A New, Old Trend: The Business Card Is Back

Business cards can play a very important part in any professional’s career. A chance meeting with the CEO of a company you admire or a new connection at a young professional’s mixer, the business card once served as a reminder of your encounter. Soon, however, the business card started becoming so common and overused that they started to pile up like drink coasters at a cocktail party. In the digital wave, they were pushed aside for an exchange of numbers and information on smartphones or a connection on Facebook or LinkedIn. The business card seemed like a thing of the past.

 

Thanks to an awakening of new designs, the power of the business card has been reignited. Clever shapes, more valuable messaging, and a lesson in branding is helping the business card make it’s comeback. If you ever ditched a business card before, you’ll think twice about doing it again after seeing (and, in some cases, experiencing) these new design trends.

 

New Materials

The cardstock you use on your business card can make or break it’s effectiveness. If a card is too flimsy, the person receiving your card might think you’re a reflection of the card’s strength. And there are tons of different choices of cardstock to pick from, making any choice possibly overwhelming. To avoid cardstock confusion, some professionals made the move to different materials such as wood, metal, plastic, and even transparent materials.

 

This reinvention of the material in which a business card is made with has revolutionized the industry, especially amongst young professionals who are looking to make important connections and a lasting impression on potential employers against a strong millennial class of competition. By introducing new materials, they body’s sense of touch becomes involved in the card presenter’s first impression, giving it an even stronger, and cooler looking, message.

 

Shapeshifters

Another way to change your view of business cards is to change the way you view a business card. Try making your rectangular card read vertically instead of horizontally, or, just tip the card on it’s side to make it a portrait shape rather than landscape.

 

Where this trend really becomes interesting is when die-cuts and special shapes are introduced. New designs offer square and circular shaped business cards, as well as cards with cutouts. Some cards even go as far as being foldable for convenience and to fit more information, or to be used as a pop-up element to give excitement to your brand. If you really want to go all out, you can design your cards to have arms and legs, as seen on CompanyFolders.com.

 

Valuing Yourself

The last trend that is important to note has to do with your own self confidence. A business card should reflect who you are, as well as give a glimpse into the work you can provide. It’s the connection between your meeting and an interview. Even if you’re not with a company, you should make yourself a business card and give yourself a brand. What symbols and colors represent you? What does a powerful business card feel like to you? Take these questions into consideration before designing your card to make the best choices in representing yourself.

Lessons for Your Business from Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go in actionPeople walking around on their phones with their heads down is not alarming. Afterall, in the age of technology, the complete disassociation with the outside world is commonplace from the dinner to table to the office (sometimes unfortunately). Yet, you may have noticed some recent changes in our culture that is consumed by tech. People aren’t just walking around on their phones, they’re talking about them with others, congregating in parks, showing up at random buildings, and driving around their neighborhoods with a purpose: catching Pokemon via this year’s hottest mobile game, Pokemon Go.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game and the story behind it, let me explain it briefly. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game which uses phone cameras and GPS location data to catch digital creatures (Pokemon), and is based on a nearly 20 year old video game franchise of the same name. Now, less than a month after its launch, the game boasts some 10 million daily players at its lowest estimate, and the number of those doing so is growing. But how did a game that had seemingly past its prime attract such a mass, loyal customer base? Experts from Entrepreneur to Forbes have provide insight.

  1. Leverage Existing Platforms
    Instead of creating the wheel entirely, Niantic (the creators of Pokemon Go) brought their idea to users through an object they already own. With millions of people already in possession of a smartphone, the company lowered barriers related to adoption, allowing users to follow their normal behavioral patterns. In other words, go where customers are and seek to integrate into their lives rather than alter it.

  2. Social Media, Local Marketing and Mobile Integration:
    This strategy, known in the marketing and tech world as SoLoMo, has been one of the largest reasons for the success of Pokemon Go. Niantic has integrated social media with the real world unlike any other game or company, with remarkable success not only for themselves, but for small businesses. Indeed, the popularity of the company has resulted in increased traffic to local businesses and subsequent revenue. Entrepreneur Magazine encourages businesses to do the same through tools like checkins to get customers to engage your business on and offline.

Furthermore, Tech.co shares some very practical examples of how businesses can use Pokemon Go as a marketing tool in addition to learning from it. Some of their advice includes getting on the action by adopting some of the language and themes of Pokemon, which can pay off for your business, turning players into customers. Advertising your business as a stop (if it is one), for those who may not be playing at the time. It requires a bit of effort, but such an acquisition is invaluable, whether the game continues to dominate or not.

How Your Business Can Benefit from Blogging

pexels-photo-large (2)Everyone has an opinion, and these days, all of them are online. It’s a great thing, as it helps us better understand people on an individual level, in a way direct conversation could never provide. However, that also means the world wide web is a crowded space. How do people and businesses navigate through the noise of social media platforms to say important (or not so important) things to their customers in long form? Blogging.

