I got a newsletter from Bob Bly (www.bly.com) the other day, and he had some interesting comments about business cards. His advice was: “Don't give one out.” We'll return to this heresy in a moment.

The issue of business cards, which is only a tiny component of the overall networking approach to business, is particularly close to my mind after attending the ACCA conference in February. I saw plenty of business cards that attendees gave out. I had the opportunity to chat with some fellow HARDI members and found the show particularly interesting because I usually rub shoulders only with HVACR wholesalers and manufacturers. I find the contractor crowd enthusiastic and unpretentious. That they would leave their business to learn more about improving themselves and their operations speaks highly of their motivation and follow-through.

Now, back to Bob Bly. You probably have never heard of him and also might be sneering at the idea that a copywriter would suggest such a goofy idea.

First, Bob is a copywriter with a national reputation. Among those of us who earn part of our income from writing, there has always been a game about what he earns, with estimates ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. Annually. The point is that Bob is a businessman who happens to be a copywriter and has turned his small operation into an enormously profitable venture. Because most businesspeople in the end only respect money, I'm mentioning this so you don't think Bob takes up “chair space” but knows nothing about making a profit.

Now that I've established his financial bonafides, I suggest there is something even more important than his income. I have seldom met anyone who thinks as clearly about business topics and writing as Bob. Full disclosure: We do not have any fiscal relationship, other than a one-way arrangement consisting of me spending MY money buying books and reports that he sells. It's driving me crazy, but I keep buying.

Bob suggests that most extremely successful people don't worry about business cards. “That's because most people who receive our business card throw it away without a second glance,” he writes. “In fact, most of the self-made millionaires I know don't have business cards … or if they have them, they don't carry them.”

He suggests:

  1. You shouldn't worry about what you put on a business card — it doesn't matter.

  2. You shouldn't carry business cards or hand them out to people.

A little harsh, and maybe not totally accurate, but I recently attended an entrepreneurial dinner of CEOs who started tech-related companies. Many did not have business cards when I asked for one.

Does this mean that Bob is suggesting you do away with the concept? Not at all. He suggests a DIFFERENT strategy.

Ask for the other person's business card. Talk to the person and gauge from the conversation what you might send them. What is it specifically that you sell that could be of interest to the potential customer? When I talk to people, it usually becomes apparent that I should send my book, this magazine, an article I've written in the past or my free audio CD on how to get on talk radio stations, for example. You might have dozens of lines but, in reality, there are one or two that might hold interest for the potential customer. In short, focus on what you do that best serves the potential customer you're speaking to.

And, yes, Bob has solved the problem of what to do if the potential customer doesn't carry a business card either and, of course, you don't.

Everyone should carry a notepad and pen, according to Bob. Or an electronic notepad, if that's your speed, according to Tom. In either case, jot down the information and send the appropriate material. Just ask for the contact information.

When was the last time you mentioned to someone that you had something that might interest them and you would like to send it (e-mail or snail mail) and they refused to give you their contact information? It's a reflexive “yes” answer almost all the time.

I've seen people agonize over business cards — spending huge amounts of time looking for the elevator speech to use on the card, studying various colors, logos, graphics and more. If you must have one, maybe a simple card will do, and then you can spend all that leftover time prospecting for new clients.

I met Bob Bly once. Afterward, we had a brief chat. Now that I think about it, he never gave me his business card.

After writing this, I did find a dissenting view. Here it is: http://tinyurl.com/6ktwz29.

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Please send correspondence to: Tom Pericˊ, Editor
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