Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Importance of Networking

On a hot July day several years ago people gathered in droves to drink, talk, and do business. This wasn't a convention, reception or staff outing. The event was called Young Professionals, a local business networking group for, as the name suggests, young working professionals. This event acted as a magnifying glass on the importance of networking in business.

The first thing you'll notice at an event like this will be the amount of people that attend. Discovering an opportunity like in the business world can be a refreshing feeling, especially to those that are constantly scrutinized at work. If nothing else, networking provides members of the business community an outlet to reassure one another that their current job doesn't have to be the only job they ever do. The first step in networking is putting oneself out there to be met by others, and engaging in conversation about business, and life with other likeminded individuals.

The next thing you'll notice at the event are the prevalence of business cards. The importance of business cards in networking is essential. If you have business cards be sure to bring them everywhere, if you don't yet have a card, make one. Many of your employees might be people you'll meet networking for business. If they don't have a business card you won't be able to hire them. Having a business card and distributing it freely will help you become successful at networking. If you need reassurance, look at those that profit off networking the most, real estate agents, stock brokers, and other broker types. Do you ever see a drought in business cards among these individuals? Some people have stacks of cards high enough to hit an 11 foot ceiling.

Another thing you'll notice happening at the event are the unabashed marketing of products, and services. Market your product when networking. What if you don't have a product for sale? You may have a service, or an idea, whatever it may be, market it while networking. You will be surprised at how many people can help you achieve your dream.

A few things you'll want to bring to a meeting are a pen, pad, and something to hold things in, like a portfolio. While networking be sure to take notes if necessary, ask questions of others, and capture the moment. Many rely on fate to bring them to success in business, and life. But for those seasoned veterans of business, and life will tell you, diligence and hard work are as important as anything else.

When you are networking try your best to get the most out of the situation. Next time you are at a networking event, instead of enjoying the free pigs in a blanket, make the most of it by actively networking.

Four Tips for Boosting Your Profits with Business Cards

A business card may be the most overlooked advertising medium in the business world. But these simple rectangles of cardboard can be powerful tools to help any entrepreneur increase sales. Similarly, a poorly thought out or clumsily designed business card could be as much of a detriment for your sales as an "out of business" sign.

Business cards have actually been around for much longer than most people realize. The first ones, in the form of visiting cards or calling cards, were used in China about 600 years ago. They started being used in Europe approximately 200 years lager. When one aristocrat went out to visit another, the prospective guest's servant would deliver his master's calling card to the servant of the prospective host. An elaborate system of calling card etiquette developed and was followed by the gentry across England and France.

Today, anyone from North America or Europe who has gone on a business trip to Japan, China or other Asian countries knows there is very much a tradition of etiquette that must be followed when exchanging business cards in those countries.

But even if you are only going to be doing business in your hometown, you can help boost that business by following four tips before you have your next business cards printed.

1. Legibility. It's fine to have a creative, attractive design for your card, but do not fall for the trap of selecting a type face that is so fancy it is not legible. If people cannot decipher all the words and numbers on your card, it is useless. Also, remember that, especially in this era of aging baby boomers, type that is too small may also be difficult for some old eyes to read properly.

2. Individualize. You are a unique individual, and your business card should reflect your unique personality. One easy way to do this is to put your photograph on your card. Of, if you are an artist, crafts person or photographer, why not put an image of one of your creations on the card? If you sell unique widgets, put an illustration of them on your card.

3. Proofread. Just as a wood worker should always measure twice before he cuts, every word should be double checked for proper spelling. Every telephone number should be dialed and every web address visited to make sure they are letter perfect before your card goes to press.

4. Use the back. Your business card has two sides, and you are missing a prime opportunity if you leave the back of your card blank. Instead, utilize that space to say what is most important about you, your business, product or service. It could be as simple as "bring this card in for a 10% discount." Or you could use the back of your card to show off testimonials from some of your satisfied customers.

There are several very good Internet business card companies that let you design your own cards online. In some cases, their shipping costs are less than it would cost you to drive to a local print shop and back.

Finally, if you only need a few cards, or if you want to experiment with different card designs, you can purchase perforated, blank business card stock at office supply stores and make your own cards using templates that come with many computer word processing software programs.

However your business cards are eventually printed, remember that they may leave a lasting impression of you and your business for many years to come.