Business cards, letters and first impressions

In my last post I talked about an embarrassing scene in which a miscreant alienated the entire meeting with his rude treatment of a guest. At the same meeting I was given a business card which might even have been passed round by the same person. At least, the card was not passed round but was put where I was sitting at the table, together with further cards in the other fifteen or twenty places.

The business card in question obviously showed the consultant’s name, and it was followed by five sets of letters relating to his qualifications, and there was at the bottom of the card a reference to a further accreditation. The trouble was that I have never heard of any of the (presumably) professional bodies to which they refer. I could not tell you what they are about except that I suppose they must relate to the practitioner’s particular discipline. I have counted up my qualifications too, and I have only four sets of letters plus one accreditation to my name, so the other guy is one up if we are counting. How many letters of qualification do I put on my business card? Precisely none and the reason is because they would be absolutely meaningless to anyone outside my business, in other words to my target market.

There is good reason with certain qualifications to put them on a business card, but only if they tell the recipient something about the person whose card it is. I have no problem with FCA or ACA for a Chartered Accountant, FRICS or ARICS for a Chartered Surveyor, or FRCS for a surgeon. Even here with the latter two examples you can see how all this can become confusing. However, if we already know what these letters stand for we have a start in understanding what these people do.

Even if someone is a Chartered Surveyor, it would be helpful to have on the card what the person actually does having gained the qualification. More to the point it should say what the card owner can do for his clients for customers; in other words, not talk about the offering but what service or help the client gets. To put it in sales talk, tell us the benefits and not the features.

My respective business cards (I have more than one business and more than one card) have my name, my business / company name and my position in it. On the reverse are the reasons why my clients need me and the benefits they will receive from engaging my firms’ services. The cards are nice thick ones you can get a grip on. I am not a business card expert; I have learned from others and I am sure my cards could be further improved.

So one of my first impressions of the business card placed around the table last week was that the owner was something of a peacock showing off all his letters, but that it told me nothing about what he could do for me or for my clients. Then again, “business card” was perhaps the wrong description of this scrap of what was little more than thick paper, and which was probably printed at home. My other immediate impressions were that the person was cheapskate and unprofessional, and certainly not very giving.

© Jon Stow 2009

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