Urban Journeys - A Critical Review of the Business Card

by David Rambeau

In our business plan for Project BAIT we constantly work on five items: personnel recruitment and training, program production, distribution, promotion and sales. Everybody in our organization must be aware of and relate to all of these. In your personal or organizational plan I suggest you should do the same. With this reminder in your hands before you, you might as well evaluate your progress with each of these pillars of business growth and development. However, in this article I'll only discuss one item, the business card, a fundamental ingredient that relates to business promotion and sales.

Over the past year, how many of your business cards did you distribute, and how many did you collect--twenty distributed, maybe 10 collected? More than that? Fewer? How many did you plan to distribute, plan to collect? Since business cards are a basic sales tool, you need a specific, numerical goal.

There are two groups of people to pass out your business cards to: other business people or potential customers. That covers just about every person you encounter any day in the week. Nobody passes out enough business cards. I know I don't; neither do you. For example, have you ever eaten in a restaurant and had the waiter or waitress give you the restaurant's biz card? Ever? How often do they ask you for one, or to return? Rarely. And you've just paid them for their product and tipped them 20% of the bill. They're not in business, so they don't need a business card. Maybe you're really not in business either; maybe you just have a job. It takes some hustle to have business cards, hand them out and make a sales pitch. And then to be as concerned or thoughtful about your customer's interests as your own. That is, to try to see the sale from your client's point of view as well as your own.

Where do you keep the cards you collect? I used to keep the cards I collected in rubber bands. That didn't work too well, so I migrated to business card books. That worked passably, but I could only view 10 cards at a time, five on each page. So I migrated to plastic card-holders, ten on each page or 20 viewable on two pages at a time, in 8 x 11 notebooks. I've been using this method of access for several years and it seems to work well. Still, I recognize the need to improve on this method, and use the computer to some extent to keep track of names, phone numbers and email addresses. I'm still striving to improve my practice, but I'm functional and proficient with the method I'm currently using.

How often do you review the cards you collect for telephone or email follow-up? That's very important, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Many business people don't have business cards. Even if they do, they'll give me excuses when I ask for their card. They left their cards at the office, in the car, in their other briefcase or purse. When that happens I think, ok, where is my card? Was I too preoccupied when I left the office to make sure I had some with me. This past weekend I went to a program, had my cards in my bag, and was so focused on the program I didn't distribute any of them. Promotion and sales takes 24/7 consciousness. It's a job.

My first business card was a simple one-sided print job. Then I moved on to using both sides, the front and the back of the card. In its third edition I went to a folded card, or double-sized, with printing on all four pages. Our logo and business name was on the front by themselves; the next three pages contained our business activity with our telephone, email address and website listed two times since that's what we wanted potential customers to have easy access to and use. By the third card we had printed we had finally gotton it right. Eventually, we recognized that virtually every process we did required at least three incarnations to get it right. From our busineness card experience we developed a production principle we use throughout our operation, 99% right the first time, 99.9% right the second time, 99.99% right the third time. Then we need to maintain that level of effectiveness and efficiency. It's not easy.

Next, I graduated to the 4x5 card and put the simple business card behind. I no longer use them anymore. Why, after going through three incarnations, and getting our business card to being as correct as humanly possible would I move on? Very simple, we outgrew the simple business card. We needed more space than is available even on a 4-sided business card. Moreover, we wanted all of our information on one side so the potential client wouldn't have to turn a page to access more information about Project BAIT.

It took us three models to get that right even though we transferred virtually all of the data from our business card to our 4x5 card. The challenge with the 4x5 card was layout, content and card stock. We experimented till we reached an optimal point for each of these. Now our challenge is distribution.

We also learned a couple of extra things in moving to a 4x5 card. First, they cost less in bulk quantities, that is, we can purchase 5,000 4x5 cards for about the same cost as 1,000 folded business cards. Second, it's easier to leave 4x5 cards in public places for people to pick up. And third, the 4x5 card is an effective size for an ad in any printed publication (newspapers, magazines, programs or t-shirts).

What content goes on the business card? What is most important? Your business name, of course. Then your logo. Your logo brands your business. We developed our 3-faced BAIT logo forty years ago and have been promoting it ever since. It sends our subliminal messages, and as you know, a picture is worth 1,000 words. So, invest in a creative logo, then use it a million times over. Next on the list is your phone number, your email address and your website. These should be nearly equal in font size to the name of your business. What is not important is your name, title and postal address, even though most businesses mistakenly think so. Since it makes you feel good, put your name and title on your business card, just leave some space for the important content. The last item of importance is your product or service. That does it.

That's my story of the business card and how it should function in your business or organization. I suppose at this point you could call me a business card consultant. If you need any advice about your card, please call me at 313-871-3333. That's 871-3333.

Urban Journeys - A Critical Review of the Business Card by David Rambeau

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