Business cards for new start-ups

Business cards for new start-ups

In the interest of full transparency, today see’s a sponsored post from Leslie Harding who approached me a while ago to write about a topic I feel is important to you guys. When starting Optix Solutions, 13 years ago I quickly gained the nickname ‘business card’ with my peer group. At almost every opportunity I gave a card to anyone who would have one. It was a necessity back then to get the business off the ground. When Leslie sent me this post I was delighted as its a topic I’ve not written much about before. Enjoy…

Author Bio:
Leslie Harding an Events Management graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University who has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and business development.

Many people argue that business cards have become somewhat obsolete since the 1990’s. Are they a worthwhile investment for start-ups?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were used to signal the arrival of someone important to your home or town. Today they are used as a way of self-advertisement much as they were previously but nowadays it is a less grandiose gesture, and more of a common attribute in business meetings. Which is why it is important to understand why they are a solid investment for any new business start-up.

Business etiquette
Etiquette, seemingly an old and outdated formality can have a surprising effect on our modern lives and business. Business cards are very much about business etiquette.  It is very much part of the corporate custom to swap business cards with people you meets at trade shows, conferences and such like. It is the first point of call for anyone you meet on a professional level and offers an extended first impression of you and your business.
You should also consider having double sided cards printed if you plan on working or expanding into different countries. Make sure your business cards are suitable for the foreign market and have them printed with the language of the country on one side. If you personally hand someone a card make sure you hand them it with their spoken language upwards.

Up close and personal
It is suggested that business cards help to increase personal relationships in the business world. They are important for this reason. Business is arguably all about contacts, people buy from people and connections are important. Business cards help promote personal relationships in the working world. Your business card is an extension of you and the first impression you give, the two should go hand in hand. Make it personal and professional at the same time, many people suggest a photograph of you helps to enforce this idea and also helps people put a face to a name, literally.

Advertisement
Business cards as mentioned are an extension of you. They are the second, “first” impression people are given of you. They should reflect you and what you do purely and simply. They are a way of self-promotion and advertisement and you should make sure you have more than enough when attending conferences and meetings with potential suppliers or business partners etc. Make them simple but effective.

Design
Your cards should express you and what you do. They should be eye catching and have relevant information on them only.  You should stick to the simple, “who, what, where, when and how to contact you” layout, your contact section should include your social media and website information. Keep your design clean and not too over the top, although a little personality won’t hurt covering your business cards in Hello Kitty is not relevant unless you’re running a fan club.

Cheap cost not cheap quality
You do not have to pay through the roof for marketing materials. Starting a new business is expensive and where possible you shouldn’t cut corners especially with your marketing materials as these are what your investors and customers see. This doesn’t mean you need to re-mortgage your house.  There are plenty of options out there it’s just about shopping around and finding the best deals, companies offer free online personalisation and often free sample bundles. This is a great way to test the water and a cheap but professional quality source. Business cards are still widely used and for new business start-ups they are a great way of selling your company to potential investors, partners and your clients and customers. They are by no means the only reason you will succeed but if forgotten about can reduce your impact in meetings, imagine going to an interview without having prepared or leaving your CV at home.

Banish the Bland

What are you doing to make yourself stand out? Nothing? Really? You’re making it very tough on yourself in what is probably the most important time to try and differentiate – a slow economy.

In my main web design business we’ve spent a lot of time this year working out how we can differentiate ourselves both personally and in the business. As businesses take longer to change the way they do things and you may not personally be able to change your business personality if you’re not the owner, I wanted to share three things that are worth changing yourself…today – I hope they help.

1)      Your answer phone message – How many people do you know who have the same old boring, ‘Sorry I’m either out or away from my desk, blah blah blah’ (I had it before) – Ditch it now. If someone phones you, they want to talk to you – if they can’t get hold of you, they don’t want to wait and listen to your boring message. Think creatively and get an answer phone message that rocks…. Your AIM – to get someone telling another person to call your answer phone just to listen to it, after all, you never know that person could be your next client.

2)      Change your ‘Out of Office’ – Again, you probably have the same out of office setup and use it every time you’re away from the office/in meetings all day – ‘I’m away on annual leave…etc etc’ – BORING!  Try something creative with the aim that the person who receives it will forward it on to someone else. If successful it could lead to a buzz and potentially work!

3)      Change your business cards – Ok, so I’m currently working on this one as well but sometime in the new year I will have new cards that people love. The aim here is that when you give someone your card, they make some sort of complimentary comment about it – even better to get a ‘WOW, cool card’ – that’s what I’ll be looking for. The card is such an important part of business – we all give them out at networking meetings/lunches/dinners (even events outside work), why would you want to have a card that ends up in a pile with everyone else’s?

Hopefully that’s given you some food for thought – it’s pretty easy to make changes personally. If you’re content with being the same as everyone else then fine, but if you want to make a difference then you probably need to re-think a few things.

There is a famous quote that says “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” (Anthony Robbins)

Think about it for a while…then act on it.

