"We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries/We got to move these refrigerators. We got to move these color TVs..." Mark Knopfler
I turned to the woman on my right and whispered, “Do you want this?” I pointed to the insulated can holder. She shook her head. “I’m not going to use it.”
I turned to the man on my left and asked him the same question. “No,” he said, “I’m not going to use it.”
I looked around the room. There were probably 50 people at this networking event hosted by one company. They had invested in cutesy notebook paper, the aforementioned insulated can holder, and pens for their audience to take with them.
I had only one thought. How many other people in the room would discreetly toss these items at their earliest convenience?
Folks, this is money for nothing.
Pens, papers, fans, sunglasses, magnets, cups, hats, desk accessories, t-shirts, and the ever popular tote bag. The list of promotional items you can buy to promote your business is endless. But do promotional items, or swag, really work?
The Unbiased Truth from Swag Companies
According to the companies that produce them the answer is yes. (Shocker!) But is this what you call success?
According to Designhill, a promotional item company, this is a measure of success:
1. In the U.S., 8 out of 10 consumers have one to 10 promotional products
2. Six out of 10 such consumers keep promotional products with them for up to two years
3. 85% of people do business with the advertiser after receiving a promotional item
4. 31% of the US consumers own a promotional bag
5. 89% of consumers can recall the advertiser even two years after receiving a promotional product
6. 63% of consumers give away their promotional products when not needed.
Did you notice what all of these statistics have in common? None of them cite their sources! Who did these studies?
Where are the links to these studies to prove they are legitimate? And most importantly, were these studies performed by a third party with no vested interest in the outcome? We don’t know.
I’m most interested in the third statistic that 85% of people do business with a company after receiving a promotional item. I’ve never met any of those people. Have you?
And who cares if 89% of consumers can recall the advertiser two years later? What matters is, did they become customers? (If you believe #3, they did, but that’s a lower statistic, isn’t it?)
Or how about these four reasons to buy swag, courtesy of Kintechinc, another promo company.
1. Swag increases brand recognition
2. It reduces your ad costs
3. It offers additional value to the end user
4. It increases customer loyalty
Kintechinc goes on to say, “However, it is crucial to keep in mind that customers will only be loyal if they receive quality branded merchandise that they can hold onto for a long time.”
My thoughts? Horse hockey. Balderdash and nonsense.
The reason I don’t like swag is because it tells the wrong story. In fact, it tells no story at all.
Maybe promo items do boost brand recognition and all the other claims the company makes. I just don’t buy it.
Handing out pens, papers, fans (a hot new item), and all the rest does not create a valuable connection with the customer. It does not give them a reason to do business with you. It just gives them free stuff.
And please, do not tell me that swag helps you to "get your name out there." Who cares?! I don't want my name "out there." I want people buying from me! How does swag create conversions?
I’m always preaching to tell the customer’s story because that’s how you get sales. So please tell me how a pen, a fan, or a notebook shows the prospect that you are the go-to business for them, especially if your competitor is hawking the same stuff?
How does that show you are different from them? It doesn’t, but it does make the promo companies very happy.
Give Out a Different Kind of Swag
Do this instead. (It's a radical idea.) Give out “gift cards” at events. You choose a dollar amount. Include a printed magnetic piece that can be put on a refrigerator. On the piece, list how you solve their problem and make their lives easier.
And don’t sweat it if not everyone takes advantage of your offer. Those that do are the people looking for you.
Let your competitors suck up their marketing budget with worthless gadgets. Take a stand. Stand apart.
That’s money well spent.
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