10 Ways to Revamp Your Ineffective (and Boring) Business Card

I just returned from a week in Phoenix, Arizona, where I attended an industry conference and had the chance to rub elbows with roughly 1,500 potential partners, vendors, and customers.  As I unpacked my bag, I grabbed the stack of hundreds of business cards people gave me and I found myself struggling to remember who some of these people are.  A handful of the cards have handwritten notes on the back (I always write something to jog my memory if I know I intend to follow-up after the show), some have photos on them, but most are indistinguishable from the rest.  Isn’t the point of a business card to provide a tool for follow up after meeting someone for the first time?  A business card should reflect your personality.  If you’re boring, have a boring business card.  If not, then here are 10 ways to revamp your ineffective (and boring) business card:

Be creative. Especially with the title. Have fun and call yourself something that will make people smile.  Don’t be a salesperson, be The Sales Cowboy.  Don’t be a Customer Service Representative, be a Customer Loyalty Specialist.  Don’t be a receptionist, be the Director of First Impressions.  Don’t be an assistant, be the Chief Executive Assistant. Don’t be an Account Manager, be The Princess of Profits.  Got it?

Be clear. About what you can DO for someone, as opposed to using a nondescript and professional (think, faceless) title.Be memorable. If someone lost your card, would they call and ask for another?  Or would they not even realize they had lost it?

Be valuable. Provide a tip, an idea, a link to more information, or a code for online redemption.Be different. Be so different that ANYONE you give your card to shows it to EVERYONE they know.

Be “WOW-able”. If people say,“WOW!  I’ve never seen anything like this before,” then you know your card is working for you.Be easy. Include your office phone, your cell phone, fax number, email address, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

Be shapely. If your card is the standard size and shape, it fits nicely in a pile of all the other cards people forget about.  Make your card a different shape or size so that it stands out — and stands alone. A great card can’t be put in a pile.

Be YOU. Put your picture on your card.  And not your high school yearbook picture—make sure your picture looks like you do.  If you’ve changed your hair color, lost or gained more than a few pounds, or aged more than a few years, get a new card.  You want people to look at your card and remember meeting YOU.

Be independent. Worried that your boss won’t pay for your new cards?  Or that your boss won’t allow you to make creative cards?  Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. And you probably won’t have to ask for forgiveness when you bring back success stories as a result of all the new connections you’ve made with your creative business card.  About the money—you can now buy business cards online in large quantities for less than the cost of that new shirt you bought to wear at the tradeshow.  Your boss didn’t pay for your shirt, did he?  Invest your own money in the most important person in the world – you.

As I began sorting the cards in my hands, I made two piles:  one for scanning and filing, and one for immediate follow up.  Guess which pile is bigger?  I’ll help you. From the hundreds of cards I started with, I kept twenty on my desk. There are two ways to get into my short stack—the one that means I’ll be reaching out to you within a week after meeting.   You need to offer GREAT value when we meet or you need to have a GREAT business card.  If you have both, you’re guaranteed that I (and most everyone else you meet) will want to get in touch quickly.

Think you’ve got a great business card?  Leave a link to your card below.

Am I taking you home?

After having spent 15 hours with me, my host, Jeffrey Gitomer, asked me “Am I taking you home?”  You see, I was at his home on a Friday night at about 10pm. His family (including his 3-month-old daughter) had already gone to bed, and Jeffrey and I were wrapping up and reviewing from a three day workshop.  My hotel was only about a five minute drive, and I had planned on taking a cab, or perhaps even the train.  I wouldn’t have dreamed of accepting Jeffrey’s offer.  But before I could answer, Jeffrey smiled at me and simply said “Of course I am.”

The ride home was short but we continued talking about how excited we were for the coming months.  When we arrived at my hotel, I shook Jeffrey’s hand and told him I’d see him in a few weeks.  My flight was at 7:30am.  Jeffrey looked confused.  ”What time am I picking you up, then?”  He wasn’t willing to take no for an answer, and I hesitantly agreed to meet him in the lobby at 6am.

5:59am Saturday morning, Jeffrey pulls up and simply says “Hey, buddy.”  I thanked Jeffrey for picking me up and told him I felt bad.  After all, when I’m home with my family there’s two things I love to do:  spend time with my girls, and sleep in once and awhile.

