Better Business Cards: Put a Modern Spin on an Old Standby

If you’ve explored this blog you will have come across these two posts: A Practical Approach To Business Cards, giving tips on design and content, and Another View in which I talk about the impression your card gives.

In today’s post Marshall Jones answers the question “Business cards? Why bother?”

Over to you Marshall…

You’ve got a website. You’ve got a Facebook page. Why in the world do you still need business cards?

Imagine this: You’re at a professional networking event or a business trade show. You’ve met someone you’d like to keep in touch with, someone with great ideas who wants to do business with you. She asks for your card.

“Search for me on LinkedIn.” is not the correct response. Likewise, “I’m on Facebook.” doesn’t pack quite the same punch as a good-looking business card.

Just because the business world has entered the digital age does not mean you can forgo all the offline office protocols and marketing collateral. A business card is a tangible reminder of you and your company. It sparks memories of a real-world encounter. It speaks for you when you aren’t there. It’s something people can hold and see, even when they’re out of their coverage area or their iPhone isn’t charged.

So get some cards. Rely on an old standby. But don’t be afraid to give it a spin of your own. Personalize and update your business cards, and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

  • Let your colours fly. People tend to hold on to colourful business cards because colourful designs catch people’s attention. So why skimp on printing costs?
  • Heavier and better paper will give your cards a more professional feel. The good news is it doesn’t have to kick up the price. In 2012, Vistaprint started offering 40 percent heavier business cards (110 lb. paper stock) at no additional cost. Heavier cards make you look like a heavyweight in your business dealings.
  • If you use both a landline and a cell phone for business, think about leaving your mobile number off your business cards. When you hand someone your card, you can say “You might have better luck reaching me on my cell.” Then write your cell number on the card before you hand it to them. This is a great way to make the recipient feel like they’re getting personal attention and access to your direct line. It’s a little psychological trick that makes your card a little more valuable.
  • If you are the business owner, and you don’t have a large company with multiple divisions, it might be a good idea to omit your title. “CEO” doesn’t mean much if your business is a one-person start-up. You’re probably also the marketing manager, the accountant, and the janitor.
  • If your business is entirely online, or if you provide a service that doesn’t require a brick-and-mortar location, there’s no need for a physical address on your cards. Your name, your business name, your email address and your phone number will suffice. Add your Twitter handle or your business website address—they’re important. Resist the temptation to cram tons of information into the small space. If you do, it’ll just result in an ugly mess.
  • A quick response (QR) code on your business card can direct whoever scans it to your website, to a promotional offer, or to just about anywhere else in the digital realm. QR codes can take up a lot of space on your card, so if you can’t find a creative or visually interesting way to incorporate them, think about leaving them off.*
  • Holographic prints on a clear business card are popular in 2013, as are lenticular images, which are printed on a special material that gives the image the illusion of movement. Time will tell if these attention-getters are passé in the coming years. If you’re considering a business card gimmick, make sure it’s cutting edge and not behind the curve.

The trusty Rolodex isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was. Sadly, many people in the business world don’t take the time to organize and store business cards they receive. They should!

If you don’t want to deal with it, smartphone technology offers you a workaround. A variety of apps let you photograph your card, then save the info into your phone and set the picture as the contact’s photo. Voila—a Rolodex that fits in your pocket.

The ways we network and conduct business have evolved. Still, many of the most important professional tools are the ones that have been around for a long time. Business cards still have the power to leave an impression. We can control whether that impression is good or bad. So be creative. Be bold. Set yourself apart with a modern spin, and you’ll get ahead with your business networking.

Marshall Jones is a content marketer and journalist specialising in marketing, technology and business writing. He works in Austin, TX. Marshall lives with his wife and former shelter dogs, one of whom is missing a leg (a dog, not the wife).

He enjoys hiking, classic cinema, live music and travelling. He has written, proofread and edited for print publications such as The Houston Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Austin Monthly and The Austin Business Journal.

He currently writes blogs, press releases, success stories, eBooks, white papers and more for high-tech and online education clients, and is a contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com.

Thank you for your insights, Marshall.

* Just a thought… if you like the idea of having a QR code on your card, but don’t want to clutter the front, place it on the back. Add an invitation to scan it along with a good reason for doing so. (read more about QR Codes here).

~ Carol

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testimonials: are they working for or against you?

