Does your business (cards) pass the WIIFM Test?

As a communications consultant, I collect business cards. Luncheons, evening mixers, business events. As a designer, I always toss a few into the “You’re Doing It Wrong” pile.

WIIFM

You want customers that stick, then you have to think like the customer. All this talk of engagement and relationships and community aside, let me tell you a secret: Customers mostly think about about one thing, “What’s in it for me?”

Most cards fall into one of two categories: 1) over-designed exercises in cleverness — that only artsy, creative types could ever use or 2) boring, generic infodumps – that often say nothing.

If your business card – or website, PR or blog – if your branding doesn’t communicate WHO you are and WHAT you can do for the READER, the audience, the customer – then it’s not communicating at all.

Look familiar?

This business card is a fake; no small businesses were harmed in the mock-up of this card.

Picture this: you meet someone 2.56 minutes at some business networking thing, along with 23 others. Did they do or say anything to make you remember them, make this generic card stand out?

It’s not like they handed it to you then tripped down the stairs and fell off the speaker’s stage. (Oh yes, I did that once; not total face-planting on the floor, but enough that more than a few people noticed. Ahem.)

I’ve got a stack of these. I could contact so and so, by phone or email. But to what end? WIIFM to take the time to go to the website, figure out who you are and WHY I need YOU?

Paper isn’t dead – yet

QR codes, Twitter, LinkedIn is the Rolodex-meets-Resume. Fine. But the business card ain’t going the way of the dinosaurs any time soon.

When I design a business card – as part of a brand identity package – I make smart use of limited real estate: 3.5 inches by 2 inches. Times 2; if you’re not using the back, you’ve wasted every penny you spent on printing.

Rule of 3: three strengths, three features, three points of contact. The more vague your tagline, the more b.s. that reeks from your ‘creative’ job title – the more explicit and accurate your features need to be.

You may not know the whole story – and boy do I not like what I designed (see also, cobbler’s shoes syndrome) – but my card tells you something about what I do: Public Relations and Social Media, Design, Meeting Planning, wrapped in a Communications-flavored bow.

Business cards are easy examples of a first impression – and what impresses others are the details.

Can you imagine a restaurant website that talks about how great the food is, but doesn’t tell you what kind? Or searching for a lawyer but the blog or business card doesn’t tell you they do tax law, not intellectual property? If you’re firm specializes in building hotels, say that – everywhere.

Ask a friend – one not really familiar with your business – to take a closer look at your business cards, your website, your trifold brochure. Do they pass the WIIFM test? If not, call me.

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Marketing 101: The Essentials

You have the business plan, the cool product or killer service. You’ve figured out your business model, your three core strengths. And you’ve got a phone (goes-without-typing essential) you’d love to be ringing off the hook with folks wanting to give you large piles of cashy money.

Next step: tackle that Marketing P known as Promotion. Or not.

I did an ad layout for an Atlanta small biz, and what hit me were the missing pieces I had to find for a basic print ad. Customers may not notice or comment when you have it, but they will notice if you don’t.

Things you can’t NOT have to market your business

someecards.com - Thanks for assuming the corporate logo on my shirt was a ketchup stain Identity. It all starts here. A basic logo, some stylized treatment of the name that wasn’t created in PowerPoint with 10-year-old clip art.

It’s how you “brand” so do it.. just not comic sans. (Designers joke.) That investment shows you mean business, on your “still gotta have them” business cards, print materials, free coffee mugs and this newfangled thingy called the Internet.

Website. First, a counter argument. Rare is the business that with the right product (booze) and right location (intersection shopping center) can do fine and dandy, sans website. I was told, license to print money. True ‘nugh.. and EXCEPTION.

Well what about Facebook?” whines the small business owner. Sigh. Are your customers active on FB or your own site or forums elsewhere? People are social creatures, the trick is finding where.

That said, your website is where YOU have control, a way to tell your story, where people can contact you with your ‘branded’ email. Domains are cheap, WordPress is free, websites still matter.

