Smart, cost-conscious tire dealers understand the promotional value of business cards and utilize this knowledge to the fullest. Dollar for dollar, properly used business cards can be their most cost-effective marketing tool.
Just don't expect business card techniques to be the all-purpose fixer of your marketing plan. Improved utilization of business cards only complements good existing promotional plans.
And business card-related marketing ideas won't benefit many dealers until they update or redefine their attitudes about the cards, which are still regarded by many as a nuisance or necessary evil in the modern business world.
Because they don't take business cards seriously, it's no surprise no one else takes their cards seriously either. Their cards are hard to read, offer little vital information about the store (especially location!) and often suffer from amateurish graphics and printing.
Dealers and service shop owners must recognize that business cards are a classic example of perception becoming reality. A poorly planned and/or cheap-looking business card telegraphs negative images such as indifference and low self-esteem to consumers.
Smart dealers see business cards for what they really are: tiny, individual billboards that give the store another mention and another exposure every time a consumer receives one. That's why their business cards are always the most attractive, creative and classy-looking cards you see.
At a glance, these business cardsalways project positive images such as pride and professionalism.
These progressive dealers who have attractive, distinctive and informative business cards realize people pass cards around to friends, relatives and co-workers. The card has to speak volumes for their business because it may be the only exposure the store gets with some consumers.
Whenever an attractive business card grabs the attention of consumers and prompts them to check out your store, that card becomes the least-expensive advertisement you ever placed.
I see more and more shop owners applying the Japanese approach to their business cards. Namely, the Japanese have both intense professional and personal pride in their business cards.
When Americans are grouped around a conference table, they often snap business cards across the table as if the things were baseball trading cards. What's more, Americans are fond of scribbling notes onto business cards.
In Japan, however, both of these gestures are considered very rude. Some shop owners tell me they reduce the likelihood of their business cards becoming scratch pads by printing something useful on the card's back. It could be an interesting quote that reflects or sums up the store's business or service philosophy.
Or they might print brief service notes on the back of the card reminding the driver when to change the vehicle's fluids. Other times, the back of the card carries an extensive list of the services the store performs, which amounts to another advertisement for its capabilities.
Some shops are abandoning the practice of writing the customer's appointment date and time on the back of a business card because some people discard the card after keeping the appointment.
Other managers tell me business cards net new business by circulating freely where regular promotional flyers may not. For example, experience shows people are more likely to pass along and save a business card than a flyer.
One service shop manager I know helps the business card circulation process along in a neat, efficient manner. At least once a year, he visits the reception lobby of every office building and hotel near his shop. He drops in unannounced with a box of hot, fresh donuts or pastries for the receptionist and politely asks the person to distribute a stack of business cards for him.
Rest assured the cards are passed around and the trick nets the store a few new customers.
Periodically, this same service manager asks every new customer who comes in over a given week why they chose his tire store. One woman told him she found his business card tucked into the corner of the ladies room mirror in the office building where she worked, prompting her to inquire about the store's reputation.
Positive comments from co-workers convinced her to check out the store for herself.