Your customer testimonials are one way to boost your business credibility.

We all know a good testimonial can work wonders for our business reputation and encourage prospects to buy.

But our customers are busy and, unless asked, will rarely think to give us a testimonial (unsolicited ones are the best).

So we ask. They say “yes, OK” and then we hit another problem because customers rarely know how to write a testimonial that does a great job for you – and a badly worded testimonial can actually be damaging.

In a presentation to members of THE Hub, I recommended having a more formal way of collecting testimonials. As soon as you’ve delivered your product or service and your customer is happy with the results, that is the time to ask.

But when you do ask,  make it easy for them to write a testimonial that you can use by giving them a structure to follow; questions to answer.

In the presentation I shared 5 questions you can ask to help your customers give a powerful testimonial.

I think the most valuable tip I shared though, is to take the best testimonials and turn them into descriptive case-studies that can enhance your business image.

Here are the slides from the presentation:

Testimonials to case studies from Promote Your Business Ltd
If you’d like to take a closer look at the case study shown in the slide you can download it here: GB Tours Case Study
Do you have a formal system for collecting testimonials? If so, what do you do?
~ Carol Bentley
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Are you missing this (video-marketing) trick?

A little while ago I mentioned that videos are gaining the edge for online marketing and I shared some thoughts on different video styles.

So when I saw the headline ‘The Video SEO War is Over.. and YouTube Won!’ I was intrigued.

It makes interesting reading.

If you use video extensively and have created a video sitemap to submit to Google to gain a higher position in the search results, you may be wasting your time.

The statistics quoted in the article, and the conclusions the author reaches, seem to imply it is wiser to put your promotional video up on YouTube and then embed it in your blog or website, rather than self-hosting or distributing it through other video channels.

Mind you, some of his readers disagree quite strongly with his conclusions (and with the report his article is discussing).

Take a look at ‘The Video SEO Was is Over..‘ and the comments posted and see what you think.

~ Carol Bentley

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‘writing for sales’ workshop in May

When you write to gain sales, the material you create can be used in many different ways to promote your business; letters you post, blog posts, social media websites.

It can be used to create marketing videos, audios, webinars… you can even use it to develop a live sales presentation for your product or service.

That’s why knowing how to write persuasive messages is a skill that is worth developing.

Of course it is so much easier to grasp the fundamentals of writing when you can learn from a professional whilst working on your own material.

And that’s the advantage the business owners who attend my half-day ‘Writing for Sales‘ workshop on 29th May will get.

At the workshop, which is being hosted and sponsored by Kingston Maurward (Dorset), I plan to share some of the techniques I use to craft letters that get stunning results like this:

” Thanks for all the useful insight /advice. I do appreciate it.

I was extremely happy with the response to both mailings. The response to the first was brilliant. Who wouldn’t be very happy with 32.45%!!”

The 2nd mailing was very ‘scattered’. I knew that and I estimate we will end up with near 7% response. That’s great.”
Norman Bradshaw, GB Tours Ltd, www.gbtours.com

[Note: final result on the second mailing was 6.7% and the offer sold-out]

Each workshop delegate gets my personal input on the material they write during the workshop, as well as a valuable manual to take away so they can refer to it when writing any marketing material.

Because this event is being hosted and sponsored by Kingston Maurward, the workshop is very affordable and gives fantastic value for money.

You are very welcome to join us – simply book your seat now on the ‘Writing for Sales‘ workshop on 29th May.

I hope to see you there.

~ Carol Bentley

 

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Should we drop virtual meetings?

Thanks to social websites and online networking organisations, virtual meetings are increasing and whilst online networking can be advantageous, should they really be replacing face-to-face get-togethers?

Copywriter's conference by Speechwriter's GuildThere’s still a lot of mileage to be gained when we get out of the office to make connections with other business people. Conferences and seminars are a good way to do that and, I have to say, that chatting with fellow copywriters and marketers over lunch, at the copywriter’s conference on 19th April, was very enjoyable.

So, do you go to conferences to meet others?

In today’s guest post Megan explains why she thinks attending conferences, even social media conferences, is a worthwhile activity.

Blogging and Social Media Conferences: Should You Attend?

by Megan Totka

As a small business owner or employee, particularly those that are based in the virtual world, how important do you think it is to attend in-person conferences or meetings?

