Procurement Corner: Lasting Impressions….Are Business Cards Passé?

Thinking back over the several decades when I managed Procurement organizations on government contracts for one of the aerospace & defense giants, I recollect the vast number of times I either exchanged business cards or merely received them from businesses hoping to do business with “me” (us). Occasionally, I would share them with my purchasing staff however, and in all honesty, the majority of the time I eventually just “filed” them, usually in a (infrequently used) rolodex or bottom of a drawer. Unfortunately, this scenario is not unusual today.

So what’s the point of swapping them in the first place? In theory, the objective of “the exchange” is to share critical business and contact information. From a supplier’s perspective, create lasting impressions to receive future orders as needs arise. From a procurement perspective, having viable sources readily available to meet technical demands and achieve mandated small business procurement goals. Did you know that government buyers and contractors still have procurement small business goals today? Yes, indeed!

So, how does a supplier seeking new or additional business actually convey all this “critical” information in such a tiny space on a 3 ½” x 2” business card? And how does one get the information in front of the right person(s)? Better yet, who is/are the right person(s)? Is there a viable alternative or supplement to business cards to help achieve success?

Revisiting the basics, we all know the intention is creating lasting impressions – “value-added”, gaining a competitive “edge”, “getting your foot in the door” or some combination of these targeting the bottomline. Typical business cards offer (in very small font) information like company name/address, point-of-contact, title, phone numbers, email, logo and, maybe even a catchy little phrase (i.e., “Specialty Drilling since 1978”). Little more. So what additional information would make a buyer more efficient and help sway him/her into contracting with your company? What knowledge would reduce the buyer’s “researching” time and make the process faster while reaching those small business goals? I often suggest to my clients a one-page (8 ½” x 11”) “Capability Statement” (CS). Provide only information needed, well thought out and in an easy-to-read format which, when “scanned”, will quickly convey all the buyer needs to know but not, information “overload”. More is not better!

 Simple suggestions/minimum information (from my procurement/government perspective) include:

· Company name, address and logo (optional)

· Contact info/website

· Brief but concise (2 -3 sentences, max) capability statement (what your company offers/what’s special), bolding your business size/status

· Bulletized list: What sets your company above the competition

· Brand names/products or services you offer; special equipment

· North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes

· DUNS #, CAGE Code, GSA Contract number (if any), etc.

· List Key Customers

So, are business cards passé? Probably not. Is there a more effective way of communicating your critical information? I suggest there is! To be continued on future ASBDC blogs – Suggestions for CS formatting, specific content and, addressing the “how to find that right person(s)”.

Note: This technique/tool works equally well for both government & commercial entities.

Don’t “Get Filed”…..Don’t be Passé!…..Make an Impression! 

Scott Sealing is a Procurement Consultant with the UH SBDC (TX) and an ASBDC member. He also works closely with the UH PTAC (TX) and is an APTAC member.  He specializes in counseling small businesses through the rigorous process of registering with government agencies, and then researching and bidding on government contracts.  He also provides SBIR/STTR proposal development support.  Scott has over 28 years of procurement and logistics experience working for A&D prime contractors on federal contracts.   He supported NASA contracts in NM, TX, FL, AL CA and, DoD contracts in NM and CA.  Scott is a certified Supply Chain Management (SCM) Professional (SCOR) and is certified in the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt curriculum.  He has authored white papers on SCM and conducted domestic & international presentations for government, industry, and academia on procurement and supporting government contracts and, on the effective application of SCM tools & techniques.