The Line Card: Kicking Your Competition’s Tushy Since The Gütenberg Press

Line cards… what’s that? What do you mean you don’t know what a line card is? Wait… seriously!? How can you have lived this long and not… OUCH!

My wife says, ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ Fine, fine… but she didn’t have to snip my ear.

Let me start again: A line card is a single-page, short, succinct, clearly and concisely formatted ‘shopping list’ or ‘menu’ of the products or services that you and your business offer to the world at large. A really good one will give the most information in the least amount of words, and – the great ones – will even have comprehensible pricing structures included within the verbiage.

For our business, we had developed a line card before we even opened our doors. It’s a great way to be able to permanently communicate what you have to offer to potential clients, and it’s also a cost-effective means of transferring the maximum amount of data in the smallest and, least likely to be disposed of, manner when networking, or meeting potential clients on the fly.

They’re useful to keep around at all times (because – hey – you just never know) and, when writing them, they’re also a phenomenal exercise in paring your business down to its very essence. When it comes to an initial introduction to your business (in my humble opinion) less is more. If you hand me a quasi-catalog with 3-color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a caption on the back, I’m really unlikely to digest the whole thing. In fact, my initial instincts are usually to just toss the thing. And this is sad because I know – I KNOW – that I’ve missed opportunities to explore products or services that I truly need.

Line cards are a different animal. By going minimal, they offer a ‘big picture’ in a small package, thereby allowing the customer to pursue follow-up interaction. How do I know? Because it’s happened to me before. Specifically, my day job requires me to purchase tens of thousands of dollars in raw metals each month. And, while most are readily available, some of the more exotic metals are a real pain in the kiester to get my hands on – especially at a reasonable price. So, when a steel vendor walks in, I skim their line card. What am I looking for? Three things: 316 Stainless, 317 Stainless, and 655 Bronze. If they have a line for those, I’m finding out more. Why? Because these are things that I actually need.

For those vendors who walk in with a shiny folder full of magnets and gee-gaws and doo-dads, I usually distribute the freebies to whoever is handy and wants them, open the folder for two seconds, see it’s a lot of stuff I don’t have the time, nor desire, to read, and toss it.

While I may be in a minority, I still feel that I’m a good case study: Line cards tell me that the vendor knows my time is important, and the fact that they’ve taken the time to allow me to peruse their offerings in a compact format appeals to me.

As you’re reading this, you might be saying, “Heath, you don’t know beans. A line card won’t work for my business model.” To which I would most likely reply, “I’m not a legumeologist,” (probably not a real thing, anyway) and, “You’re wrong.” In fact, one could potentially argue that the bare essence of your offerings would be more likely to afford you a second interaction with the vendor. Why? Because if they see something there they are interested in pursuing, they will then contact you for more information – on their time or on their turf. Now THEY have come to YOU. Now is your time to shine and, hopefully, convert them into a customer.

So, in summation: a line card is a short, succinct, ‘menu’ of your business’ offerings. It may contain pricing – or it may not – depending on your business model: either may be preferable. It should be an exercise in minimalism (and if you’re bad at this, challenge yourself to write some haiku for a week and, then, come back to it. I find that it’s amazing what haiku can do for your writing acumen.)

Above all – keep it simple. Make it portable. Make it available at a moments notice. And for the love of Weird Uncle Pete, be prepared to shine when the customer tracks you down and begins asking the questions. Want to know more? Need specific assistance? Would you like to see a sample? Let me know! I’m always happy to assist in any way that I may. You – and your business – are important to me! And, more importantly, to the Stateline area. Good luck!

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~ by digitalninjasmedia on May 14, 2012.

 
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