Business Card Alternatives That Build Business


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As an entrepreneur and business owner I am always on the prowl for creative and effective ways to capture the attention of potential customers. During a long flight from Seattle to Columbus Ohio I was seated next to an executive from a large marketing firm with whom I’d managed to strike up a conversation. Her questions and responsive interest indicated to me that she was genuinely interested in the services I offered so I handed her my finest business card which she tucked into her pant pocket while gather her luggage from the over head compartment; as she did this I suddenly thought of all the paper wads I had found in the bottom of the washer that had been business cards I really wanted to save. So I decided to scientifically measure the value of this age old marketing / networking tool. Here are the results:

Over 600 people interviewed
Subjects sampled more than 29 states
(a very scientifically substantial and relevant sampling)

40% said they discard cards received because of no value.

So what happens to the other 60% of cards we hand out?

40% said they usually lose or misplace business cards.

10% said that most cards are difficult to spot in piles, files or organizers so they turn to resources like yellow pages.

Less than 5% said they have secured services from a business card.

Let’s sort through the data. By the way if you search the web you will find studies that conclude the business card is your most vital business investment. So, who’s right and who’s wrong? Actually no one is entirely wrong. Business cards have their place and uses. What research and experience tell me is that business cards are a great value when used well and in a timely fashion.

Business cards are seldom a good front-end marketing tool. This is true because most of them are discarded, lost or avoided due to obscurity. The exception to this rule is the creatively valuable business card.

Some examples of creative business cards include: calendar cards, magnet cards, coupon cards, info. Cards, etcetera. I will never forget the first business card I had ever actually kept and used; it had been handed to me by the owner of a print shop, on the back was a years calendar, so I placed it in my wallet and referenced it often for nearly a year before I was asked to lead a project at work that involved securing printing services, you know who I called first. Another example was a magnet card I picked up just because I thought it would be nice to secure notes to the front of my file cabinet; several months later I needed to buy tires for my car and the first call I made was the tire shop on that magnet. Another card I held onto for months was one that had some interesting facts and statistics that I thought I could reference in the future. The bottom line is, be creative and come up with a reason your potential customers should hold onto your card.

Business cards make great back-end marketing tools. Once you have you foot in the door they can and should be used frequently to ensure the customer knows how to contact you. I include a card with all correspondence. At the front end and back-end it is important to make sure your business card stands out.

Precautions and Tips

  • Avoid depending on the business card to get the potential customer to contact you.
  • Ask for the potential customer to give you their contact information in exchange for yours.
  • Make notes that will be helpful for the potential customer on the back of the card.
  • A photo of yourself is a nice personalizing touch.
  • Follow up with card recipients within five days if they’ve never done business with you, ten if they have.
  • Include a card with every correspondence.
  • Personalize the business card by writing on the card what you can offer in your own handwriting.

    The same precautions and tips may apply to the business card alternatives I’ll suggest next. If business cards aren’t all they’re cracked up to be what are the alternatives? There are actually many, and here we’ll explore just three that I have found are powerful.

    Promotional Items

    Instead of carrying business cards consider carrying a book of promotional checks. I like to ask this sales question, “If I could give you a blank check that you could fill in the -in the amount of- blank with any amount and cash it with guaranteed payment would you be interested in hearing more?” I then give them a check from my “special” checkbook that contains my contact information, a hand written expiration date, unique authorization code (the check number) and states that it is valid for a FREE 30 minute coaching session with me via telephone. They tend to generate second hand leads because the person I give it to finds it so interesting that they talk about it to others and they then contact me as well. You can order your checks from Current checks. Obviously you will not want any account information on the check. You will want your contact information and Key selling information or services on the check. You may also consider ordering look-alike checkbooks from a printer; unfortunately they may lack authenticity and resulting novelty as well as the unique check numbers.

    Brochures & Booklets

    Brochures and booklets are a great alternative to cards because they provide valuable information that encourages the receiver to keep it or better yet pass it on after retrieving your contact information. Brochures can offer research information, tips, innovative ideas, interesting facts or even fictional writing. Because brochures are relatively inexpensive you can distribute them liberally.

    The most important rule to follow is, make sure your brochures are content rich. Put time and effort into brochure design to make them stimulating and attractive. You may consider having several different brochures to ensure you have a brochure that will best meet the potential customer’s need.

    Consider including coupons, special offers and free gifts that must be claimed by an expiration date. You may also consider providing space where you can add handwritten notes to customize the piece for the customer.

    Charles Carpenter, affectionately known as “Bill" by friends, has inspired and empowered audiences to reach peak performance and dreams for more than a decade. He is known for being a “straight forward” communicator who shares practical ideas that help listeners overcome the most difficult challenges of life and business.

    Charles serves his clients and customers through keynotes, seminars, literature and personal career and life coaching. His clients include small non-profit organizations and Fortune 500 & 1000 companies. He has taught Project Management, Leadership, Management Skills, Communication and Conflict Management at the University level for more than four years.

    Charles’ wit and wisdom has been published in numerous periodicals, books and multimedia resources. His works include university curriculum, magazine articles and two best selling books: “Core Success Journal” and “Real World Project Management”.

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