Images. Can you imagine visiting a website, flipping through a brochure or scanning a magazine without them? Bor-ing! Photos and videos breath life into marketing because they humanize your business.

If your product or service is your custom work, hire a professional for eye catching images. It’s an investment that will pay for itself every time you run an ad, share them on your website and Facebook page, submit them to a magazine for big, fat “free” publicity.

If you’re a reseller or installer, look to your vendors and co-op some marketing, use their product photos. When it’s a “generic” business without need anything custom, there are plenty of royalty-free houses for professional photos; for SMBs on a budget I’ve got two words: iStock account.

Story. Talk to your customers, talk with your employees, your vendors; hone your elevator pitch. You want that great website, that “free” double-page spread in the local living magazine think story, not sales.

Beyond talking points, ass-numbing bullets, your small business has a tale to tell. If you don’t know who and what you are, you’re in big trouble. What you do, how you help others, where, when, why do you offer extra services? W’s are right there, waiting for your answers to tell that story.

What’s another “can’t afford to skimp on” marketing essential?

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It’s not rocket surgery, it’s marketing. Simple.


“A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

I tweeted that Douglas Adams quote again today, always one of my favorites. Simplicity is anything but simple. It’s hard to get it right, to really nail “simple” without outthinking your audience.

Writing.

Tweet today from HBO’s True Blood “Blah blah watch this preview blah.”

How many ads or sales pitches have you see that read “blah blah buy our crap, you’ll like it blah?” Not many and that’s a shame. Forget the hard sell, go for the authentic simple pitch.

Design.

I love this minimalist design for a business card. Even without knowing much about this person, I can tell he’s a designer of some sort, a creator. Plus the card does its job: lets me know how to contact this person, even if not by phone.

Marketing.

The @OldSpice ads were nothing more than a hot guy in a towel, reading clever copy. Brilliance that combined with a smart social media strategy, catapulted the brand into the stratosphere and for a day, shut down YouTube. Tons of blog posts on this, including mine.

Social Media.

You go online, you set up your LinkedIn, Twitter profiles, a Facebook page. You share, you connect, you engage. You’re authentic and suck less. Here are 9 tips to help you get started.

Social Media Marketing.

There’s a difference. You build relationships, you help others help themselves, expand your brand and your business. Kodak and their social media marketing doesn’t just try to sell you cameras and film, they try to help you take better pictures. They focus on the consumer as well as businesses via three different blogs, podcasts and more.

If you have a small business, don’t make your marketing, public relations, or social media be harder than it has to be. Keep it simple, stupid.

  • Need business cards: find a designer, an affordable printer and just get it done.
  • Want a website: buy a domain, install WordPress and make it happen.
  • Have a story to share: no one knows it better than you, so Tweet it, tape it (YouTube), write it (blog). Start with the basics.
  • Have customers who love you: get their testimonials, and SHARE!

Or just hire me. I can simplify it for you. :-)

Atlanta Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media

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Social Media, Public Relations, Marketing in 2010: Looking Back, to the Future

(aka The obligatory New Year’s blog)

Expecting a countdown of best Social Media moments or worst Public Relations goofs for 2009? A list of top SM or social marketing or PR trends for the past year? Not here. Marketing predictions or PR Trends for the future? Nope. A “touchy feely self-help yoga crap” blog full of introspection and optimistic BS. So not gonna happen.

I am closing out the year with a little recap. In 2009:

  • I have invested time networking and connecting. And in many ways, it’s been one of my most productive years.
  • I’ve read, shared, linked and retweeted countless blogs and stories. And I added my two pennies worth of comments quite a few times.
  • I’ve taken control of my online identity via Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, and my Google profile. And locked down (as best I can) the crappy Facebook privacy settings.
  • Like other public relations professionals, I studied and followed social media. And now I am applying what I’ve learned and continue to learn everyday, adapting and using it to help myself and my clients. I have embraced social media and social networks with both hands, and I am a better communications professional for it.
  • Oh and I cleaned up my office a little this morning, reducing the clutter for 2010. That is all.

Now back to work.

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