Don’t forget your verbal business card

Heidi Miller, the empress of shameless self-promotion, calls it your "two-second statement".

Carl Wellenstein, a successful career-transitions coach I met at an NSA/GLAC meeting (and ran into again last weekend at the Summer Symposium), called it a "verbal business card"—right before he called me on not having mine at the ready.

And he was right. (I knew he had to be, since it annoyed me so much.) As an entrepreneur, probably the simplest, most important self-promotional tool you have in your toolbox is not that sexy 2" x 3 1/2" piece of card stock you (or you and your graphic designer) slaved over, but its aural equivalent: a short, sweet statement that (a) sums up what you do and (b) leaves them wanting more.

There are lots of advantages the verbal business card has over its printed counterpart. In addition to being less expensive to produce, it’s infinitely mutable, eminently portable and starts conversations rather than ends them.

Think about it: 99% of the time, you’re handing over a business card after you’re well into a chat; a verbal business card can actually help you kick-start one, and a mighty interesting one, at that. Seriously, what do you think is more likely to pique someone’s interest when the dreaded "so what do you do?" comes up: "I’m a career coach" or "I help people make their dreams come true"?

That’s a critical component of the successful VBC: focusing on the end benefit of your product or service rather than the product or service itself. It’s more engaging to whomever you’re talking to, and more energizing for you. I know I get much more excited about my work when I think of myself as someone who "translates people’s dreams into words and pictures" than I do when I brand myself as a "graphic designer" or a "marketing expert". In fact, I nodded off a bit even as I was typing them.

And as a big, fat introvert, I know how intrigued (and grateful) I am when someone makes it easy to "conversate", as the kids say. A provocative (within reason) statement like "I help people fall in love again" (a travel agent) or "I get paid to sound like I know what I’m talking about" (Heidi Miller, who is a trade show presenter).

So what do you do? And more importantly, how are you going to start a conversation about it? If you haven’t already, now is as good a time as any to start thinking about it.

And if you’re already starting conversations, by all means, let us know how you’re doing it in the comments section…