Jeffrey responded, “I offered to pick you up.  I wouldn’t let you take a cab.  Three reasons:

1.  I don’t like to sleep.  Sleep is the biggest waste of my time.  One day, I’ll sleep forever.  Until then, I’m making use of my time.

2.  I like you.  But, even if I didn’t, I’d still you pick you up, because;

3.  I’m a traveler, so I know the needs of travelers.  A little ride here and there makes all the difference.”

Wow.  Relationship builder?  Yes. Memorable?  Yes.  Meaningful? Yes.  Cost?Only his time.

I’ve been to thousands of offices in my career, and no one has provided personalized chauffeur service like Jeffrey.

I’ve been given watches, hats, jackets, liquor, wine…and I couldn’t tell you for a million dollars who gave me what at this point unless the donor happened to print their name on the watch (and, oh yes, they do this).  Think of the thousands of dollars you spend on ad specialty items.  No matter how much you spend, a simple, personal gesture–giving of your time–will always be infinitely more powerful, impactful, and memorable.

Ask yourself, “What can I do that’s personal, memorable, and more valuable than what I’m doing for my customers today?”

Want some tips?  Here’s 6 ways to get started:

1.  Pick your customers up.  And drop them off.  Don’t let them take a cab or rent a car even if you have to watch your kids that night.  Bring the kids with.

2.  Cook for them.  Have a BBQ at your house or your office.  Cooking a meal shows care and it’s more intimate than a restaurant.

3.  Go to a ball game, a concert, or an art exhibit WITH your customers.  Don’t just spend the money on tickets, invest your time into being friends with your customers.

4.  Hit the gym, play sports, or paintball WITH your customers.  Competitive activities that put you and your customer side by side on the same team will help you to play on the same team in business.

5.  Golf together.  In just 18 holes, you will close more sales than in 18 months with your customer.

6.  Offer to help your customer with a difficult assignment or project.  Perhaps your customer is working on a training manual, or big presentation.  Offer to do it with them.

If you implement these ideas (or a few of your own), you’ll have cut expenses and increased revenue.  Both lead to BIG profits.  And you’ll make great relationships.

Note:  Not everything I’ve offered is devoid of investment.  I do plan to spend a small amount of money in preparation to host my next guest at my office.  About $20.  It’s time to wash my car.  Thank you for the lesson, Jeffrey.

It’s 5 AM: Do you know where your customers are?

Almost every Monday morning I find myself walking through security at the airport just before 5am.  Yes, it’s early.  Yes, it’s a pain in the tush.  But by flying that early, I am able to make it to my office by 9am and I get to spend Sunday night with my kids.  Reading stories to my girls on Sunday night is worth every bit of lost sleep.

I normally eat a Clif bar on the way to the airport, but today I left mine at home.  So I decided that after getting through security I would stop at the Alterra coffee shop in the C terminal.  It’s a locally owned coffee shop, and in Milwaukee, Alterra has built a fanatical customer base.  As I approached the counter I inhaled the comforting aroma of coffee, bagels, and baked goods, American Express card in hand.  Surprisingly, the first thing out of the barista’s mouth was, “5:15.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked.

“We don’t open until 5:15,” replied the stoic young woman.

“If the coffee is not ready, it’s no big deal.  I’d really just like one of those muffins,” I said with a smile.

Without looking up, the barista snapped, “Then come back at 5:15.”

I quickly scanned the other employees behind the counter, hoping to find a sympathetic soul who might serve one of the muffins in the case (which had been laid out fresh just minutes prior).  What I got instead were blank stares that almost said “Don’t bother us, we’re not on the clock yet.”

Stunned, I spun around quickly and headed toward the gift shop next door.  What I had not realized, however, is that during my brief interaction at the counter, a line of four or five people had formed behind me.  All waiting for coffee and breakfast.  All ready to spend money.

Ten minutes before Alterra opened.

The woman at the front of the line asked me what had happened.  I told her Alterra wouldn’t serve me because they don’t open for ten more minutes.

“That’s dumb,” the woman said loudly.

And, as if the Alterra barista could make herself (and her company) look any worse, the barista barked, “We don’t serve before we open.  That’s the policy!”