Traditionally blogging has been seen as a less formal means of communication. There are perceptions of the media as a tool through which people rant or make false claims in a tabloid-like manner. While there are indeed many blogs whose focus include those qualities, like anything in life, there are more than one side to that coin. These days, artists, businesses, and professionals of every kind have turned to blogging as a way to connect with customers in real time. Here’s why:

  1. Control The Conversation
    Depending on the size of your business, there is already information pertaining to your operations online. The information is likely very basic, such as your product or service, location, years in service, etc. Though all of that is important, none of it provides information about your current state, your future plans nor recent achievements. Historically, this information would be disseminated through press releases. Whether or not an established medium who would report on what’s you considered important, was left to chance. Now, businesses have the opportunity to cut out the third party, and talk to directly to customers about situations involving them or topics related to their interests. Many use social media platforms to do this, but, once again, the space is crowded. You should have your own platform, and use social media, instead, as a tool to direct stakeholders there.
  2. Increases Traffic
    Constant activity drives traffic to your site through search engines. People use search engines when they are not aware of who you are and what you do, yet are looking for something in relation to what you provide. Resources like Google, Yahoo and Bing crawl your site/blog to determine if what their users are looking for is there. One of the other measures used by these engines to determine whether or not your information is important enough to be shared with their millions of users is how recent your content is. Frequent updates result in higher ranking, which leads to more people finding your site, connecting with your content, and becoming potential customers.
  3. Free Marketing
    Thus, you could and should use your blog as a marketing tool, to turn those visitors into leads. To be clear, this should not be the sole purpose of your blog, but including simple call-to-actions, such as: signing up for an email subscription, learning more via your website, or following your organization on social media, can lead to continued interactions that may lead to a permanent relationship. As a note, free is not absolute. Should you choose to create a special domain and purchase hosting for your blog, that is a small cost. However, it pales in comparison to other advertising tools which may not be nearly as effective. In fact, 60% of businesses who blog said they receive more customers than those who don’t.

Best Social Media Practices for Small Businesses

Pepper Rutland's photo of facebook and scrabble piecesBefore the 1990s, companies relied mostly on print and broadcast media, such as television and radio, to get the word out about their products, services and/or progress. Prior to those inventions, word of mouth and various guerilla tactics were the focus. Nevertheless, with the advent and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet, businesses saw the importance of getting online. Those who weren’t early adopters, relying still on the aforementioned tools to reach customers and supporters alike, learned quickly that “the net” could not be ignored. Today, more than half of small business have their own website. However, as trends continue to evolve beyond a mere home for your business, the need for web presence via social media has become just as, if not more, imperative to the success of business owners, especially smaller businesses. Yet, while most have at least taken steps to create a social profile, not many use it to their full advantage.

Nearly two years ago LinkedIn reported that 81% of small to medium business had some form of social media. Why the remaining 19% hasn’t caught up is a concern in itself, but that’s not the primary issue at hand. Of those which do have a profile, approximately 95%, virtually all, of them use it for marketing reasons alone. While this makes sense given the wide reach of such platforms at little to no cost, simply using the space to announce deals, sales or new products is akin to handing out flyers on the corner. You may reach a lot of people, but it doesn’t guarantee connection nor interest. Therefore, creating a strategy for engaging your social media audience is key. Here are tips for doing so.

1. Create Quality Content

Consumers are exposed to about 5,000 ads per day, in comparison to 2,000 in the same time, just 40 years ago. The oversaturation and overpopulation of advertisements have led many to either tune them out or block them altogether. That said, using your business profile to do just that creates an automatic division between yourself and the client/customer you’re trying to reach. Instead, create and publish content that is informative and relevant to your product or service. As a result, your business comes across as an authority on related subjects, and appears to onlookers as a brand that is interested in its customers, not just selling to them.

2. Interact With Followers

Use social media to be social. Just as it would be rude to only talk about oneself and never respond to any questions, comments or inquires, in-person, the same applies online. Perhaps there is no dedicated social media person on staff, thus making it difficult to respond to every single interaction; however, merely acknowledging the message goes a long way. Such can be done with a simple like or share on many social platforms. And when it makes sense to do so, follow back.

3. Use Analytics Tools

The larger and more popular websites provide very specific and helpful data, including how many people viewed a post as well as liked and/ or shared it. Not only do these details provide insight about the value of your content to your audience, they can provide key information about how many people you’re actually reaching and optimal times for doing so.

4. Be Channel Specific

As the old saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything. Each business owner or dedicated social media specialist would do well to note best practices of each platform. For example, content on Twitter must be shorter, to the point, and use of hashtags bolster the length of your reach. On Facebook, content can be a little longer, more in depth and media heavy. Hashtags are not as effective, though available, and click through content, such as a link to an external website or presentation, are normal. Using a cookie-cutter approach to all platforms only diminish the effectiveness of your message and goals online.

As we enter this new year, there is an even greater incentive to try new things. With over 2 billion users on social media, an incredible opportunity exists for all businesses to not only acquire new customers but to retain them. Regardless of your product or service, your audience is online. Your competition will certainly be doing all they can to reach them. Beat them to the punch.