Oh, No! Don't Say Giveaway!

  • Jul 14, 2009

We get lots of phone calls from companies looking for products to give to customers, prospects, or even employees in an effort to market themselves. Many of them already have an idea what they want, based on their previous efforts, what they've seen others do, or perhaps a tight budget (we're all familiar with that scenario). “We're going to a trade show, and always give out pens to visitors,” we're told. The assumption is that anything with their name on it will serve as a reminder of their brand, and somehow influence people to buy their product. We agree that branding is important, but how about a little deeper thinking?

Let's understand the difference between a giveaway and a promotion. A giveaway is a one-way street. If you're standing in front of your booth and handing everyone who passes by a 25-cent pen, you may just as well be handing them quarters. That cheap pen is most likely to be tossed in a drawer, given to the kids, or thrown away. (Maybe the quarters would be more meaningful!) Of course, you don't really think that they're going to be compelled to do business with you as a result of either giveaway.

Measure the effectiveness of your promotion

A promotion is a two-way street. It starts with thinking about what you want your prospect or customer to do, then deciding what to do to influence them in that direction. Something of value is exchanged for something else of value. It doesn't even have to be of equal value, as long as the value is meaningful to both parties. For example, a financial planner might give out an imprinted booklet on money management to those who fill out a short interest form. As a result, he'll have useful information about prospects who might have both the interest in his services and the ability to pay for them. He'll pay more for the booklets than for a cheap pen, but they'll only be given to real prospects. Without spending any more money, the targeted promotion will bring measureable results.

Our friend Michael Crooks, a promotional consultant in Michigan, tells a story of a breeder of toy poodles who was thinking about giving out pens at a show, simply because he had seen others do it. A little questioning revealed that poodles who have grown over 10" tall become ineligible for show competition. After some creative re-thinking, a promotion developed featuring an imprinted ruler that, along with his contact information, said “Breeder of Champion Toy Poodles, call me when your dog gets too tall.” Suddenly, the product became relevant to the marketing goal. And of course, it was only given to people who trained toy poodles for shows. That's targeted promotional marketing.

Instead of a giveaway, let's develop a promotion! It's what we do best.

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