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10 guerrilla marketing tips using your business cards

Our article today comes from an email I received from Vonnie Maddox (follow her on twitter here or check her portfolio out here). I chatted with her for a bit on twitter and asked her to shoot me some questions she has as a freelancer just starting out - and she didn't disappoint. With the question below came an email with about 15 other questions, which made me realize something - freelancing can be a bit rough when starting out fresh and not knowing the ropes like other seasoned veterans.

Below is the question that this post stems from.

I've got business cards printed up, but rarely find anyone to give them to. Are there places that designers can leave cards where they might get noticed, such as printers...?

Since I personally didn't have business cards for the first year or so of freelancing, I know that this is a question I've often asked myself over and over again. Besides handing them directly to someone, how can we utilize our business cards to market us - even if we're not around at the time someone gets their hands on them.

Below are some ideas I've put into use in the past. I sincerely hope they help you out in your freelancing business and I hope the list sparks other ideas as well - and feel free to drop a comment with your own guerrilla marketing tips using your business cards.

  1. Turn them into bookmarks - You can leave your business cards inside books at the library. Make sure the books are ones that your target market will be reading. You could also get creative and design bookmarks like you would your business card. Overnight Prints has some great bookmark packages for highly cheap prices you can check out.
  2. Leave them in strange places - And by strange, I do not mean the toilets in a public restroom :) But if you can find a unique place to put them, they'll stand out more. Try inside magazines at the doctors office, leave one behind with your tip at a restaurant, ect. The more off the wall the place, the better.
  3. Point an arrow at it - Here's one I tried - and succeeded with. Find stores in your area with places you can tack cards/paper to - grocery stores usually have these when you first walk in. Use a thumb tack to put your card up. Now, take 15-20 thumb tacks and put them in the shape of an arrow, pointing directly to your card. It'll instantly stand out.
  4. Make a coaster out of it - Yes, realistically your business card will become wet and will eventually be of no use, but if you leave it on a table inside a starbucks or a place similar to that, with a cup sitting on it, people will notice it.
  5. Send one with a bouquet of flowers - Send a potential client a bouquet of flowers (assuming the potential client is a woman) and in the spot where you place the card, place a nice written card and behind it put 2-3 of your business cards.
  6. Turn your cards into magnets - I recently seen at wal-mart that they have packs of 100 business card sized magnets which you can stick your business card to. So, being the 'outside-the-box' thinker that I am, I took 10 of them (5 front facing, 5 back facing) and put them on street poles (the ones around here have metal boxes on them - flat surfaces). One guy emailed me already and mentioned them - he took it home with him and has it on his fridge now!
  7. Business card or coupon? - For those of you who haven't printed your business card yet, try this one out. Use the back of your card as a 'coupon' by designing it to look like a coupon. Get it printed in a paper stock you can write on and put a line in the design for a "referred by" spot. Let your friends/family take 10-20-100 cards and write their name on it so they get credit (or even offer them a referral bonus).
  8. Gas Station Counter - This is another one I've personally tried and received clients from. Purchase a business card stand from Office Max or any other office supply store (I purchased the $1.00 ones) and place 10-20 cards on the counter at your gas station. You never know who will come to the gas station, see your card, call you and hire you.
  9. Fish Bowl Marketing - Get a glass fish bowl and put a sign in front of it asking business card carriers to place their card in for a chance to win free design work (or copywriting, consulting, a free dinner, ect). Make sure you have a stack of your cards next to it so interested people can take one. Now, you've got interest and a fish bowl full of potential leads (minus the winner of course).
  10. Free, take one - Here's another one I've used before. People love to see the word "FREE" so by putting a small sign (even hand drawn if you'd like) next to a stack of business cards that says "FREE - take one", peoples eyes will gravitate towards them. They'll (hopefully) find it funny, grab a card and check your site out.

Obviously these are just some of the ways you can turn your business cards into a great guerrilla marketing tool for your freelance business. As I said above, if you've got more ideas, feel free to leave a comment so others (as well as myself) can benefit from your knowledge. I know I've got some amazing readers here, so I expect some creative ideas in the comments section :)

Also, I am planning on doing a series of articles from questions I get from you guys, so don't hesitate to contact me with questions.

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  1. Max says:

    Loved reading this article and will definitely try some of your ideas out there.

    Even though it might not lead immediately to new client work, but it’s also a subtile way to get a certain kind of reputation in a local area which is important too.

  2. Andy says:

    My business cards are A6 full colour so I when I go to my local train station I like to slip one in at eye level somewhere on the platform. I find they stay there for days!

  3. Pojikitty says:

    Have you seen this one, using augmented reality, and also folds into some kind of phone, iphone stand.

  4. Mark Kaigwa says:

    Excellent stuff. Awesome post, I have to say. I love some of the ideas, and they’d be pretty new for the Kenyan market, I’d say.

    The Fish Bowl idea is the one I really like, as well as unique places – I can think of a couple already – the coffee shop, doctor’s, printer’s, etc.

    Stumbl’d with pleasure!

  5. Mario Awad says:

    Great tips. The bookmarks idea is the best in my opinion. Thanks :)

  6. Tarya says:

    This article is really interesting, thanks for sharing your experience.

