I’m having a good time responding to questions from my 6/18/09 presentation to CPSE.  Thanks, ladies.

Q: With so much moving online, what do you bother to print?

If a tree falls and no one hears it...

If a tree falls and no one hears it...

A:  I’m not qualified to answer questions about e-commerce and web-based customer self-service.  I’ll answer this from the perspective of the solo-preneur who asked the question.

What goes online and in print varies from a person to person and must align with industry norms. For example, when I ran an environmental contracting business my market was general contractors with public-bid jobs.  Contractors are low-tech, and expect bids to be FAXED, not emailed.  Most of them have Yahoo or Hotmail accounts and a LIGHT web presence if any.  I could have senselessly spent a fortune on multimedia that would have been like the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it. Instead, I hired a telemarketer who made personal contact with the estimators and then followed up with a customized packet that spoke to our expertise on the kinds of jobs the contractor bid.

On the other hand, when I ran a software and services consulting firm we had to demonstrate our tech chops — everything was online.

Answer these questions:

  1. Where do the people you  most want for customers turn when they’re looking for your products and services? Referrals from people they know or from independent raters like Angie’s List?  Straight to the Google search page?
  2. When you’re at a business mixer, how often do people ask you to send them a packet of information?
  3. When you present your qualifications/proposal to a new prospect, what materials do they spend time REALLY looking at?  What do they repeatedly ask for that you don’t often bring?
  4. Why do your competitors do what they do?  They may have best practices or they may be laggards, but it’s always prudent to check them out.
  5. Do you represent a product or offer a service that requires buyers to hunker down and study to make a decision?  Offer that online for sure — also in print if you’ve got lots of money to spend.  When I meet a new client I find it helpful to simply sit with them at a computer screen and go through pages on my site and elsewhere.  This assures that they’ve seen my site and gives them a constant place to go if a printed piece goes astray.

Business cards & postcards

Business cards are, in my view, still a must. There’s an ongoing and lively discussion on whether you should include your social media “handles” on the card (for example, you can follow me on Twitter @TamelaRich).  I can see all points of view.

I also carry 4.25″  x  5.5″ double sided postcards that act as a mini home page.  Most people, when given the choice, will take a p-card instead of a b-card.  Given the nature of my work, that’s all the print collateral I need, b-cards and p-cards. Your mileage may vary.

How ’bout it, experts?  What else should entrepreneurs/small business owners consider?