Picking the right freebies

Everyone loves a freebie. True, it has to be the right freebie and it has to be offered at the right time in the right way. But if you can fit those three requirements, a giveaway is usually a great way to attract business and build some customer loyalty.

Promotional gifts are a good way for you to put your name in front of potential customers and remind existing customers that you’re still around.

Trouble is, most such gifts are the same – pens, mugs, mouse mats. Many even come from the same manufacturer. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, you need an extra edge.
Spending a lot of money is one possibility, but maybe it’s one that should be reserved for business gifts to offer only very special clients at Christmas.

Otherwise you could look for something a bit out of the ordinary, How about these ideas, roughly in ascending order of cost:

Bookmarks: everyone reads books, even if it’s only the phone directory, and everyone needs occasionally to mark their place in a book. Think about promotional bookmarks – on stiff card, laminated paper, or lightweight translucent plastic – that can include your contact details and sales message. You can print thousands for under a hundred quid.

Postcards: witty (maybe non-promotional) messages or interesting images on one side, a reverse that is blank except for a discreet promo from you. Or go large: find a bold, brash, fun marketing message and treat that as the front-side artwork. Encourage people to pick them up in your store; stack them in small counter-top dump bins or in literature dispensers.

PC screensaver or Windows desktop background ‘wallpaper’ – not expensive to commission, and can be designed to have real value for the user (as well as promotional value to you). The simplest options just have a static image, though it’s not too difficult to provide something that cycles through a series of images. Two more advanced ideas: desktop wallpaper that includes an self-updating calendar in the corner displaying the current month with today highlighted. And a screensaver that includes the current time along with a ‘post-it’ style reminders panel.

Mobile phone wallpaper/screensaver: customise your customer’s phone by preinstalling your very own wallpaper. A suitable image editor won’t cost more than £30 or so – try LogoManager Pro Suite (www.logomanager.co.uk) or Ringtone Media Studio (www.ringtonemediastudio.com). You’ll need to put some effort into the basic design, or pay someone else to do it, but thereafter preloading the wallpaper is a quick ‘n’ easy job for a wet afternoon. Or you could pipe in the ‘paper while the customer is filling in the contract form.

Notecard packs: parcel up boxes of ten or a dozen of your postcards. A jobbing printer should be able to do all the packaging for you (cellophane wrapping is cheap and easy, a cardboard box with your branding will cost a bit more) as well as the print.

Desktop doodle pads, perhaps with a printed calendar (useful) and of course your details (essential). A good one for the B2B market; an A3 or A2 pad of pre-printed tear-off sheets for scribbling notes and numbers will be a boon to many businesses.

Lanyards: neck or wrist straps for phones (or digital cameras, or just about anything else) can be printed with your name and number. Aim to pay £150 or less for a hundred.
l Mouse: mats are pretty ordinary these days, so why stop at the mat? Go the whole hog: your-brand mice are pretty cheap in modest quantities – shop around and you’ll find brandable examples for less than £3 each (the artwork will cost you extra though).

Photo frames in aluminium, polished wood or even stiff card. Your self-promotion here has to be discreet, of course; the recipient won’t want your message to detract from their loved ones (or dog, or David Beckham).

USB flash drives (aka pen drives, memory sticks, thumb drives) – these plug-in data storage gismos are replacing floppy disks. They’re great for corporate buyers (you can preload your catalogue and other material) but they also work for consumers – girls like funky pink examples, you can preload music or jokes, they’re really useful for students … Around £8-9 apiece in smallish quantities

Mouse mat plus:
this is a mouse mat that has a built-in extra, typically a calculator and/or a clock at the top or the side. Yes, it’s a (relatively) pricey gift – £7 or more depending on quantities and branding – so save it for your better B2B buyers. And you can be (pretty) sure it won’t get discarded or given to someone else or lost.

Where to find the goodies?

Go to Google, of course. Start with a search for something like “promotional gifts” and check out a few online catalogues. When you find something you like, bookmark it and do another Google search for that item to find the best price (and maybe an alternative). But don’t neglect local suppliers: true, most of the Yellow Pages listings under “advertising and promotions” will be for tee-shirt printers and mug suppliers (potentially useful, even so – everyone needs tea and tee-shirts). But hunt around and you may find something more imaginative. And check out local printers too; they often have ready-to-go promotional ideas.

