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One of the most important building blocks of a good marketing plan is your business card. It is far and away the most likely item to find its way into the hands of your most important business contacts. And it is the one thing that is likely to remain when all your other marketing materials are long gone.
In other words, your business card is much more than just a piece of paper with your name, address and phone number printed on it. It is a powerful sales tool. And it should be designed with that purpose in mind.
Generate Sales with Your Business Card
What can a business card do for your business?
Before asking the inevitable questions about the design of your business card, you should ask what its function in your overall marketing plan is supposed to be. A properly designed business card has at least four important marketing functions. Here they are:
1. It helps you to introduce your company.
2. It provides critical contact information about you or your company.
3. It conveys your most important sales message.
4. It communicates your corporate image.
An introduction to your company
This may seem obvious, but think about it for a minute. Think of your business card as a tool for opening doors. Think of yourself at a meeting, or even at a social event. What better way to introduce yourself to a person than to hand them your card?
I'm not talking about shoving your card on people who don't want it. I'm talking about using your card as a tool to make useful connections with people who are likely to appreciate the introduction.
This suggests you should think of appropriate introductory "openers" to accompany your card. For instance, say you're at a business connections meeting. Since the purpose of the meeting is to meet people and do "networking", you might try a simple card swap strategy: "Hi, I'm Harriet Phillips. I'm swapping business cards with as many people as I can. Here's my card. May I have one of yours for my contact file?"
Every situation will be a bit different, but the function of the card remains the same: it provides you with an excuse to introduce your business to people who might be able to use your services.
Provide critical contact information on your card
Before you put your card into the hands of prospects, you want to make sure it communicates the most important things about you and your company.
Deciding what information is "critical" will vary from situation to situation. The basics are pretty obvious: your name, your company name, your business address, and the most effective way for people to get hold of you ? probably your telephone number and email address.
Rather than putting your cell or pager number on all your cards, you might make a point of writing it on the card when you think it is appropriate: "Here, I'll give you my cell number, just in case you can't reach me at my office number." That gives the impression you're giving this person special treatment.
Include Your Most Important Sales Message
Even more important than giving prospects your basic contact information is conveying your Most Important Sales Message . According to Cesar Crespo of Free Card Business Card Displays , "Business people often miss a golden opportunity to make their business card a powerful sales tool. Our clients are often surprised at how much more effective we can make their cards."
If you don't have a "Most Important Sales Message", you should create one. It is a brief, succinct statement of what your company is about. It is the answer to the question: "What does your company do?" If you don't have a "Most Important Sales Message", you should create one. It is a brief, succinct statement of what your company is about. It is the answer to the question: "What does your company do?"
Sometimes this kind of answer is called an "elevator speech". You're on an elevator and somebody asks you "What does your company do?" You have six or seven seconds to give a memorable reply. Good elevator speeches go beyond hackneyed answers like "We do web marketing" or "We make bowling balls." They are confidence-inspiring marketing statements: "We create websites that sell tons of products for people." or "We make the world's most beautiful bowling balls."
Your MISM (Most Important Sales Message) will often be a "product" (as in the bowling ball example above), but it should always be accompanied by a "pitch" of some kind or another. Often this will be what we usually think of as a slogan .
For your elevator speech you need a seven second slogan. For your business card you will need the same slogan in four or five words at the most. It must be boiled down to an string of words that not only sounds good, but looks good on the card: "Websites that Sell Like Crazy", "The World's Most Beautiful Bowling Balls", "The Discount Real Estate Guy", "The Source for Cottages and Summer Homes", "Beautiful Color Vinyl Banners."
Be Consistent with your Corporate Image
Finally, make your card consistent with your corporate image and the rest of your marketing materials. Usually this boils down to basic things like your choice of colors, typeface, and layout style. And of course you will want to include your company logo.
Usually your marketing consultant or graphic designer will want to plaster your logo on all your marketing materials, using the logo as a substitute for real marketing design. "We must convey a consistent corporate image" is the usual mantra. What ever you do, don't ask "Why?" That question opens the way for tedious theorizing about "the long term importance of developing a corporate image."
You would be better to agree. "Yes, by all means, we want to present a consistent corporate image." And then add, "But I want this card to do some selling for me, so I would like to give the sales message a bit more prominence than usual."
In other words, use the usual corporate colors, typeface and layout style. Include the logo too. But give prominence to the sales message. Show a picture of your product. Or if you think you are the product (as most real estate agents seem to think), then include your own picture. But don't forget to enhance the photo with that slogan we talked about in the previous section.
And now that you have a killer card, get out there and start handing them out.
Rick Hendershot is based in Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He spent many years as an advertising consultant, and small business owner. He currently publishes several small business websites and ezines, and provides web design and online marketing services to small business owners wanting to jump start their online marketing efforts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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