An amazing thing happened next.  All four or five would-be customers and I walked to the gift shop and each purchased drinks, snacks, and other items.  I bought a magazine.  Eleven dollars total.  If the other would-have-been-Alterra customers spent even half of what I did at the gift store, that’s just shy of forty dollars.  Forty dollars that wound up in the wrong hands.  Wrong because we had wanted to spend our money with a locally owned, oft-recommended coffee shop and were not allowed.  Wrong because we wanted coffee and muffins and instead we got a negative experience.  So negative, in fact, that I’m writing about it now.

I am not disappointed in the young barista who was so rude to me.  I am not disappointed in the other employees who chose to ignore the situation instead of taking action.   I am, however, disappointed in the fact that the manager of the store had not properly trained his/her employees.

There’s an old customer service mantra, “Customers aren’t an interruption of our day; they are the purpose of it.”  Why wasn’t that poster hung up behind the counter?  Why wasn’t this concept burned into the minds of every employee who worked at the airport Alterra?  More importantly, why would every employee not feel empowered to act on behalf of the customer rather than reciting policy?

Alterra has the best reputation in Milwaukee.  Alterra has the best marketing.  Alterra has the best branding.  Unfortunately for Alterra, however, none of that mattered this morning.  What mattered this morning is that the girl behind the counter was rude, short, and more focused on herself than on serving a cup of the best reputation.

Here’s the lesson:  Your marketing dollars are only as good as your frontline employees.  Before you go spending money on attempting to create a perception in the minds of your customers and prospects, you might want to start by investing in training your people.

UPDATE! Alterra has made HUGE progress.  Although I cannot be one-hundred percent sure that my post several weeks ago prompted Alterra to take action, I am proud nonetheless.  Kudos to Alterra for recognizing a service failure and upping their game!

Here’s the news: At 4:55am this morning, Alterra was well-staffed and serving coffee…twenty minutes before their official open hours.  I counted no less than eleven customers enjoying breakfast items and coffee.  Made me smile.  And, yes, I definitely bought a cup of coffee!

Free iPhone App: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Pocket Reference

I’m happy to announce that Apple has approved our first iPhone application, Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Pocket Reference. It may not be the fanciest UI you’ve ever seen, but the information and the inspiration you’ll receive (for FREE, by the way) makes this application the most valuable in the iTunes store.

The Little Pocket Reference iPhone app includes Sales Answers, Jeffrey’s latest articles, a plethora of Jeffrey’s video rants, and a list of Jeffrey’s upcoming seminars.

Download it, use it, and profit from it.

You can download Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Pocket Reference for free here.


Achieving Work-Family Balance

I recently flew from Milwaukee to Minneapolis and then on to Fargo, ND.  Each time I landed, I felt my iPhone vibrating in my pocket, indicating that I had received a new voicemail, email, or text message.  When I pulled out my phone in Minneapolis, I had 17 new emails, 2 voicemails, and 3 text messages. That flight was only about 90 minutes.  I had a 45-minute layover, so I did my best to return calls and emails, but I didn’t get to them all.

By the time I landed in Fargo I had more emails, 5 text messages, and 3 additional voicemails—all in an hour!  Half of the messages were people re-sending their original message (perhaps in a different format) because they were upset that I hadn’t responded yet.

Today, my customers, employees, and partners expect 24/7 availability.  I am connected via email, text messaging, iPhone, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and four different instant messaging platforms.

For most people, the added pressure of technology has complicated “The Balancing Act” even more.  Everything becomes a trade-off–with only 24 hours a day available (minus a few for sleep), you must choose to either ignore or neglect certain needs.  Often, it is family and self-care that is overlooked.  It’s an emotional decision that we attempt to rationalize with logic.  For example, I’ve found myself thinking, “I’d sure love to work out today, but I’m behind on emails.  I’ll do the emails now, and work out tomorrow.”  Problem is, tomorrow is not any less hectic or task-packed than today.

In the end, I prioritize tasks and work through them one-by-one. Commonly, I do what is expected of me rather than what I think is important.  I know that everything I do, I could do better if I were able to devote more time or mental energy to the task at hand.
My major issue centers on the notion of PRESENCE.  With an iPhone in my pocket, I am rarely 100% present in any setting.  I can’t remember the last time I spent with my daughters where I didn’t have to step away once or twice to respond to an email or voicemail.