On the subject of printers, perhaps for the postcard idea listed above, it’s worth contacting a few of the bigger online-oriented print companies and asking for their sample pack. That should give you lots of ideas. The best pack (though not necessarily the best prices) comes from www.printing.com.

Competitions and prizes

You’d think that the chance of getting something for nothing (apart from the effort of entering your name and maybe a contact number or email address) would be an unmissable offer. This is often not the case: some contests and prize draws produce remarkably small response.
And you’d think that the bigger the prize, the better the response: a holiday for two in Hawaii would attract more people than a £10 top-up voucher or a SIM card. You’d be wrong.
There are several issues here:

You’re not alone in thinking the big prize will attract a big response. Many would-be entrants believe that too, so they think that statistically they have no chance. That can outweigh the minimal effort required to put in an entry. They might feel much more comfortable about their chances of winning a smaller prize.

Similarly, a single big prize is going to a single winner. A hundred prizes increases the likelihood of success for any entrant. The £2,000 holiday could be replaced by a hundred £20 prizes.

The prize has to feel right – it has to match the giver’s image and the participant’s expectations. It’s not credible that a local phone retailer is offering a Hawaiian holiday; a weekend in Paris feels much more realistic, more sincere even. A freebie D600 is entirely believable, a top-up card is very accessible. The ideal prize is something that (a) fits your image and (b) is relevant to your target audience. These two work hand in hand, since your brand messages are designed to appeal to particular markets. Of course, if you can offer more than one prize you can target different groups with different offers.


Why choose a giveaway item?

When making the decision to go down the corporate freebie route it’s always wise to take a step back and ask the question: “Is this really going to benefit my business?”

Sometimes it’s all too easy to think that in order to retain credibility you should have something to give away, and because you don’t want to spend too much you end up looking at the cheapest items in those samey corporate gift catalogues and end up buying 500 mouse mats that no-one’s going to use!

That’s not to say that corporate gifts are a waste of money, on the contrary, when chosen well they can serve as permanent reminders to your customers of who you are, so next time they want a new handset you’re uppermost in their mind.

Your audience and choice of item

To get the gift right you need to examine your audience. B2B dealers for example would perhaps appreciate office accessories such as branded post-it notes, note paper towers, stress balls and mobile phone holders.

For example, at the recent Hugh Symons unity® seminar we gave away phone holders which light up when your phone rings. These are now sat on every employee’s desk and are likely to remain so for a long time. Over seven years ago we produced a mobile phone holder in the shape of a deck chair – some of these are still around today!

Consumers are a different proposition altogether. You may wish to give something away with every sale. This is a great way of ensuring that all your customers keep something with your brand on it. Start with getting your own carrier bags printed instead of using standard stock carriers. This gives the impression that you’re a professional outlet and care about your brand image. You may wish to include something small like a pen, calculator, key ring, book mark or a mug with their purchase. The trick here is to choose an item which will get used.

Another tack you could take with high spend business customers is to send them a gift shortly before their contract is up for renewal along with a letter thanking them for their business for the last 12 months and offering them some more attractive deals for renewing their contracts. Here higher value items come into play such as a clock or a document folder – items which are generally guaranteed to be regarded as valuable and not get discarded.

Last word: One important thing to remember when ordering corporate merchandise is that often lead times can be long due to the personalisation element and printing time required. Make sure you allow at least 8 weeks from point of order to delivery, but always check with your supplier before placing an order. Shop around too – there are many companies out there with corporate gift items so make a few comparisons and get different quotes before going ahead with your order. Don’t forget the set up charge for your company artwork will cost extra to the listed item price, as will more colours.

Google’s sandbox
Last month’s toolkit included a link for Google’s keyword tester, aka the Google AdWords Sandbox. And then google went and changed it. Here’s the new address:

 Stick to the rules
The obvious laws apply to competitions and prize draws: you need a set of rules that the entrants can check, you have to honour your commitments, you have to handle complaints appropriately. The best practice (and the strictest guidelines) have been laid out by the Advertising Standards Authority here:

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