Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why I Exchange Business Cards

It’s almost a standing joke among my colleagues in the ASJA. When I come to the conferences, they ask where I’m living this year. And in some ways, it’s true. For the last several years, I’ve been moving around from Colorado to Northern California to Colorado to Arizona. When I hear the comment, now I smile and say, “I’m not moving. We’re in Arizona to stay.”

My story isn’t unusual in the publishing community. Change is a constant part of the publishing world. Editors change. Agents change. People change positions. People change locations. The phone numbers and addresses change. Several major publishers have moved to new buildings in the last few years. It’s simply a part of the environment of publishing.

Whenever I travel to a conference (any type of conference), high on my priority list is to pack plenty of business cards. I am constantly surprised when editors don’t have them or ran out or only brought a few to exchange. It’s the currency of this business. At the two conferences I attended in the last few days, I made a point to give out and exchange cards with people. If they took my card and didn’t naturally dig in their bag or pocket for a card, then I actively asked, “Do you have a card?” If they didn’t then they often wrote down the information for me.

Some people asked me for something. I wrote that request on their back of their business card to handle when I returned home. I learned to make these types of notes years ago.

OK, now I’m home from two back to back conferences with a pile of business cards. What next? Bundle them up and stick them in a drawer somewhere? Not hardly. These cards become the keys to my follow-up work. They are reminders of bits of conversations and the necessity to ask additional questions or pitch story ideas to the editors.  Faithfully I have collected this information and added it to my rolodex. If I already have a card from someone, then I check the current card to see if their information has changed (and often I find that it has changed).

Several years ago, I purchased a Targus business card scanner. It scans the business cards and takes the information into fields which I can synch with my Outlook address book. I’ll be the first to tell you that the scanner isn’t perfect.  Some cards it doesn’t read and some times it puts the wrong information in the wrong spots—but it is quicker than typing in all of the information. For me it was an extremely worthwhile investment in the work.

Besides follow-up work, I also use the cards to expand my network of people. Some times I’m asked for a referral (for writing or something else). I want to have the information where it is easily accessible. Never forget the power of information.

It will take several more days before I handle this pile of business cards on my desk. They will not be tucked away until they are processed and added to my computer.  If I tuck them away without adding them to my database, then I should not have collected them in the first place.

1 Comment:

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Thanks for the practical tips about business cards. I have an article coming out in the June issue of The Writer magazine called "Business cards are more than clutter" that touches on many of the same points you made.

One other thing that I've used business cards for is finding sources for articles. I can't believe how many doctors, teachers, therapists, etc. that I know because I've met them at conferences and exchanged business cards with them. I created a source list from my collection of business cards and broke it down by area of expertise. When I need to jazz up an article with a quote from an expert, I often refer to it first.


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