The last safe haven (until recently) has been the airplane.  That’s always been “me” time.  Time to reflect, to write, to nap.  There are no expectations from outside parties.  Until now.  Several airlines have launched Wi-Fi on their flights, which puts me right back in touch with everyone, and everyone’s expectation that I will respond within minutes!

The bottom line is this–if you can master the art of being present, quality rules and quantity becomes much less important.  One hour of focused time with my children far outweighs four hours of the kids trying to get attention from a distracted daddy.  It means much more to all of us.

I have no self-control when it comes to connectivity, so I’ve had to follow some strict rules to keep myself in check.  I have found these rules works best:

Blend work and home life–to a degree. Be sure to include your family in major work events and to take time at your office each day to call home once or twice.  Bring some work home, but limit the work to specific hours (i.e., after children are sleeping).

Leave your cell phone and laptop in your car when you first get home. Eat dinner with your family and then spend time after with one another BEFORE you even think about getting back to work.

Create a work area (i.e., office) in your home and DO NOT work anywhere else. Don’t answer your cell phone, don’t check your email, and don’t respond to text messages unless you are in that work area.Do more work in the early AM rather than at night.  Wake up before everyone else in the house rather than staying up late.  It’s incredible how much more productive you are after a good night’s rest.

Above all else, remember the age-old question: “Do you live to work, or work to live?” Make a decision and always judge your actions against your priorities.

By no means have I mastered the five steps I laid out above, but I am conscious of my deficiencies, and I recognize I have choices.  And, just as technology has created new expectations, challenges, and additional workload, technology has also created solutions.  I am currently working to leverage technology to help me service my customers better, faster, and more proactively.  I figure if I can free my inbox of everything but ORDERS and THANK YOU LETTERS, I’ll be rich and happy.

In the meantime, I have a rule that I ALWAYS follow—ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS respond to EVERY customer contact (whether it be a voicemail, email, instant message, text message, or smoke signal) before you go to sleep.

Even if it’s 3am and the only thing you have the energy to write is, “Hey Mr. Customer, thanks for the email.  I wanted to let you know that I received it and that I am working on a great solution for you I’ll be in touch tomorrow with an idea and answer to every question you’ve asked.”  My rule does not result in perfect service, but it works.  It puts the customer at ease and it shows your customer that you care.

BIG TIP: If you send the email late at night (after 10pm) or early in the morning (before 7am), you’ll impress your customer with your dedication.  Now, dedicate yourself to responding within an hour and work toward getting there as soon as possible.  When you get there, you’ll be hours ahead of where you are now, and light years ahead of your competition.

Attitude is NOT Everything

Ever been in an argument? And have you ever had the best response or comeback ten minutes AFTER the argument ended? Of course you have. It’s because you couldn’t think straight during the argument. It’s because NEGATIVITY blocks CREATIVITY. And, your creativity defines your ability to differentiate yourself from the competition and to win despite the obstacles you face.

If there is only one element that will help you to be successful in life more than anything else, it is that of having a positive attitude—a YES! Attitude.  YES! Attitude is a concept created by the great Jeffrey Gitomer and best explained in his Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. Here’s a one sentence definition of YES! Attitude:  It’s the difference between complaining and blaming everyone else, and collecting your commission checks.

There’s a million quotes on attitude, but the one that sticks with me most is “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” It’s a Charles Swindoll quote that my mom hung on the refrigerator when I was growing up. There’s many more that I often refer back to, but my mom’s refrigerator magnet has been burned into my mind.

You’ve probably heard that “Attitude is Everything.”

That statement is wrong!

If you’ve got the best attitude in the world, but zero ability, zero work ethic, zero skill, zero persistence, you will still fail. You have to start with ability and add a positive attitude.

Without a positive attitude, ability guarantees nothing. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem. What comes first? Ability or attitude? What’s more important? The answer is that they are both important, and both necessary. Attitude plus ability results in achievement. And the stronger your positive attitude becomes, the stronger your desire to hone your abilities. The better you become, the better your attitude. And so it continues until one day your beliefs and your ability to succeed are impenetrable.  Attitude is the secret ingredient in the formula for success.

Attitude is NOT everything. It is your ability to stay committed to a positive attitude through everything that makes the difference between winning and losing.

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