Everybody likes free stuff. So why not give people free stuff emblazoned with your company's logo? They’ll think of your company each time they use their freebie. Right? Sure, makes sense to me.
But picture this scene: A woman is walking up and down the aisles of a trade show carrying a plastic bag already half full of logo-laden freebies. She stops by a booth when the vendor is busy helping an actual customer, and with her forearm she swipes several pens off the table, right into her plastic bag. It happens. I've seen it many times over the years.
But what about that one guy who sees your logo on his free coffee mug every morning? When he’s ready to buy, he thinks of you first. Right? That’s a definite possibility.
There’s a whole bunch of research out there indicating that promotional items work, but they all seem to be published by companies who promote promotional items (did you follow that?). In other words, the information found online is anything but biased. I'm not going to share any of those skewed statistics with you, but if you’re interested, just Google “research on promotional products” and then keep in mindwhoconducted the research.
Instead of throwing some silly percentages at you, I'm going to walk you through three important questions to consider when deciding whether or not you should include promotional giveaways in your marketing plan.
Question #1: What's your goal?
This is the first question you should ask yourself before planninganymarketing activity. Ask yourself exactly what you're trying to accomplish with this particular marketing effort.
Here are some possible goals you may come up with:
Brand awareness and future sales. The idea is this: If you have items floating around the world with your branding, then more people will eventually buy your product because they've become familiar with your company and products.
Lead collection. If your goal is to collect new leads (email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses), then giving away a freebie might be a good way to entice people to part with their personal info.
Customer retention. Unlike the previous examples, in this scenario you're giving free stuff to your current customers as a gesture to say "You're a valued customer and I appreciate you."
Because everyone else is doing it. People have come to expect freebies at certain events like trade shows (think about the woman earlier in my post. Wouldn't she be ticked off if she had to walk away from your booth empty handed?) But if you're buying giveaways just because everyone else is doing it, you really need to sit back and think about this for a minute. You know the whole saying about jumping off bridges so I won't say it here. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean it's right. Think about your company and your goals. Trust me, if you have a great company and a great product, you don't need to do what everyone else is doing. And your real customers won't care that they didn't get a free magnet when they stopped by your booth because they know that they're getting great products or services, and that's much more important.
Question #2: What's your budget?
You'll need to determine how much you're willing to spend to achieve your goal. Good giveaways are expensive, and cheap giveaways are, well, cheap. If your budget is very low, then you may want to come up with a better way to achieve your goal.
Question #3: Is this the best option?
Before buying a bunch of branded key chains, really take some time to think about it. Is giving away freebies really the best way to reach your specific marketing goal? Are there perhaps some marketing activities that will get the results you want while being less expensive, easier to track, and so on? If you think about this and then still decide to go the giveaway route, then definitely go for it.
As with most marketing activities, you’ll just have to learn what works for your company based on trial and error. There’s no way to put out a blanket statement saying “Yes, this works for everyone” or “No, it doesn’t work for anyone.” It will depend on your industry, your customers, and your business itself. So if giving out promotional items is something you’ve been thinking about, give it a shot. Start small and increase it if you find that it works for you.