Scott Gould vs Alastair Banks – A Case Study

Ok – back to me again! I have to warn you I’m feeling a bit mischievous today, hence the title!

I realise that this blog will be read by people that don’t know either Scott or I so before I go on, I just want to give you a quick heads-up on who Scott is. He runs a relatively new (2008) ‘Experience Marketing Company’ in Exeter called Aaron & Gould. You don’t need to know us either – what underlies is an important message for new business owners or people trying to make a name for themselves.  That’s probably all you need to know. Let’s move on….

Did you know that most business owners (SMES) are more often than not, sales people? They have to be in order for their businesses to succeed. They normally can’t afford to pay someone to go out and sell for them so they have to sell themselves (this is why some of my networking/sales posts are so critical if you’re starting up). There is nothing wrong with this – it’s how I started and it forms the basis for my post – you see times have changed in business and it wasn’t until I met my new pal Scott Gould that I realised quite how much (Well I realised but this really brought it home).

When I started Optix Solutions I shamelessly gave out my business card to everyone I met – The way I saw it, the more people that knew about Optix the better. In certain circles I was known as the networking king – visiting every meeting I could, wherever it might be and giving away more and more business cards. In fact this got to the point where even my best friends, who didn’t know me through work circles, lovingly gave me the nickname of ‘business card’ :) Happy Days! To be honest, I still live by this mantra – you never know who someone might know, so what are you waiting for, exchange contact details and see where it goes. In fact, only last week I sat on the buffet service on the train back from London and met a senior partner from Deloitte, a guy from Reuters and a product designer. The guy from Deloitte asked for my card and the chap from Reuters and I exchanged details – all over a meal and a two hour train journey from London to Exeter – The point is, that might not go anywhere – but equally I may well have my biggest sale next month from it. If I hadn’t exchanged cards, it certainly wouldn’t have given me any chance at all.

Back in 1999, Social Media certainly wasn’t around – in fact, Google wasn’t even around (well, only just). Man, I’m starting to worry that I sound old writing this now. :) I should mention at this point that it took me years to become well known – even in a small town like Exeter. I would guess that it was a good 5 years before I was trusted on the networking circuit.

Now roll on 10 years and I meet this chap, Scott, through our mutual love of Social Media and especially Twitter – I think I’m right in saying that from one of my first tweets about Exeter he popped up with a friendly ‘hello’ and said if I needed any help that I could contact him’ – What a gent! We’ve since become friends and Scott and I have done some work together. Optix also sponsored the fantastic event that he put on a month or so ago – Like Minds.

I’m pretty sure that by his own admittance he would say that at the start of this year, his name was not very well known in Exeter. He was a true start-up, had a few clients and was looking around for work. Through use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter he was able to connect with quite literally hundreds of people in the Exeter area in a very short space of time. I watched this process for months with great interest. He was essentially doing what I did when I started, but using new technologies and platforms to achieve it – and doing very well at it. For the first part of the year very few people had actually met Scott but many new his name – they’d connected on Twitter and other platforms, but slowly and surely people soon started to meet him at tweet ups and events and then of course he blew everyone away by organising Like Minds entirely using social media (read my article on that here). Now he’s known all over the town – in fact some might say it’s the Scott Gould show at the mo ;) (He will love that one!)

Scott has successfully used modern tools to network the area, gain trust and reputation and he now stands in a great place to capitalise on that and take Exeter, Devon and possibly the World by storm – All in less than a year. I take my hat off to him, I really do. What took me years to achieve, Scott has done in a far shorter period of time. I wish him well.

So to summarise, in case anyone missed the point of this post – Use social media to build your networks locally, gain trust and reputation. Make sure you network online and offline and as much as possible and you’ll reap the rewards in business. To help you along the way I’ve picked out a few of the tactics Scott would have used to achieve what he has – you too can use these, starting today:

  • Follow your local town/city name – Setup a search for the town/city in any of the major tools such as tweetdeck and actively engage with people mentioning the name  – There are also directories like twellow that you can use to find people and now twitter has its ‘lists’ feature, many people have setup local lists which make it really easy to find local ‘tweeps’ – For those of you in Exeter – Here is the search for Exeter on Twitter done for you already.
  • Use social media as an ‘Enabler and Extender’ – Try and take your contact through the following process – tweet/email/call/meetup – You may be lucky enough to do business as a direct result of SM but its more likely that you’ll need to meet up, so use the tools to gently take people more quickly through this processes which might have taken months or years in ‘olden days’ – circa <2007 ;)
  • Have a clear result – Who do you want to attract/connect with?  Have a strategy, even if  its as basic as ‘I want to talk to business leaders/influencers in my town’ – Filter out what you’re not interested in and have a strategy in place.

Scott and I have recently co-founded TAGS Tweetup in Exeter with Dave Thomas – If you’re interested in finding out more then please take a look at our new Tags blog for information about the next event.

Now go and put a brew on and come back ready to use your new found tactics to build your network and of course, as always, please let me know about your success.