Standing Out in the Crowd I know I’m either going to show my age with what I’m about to say or, worse, brand myself as hopelessly anachronistic. Regardless, I’ve found our current business culture to be increasingly impersonal. If you have any doubt about this, feel free to pick up a phone, dial up any of your service providers and try to get an honest to goodness living, breathing human being to talk to on the line. Sure, you may indeed get one, but you’ll wear the skin off your index finger pushing the number pad trying to get through the automated prompts and you’re likely to spend the better part of an hour waiting on hold waiting. I probably shouldn’t be using that example. I know, I’ve sold my fair share of those automated attendants in my time, but I wanted to make a point. We’ve become reliant on technology and doing business through computer proxy. It’s the norm. Exceeding limitations means breaking out of the norm, though. Expanding your business takes more than doing what the rest of the crowd is doing. With that in mind, let me make a radical suggestion that really shouldn’t be that radical, advertising with a personal touch. No, you don’t have to personally answer every single call that comes into your office. What I’m suggesting is to print business cards (if you’ve got out of date or monotone cards, update your wallet with professional, color business cards) and brush up on your social networking skills. I’m not talking about knocking on doors and hitting people with aggressive sales pitches. What I’m talking about is actively engaging people in your community. You shouldn’t lead with your card, either. Save the business card for the tail end of your conversation, after you’ve made a personal connection. In the process, you’ll make some friends, find new customers and become a more prominent and recognizable face in your community. That’s the key. When you put a human face on your business, people will feel more comfortable spending their money with you. Given the choice, most consumers would rather deal with someone they know in their community than another cold, faceless corporate entity. This works both ways too. Since your customers will be friends and neighbors instead of walking dollar signs, you’ll find that your levels of service and commitment to delivering on your promises will increase, which will further bolster your customer base. It’s a win/win situation that requires a very minimal investment - just the cost of business card printing and a small expenditure of your time. It could be the thing that finally makes your business an enduring, local institution. Who knows, it might even inspire you to turn off the automated attendant and answer your phone when a customer calls. Hey, I can always dream, right?