What do you do with a business card 2: the ones you collect!

This is the second post in a short series on business cards.  The first post was about the design of business cards, and the second what to do with your own business cards.

This post is going to cover what you do with the business cards you collect – and here I am assuming you are actively collecting business cards while networking to promote and market your business. It is important, once you have collected them to do something with them.

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I recommend that you keep all of the information you collect as you never know who you might meet in the future. One of the attributes of an excellent networker is that they put other businesses in touch with each other if they can see a good link – whether or not that is of benefit to their own business. If you are known as someone who works hard to support other businesses, then other businesses will remember you and promote your business too.

1. Keep the business cards

You may want the information for a number of reasons-

they do something that would be of use to you in your business

you know/ meet someone else who would benefit from the services/products they offer

they do a similar business to you and you want to meet them for a 121 to see if there are ways you can help each other out

A box full of cards is better than no cards at all, but it would be much easier for you to get at the information if you have spent some time – or got someone else to- organise the information for you.

2. Create a database of the information on the business cards

This can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the key information on it – you can even include key words to remind you about the unique selling points of the businesses you are recording. This can then be searched in the future if you meet someone who, for example, needs a plumber, then search your spreadsheet for plumbers and pass on the information. What is even better is if you have heard a testimonial about the business at a meeting make a note of that so that you know you are referring a business that has a good track record.

If you are an active networker, though, a simple spreadsheet could soon become unwieldy and difficult to manage. If that is the case then there are a number of packages you can use to manage the data.

3. Contact management packages

Help you to record and track all contacts you make. This is useful to help you track the effectiveness of your contacts if you take the time – or employ someone – to keep them up to date. The added advantage is you could possible start by uploading the information you have already collected in your spreadsheet. There are a range available, with a range of costs depending on the level of use you want to make of them in managing your contacts. I am not going to name packages here as I am no expert – but I know people who specialise in supporting businesses using these packages and can refer you if you want more information.

4.Use an  app or package that takes an image of the business card.

These apps are available for your Smart phone or tablet and make use of the camera technology for taking the images. Many will also have a scanning or uploading facility to enable you to add larger documents and will also work on lap tops or desk top computers. Talk to friends to see which ones they find the most useful. Many are available free for a basic service with limited volume, but then have a subscription service to enable you to do more of them. I also know of colleagues who use these apps to manage documents – but that is a whole other blog post.

Once you have added the data you then have the choice of keeping the business cards to pass onto to other businesses when making referrals or of disposing of them.

How do you manage your business cards? I would be interested in hearing what you do, and what I have missed from the list above.

What do you do with a business card 1: using your own business card?

Having written a post about the way in which the design of your business card can affect its usefulness I have been asked to write a further piece about what you do with business cards. This has two elements – what you, as the owner of the business card, uses if for, and what the person who receives it does with it! I have decided to do this in 2 parts starting with:

What do you do with your own business card?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you don’t have your business cards with you and use them effectively you are closing down one of your communication routes.          

1.  Take them with you wherever you go

You never know when you will need it. I have lost count of the number of times when someone I know is talking to someone else in a social situation and says ‘get in touch with me’  and then writes out their email or phone number. DON’T  do this – use your business card – it has it all written on there, and you never know if they see the card they might know of someone who could need your services. Even if this is not your personal email address they can still contact you – or you can write your personal email or number on the back.  

 2. Have your cards somewhere where you can get at them easily. 

If you wear a jacket with pockets keep some of your cards in one of your pockets so that you can quickly get it out. If you don’t have pockets keep them in a box or holder that you can easily spot in your bag. If you are going to a professional meeting – especially a networking meeting hold a few in your hand for ease of access. It does not give a good professional image if you are scrabbling round in a bag for your business cards when you are at a networking meeting. Keep some in every bag you use so that you always have them with you.

3. Give them out to people They don’t do you any good unless they are circulating.

 If you have any additional pointers for the effective use of your own business card please comment below.

Business Cards

I don’t know about you, but I have looked at a lot of business cards in my time, especially since I have started the Admin Angel element of my business. One of the roles that I offer to businesses is to populate spreadsheets with information from the business cards they have collected while networking. This is a useful way of collecting the data in one place to use when referring your contacts to each other, and to use as the basis of any mailing or information sheets you may decide to do for your business.

But – and this is a big but – you don’t always get the information you need from the business cards you receive.

What do you do?

I don’t have the benefit of having met many of the people whose business cards I am using to garner the information and I regularly cannot tell what business the person is in who has given out the card. Even if the business area is obvious – what is the Unique Selling Point (USP)? Sometimes I have met the person that has given the card, but I cannot always remember them as I do a lot of networking, as do the people whose cards I am collating.

