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.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

How have I started to develop my new businesses?

MP900390083As I was developing new businesses from a standing start I knew that I would be very lucky to get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It was important, therefore, for me to measure what I was doing for my businesses each day so that I knew that I was moving them forward while developing a regular income stream.

This is a very different way of planning to the planning that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. I have planned my outcomes for my new businesses, but the timing of them is difficult when I am still establishing myself, and how do I know if they are realistic? I have managed this by giving myself activity goals for every day – as I can measure the achievement of these which will help me to get a momentum going.mIt will also help me to review my successes by tracking them back to these activities to help improve my planning in the future. For example how many contacts did I have to make before I got a meeting, how many meetings before I got business? It is helping me to cope with the process as I am developing an understanding of how many ‘no’s’ or none responses I need to go through to get a ‘yes’.

How do I know what outcomes I should set myself?

I have talked to others who have gone through the same process and they have given me an idea of which activities I need to do, and for how long, before I start to see the desired outcomes that I want from my businesses. I have talked to as many people as I can as each person will have had a different experience, and mine will be different again. I am getting ideas that I will adapt and develop to suit me, although the information about how long it can take for business to develop has helped me to manage my expectations. Their experience is only an indicator about what could happen not an exact road map for my businesses.

The processes I have heard about so far are:

  • I need to develop a presence in the areas where people looking for my kind of businesses congregate – either online or face to face,
  • the number of calls I need to make to prospects, or contacts with prospective commissioners before I am successful
  • the type of information I need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I have also found it useful to look at the websites of others who have gone before me, and at their linked-in pages or any other online sites they have to see who they are linking to and the groups they are active in and then I join the groups I feel will be relevant to me as well. I have also read as many of the books that have been recommended to me as I can.

Two months into this process I am feeling very positive about what the future holds for me even though my businesses are in the early stages of development because of the information I have gained.

What has your journey been when you have made a career change?

I would be interested to hear your advice to people setting up their new businesses as we can always learn from others.

Is starting 2 new businesses at the same time a good idea?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.

I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.

Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?

I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.

When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.

How do you know what activity goals you need to set?

By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

I have been very quiet here as work has been taking a lot out of me, not helped by breaking my wrist in June and having a colitis flare up in September. This has led me to decide to make a very big change in my life and stop working for a local authority and start working for myself.

I have been aided in this decision by finding a new profession to join (my third) which will still use the skills I have developed over the years. This new profession is Multi Level (or Direct) Marketing. It will use my organisational, people and leadership skills and will reward me according to how much effort I put into my new business. – KMCForever.

I am very impressed with the company I will be working with – Forever Living – as they work to values I strongly believe in. They are especially good at supporting their distributors and have Investors In People Gold standard. This is at a time when many organisations are moving away from this quality standard as they see it as a business expense they cannot afford in times of recession. This is a false economy, in my opinion, as if you don’t look after your workforce then they are not able to look after your business for you. Forever Living demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by continuing to grow year on year even during a recession.

I will also be developing a consultancy as KM Consulting where I will be able to share my considerable skills in senior strategic and change management as well as the management skills that will be developed in my new career.

Moving into self employment will give me more time to develop this blog and my health blog called CoeliacLibrarian.

And the reason for the heading at the top? It is very scary to step away from salaried employment, but I am still going to do it. I need to move into a role that enables me to take better care of myself, and where I can still help and support the people who work with me.

So look out for my new businesses and get in touch if you want to find out more about working with me in Forever Living, or need support in improving the Health and Wellbeing of your workplace.