Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media and technology questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), a nonprofit organization comprised of entrepreneurs.
Q: Coffee mugs, ink pens, t-shirts — which type of promotional “swag” draws the most positive attention to a company?
Anthony Krumeich, CEO and co-founder of Bloodhound in San Francisco, California:
Effectiveness depends on the specifics of your business. Bloodhound has gotten a great response from plain black T-shirts with our company name written in bold across the front. I’ve had people stop me on the street and say, “I love your shirt. Where can I get one?” If you have a great logo, stickers might be a good investment.
In general though, I tend to favor ‘permanent’ swag over throwaways. Items such as pens, bouncy balls and keychain lights are fun, but usually get tossed after the event. By giving away something useful, such as a bottle opener, a drink koozie or a T-shirt, your customer is more likely to use it over and over again. This will lead to a higher likelihood of thinking about your company and, hopefully, user engagement.
Ultimately, though, swag is a nice supplement but cannot stand on its own; the underlying product, idea or company has to be solid. So, before allocating any part of your budget to swag, I would make sure that your fundamentals are covered first. You want people looking under your company’s hood to be impressed. To prevent being ‘all show and no go,’ make sure the fundamentals are there before you go about adding all of the bells and whistles.
Joseph Ricard, founder of Plum Investors in Miami, Florida:
As for swag, I have used all types of forms of ‘leave behinds.’ For the exotic car rentals, we gave out shirts to the renters, and we gave them out to highly attractive females for photo opportunities. Our shirts were very good quality, and our tank tops looked great on females!
For our Tunebash app, I plan on giving out an iPhone 5s and iPhone 4 cases that we will raffle in giveaways. This will be used in a social media campaigns to get the app more attention and more users. We are only giving away an iPhone because we have an iPhone app — not because we are selling vacuum cleaners. I have noticed people give out pens, when their company has nothing to do with writing. It should be something your company does at the same time. If you’re a music company, give out some headphones, if your company is a boating company, then give out the floatable keyring, etc. Don’t give out water bottles if you’re an auto company.
Leaving a cheap ‘leave behind’ or swag is important so you can give out a lot, but if you can leave something that is attached to your product or service, it will probably have a higher conversion rate.
Matt Hunckler, founder and president of Verge in Indianapolis, Indiana:
You can spend a fortune on swag and you’ll probably never be able to accurately measure the impact each piece has on your target customer. So, you may as well set yourself apart by expressing your uniqueness.
Pick items that resonate with your core brand values and evoke a strong reaction. Don’t invest in items that don’t stand out or have staying power (if you think it might just get thrown away, it probably will). Ditch the establishment and go for something funny, outrageous or remarkable. Sometimes what’s most remarkable is what you do with the items.
Show people you really care about earning their business by personalizing each item as a gift. Deliver it personally or in a unique way. Most companies don’t take the time to do this -- fortunately for you, that can really set you apart.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Do you have questions you would like to see answered by these young entrepreneurs? Share them with us in the comments below or via email and we’ll pass them along to the YEC for future series.