Contact Information

I am amazed at how often business cards do not have basic contact information on them – like a phone number, email or website. How are the people you have met going to contact you if you don’t include this information? Quite often there is 1 or 2 of the 3 elements I have listed, but I personally feel that you need all 3 to be an effective business. Different clients have different preferred ways of contacting their potential business providers and by closing down any of the routes listed above you are not helping your business to grow.

Some cards do not have the name of the person who has handed it out – only the business they are representing. This will not help with future contacts and does not help you to work out who is being effective in getting additional trade for your business.

Additional Information

In these days of online networking it is also a good idea to include your online networking links, any of which could act as your website if you feel you cannot afford one yet, or don’t have the time to maintain more than one online presence. You have a range of potential sites – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest to name a few that I have used. I wouldn’t recommend listing all of them on your card as you would need an A4 sheet and it would be overwhelming. My next post will be on my observations about the benefits of different kinds of social media for different types of businesses.

Legibility

Some business cards look beautiful and very fancy, but finding, and reading, the information on them can be very difficult. So please, please think about the legibility of the print – size and the contrasts between the colour of the print and the back ground are very important. Make sure that the key contact information and name stand out in particular.

The other element of legibility is how cluttered the business card is – so be selective, but make sure that the card links to other potential sources of information.

Any other points?

I have heard lots of comments about using both sides of the card – this is great to get more information across but leave some space for a note to be written on the card as many people, myself included, like to make a note of where I have collected each business card. This helps me to see which networking groups are getting me the best contacts, but it also acts as a memory jogger if I am trying to remember more about the person who gave me the card.

Using colour or a distinctive shape to make your card stand out. A good idea, but remember that people who collect business cards will often store them in a business card box if yours doesn’t fit it could get lost. Also don’t let the colour or design take away from legibility or the information you are trying to pass on ( see my other points above).

I know my businessIMG_0689 cards are not perfect, and I will definitely be redesigning the Business Consultant one in the future as my business has developed and changed since I designed these. In the interests of openness, though I thought it a good idea to share my own cards so you can critique them too.

 

 

 

Motivation, or why am I a really slow learner of Russian.

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Sandra in Sevastopol

I have decided to write on motivation as I am currently trying, not very successfully, to learn Russian. I have a good reason for learning this language – my daughter is currently living in Sevastopol in the Crimea and I want to visit her before the end of 2014. This, however, is currently not proving to be a strong enough motivation to work on the language more than a couple of times a week. So I thought I would muse on this following my discussions with my daughter on the subject, and been inspired by her own posts on learning Russian and see if I can create a stronger focus for myself as a result.

Having started this post and not developed it I have been linked to this blog post which is about why failing to learn a language over a year can still be of benefit to your mental health. Does this make a difference to my motivation? I have been going back to my Russian a little more since then and doing my Memrise Russian course reminder sessions more often since then, so maybe it has.

Hmm – maybe I should list the ways in which I am trying to learn Russian before I go on.

I started out with 3 Memrise courses on my I-phone and iPad – Beginner’s Russian first, then I added Cardinal numbers and finally Learn Basic Russian.  I have only completed one of the courses as far as learning new words – the Cardinal numbers one. I am now going onto this course most days to do the repeat learning, and I am starting to add new words too.

I have also used Quizlet  to practice some of the words I am learning – although I often find that the new lists my daughter posts as part of her learning are scary and off-putting as she is so much further on than I am.

I have just started using a BBC Learn Russian course which includes CD’s and I am planning to create my own Quizlet sets for the words I am learning.

So why am I not getting very far? The main reasons I can identify are fear and lack of confidence – which is to be expected when I am learning but I am not making allowances for this. When I talk to my customers about their book-keeping and administration processes it is often the same things that stop them from putting processes in place. I must make sure that I use the learning about my motivation in relation to learning a language to influence the way in which I work with my customers about the things they are finding hard to focus on.

I am now going to try doing at least 15 minutes a day and will see if that helps.

I will do an update about how I am doing as I am now planning on going to Sevastopol with my daughter when she goes back after her visit to the UK this month to get her new visa.