Personally, I think industry conferences can still play a big role in the successful development of a small business or brand. While digital networking certainly plays a large role in building your company, sometimes in-person face time still can’t be trumped. There’s something to be said for meeting people, as often faces and personalities can be more memorable than websites or Facebook pages.

Conferences or meetings also often draw big names from the blogging and social media world. Hearing what they have to say about their area of expertise can really be beneficial, particularly if you are looking to expand into a new aspect of writing, branding, blogging, or marketing. Most speakers will also host question and answer sessions, where you can ask specific questions about your business or website. Check out who the keynote speaker will be before you go, also.

Social media, blogging, and marketing conferences are popping up all over the United States and throughout the world. You are likely going to be able to find one close to you, no matter what your location is. Here are some perks of attending one of these conferences:

  • Meeting people in your industry – people from all different types of businesses attend blogging/social media/marketing conferences. You are likely to run into people who are in the same type of industry as you, or a kind of business that is complimentary to yours. Making connections with others is always a good idea – you never know when you could use their expertise or contacts.
  • Getting advice from experts – as I mentioned earlier, many big names in blogging and social media attend these conferences. Some will give talks, some will host question and answer sessions, and some may even make themselves available for questions privately at some point during the conference. Sometimes a good old fashioned conversation is all it takes to get your creative juices flowing; you never know what kinds of ideas you might be inspired by.
  • Get your name out there – attending conferences and meeting people is a great way to get your name on the mind of others. Be sure to focus on making worthwhile business connections so your efforts are worthwhile.  Letting people know that you are out there in the web world is important when it comes to getting people to hear what you are talking (or writing) about. If people like you and what you have to say, they are more likely to pass your name along to friends, family, and colleagues.

As with many things in business, appearance is still a factor. If you do decide to attend an industry conference, make sure that you are professional. This includes being prepared with business cards, dressing professionally, and of course, being on your best behavior.

While social media/blogging/marketing conferences are likely to be more casual than your typical business meeting, it’s still important to make a good first impression. Make sure you leave your ripped jeans at home, and opt for a trendy business-casual look. Having business cards that stand out, or a digital card is also a good idea.

Conferences can be a great way to learn more about all kinds of topics. I found a great list of just a few that sound really interesting (and I may attend the one that is near me!). A quick Google search turned up tons of results for others, as well. Check out the list I found here.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

 

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photo files too big for your blog?

Google likes pictures. So including pictures in your blog posts is a good way to get noticed by Google. Be careful – big picture files can take a long time to load and your reader may get bored and leave.

Of course you can use online stock photos , that are already optimised for quick-loading on websites, to make your post more visually appealing (see Stimulating your post... for info on getting copyright free images).

But if you want to use photos you’ve taken yourself with your digital camera, there is a good chance the file will be very large – maybe more than 1 Mbyte – which could slow your website to the speed of thick treacle pooling off a spoon.

Now, if you have a graphics program and you know how to use it, you can open your photo file and reduce the size to be more web-friendly.

An Easy To Use FREE Online Photo Adjuster

Actually it is an editor that gives you a huge amount of easy to use features, including adjusting brightness, adjusting contrast and adding rounded edge frames – as well as reducing the actual file size.

Let me give you an example:

I was sent a picture when Kelly, my PA, nominated me for the Langtry Manor Employer of the Year Venus Award. It was a reasonable file size… just 324Kb but the proportions were too large to include in this post.

So I popped over to PicMonkey to reduce the size. I altered the physical size from 946×576 to 300×183 (I only set the width, the height was adjusted automatically) and, whilst I was there I decided to add my photo – to show who was nominated ;). The actual file size reduced from 324kb to a miserly – but quick to load – 36.6Kb.

All it took was a few clicks and it was done. Here’s the result:

Thanks Must Go To…

I didn’t know about this brilliant resource until a few weeks ago. And I have to thank Angela Wills who also took the trouble to record a 4.5 minute video showing how to use the website, it’s not difficult but it is nice to be able to see how it is done.

You can see Angela’s post and video on Free Image Resizer

Hope you find this FREE tool as useful as I have!

~ Carol Bentley

 

(Note to self: must use more pictures!)

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liven up your writing

This is for anyone who writes to gain new customers and sales, oh.. that’s me!

