Dealing with business cards

The modern world has dealt savvy businessmen and women plenty of winning hands when it comes to marketing and networking strategies, from social media campaigns to VoIP conferencing. But, for many small businesses, one classic method has trumped even the most up-to-date technology: the humble business card. So in the face of today's Internet industry, how does a simple slip of paper help stack the deck in your business's favor?
  1. A business card is practical. Its petite size makes it easy to tuck into a pocket, purse, wallet, or computer bag, which is convenient for both the card carrier and the recipient. In order for this tool to be effective, though, you have to hand it out (be it at a meeting, during a social event, in a letter, or at a trade show), so be sure to carry a couple at all times, and keep a small box of cards in your car's glove compartment in case you need to replenish your supply on the go.
Tip: If you work internationally, consider printing one side of your cards in English and the reverse in the language of the country in which you conduct business.
  • A business card provides significant value for insignificant expense. Compared to other marketing materials, such as press kits, product samples, commercials, and radio spots, business cards are fairly inexpensive and buy your company a certain amount of credibility. Plus, you can pack a lot of information -- including your name, phone number, website, email address, Twitter handle, Facebook page, logo, mission statement, and credentials -- into a small space. Just be sure all of the details are up-to-date; you never want to hand out cards containing old information or handwritten corrections, which look unprofessional.
Tip: Especially if you work in a creative industry, think outside the box when it comes to card shapes, formats, and materials. I've seen everything from magnets to stickers.
  • A business card serves as a tangible reminder of a conversation or meeting. While a new contact can certainly enter your information into their iPhone or online address book, unless that person goes actively looking for your digits, your business has essentially been sucked into a Blackberry black hole. The same can be said of websites -- though a potential client may stumble upon your home page, once he or she has navigated away from it, the chance for a return visit decreases dramatically -- unless, of course, your business card jogs their memory. To increase your card's chances of survival (i.e., landing in a prime spot to be seen again), consider increasing its value: include a personal note on the flip side referencing a particular conversation or print some sort of essential (a coupon, calendar, or measurement converter, for instance) on the back.
Tip: You want recipients of your business card to use it rather than discard it, so return the favor by being a courteous card recipient yourself. Let the giver see you take time to read their card, use that information to further the conversation, and then tuck it in a safe place.
  • A business card reinforces word-of-mouth marketing and expands your network. Combined with a good first impression, a business card can inspire the holder to either contact you directly or give your information to an interested friend by simply passing along your card. And by arming all of your employees with personalized business cards, you will grow your network of potential customers to include everyone within your staff's circle. Expand your reach even further by connecting with businesses that complement your own and arranging to distribute or display one another's cards. (For example, an auto detailing company owner may set his cards out at a mechanic shop or a car dealer.) If a networking partner hands out one of your cards and earns your business, be sure to send a thank you note -- with a replacement card tucked inside.
Tip: Include your card in every item of business mail, including products, thank you letters, and bills. You never know who might open it.

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