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Is this the worst business card ever?

I was at a show for startup businesses a couple of weeks ago in London. Taking a break from the stand I joined some fellow exhibitors for lunch. At one point we were interrupted by the arrival of a shadowy figure who walked up to the table and - without a word - dropped a single business card into the centre of the table then walked on to the next table. Now, I could probably write a whole blog post just discussing his method of approaching us, but let's look at his business card...

I was at a show for startup businesses a couple of weeks ago in London. Taking a break from the stand I joined some fellow exhibitors for lunch. At one point we were interrupted by the arrival of a shadowy figure who walked up to the table and – without a word – dropped a single business card into the centre of the table then walked on to the next table.

Now, I could probably write a whole blog post just discussing his method of approaching us, but let's look at his business card…

Bad card anon This is the card that was dropped onto the table in front of us (click the image to see it full size). I've blacked out the person's name and telephone number to protect his anonymity.

Now I tend to be a bit of a niching fanatic. I encourage all my clients to be very clear on their niche. Nevertheless, I do believe it's possible to have two or three niches, particularly if you're either solving the same problem for a couple of different target audiences, or a couple of related problems for a single audience. Most niche businesses tend to develop that way over time anyway.

This, however, is the card of a generalist trying to put words around "whatever problem you've got, I can solve it". And just what kind of "personal issues" does he claim to be able to fix? Personal hygiene? Stammering? The mind boggles!

No doubt, this consultant thinks his card says "I have many years' experience, and whatever is happening in your business I have encountered it and know how to fix it."

It doesn't.

What it says is "Whatever is wrong in your business, I'll have a go at fixing it." Not a compelling marketing message. It says "I am desperate for work/money, and will take whatever assignment you want to give me." I suspect very few people will want to give him any.

Far better would be to sit down and think about the successes he's had over the years. What were the common threads? Was it a particular business situation that kept coming up – maybe a turnaround, or cashflow issues? What were the skills and mindset that allowed him to deal well with that situation? Were his successes more often in one industry or market than in others? Or with companies that had reached a particular stage in their lifecycle?

Now, turn that into a brief, compelling story and sum it up on the card in a few words: "turnaround strategist for the automotive industry" or whatever.

Then, instead of walking up to a bunch of strangers and throwing a single card into the middle of the group (was it an introduction? or was it a challenge – the modern day equivalent of throwing a gauntlet down? Who knows!). Walk up – without the card in your hand – and introduce yourself, building on the fact that everyone is at the same event, and most people probably don't know other people. Find out what everyone is doing there, how they're finding the event, what made them come: be interested! Then you might find common ground with one or two of the people there, and you have the start of a conversation.

A good conversation will always get you further than a bad business card, let's face it!

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