I’m always looking for ways to invigorate my writing in ways that connect with my readers. So this article hit the hot spot for me, does it inspire you?

Quick survey:

Which sentence in each pair gives you a clearer picture of what’s happening?

  • He ran hurriedly from the table.
  • He bolted from the table.
  • Natural pain relievers move more quickly through your bloodstream than synthetic ones.
  • Natural pain relievers surge through your bloodstream faster than synthetic ones.
  • The marauding gang overtook the defenders.
  • The marauding gang overwhelmed the defenders.

Not much doubt, is there? The second sentences are more visual than the first. You can picture what’s happening easier because of one small part of the better sentences.

The verb.

Revisiting seventh grade English: The verb is “a word that expresses action, being, or state of being.” Ho hum. I much prefer Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s description. This author of numerous, entertaining, and offbeat grammar books calls them “the heartbeat of a sentence.”

Verbs bring life to your writing. They — not adverbs — are what really paint that all-important picture for your reader.

The Master of Horror on the horror of weak verbs …

A little bit of English review again. Adverbs are the words we attach to verbs to describe how someone is doing something: Run hurriedly … move quickly … yell loudly.

Adverbs often — but not always — end in “-ly.” (And not all -ly words are adverbs.) We were taught by our teachers to dress up our writing with these words. But here’s what Stephen King says about them …

“The adverb is not your friend … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.”

Stephen King
On Writing

It’s natural to use adverbs when you’re writing. If there’s one editing lesson I could imbue all my readers with, it’s this. Do not edit while you write. So if it’s natural for you to use adverbs in your first draft as it is for me, by all means use them. Eliminate them in your rewrites and edits.

But don’t eliminate them simply by deleting them. Eliminate your need to use them by examining the verb you’re using. Make your verbs strong.

Stephen King’s example: “He closed the door firmly” vs. “He slammed the door.”

You hear “slam” in your mind’s ear. “Close firmly” not as much.

My examples: “He ran hurriedly …” vs. “He bolted …” Bolted conveys not only the image of the man leaving in a hurry, but it also carries a sense of urgency the adverb doesn’t have.

Not all verbs are created equal …

Look at the third example we started with. Neither of those sentences contains an adverb. “Overtook” isn’t bad, but “overwhelmed” is clearly the stronger choice. “Overtook” gives the picture of the gang catching up with the defenders. “Overwhelmed” paints a picture of the gang climbing over the bodies of the defenders.

Here’s the strategy: First, go through your copy and find adverbs. Eliminate them and replace the weak verbs they were bolstering. Then go back over the copy. This time, examine other verbs and replace weak ones with stronger, more active ones.

What is your clue that a verb you’re using might be weak? The first verbs that come to mind while writing are the ones we use every day. Because of that, they’ve lost much of their impact. Look for less common verbs to replace the common ones.

Say “XYZ Corporation will annihilate its competition in the 3rd quarter” rather than “XYZ Corporation will kill its competition in the 3rd quarter.”

Coming to grips with ‘-ing’ …

I’m guilty of weakening my verbs by using their ‘-ing’ form. Oops, like there. I could have (and should have) said “I use weak verbs when I use the ‘-ing’ form.”

It’s just how I write — the first time through. When you use the ‘-ing’ form, you add length to the verb, which can weaken its impact. And you often need to add more words to the sentence, as you can see in my example. In copywriting, you don’t want to skimp on words, but your every word must be necessary.

Hacking out the ‘-ing’ form helps eliminate unnecessary words and strengthens your copy.

All of them?

Should you eradicate all your adverbs? Should you abolish the ‘-ing’ form to your rhetorical wastebasket?

Not at all. Adverbs and the ‘-ing’ form of the verb have their place. The trick is to make sure you use the strongest verbs you can and avoid the ‘-ing’ form of verbs where it counts most.

Where’s that?

In copywriting, it’s where you paint your picture of the reader’s life as the product has changed it. Or where you describe the product’s benefits. Or where you describe what the reader might lose by ignoring the opportunity you’re giving him.

When you need to make the biggest impression, that’s when you wear your fanciest clothing.


Will Newman

This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/.

Even when you write from one business person to another, remember they are still people and your description of what your offer – service or product – does for them needs to have an impact that persuades them to buy.

I think Will’s tips will be very handy, don’t you?

~ Carol Bentley

 

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