Is your business card laminated or matte? What type of paper stock does it use? What type of font, and at what size? Is it full-color on one side (or both sides) or spot color? Does it feature your company logo at the top or toward the bottom?

More important than the answers to these questions is realizing that for just a little more effort than you expend designing and producing a business card, you can compile your information and publish a handbook about your business. With the advances in print-on-demand technology, you can then control the quantity and availability of the book to meet your specific needs. Presto! A published book is now your business card of choice.

Of course, a book doesn't replace your business cards entirely. Rather, it becomes a supplement to your branding and promotion efforts. A business card still has its place and is certainly preferable in some instances. On the other hand, handing a potential customer or business partner your book at the end of a meeting or seminar immediately elevates you to a higher level. New customers or clients will look at you from a different perspective and see you as a published author, as an expert.

Why It's Worth Your Time

Don't allow the concept of writing a book to scare you. Your book should not be a 1,000-page tome. In fact, approximately 100 pages would be the ideal length. Make the length congruous with the content. This is easy, because people also like Top 100 lists. For example, 101 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale by Jane Smith. One tip per page. One hundred and one pages. Done.

Imagine then, if your 30-second elevator speech sounded like this: "I'm Jane Smith and I recently published a book that can help you increase your profits by 30 percent when selling a piece of property. Would you like a free copy?"

Now doesn't that sound much more compelling and memorable than "I'm Jane Smith. I'm a real estate agent. Here's my business card."

A book does a number of things that a business card cannot do:

1. A published book establishes your credibility and can help to further establish your expertise. Consider this: If you had a house to sell and were deciding between two agents, one with a business card and the other with a published book, who would you choose, everything else being equal? Probably the published author.

2. People keep books, whereas many business cards reach the trash can before the end of the day, or wind up lost in a pocket. People place books on shelves, refer to them later, and even pack them in boxes when they move!

3. People share books with other people. Through no additional effort of your own, you become an expert to that secondary customer, too, rather than just a name and a number on a business card.

4. Receiving a free book is memorable. The point of handing out business cards and having an effective elevator speech is to be remembered. Yet how inclined are you to share the story about the time a real estate agent handed you her business card? Now, how inclined are you to share the story about the time you bumped into a published author in an elevator and she gave you a free copy of her book?

5. Books leverage marketing opportunities. One of the worst things about business cards is that you have to personally hand them out, which means the number of people receiving your card is directly related to the number of people you meet personally. This is not an effective form of marketing. By contrast, having a published book allows you to market your business to potentially millions of people you may never meet. The book does the marketing for you. All you have to do is make it available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google.

It's Easier Than You Think

With the advent of the digital age came a seismic shift in the publishing industry, which included the proliferation of self-publishing companies that help authors, entrepreneurs, experts, poets, business owners, and everyone else easily and affordably publish and distribute their books.

Nearly all these companies can produce short-run paperback books for your personal use, and many of them can also include distribution through some of the world's largest book wholesalers, making your book available online exactly like any other book. Then, by using Internet marketing strategies, which many publishers will share with you, you can efficiently drive large numbers of potential customers to your publication. When they type in "home for sale" into a search engine, your book appears among the listings (notice how you astutely put that key term into the title of your book, 101 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale).

Don't worry about making money from the sale of the book itself. The real profits come from making the book exceedingly affordable (more so than competitive books) and extremely informative, so the reader is compelled to contact you directly for additional (more profitable) business, like selling a home. The margin for a selling a home is much higher than the margin for selling a book. Don't step over a dollar to pick up a penny.

Naturally, your contact information should be easy to find within your book, but most importantly, your book needs to contain valuable, helpful information, and be professional in its appearance and content. The first goal should be to share your knowledge and expertise so that readers are compelled to become paying customers.

Be sure to choose a publishing company that can provide important functions such as professional editing, formatting and cover design. Like your business card, your published book needs to be a high-quality reflection of your professionalism and value.

Go ahead and try it! You will be surprised and excited by how effective this new business marketing tactic is.

BRENT SAMPSON, bestselling and self-published
author of
Sell Your Book on Amazon and Self-Publishing
Simplified has helped thousands of authors realize their
dreams of publishing and distributing their books worldwide.