To increase their business image, every businessperson goes to networking meetings. This is an attempt to win more business or get an introduction to that critical alliance partner that will take his or her business to the next level. It’s a familiar dance…the “elevator speech” about your business and what you do, the swap of business cards and the follow-up later.

Many small business cards look amateurish when compared to established businesses. Spend the money to have them printed and with a unique form (rounded corners, high glossy, or special material) that will make your card stand out. This card is your conduit of future business, so this isn’t the place to cut corners on cost.

Then the information on the card is critically important. There should be numerous ways to contact you, including your mailing address, telephone, fax if you have one, web site and email address. Even instant messenger handles for someone in a technology business.

You do have a web site, right?

Your email address isn’t gmail.com, yahoo.com, or hotmail.com is it?

Houston…we have a problem! Given the explosive growth of the Internet, it is the height of business foolishness to not have a web site. Even if it’s just a one-page site that explains who you are and what you do, you need that web site. With the prolific growth of smart phones, people are not using telephone books to find a business, they’re using SmartPages.com and Google to find out how to contact a business.

One-page web sites are incredibly inexpensive. There are also options out there ranging from free (your home ISP such as Road Runner probably provides you simple sites for nothing) to several hundred dollars with other providers.

Most Microsoft products (Word, Excel, Publisher) will publish documents as HTML – the language of the Internet. So if you can layout a page in Publisher, you can create your own simple web site. And in newer versions of Publisher, if you can fill in the blanks in a wizard you can build your own site even easier.

Besides helping you get contacted, a web site makes your business look like “BIG BUSINESS”, which is what most small businesses want to do – they want to look a bit bigger than they actually are.

Whatever you do and however you do it, GET THIS TASK DONE!

Let’s talk email now – I cringe every time I get a business card with a free email account printed on it. To me and many others, a card like this screams “SMALL HOME BUSINESS” to the person you gave the card to. That may be true, but most of us working out of our home offices are trying to not look small and marginal, we’re trying to look big and professional. A free email account on a business card will negate many positive impressions.

Besides, there are many problems with the free accounts. Due to the millions of users all large ISPs (AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail) have, they can be very aggressive about black-listing (blocking) email. And once on that list, it’s next to impossible to find a real person to talk to in order to fix the problem. Then accounts can be deleted without warning if they’re inactive for a period of time.

These two issues are just the tip of the iceberg in the issues you can run into with these providers. The solution to this problem is to have and run your own email accounts, which again, presupposes you have that web site and hosting set up. A web site and business email is about creating a vital business image to survive in the 21st century and not a “nice to have” option for your business.