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Collateral Damage

The marketing collateral we pick up from seminars and various businesses can be a big source of organizational anguish. What do you do with all the cool business cards, brochures, matchbooks, postcards advertising films and other printed material that someone out there spent so much effort creating and printing?

First, slap your own hand away from the cute little business card holder and bowl of matchbooks when you leave a restaurant. Instead, if you really like the place and want to remember it, get out your smart phone and pop the address and phone number directly into your contact list. The exception to this rule is if you need matches and for the majority of us, that’s pretty unlikely. I’m still trying to use up the matchbook collection I had as a teenager, and I’m nearing 50.

Not grabbing every shiny printed item you see is absolutely key to staying on top of collateral. When you do sincerely need (or are given) a brochure, a menu, lecture notes or a business card, you will need to have a place for it so that it doesn’t begin cluttering your desk top or center desk drawer.

Files are, once again, the answer. If, for example, you occasionally pick up brochures on cool things to do in the Bay Area, you will need to have a file labeled “Local Activities” or “Bay Area Activities.” When you bring home a new brochure, pop it directly into the file. You can do the same thing with other categories, such as take out menus, gym schedules, notes from your garden club lecture, etc.

If you are at a seminar or conference and collect a lot of business cards from other attendees, it may not make sense to put them all in your contacts list. In such a case, I like to staple them all to a single sheet of printer paper and put the date and name of the conference on the sheet. That sheet then stays with other information from the conference and if I ever need to get in touch with someone I met there, I can find them easily. It helps to make notes on the backs of business cards to jog your memory about the date, event and maybe some other identifying information.

Seminar and workshop materials, usually in bags and binders, also need a home and are not something most of us need to keep longer than the information is fresh, which is about a year. Always schedule time when you get home from classes and conferences to go over the materials and determine if you’re going to keep them. They do not get more relevant with time, and will just take up desk or file space unless you make sense of them immediately.

If the class or conference material was presented in a binder and you want to store it that way, make sure the spine is labeled—always include the date—and keep it on a bookshelf or spine up in a file drawer. I prefer to take material I want to keep out of the bulky binder and get it into a file.

Never underestimate the importance of dating collateral material you receive. If you begin to get overwhelmed by business cards or brochures, you will always have a little extra edge of knowing which is the most current if you’ve written dates on them.

If you’ve got bunches of business cards that you’ve collected over many years and never organized, bite the bullet and dump them. Start over with a clean slate. Most of those people have moved on to other jobs, other cell phone numbers, other email addresses. In some cases, even the area codes have changed. Life moves awfully quickly and it’s too short to spend dialing defunct numbers.