    The last 3 points concern me a bit, from my experience business owners (unless you have some kind of relationship with them) aren’t kind enough to let you advertise your business in their shop. 9 and 10 might be illegal unless you pay some kind of fee in certain countries.

    The first two tho, they are really smart ideas.

  7. Akash says:

    Awesome article as Guerilla marketing is.All the points can surely generate some good business leads.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

  8. Vonnie says:

    These are great ideas, and I will definitely be trying them.

    Another thing about business cards is that sometimes it’s hard to give them out, not knowing who to give them to, if they will be wanted, or if the will be accepted then thrown away. These ideas are offering them, but not shoving them down someones throat. They can take them IF they want them.

    Thanks for everything Mike. As usual, you’ve outdone yourself! I will be looking forward to the other articles. :)

  9. Mike says:

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I really appreciate them and am glad the article is going over well.

    @Tarya – I would suggest asking the store owners (around here, all gas stations and 7-11, ect. allow them to be placed). Not sure any of the ideas are illegal though :)

    @Vonnie – thanks again for the email with the questions. I’ll be knocking out a bunch of the other ones this upcoming week.

  10. Angie Dixon says:

    Thanks for the ideas, Mike. I would have thought it would be pretty obvious that you’d ask permission to leave something in a store, but thanks for clarifying that anyway.

    I agree they wouldn’t be illegal, providing that you got permission, which of course you would do before you left something on someone else’s property.

    I’ve actually had reasonable success with leaving “free take one” offers in local businesses, when I was doing pet photography.

    If you have an attractive display and ask politely, most people will offer no objection. I never had anyone tell me no, actually, and I refilled the stands periodically for them.

  11. Thought about redesigning the card from time to time these will definitely be kept in mind. Great advice, thank you.

  12. Great tips, I will follow this written here, thanks for share.

  13. Great idea I love the find crazy places to put my business Cards. Our company is “Thompson Touch” so on one side of our card we have a solid black background and the word TOUCH in big white letters, everyone has to pick it up… It works great.

    I once had a company call me and ask me to come and work for them as an in-house designer, never saw my work but found my Business Card propped up on top of a urinal (my favorite place to leave cards)and he was hooked, I couldn’t take the job but it was a good feeling.

    I love the “Free take one” idea… I’m going to have to try that.

  14. Erica Conway says:

    Hi All,

    While intrigued by the ideas here, I would encourage any freelance designer to consider identifying a target market, finding some meet up groups ( or local professional organizations and attending those meetings. You can learn more about the needs of your target audience, offer your perspective on helping them solve their business challenges, build trust and relationships and hand out your valuable business cards face-to-face. Most professional designers want to work with professional clients who understand the value of a designers contribution to overall problem solving using design tools. Perhaps not every business professional knows how to find a design pro, but it’s unlikely they’re looking for one at the grocery store or the gas station. I encourage you to explore both options in tandem for best results.

  15. Osom ideas! Love 7and 10. Tnks

  16. Rachel Price says:

    A very professional looking business card is really very important in promoting your business. It makes good impression among customers.;*;

  17. Reece Khan says:

    A very professional looking business card is really very important in promoting your business. It makes good impression among customers.;;~

  18. SHINE says:

    Thanks for that! Will be sure to try the fish bowl idea!

  19. Pat W. Kirk says:

    I like the bookmark idea and the magnet idea. I’m not sure our Walmart carries them but I’ll definately look. People may find my card stuck all over the place.

  20. Ben says:

    Loved the tips provided..
    Was a good read..
    Thanks Mate!!

  21. Awesome and very helpful idea being shared here, I’m gonna bookmarked it, and share to buddies later.

  22. Damien says:

    A cheap way am promoting my business is that I purchased custom laptop rap/sticker of my company’s logo so it covers the entire laptop lid.

    Each morning I go to the coffee store near my work prior to the morning rush and position myself so when people start coming in my laptop lid is facing them.

  23. I find if there is something in it for them, they will allow the fishbowl. Say you buy a $25 Gift Card for their store and that will be the drawing prize.

  24. Very cool ideas! Great content here, Mike! 1. Well done and 2. Thank you

  25. Gerald M Guest says:

    That library tip is great, thanks

  26. Hey! I love doing this with my biz cards – and its so passive. You gotta eat, right? Well, each time you walk into a grocery store drop one in the handheld basket by the door.

  27. Rick says:

    Where to print the famous quote closing?

    You are at a business related party and you are in networking mode. You are talking to everyone in sight that wants to talk to you about your favourite business related subject. You’re closing your polished pitch and now it’s time to breakout your best marketing tool, yep your biz card has your contact info on the front with a “famous quote close” printed on the back.

    So, in closing you turn your business card over to the back and use your famous quote to close with the perspective customer…Why? Your quote that you choose helps to make your pitch memorable and if they like your “famous quote close” they will keep/share your business card with their business associates.

    Yes, print a famous quote with your closing on the back of all your citation business cards, why? You need to add whatever tools to your business card that gets your prospect to remember you, right?

    I have a few samples created below…Just a thought, RR

    Here are just a few quotes and closes I have created:

    So what’s the next step? As quoted by Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” To be successful you need to take action and get started. We are here ready to get started with you. Please contact us here.

    Take action today because “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen,” by John F. Kennedy. Let us help you make things happen today! We look forward to hearing from you so we can make things happen together. Call here…

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