photograph, a drawing, or a caricature–helps a contact remember you.  Images representing a product, service, or benefit your business provides, can help you communicate your business better than dozens of words.
  • Tactile Cards–Some cards are distinguished not so much by how they look as by how they feel.  They may use nonstandard materials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges, folds, or embossing.  Tactile cards tend to be considerably more expensive but, for some businesses, this unusual card may be worth the investment.
  • Multipurpose Cards–A card can do more than promote your name and business–it can also serve as a discount coupon, an appointment reminder, or some other function.  It may also provide valuable information that the average person might need.  For example, a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guests who are walking around the vicinity.
  • Outside-the-Box Cards–A wildly original, fanciful, or extravagant presentation can draw extra attention.  Creativity knows no bounds–except the amount of money you wish to spend.  Some examples are cards made of chocolate, cards fashioned into a deck of playing cards, or cards that fold out into a miniature box that holds small items.

In closing, I have one last, very important task for you.  Look closely at your business card again and after ensuring that it truly and positively represents you and your business, check for the essentials–your name, title, company name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website.  If someone wants to contact you after receiving your card, you sure as heck want them to be able to reach you.

I Don’t Need Your Card

Imagine handing your card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with “I don’t need it.”  Well, that’s exactly what happened to Juan Vides recently.  Juan found this pretty insulting, and he wrote to me to ask how I thought someone should respond in this situation.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First, let me talk about giving and getting business cards.

  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection.  How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be.  So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you.  It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them.  I recently read a blog where many people said they didn’t bring cards so that they wouldn’t get spammed by people they meet.  Really?  Have they never heard of a spam filter?  I use it regularly with unwanted spam.  Besides, that argument is like saying I don’t want to advertise because someone might read the ad and cold call me?  What kind of logic is that?  Buck-up, dandelion, bring cards.  It is a “networking” event!
  • The ideal scenario is to have a meaningful (even if brief) conversation with someone where they ask for your business card (how to do that is an entirely different blog).  However, that doesn’t always happen.  When it doesn’t, it is still ok to offer your business card to someone.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad form and it’s probably too late to send them back to Mom for retraining on how to play with the other kids in the sandbox. 

So what do you do if this happens to you?  Pick the correct choice below:

  1. Squash a cupcake on their nose and say “take that, you dandelion.”
  2. Say “Really, you [bad word, bad word] dirty [bad word], I hope I never see you again at one of these events.
  3. Let’s go outside and finish this (like someone I actually know did at a networking event!)? or
  4. Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

The correct answer is number four however, for the record, I kind of like number one a lot. 

Business Card Exchange: Top Tips for Making an Impact

In this video, Sandra Hart, one of Ireland’s top networkers (who also happens to be a good friend of mine), talks to me about her view on why business cards are of the utmost importance as a networking tool and how to use them for maximum impact.

The fact is, passing out your business card does absolutely no good if you haven’t made an impact on the person you’re passing it to–it’s just going to end up in the recycle bin.  So, how do you increase your odds of making an impression and having others hold on to your card?  Well, you can start by watching this video.  Sandra offers some really great tactics for making an impact when handing your card to someone so they will remember you and look forward to your follow up.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear what you think of Sandra’s tips on what to do and what not to do when passing your business card out at networking events or exchanging cards with new contacts you meet in day-to-day situations.  Do you have any additional dos and dont’s to share that you have learned in your networking experience?  Please let us know your thoughts.  Thanks!

Get a Top Notch Networking Education for Free at NetworkingNow.com!

This video from NetworkingNow.com explains the powerful impact your business card can have and why it’s so important to tailor your business card to coincide with the exact business image you want to present.  

This video is just one example of the vast array of educational content offered on NetworkingNow.com–there are literally hundreds of business and networking downloads available in the site’s online library and you can access all of them for FREE for six months by entering the free subscription code given below.

The free subscription is a gift from BusinessNetworking.com and all you have to do is enter the code (“freesixmonths”) on NetworkingNow.com to gain access to the entire library of content!  Please note that you will be required to enter a credit card number on the site but you will not be billed for the free six month membership.  You will need to end your subscription if you don’t wish to be billed for the second six months.

Please leave a comment and let me know what type of downloadable content you most like to access on sites like NetworkingNow.com:

  • Video?
  • Audio?
  • PDF Articles?
  • Digital Books?
  • Something Else? If so, what specifically?

Are You Using Networking Tools Effectively?

The Second Law of Notable Networking: Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking)

A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully.  All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business.  A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer.  To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well.   Good networkers’ tools include:

  • name tags to identify themselves to others,
  • card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
  • card files to carry other people’s business cards.

It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.”  Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers.  Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique.  However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people.  At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.

