Like many people, I'm watching the Screen Actor's Guild Awards tonight (SAGs) and like many, I tend to pay the most attention to the pre-awards show red carpet interviews, as well as the great acceptance speeches. When watching tonight the most commonly asked question on the red carpet, "who are you wearing?", triggered a thought in me that I'd been meaning to blog about for months. More than a thought, I think it could be called a Golden Rule that every small business should follow: always be your own best billboard! Wear your product, carry it on you, have a little giveaway card with your services on it...You get it! If someone says "who are you wearing" when zeroing in on your fabulous earrings, and you're a jewelry designer, here's hoping the answer is "well they're mine, now let me tell you about them..." If someone asks you what you do for a living and you say you're a wine expert, leave them with a postcard size sampling of your wine tips & tricks...
Sure, I know this isn't always realistic. You can't always be a literal walking advertisement for your brand, but whether you're a designer, a baker, a personal organizer, a business consultant or cheese maker, you can always be as prepared as possible to showcase yourself at a moment's notice. You'd be surprised how many entrepreneurs I run into who are missing great opportunities to showcase their brands because they're missing chances to be their own best billboards.
As a rule, I believe that whether you're going to the grocery store or gas station, heading out to a major networking event or an opportunity to meet with other people in your field you should at the very least have a stack of business cards with you, but don't stop there!
Here are a few other suggestions to ensure you'll always capitalize on potential opportunities. You never know when a business-changing connection could be at the same baby shower with you - I'm serious! I've seen magic happen at the most random of meeting places!
Always be sure you have a large stash of business cards on you. Double check, store them at home and at work (and in the car). Being caught without one not only looks unprofessional but it puts you at risk for losing a great future business connection.
If you are a designer of anything you can wear, from shoes to handbags to earrings to dresses, WEAR YOUR COLLECTION! Sure, you may not wear it everywhere, but unless it's going to look totally out of place, wear your line: to Church, to the grocery store, to weddings, to networking events, to meetings...True Story: I once ran into an amazing jewelry designer at a party and complimented her on the earrings she was wearing, assuming they were hers and wanting to introduce her to an editor I was with who would love them. Then she stopped me to confess that they were not her earrings! WHAT? Major missed moment! The same goes for any other small product, book, and so forth. If you're not going to carry or wear anything you designed, keep it somewhere handy (in the car, in your handbag, etc).
If you make something edible or drinkable, carry it on you. If you cannot, carry a gift certificate or promo card that will allow someone to redeem the card for a sample. Jill Frechtman is an amazing billboard for her brand Fretzels, and I've never run into her at a social event without her whipping a bag of them out of her handbag. Instant advertisement. As an aside, I've never met anyone who has subsequently tried Fretzels and not fallen in love with them on the spot. Thank goodness she always has them handy!
- An even easier option: beyond your business card, carry some sort of card that displays what your product or service is. Professional Organizer Ann Sullivan always carries business card sized cards that showcase what goes on her in Closet Makeovers. An instant way to promote her service and expertise to a potential client or member of the press. The designers behind the innovative shirt company Elizabeth Daniel New York and accessories innovator Stefany Di Manno of Di Manno Designs are rarely caught without an amazing postcard-sized card featuring the multiple styles their collections offer - as an aside they're also always decked out in their designer duds. Emily Blumenthal, founder of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards and author of the book, Handbag Designer 101 is never without a copy or two of her book when she's out - a smart move!
You get it! The point is, you never know when the stars will align and you'll be in a room with someone who is going to ask you about your business. At that moment you want to be able to spark their interest and leave them with something to remember you by. Also, just as important as it is to be prepared in case a major business influencer or press person is around when you're out, it's just as important to have takeaways for future customers or clients as well as friends and family, another reason why a small sample, postcard or visual sparking interest about what you do or what you sell is so important.
One final note: sometimes when I talk to entrepreneurs who are promo-less at events or on the street and I ask them why, they insinuate they don't want to come across as too pushy. It's time to get over that! You work too darn hard to not wear/display/carry promotions for your "business baby". Sure, immediately following a friend's toast at a wedding or smack dab in the middle of a child's Bar Mitzvah may not be the best time to begin pitching your product, that's for sure. Subtlety is key. That said, when the conversation gets around to what you do, or who you're wearing, as it inevitably will, be sure in the future the answer becomes a chance to proudly share what keeps you Tin Shingleing all day long!