One of the first lessons of business is also one of the simplest: No matter what business you’re in, you’re always in sales. That is, to succeed in any field, we must sell people on ourselves by commoditizing our personal brands. We must market ourselves – our knowledge, skills, and expertise – as if we are selling the most sought-after, cutting-edge products and resources on the market. This used to be called “being professional,” and it meant presenting oneself properly and networking with the right people. Today, it’s called “micro-branding,” and it means presenting oneself properly, networking with the right people, pro-actively differentiating oneself from the pack, and doing it in as many ways, on as many platforms, and through as many avenues as possible, all without requiring legal-pad-sized business cards.
So, where do I start?
Whether you’re marketing yourself as a freelancer or as the face of a small business’ brand, there are hundreds of Web 2.0 tools designed to help you. Of course, we all know and have the basics:
- Professional website? Check.
- Well-developed Facebook page? Check.
- Regularly updated social media streams? Check.
In addition, there are some newer tools available that are great additions to any marketer’s arsenal. Our top pick this month is About.me, a site designed to simplify online marketing by serving as a virtual business card of sorts. By creating a short, customizable profile, users can embed links to the most varied of web presences, allowing visitors to see blogs, websites, and social media feeds all from a single starting point.
While About.me is helpful for establishing a corporate image while sharing multiple contact points online, many of today’s business relationships do still begin with real, live, in-person, actual interaction. And until that changes (we hope it never does), we all still need business cards. The challenge here is in truly maximizing those three and a half inches of space. Listing an About.me profile is certainly one way to go, but there’s another tool that can turn a simple business card into a truly interactive experience: a QR code.
What’s a QR code?
QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are two-dimensional images that look a bit like those 1990’s-era posters people spent hours staring at trying to see hidden shapes except these are black and white, and what’s hidden is information, not a dolphin. Anyone with a smart phone can scan and read a QR code using one of the dozens of free apps on the market, and these codes can contain anything from a simple web link to a full business card. Here’s how it works.
First, you decide what information you want to embed in your QR code, and create it using a web-based tool that suits your needs. There are many free websites for creating simple, downloadable QR codes. For more advanced options, such as embedding more information or images, there are plenty of paid sites. The best site we’ve found, by far, is QRlicious, which generates custom-designed QR codes to fit your corporate image and blend with your marketing materials.
Once you have your code, no matter how simple or intricate, you can print it on your business cards in any number of ways. You can also save the image on your own phone, add it to your email signature, and print it on other marketing materials as appropriate. Then, when a new contact scans your code, his device will save every piece of information you want to share.
No more worrying about lost business cards or typos while saving contact info. No more compromising on what to include and what to leave out on those tiny cards. QR codes give you the freedom to simplify your business cards while maximizing their impact. Give it a try by scanning the QR code in this article!