At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag.  Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge.  I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in!  You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.

I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them.  Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking.  They should be well designed and present a professional image.  Most important, you need to have them in your possession!  A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer.  Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot.  Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.

In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with.  These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well.  Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software.  When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities.  In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities.  You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders.  If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.

Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts?  If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!

 

The Proper Way to Give Your Business Card

Have you ever wondered about what the best way to pass your business card to someone might be?

Watch this under-two-minute video where Phil Berg from BNI UK offers a very valuable tip on how (and how not to) to pass your business card to ensure that it will be valued and well received.

At the end of a video, Phil and I ask a question that we’d love for you to answer in the comments section below so, please, don’t be shy and chime in with your comments . . . thanks!

"New Year’s Resolutions and Networking"

A friend of mine, TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo at right), just wrote a great blog entry which contains some very timely information for many people across the globe and I’d like to take the opportunity to share it with you today as a guest blog.  Enjoy . . .

“New Year’s Resolutions and Networking” by TR Garland

In about 30 days, the majority of people around the world are going to be faced with the same thing we’re all faced with once at a certain point every single year.

No, I’m not talking about keeping a smile on your face while spending the holidays with your in-laws (wink-wink).  I’m talking about setting New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, one of the top resolutions is to “get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of us already know how to get in shape:

1.  Design a nutritional plan and stick to it

2.  Design a workout schedule and stick to it

3.  Track your actions and results daily and recalibrate if needed

The problem is, a large percentage of people don’t reach their goals because:

1.  They don’t write out a formal nutrition plan or workout schedule

2.  They don’t hold themselves accountable

In other words, life gets in their way.

So what can be done about this?  Well, there’s something about human psychology that pushes us to not let someone else down. Because of this, people who invest in a personal trainer to help keep them accountable tend to achieve desired results much more consistently than they ever would by attempting to get in shape on their own.

It’s important to note that this same concept holds true for business networking and referral marketing.

Many people are spending a lot of time networking by just chatting away with others and maybe grabbing others’ business cards.  By doing this, they then expect results; they expect that the people whom they’ve met and exchanged business cards with will eventually pass a referral to them.  This mindset is called being reactive ( . . . and hoping for the best!).  Being reactive is an employee  mindset or mentality that, in my opinion, gets placed into the same category as punch cards, guaranteed smoke breaks, assembly lines, benefits entitlement, and cubicles.  In other words, this mindset is something that isn’t really that viable anymore in today’s economic environment.

If you don’t believe me, look around and note which businesses are thriving and hiring.  I’m confident you’ll discover that the businesses which are doing well are those that do not have a reactive mindset and, instead, maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes ownership and focuses on being proactive versus reactive.  Just like the “getting in shape” example above, being proactive and accountable in your business networking and referral marketing efforts is a sure-fire way to get results–plain and simple.

So, especially if you’ll be out attending holiday parties in the coming 30 days with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends, remember to be proactive with your networking efforts.  Go to each event with a purpose (in addition to your goal of having fun).  Don’t simply gather business cards, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Instead, set relevant and realistic networking goals and ask the person you went with to hold you accountable to your goals.

And, of course, there’s a time and a place for everything.  You need to respect the event you’re attending and if the environment doesn’t warrant you achieving certain networking goals . . . grab a celebratory beverage and some festive treats and remember, there’s always next year!

* TR Garland is a Referral Marketing Strategist for the Referral Institute® in Orange County, California where he is a consultant to top performers and entrepreneurs on maximizing their ROI/ROT from business contacts and networking.  Starting in 2011, you can follow TR for his tips, tactics, and techniques on effective networking at his newly launched blog located at www.BeABetterNetworker.com.

 

Becoming a Notable Networker–Tips and Insights

If you really want to succeed at networking, take a look at the following tips and insights:

  • Notable Networkers are people who are skilled at networking and committed to the idea that givers gain. By helping other businesses get new clients or customers, they get new business sent their way.
  • The key to building a word-of-mouth-based business is mutual support, not necessarily friendship.
  • Organizations that network effectively provide opportunities to develop and exchange quality business referrals. Being a member of a well-organized network is like having dozens of salespeople working for you, each referring prospective clients your way.
  • A Notable Networker must have a positive and supportive attitude. Good networking involves providing a positive and supportive environment for other businesspeople.
  • A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully, including an informative name badge, business cards and a business card carrying case to hold others’ cards.
  • Networking is an acquired skill; it requires listening to CDs, reading books and articles, talking to people who network well, and practicing what you’ve learned.
  • Effective networking requires practice, practice, practice–and then more practice.

Is there a bullet point in this list you would like me to expand on? If so, leave a comment and let me know; I’m more than happy to oblige. 🙂

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