Making Networking Work

Image-courtesy-of-jscreationzs-at-FreeDigitalPhotos.net_Having just moved areas from Wolverhampton to Towcester I have been reminded about the importance of networking. It is especially important when growing a new business – or an old business in a new area which is what I am doing.
I have been in my new area for a couple of months now and have restarted my networking activity in earnest in the last couple of weeks. I have already seen a benefit to my business with 2 referrals and 1 new customer. This is especially good as I know that the benefit of networking comes from the long term links you make with people and so quick wins are particularly precious.
I am enjoying meeting new people who I know will develop into friends and business colleagues in the future.
My note for the future is to remember that, even if you are not feeling like going out and talking to a lot of people get back into your networking as quickly as you can. Even if you only talk to one person you are starting the process of getting to know people in your new area. It has worked for me and I am already being greeted by people and welcomed into my new networking groups.

Silicon Bullet Forever

I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good  friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.

Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you…

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Communication, communication, communication

This post has been inspired by my reflections on my experiences with a range of projects in the past which has confirmed to me the importance of communication in ensuring whether a project is successful or not. I thought it might be helpful to bring these together in a single summary as communication is so important.

When dealing with a major change programme it will be very rare to get all of the communication right – but it is extremely easy to get it completely wrong. My personal definitions of getting it wrong are:

  1. only sharing information with an ‘inner circle’ of the great and the good and then expecting the other people who are affected by the changes to just take it without complaint.
  2. giving out information only when there is something significant to say or a big change happening – the rumour mill will take over as communication will happen whether you want it to or not. People will always want to know what is happening so if you don’t tell them (even if all you are saying is ‘there is nothing to say’ they will fill the void.
  3. limiting the information that is given out to very bland or basic statements – it is important to be as open and honest as you can be (although there will always be sensitive items they need to be shared with the people affected as soon as possible, confidentially if necessary).
  4. giving out information on an irregular basis so people never know when they are likely to find out what is happening next.
  5. giving different messages to different people – so that when they compare what is said they do not believe any of what they have been told even if the messages are correct and have just been expressed in different ways.
  6. missing significant groups of people out of the whole communication process.
  7. only putting the information into a single format that not everyone can access (like the filing cabinet in the basement in “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

I have shared my reflections on better ways of communicating in a range of previous posts:

In summary the ways in which you can ensure that communication is a positive force in the work you do are to:

  1. have a clear communication plan which is agreed and signed up to by all partners
  2. include all of the people who are to be communicated with
  3. include all of the ways in which the communication will be handled
  4. make the dissemination routes for the information as wide and inclusive as possible
  5. have a clear timetable for communication – never less than once a month – and keep to it. It can change at different times in the project and may come down to once a day at significant points
  6. agree the wording that is going to be used – either in advance in the communication plan or, if it is something that has to be done quickly agree who will have the responsibility for composing the communication to be used.
  7. be consistent

What have I missed? I would be interested to hear your experiences of communication in your work life. If you would like to do a guest post please get in touch.

How does a grandmother who is blind share books with her grandchildren?

This post has been inspired by the fact that the first 2 weeks in June 2013 is Make a Noise in Libraries (MANIL) Fortnight which is an annual campaign to bring public libraries and blind and partially sighted people together to improve access to books and information.manil13pic

Eileen Finch is a grandmother who could not find any books on the market that were suitable for her to share with her grandchildren. She decided to create her own children’s books in a unique format – giant print with Braille and illustrations. If you want to see the range of books she has published then go to her website access2books  where you can also buy the books yourself. You could also ask your local library if they have them in stock – and if they don’t suggest that they so. The list of libraries that currently stock the books can be found here.

So why have I put this into my management musings blog? It is because the journey that Elaine went through is one that anyone with a passion and an idea can follow to make a change they believe in, or to create a new business.

The key things that Elaine did were to:

  • Identify a gap/ need
  • Research the potential solutions and current provision.
  • Obtain an IP Publishing licence
  • Negotiate with publishers to use 30 popular UK books
  • Painstakingly redesign the books into a format which is more accessible and shareable for people with a visual impairment.
  • Work out a way of printing and binding the finished work into a book format. The type of paper and binding used were particular problems. In the end she had to design and make her own binding equipment.
  • Find funding to keep the project going
  • Find outlets to access the mainstream library market – Peter’s Children’s books of Birmingham helped by ordering a set based on the prototype.
  • Create a business format to procedure and market the books – in this case a Community Interest Project.

The books look brilliant and having Braille as well as large print and pictures widens the range of people who can use them- have a look for yourself. 

This is an impressive story of determination and persistence that we can all learn from, in particular:

  1. Focus on the final outcome when things get difficult
  2. If you cannot find the solution you need then create them
  3. The road to success is not easy, but if your dream is big enough, and your desire is strong enough you will succeed.

Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight is run by RNIB National Library Service.