Business cards: Don’t just give ’em out — collect ’em

In a post here a while back, I focused on the marketing power of business cards. The card you hand out today can end up in someone’s Rolodex, and make new business for you months or even years from now. So print plenty of them, and put them into prospects’ hands whenever and wherever you can. They cost little, and may very well be your most effective new business tool.

But don’t neglect collecting other people’s business cards, as well. Use the information on them to expand your business network. Call the people you’ve met promptly, before they forget who you are. If you’ve learned something about their problems and goals, and can help them, tell them so. The business cards you collect can be important to you. Don’t just leave ’em in your coat pocket.

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New business strategy: be an expert

Back in the Stone Age, when businesses first discovered computing, and computers were the size of refrigerators, software was suddenly a hot item. Not only was good software scarce, ad and promotion agencies that understood computer systems well enough to create advertising and brochures and such were scarce, too.

An old friend of mine, a partner in a software start-up, suspecting that my new ad agency was smart enough to create a campaign for his company, gave us the assignment. We learned the business in a hurry and and put together a quality campaign — one of the first major software efforts.

Faster than I could ever have hoped for, we started getting calls from software companies around the country. We had an instant reputation as the go-to guys for software advertising and promotion. Almost overnight, we had as much software business as we could accept without getting into conflict of interest issues.

Why? We were software experts.

I learned that you only have to do a job once, and do do it well, to be seen as an expert in that field. And if a market chooses to think of you as an expert, then you are an expert. And don’t let ’em forget it.

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Online moneymaking schemes: scam city

A long time ago, P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Well, they’re still being born, and there are still plenty of scam artists ready and able to take their money. For every hopeful entrepreneur sitting at his computer, far into the night, trying to start a business on the Internet, there’s some guy in Florida, or Australia, or Estonia, promising a magic system that will make his dreams come true.

The Internet scammers have fallen into a rather predictable pattern these days. Their e-mail videos go like this:

1) First there’s a guy telling you how important it is for you to watch, and how it can change your life.

2)  Then he belittles you by showing you the palatial residence he lives in, and the expensive foreign car he drives. You can get out of your grubby lifestyle and live the way he does, says he.

3)  He warns you about all the evil scammers out there in cyberspace, failing to mention that he is one of them. Don’t trust them; trust me, he tells you.

4)  Next he spins you his own rags-to-riches history:  He’s just an ordinary guy who learned to crack the code and earn an obscene amount or money. He’s going to share his priceless knowledge because he’s a sweet guy who wants to come to the rescue of ignorant worker bees like you. You are now four minutes into the video, and he has yet to reveal anything about the product he’s selling.

5)  Now he leads you into the really tasty part of his pitch:  proof positive that he’s making as much as he claims. Here are earning statements, one after another, showing thousands of dollars a day. Why the moola is coming in so fast, he can’t even count it. And — get this — he only works at his enterprise a half hour a week. Could this proof be for real? It doesn’t matter, because by now you have dollar signs dancing in your head, and you’re almost ready buy whatever it is this guy is selling.

6)  His system (or software, or training course — whatever) is worth as much as a good size battleship, he says, but because he has the milk of human kindness coursing through his arteries, he’s willing to let you have it for a piddling $39. If that isn’t the bargain of the century, I don’t know what is.

7)  There’s absolutely no risk, he tells you. You have a full 60 days to give the product a test drive. If it doesn’t do everything he says, just write and he’ll give you all your dough back. Which he will actually do, if you can figure out how to reach him.

8)  You still have no idea what the product does or how it works, and maybe you’ve decided to hold onto your $39. You click out of the video, and are surprised there’s a new message that appears, lowering the price by $10. Well, now, you wouldn’t go for $39, but maybe for $29 you’ll take a chance.

Don’t do it. Think about it:  This guy is promising you millions, but selling his stuff  to everybody in the immediate world for $39 — or $29, take your choice. Does this sound legitimate to you?

Me neither.

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