Teamwork: You and Your Business Cards

Expert: Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I devote much of my time giving people tips on how to do things frugally. Business cards are, indeed, frugal. Let me share a few of my own frugal ideas for using business cards directly from my book The Frugal Book Promoter.

I love business cards. The plain old, business-size cards fit into easily into wallets. Techy types scan and add plain old business cards to any Outlook file in a flash. Plain old business cards fit into either frugal or designer card carriers. And plain old business cards can be made into mini-ads.

I don’t love them just because they’re inexpensive. I like them because they tend to be kept. My husband keeps a stack of business cards for resources in an elastic band; he stows them in the drawer where he keeps all his pens and pencils and he never loses them. For him to keep them, though, they must fit into his stack, contribute to the nice, dense little brick he is making of them. If they are too big or fat, they don’t make it into his own, unique little file system.

I collect the business cards I’m given into Outlook when I get home from writers’ conferences and other events. But if they’re odd-size, they may never get home with me. They’ll get lost in the bottom of my purse and stay there for a year. Because I’m a writer, I often get bookmarks in lieu of business cards. They’re nice. They’re useful. But they aren’t sure-fire marketers like cards. They tend to get lost in the innards of books which in turn get shelved. The next time they get seen, they have become either vintage or heirloom.

But most of all, I love to use them as mini advertisments. I know. Graphic artists will groan, but if folks don’t get too tied up with what is acceptable in terms of design, they can include endorsements (or blurbs) or quotes from the book as well as an image of a book cover. They can include promotional offers and teasers to get people to check the book out on Amazon or the author’s Web site.

They are mighty because:

  • They mail flat.
  • They’re keepable. Many people collect them.
  • They’re inexpensive, though I’ve never seen them truly free as VistaPrint. com often claims.
  • They’re inexpensive enough you can use several, each targeting the audience you want to reach.

I have one for my HowToDoItFrugally books for retailers, one for the HowToDoItFrugally books for writers, one for my poetry and one for my fiction. I use them for other things, too, but more about that later.

I believe in using business cards in unconventional ways. As an example, I’ve even used them as invitations for:

  • My seminars.
  • Each class I give at UCLA.
  • My book launches.
  • My radio and TV appearances.

Yep. I just hand them out and people have the dates, links—everything they need—to put on their calendars when they get home.

Here are some other ways I use my mini-ads:

  • I pop them into the envelopes of bills I still pay using USPS.
  • I slide them into the books I mail to reviewers or as gifts.
  • I put them into the boxes of anything I ship.
  • I take them to writers’ conferences with me, tons of them. Writers in my audiences get one with handouts. One gets into every book that’s sold from the back of the room or from the bookstore the conferences set up.
  • Occasionally I’ll even leave one or two in a ladies room. You never know who might be interested in what you are doing.

Conference and Tradeshow Idea: Let business cards help you organize tradeshows or conferences. Bring a seven-subject notebook, one section for each day or for each seminar you attend, etc.. On each separator page tape a #10 envelope in which you can slip business cards, bookmarks, mini-notes to yourself, and small brochures. When you arrive home, part of your filing and sorting will be done. An envelope taped to the inside of your notebook cover should carry a batch of your own cards for easy access.

Here are some things I like to do with business cards:

  • Use endorsements or blurbs liberally. They sell instead of merely informing.
  • I use both sides. My preferred use for the back site is an offer for something free. People tend not to lose something that will get them something free.
  • When I am lucky enough to win an important prize, I sure enough mention it on my business card. Sometimes the organization that awards the prize provides logos that can be used on cards.
  • I use them in media kits, the kind with tiny diagonal slits in the fold-up pockets on the inside to accommodate a business card. If you’ve printed on both sides of your business card , show one side up in the slits on the left pocket, the other in the slits on the right.
  • When I need a truly classy, well-designed card, I let Reno Lovison design one for me. There are times when do-it-yourself (frugally!) just doesn’t cut it.

So, how do you use your business cards? The folks at BookBuzzr would like to know. So use the comment box on this blog—that’s another of my favorite ways to promote. But information on that must wait for another day.

The author is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t, winner of USA Book News’ Best Professional Book, and Book Publicists of Southern California’s Irwin Award. Its sister book, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success, is also a multi-award winner. Her new booklet of word trippers is Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy.
Her complimentary newsletter Sharing with Writers is always full of promotion tips, craft, and publishing news. Send an e-mail with “subscribe” in the subject line to

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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