How to Use ‘Schwag’ as a Marketing Tool

Giving away products that bear your company’s logo can effectively capture — and keep — people’s attention. Most consumers own about 10 promotional items, which they typically hang on to for six months, a far longer period of time than any other form of advertising, according to a global study by the Advertising Specialty Institute.

If you’re considering using “schwag” (or “swag,” for “stuff we all get”) as part of your 2014 marketing strategy, you’ll want to make sure it not only fits your budget, but also ends up in the hands of your target customers. Here are five tips for using promotional items as a marketing tool, so your outlay on freebies is money well spent.

1. Appeal to the right crowd. If you plan to promote your business at a big community event, it may be cost prohibitive to offer a high-quality polo shirt to the hundreds of people you may come into contact with that day. A small magnet bearing your company’s vital information can keep costs down — and let potential customers know how to reach you at a later date. Meanwhile, if you aim to give items only to one or two key prospects, you could consider a larger product, such as a desk accessory or a gift basket bearing your company’s name.

2. Choose an appropriate item. “We primarily work with architects, designers, and contractors, so our schwag of choice is a pen with a built-in measuring tape,” says Claire Vannette, sales lead for Planters Unlimited, a company that designs and manufactures commercial-grade outdoor planters. “Because our clients find it useful, they’ll pick it up again and again, seeing our logo every time.”

3. Develop and follow a strategy. Whether you ship a free item with orders over a specified dollar amount or hand out a set number of items at a trade show, have a plan. This helps to ensure that your giveaways support your company’s marketing goals. Planters Unlimited often uses pens as a trade show giveaway, Vannette says. “Sometimes people don’t want to take a business card, but if you give them a pen, then they have [your company’s name] on the top of their mind if they want to make a purchase,” she says.

4. Use gifts to generate leads. Instead of simply handing out freebies, ask consumers to fill out a form or a sign-up sheet. “Potential customers who genuinely want the piece of schwag will usually not object to this, and you can easily turn these email addresses and phone numbers into leads for your sales or email marketing teams,” notes Eva McKnight, PR specialist at Formstack, which makes software for creating online forms. “Just make sure you provide a disclaimer on the form so the user does not feel spammed.”

5. Gather more data with larger freebies. “If the business is giving away a smaller item, like a T-shirt, keep the form short and only ask a few questions of the user,” McKnight suggests. “If the giveaway is larger or more exclusive, like a year’s supply of a product or service, then the business can leverage that giveaway to collect more expansive information about the user.” You could ask questions about how your product or service is used or request more demographic information, such as ages and income levels.

About Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who covers small business and personal finance topics. Her credits include Industry Today, MyBusiness Magazine, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, and many others.
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