The Business Side of the Business Card

Every conference I've ever been to involves the "swag bag." Literally. It's a tote (with author / store / publishing house names printed all over it) that's jam-packed with business cards, bookmarks, postcards, pens, keychains, band-aid dispensers (yes), mints with personalized wrapping, and any other thing the author / pub house could think of to get the average person's attention.

And when it's all in a big fat pile like that, you learn fast what works and what doesn't. Poor quality printing and pixelated jpegs stand out like a sixth finger when we all know there's only supposed to be five.

Yes, business cards are fast, easy and cheap. Yes, pretty much everyone has them. So why do they continue to prevail? Exactly because they are fast, easy and cheap. When I want to direct someone to my blog do I want to just say the name of my blog and hope they remember it? Or take out a pen and scribble the name of my blog on a napkin and hope that 1) my writing is legible and 2) they don't mistake it for trash and throw it away later?

No, I really don't want to do that.

I want to hand them my card with the site on it and my other pertinent social media contacts (Twitter, Facebook, etc). Later they can find the site, bookmark it (or hey - follow me!) and then toss the card. Not a loss to me - I spent .08 on it and I already got my return if they visited the site. And if they couldn't give less of a crap about me or my blog? They throw it away, and that's .08 I'll never see again. Not a huge loss.

Big swag items are fun - printed shirts, hats, totes, teddy bears, underwear (you know I want that for Writer,Writer Pants on Fire, right?), but in the end they're serving the same purpose as the card - drawing attention to me or my blog. And after the person has gone to the blog, they might be thinking, "Well, that's great and all, but now I've got this shirt / hat / underwear I'm never going to wear again..." Yet because they've met you, or perhaps because they are keenly aware that you went that extra mile and spent real money on your swag they feel guilty throwing it away... so they keep it.

And if they're anything like me, they kinda resent the teddy bear with your name on it that they can't quite bring themselves to pitch. I don't really want my name associated with resentment, or even guilt if they do indeed go ahead and toss the stuffed critter.

What are some of the most effective forms of swag you've seen? Do you think swag can have impact without being expensive?