You may know already that my first foray as an entrepreneur was when I was 13 years old as a purveyor of hot dogs. (I love selling hot dogs so much that, to this day, I still get the “Hot Dog Seller News.”)
With the money I earned from my first stint as a hot dog seller (there were many more stints that followed) I bought a printing press and found myself in the printing business. (I still love the smell of real printer’s ink.)
I set that business up in a small trailer that my dad was using as his farm business office. He was in the front, I was in the back. And I had a lot of fun in my own space creating printed items for local business people and organizations. I was amazed that people would pay me to do something that I loved doing so much. (And would gladly have done for free.)
I learned many valuable lessons from being in business for myself as a teenager.
An important one was that you don’t really have a sale until the check clears the bank.
That was when I also learned that you don’t have to do work you don’t want to do. I remember someone asked me to print some propaganda once that went against all my values. I asked my dad about it — he’s always been a wise soul — and he told me I didn’t have to print it just because someone was willing to pay me to do it. So I didn’t.
And that was when I learned that you must always put your area code with your phone number on every marketing piece you produce.
I had very cleverly run an ad in the Classified section of Popular Mechanics magazine offering my services as a specialty printer of business cards, stationery, labels and the like. I even created my own little catalog. And lo and behold, I got orders! I’ll never forget opening the mailbox to find that first envelope with a check in it. I was ecstatic to say the least.
Then one day, I got a letter very angrily letting me know that someone was trying to call me on the phone but they didn’t have the dang area code. Not sure why he didn’t just call the operator and ask, but when I finally spoke with him, he explained to me that I needed to put my area code in my marketing materials because not everyone lived where I did. So from then on, that’s exactly what I did.
It seems like such a simple thing, but you’d be surprised at how many places we have traveled to, littered with signs of all kinds exhorting us to “call! call! call!” a phone number — but without the area code. The assumption by the sign maker, of course, being that everyone in that area likely wouldn’t need an area code. But they weren’t thinking about travelers and cell phones.
I see the same thing in ads in newspapers. No area codes. The one thing it seems that everyone is forgetting is that even local numbers must be called using an area code whenever someone uses a cell phone. And these days, cell phones now outnumber landline phones by quite a bit. (I am predicting the demise of landline phones is coming quickly.)
And if you live in a larger metropolitan area, such as Phoenix or Los Angeles, there are multiple area codes depending on what township someone is in. Scottsdale is different than Phoenix and if you didn’t know where someone was, calling them could be a problem without that area code.
You may be wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of area codes. Well, it isn’t just area codes you need to provide to your prospects and clients. You really need to provide clients and prospects — prospects especially — all the ways that they can reach out to you.
So if you’re willing to accept phone calls, be sure you publish your phone number (with the area code!), plus your fax number (if you’re still using one; many people today still like to fax), your email address (of course) and your web address where, hopefully, you have some kind of contact form.
Give them your snail mail address, too, and while we’re at it, never be shy about asking them for their snail mail address, too. Having that bit of extra data opens up a whole new world of marketing possibilities for you.
A good place to make sure you have all of this contact information is in every email you send out. You put that info in your “signature” block. If you’re not using this subtle marketing tactic, go right now and add a signature to your emails. It’s probably best to avoid a graphic image in your sig since some internet providers out there think graphics = spam, but if you have an irresistible gift offer to get people on your email list, make sure you include a link so people can get it.
You’d be surprised at how much business may come your way simply because you provided some key info in your email signature.
Bottom line is this: make it easy for people to contact you in the way they are most comfortable. That is likely different for every person, some prefer the phone, some just want to email you. Just make sure they have lots of options so they can choose the way they prefer.