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Business Card Science for Consultants

By Sam Zipursky

How many of you have business cards and use them regularly in your business promotions and networking? I’m sure most of you will answer yes to this question.

As consultants, small business owners, and freelancers business cards play a big role in our self promotion and are a handy little tool. If used properly that is…

What am I getting at here you ask? Well since moving back to North America from living and doing business in Japan for many I’ve noticed something – our business card etiquette sucks!

I’m not one to complain without doing something about it so today I thought I’d share 3 simple yet effective tips I picked up while living in Japan on giving and receiving business cards.

1. Wait a Few Moments
This first tip applies more to when you are out networking and meeting potential business contacts. I’ve noticed before I even speak to many people I meet while networking their card is being pushed into my face. This is no way to do business!

Before you hand out your business card have a small conversation with the person. When the time is right then give out your card. Not only will you come across more relaxed and professional but waiting a few moments will also give you a chance to decide not to give out a card if you meet someone that you’re sure you don’t want to follow up with and have further contact with.

2. Show Interest
Most people I give my card to here in Vancouver barely even look at my card after they get it. They just quickly stuff it in their pocket without a glance – this is straight up rude people!

Instead of doing the above when you get a business card from someone take a second to look at the card, flip it over and take a look at the back, maybe give a compliment on it if you like the design or logo, or even just ask a question about the business while looking at the card. This will show you’re interested and respect the person that you’re speaking with and that is a good thing in business.

3. Place the Card on the Table
When you meet clients or new business contacts at a coffee shop, boardroom, or office, you usually meet at a table right? Well next time you have a meeting instead of stuffing the business card you receive into your pocket just place the card you receive on the table and keep it there throughout the meeting.

It’s super easy to do this and it’s just another sign of respect to whoever you’re meeting. You can also look at the card from time to time during your meeting which shows additional interest and also help avoid uncomfortable eye contact which can happen from time to time during one on one business meetings.

So there you have it folks, 3 simple yet very effective communication techniques for giving out and receiving business cards.

Do you have any techniques that you use or have worked for you?

14 thoughts on “Business Card Science for Consultants

  1. Hi Sam, very helpful article as I did #2 just yesterday. 😛 Now I feel badly… although, we had already established in our conversation what he did… in that case, should I still have looked at the card? !

  2. Tuesday – I would say yes still glance at the card when you first get it, or from time to time during the conversation, it just shows the other party a interest and a bit more respect.

    I usually don't put the card away until after the conversation or until a few minutes into the conversation.

    Another great thing is to have some kind of business card case so instead of just shoving a card into your pocket, or wallet you can place it into a case that protects the card and once again gives the card and the person some more respect…hope this answer helps for next time!

  3. One of the biggest opportunitiaties missed around a business card, is that while your business card is passed out more often than most other forms of marketing, the card usually misses the point that it IS YOUR MARKETING.

    When I pick up a card that's been laying on my desk more than a few days, and I don't remember what that person does, frequently the card doesn't tell me. When the card says "Joe Blow" or "Joe Blow's Company" and doesn't say
    o what you do
    o what measurable results someone gets from calling you

    there is no compelling reason given for calling you when someone looks at your card.

    HUGE Opportunities missed. Use your card like a billboard. Tell them what you do and why they should call you NOW!

  4. Alan – Great point added to this conversation.

    I've often thought the same thing especially in 2 areas of a biz card.

    1. Tag line
    So many people use tag lines that no one can understand and they are a bit "out there". Instead if possible have something clear that let's people know what you do and why they should call you as you mentioned.

    2. Back of the Card
    This is a huge waste of space. Instead of just putting your URL or Logo once again on the back of your card why don't you put some bullet points or a sentence on what services you offer and once again why someone should call you.

    • Baila Lazarus says:

      I've seen "I met John at…" on the back of some business cards, which is a great incentive for people to jot down where they met you and a few points of what you discussed. Makes a huge difference remembering people.

  5. I like to have my business cards blank on the back as I often have a lead, tip or referral to give the person I am networking with. Then I can write it on the back and they remember who gave them the lead/tip. It might be a great restaurant, an upcoming speaker or a business book, but given within context of our conversation and in the spirit of collaboration and good will.

  6. Baila and Bev – Some good points here about using the back side of the card for handy purposes like remembering the people you spoke to, where you met them, and maybe some giving them some relevant info. I've definitely spoke to other consultants who like to leave their cards blank for the same reason.

    I guess the main point here is don't only let the back side sit blank. As everyone here is talking about just make sure it's there for a purpose – to communicate to potential clients!

  7. When I pick up a business card that's either been on my desk for a while, or is "in the old stack" frequently I can't tell what these people do.

    That card missed the point. It may have provided contact information, but it didn't help me know what they do so when I go looking for someone who does XYZ they aren't in that list. The card didn't help them or me.

    Many people put their name, address, phone number, company name on the card. And frequently the company name doesn't even say what they do. So, the card FAILED just a few days later because my memory didn't tell me that they had told me what they do.

    Continued in next comment

  8. Continued from previous comment

    Even worse, even if the business card told me what they do, I believe that a business card is the MOST VIEWED marketing material you have, and frequently ITS FREE to get that information out there. So, if the business card did what good marketing is supposed to do,

    o Get the attention of the people who want what we have
    o After getting attention, get them to WANT to talk with you
    o and later that's when they want our contact information. No one wants our contact information until after the first two steps, getting attention, and then we find out that they have something value we want. THEN we want the contact information.

    So, WHY does a business card only have that last step and doesn't attempt to take the first two?

    Serious problem.

    • Alan – Nice comment and thoughts here.

      In another online community I work in I asked a member about this same question and he said that instead of focusing on giving his contact information first he offers a clear download link to a free informational product of his on his business card.

      He said the free download has been working well and at least 1 or 2 out of every ten people go to his website, enter their information, and then download his product.

      There is a good example of someone who is using his card to build contacts and as a lead generation tool!

  9. I often jot non related things on my business cards – if someone asks a good cocktail bar, hotel etc, I'll scribble it down on my business card and hand it over as oppose to a sheet of paper.

  10. In the "olden days", it was viewed as tacky to put your photo on your business card. Personally, I love seeing photos on a card. It helps me remember that person long after the event I met them at. Any thoughts on this topic? I'm about to reprint mine and am not sure whether or not to include my photo again or not.

    • Sam Zipursky says:

      Hi Karina – I like that idea and have definitely seen it used effectively. I also think it brings that extra level of human touch and as you said helps people remember the person they met.

      If you go with that option a few things to think about is a) do you have a high quality photo that prints well and fits in with the design and b) that you still get your USP or sales message out on the card.

      If you can consider the above and pull it off successfully I say go for the card with a photo!

  11. pat tim says:

    good stuff.
    i'd like to ask if how a prospective customer will feel about a business card which does not bear any office address, just phone number


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