You already know branded merchandise helps get a lead or two at a trade show. Your team hands out trinkets like candy, and a few potential customers remember your company’s name.
But there are many other ways to help boost your revenue with branded items. Conventions, expos, trade shows, and conferences are just the beginning. Those same items — including the extras left over when you get back from a conference — can bring you leads in a dozen additional ways.
10 Places Your Branded Merchandise Can Bring Customers to Your Door
1. Your Website
You can sell branded items such as mugs and T-shirts on your website, and loyal customers and fans can share their love of your products. This helps advertise your company. It also enables you to identify a high-value customer you can approach with special deals and offers.
Don’t hide these items in your online shop. Periodically offer a special discount on them via pop-up ads, in your newsletter, via SMS, or by other similar channels.
2. Your Pro Shop
Everything we said about selling branded items on your website also applies to your store. Put them up front in the impulse areas or bundle them with high-demand items. You can include your branded merchandise alongside other products.
This can be trickier for service businesses, but maintaining a small shop is a profit opportunity on its own.
3. Buy One, Get One Promotions
Whether in person or online, create an offer where customers get a free piece of branded merchandise when they buy something else from you. This can work to your advantage in several ways beyond getting more of your swag out in the world:
- The freebie might push people to decide on a purchase.
- People who want the branded merch might be moved to the decision by the other item.
- It segments your lead list, identifying a particular buying behavior.
- It’s a way to make a profit if you ever overbuy tchotchkes for an event.
The next time you fly, bring a half-dozen pieces of branded merchandise. “Forget” them at different places like gates, bars, gift shops, and benches.
Some will go unclaimed. Others will get picked up but forgotten. Still others will pique the interest of somebody who might go on to become a customer.
This technique works best for companies with nationwide customer bases.
One important note here: In the post-9/11 world, TSA looks for anything large enough to be a bomb, and there are laws about abandoning bags or other items. Make sure the merchandise you leave is small, innocuous things somebody traveling might want or need. Phone chargers and pens are great examples.
5. Follow-Up Gifts
One-time buyers can become regular customers if you reacquire their attention at critical intervals after they make that first purchase. Sending a free follow-up gift of branded merchandise is a powerful way to do this.
Once you research the best timing, send them the gift at the address you have on file. You can also send an email asking to confirm the address so they can receive the gift, which means you only send them to people with at least a little interest.
Make the gift something high-value or inexpensive but likely to be used often. That way, the customer thinks of you more and remembers you when they need something you offer.
6. Conferences You Don’t Attend
You can also send your swag to conferences where you don’t have a presence.
If you have a friend or a business ally attending a conference, send some of your swag with them. This increases the perceived value of interacting with them at the conference, meaning they’ll have a more prosperous time while distributing your branding for free.
If you’re connected with a conference in your area, ask about the gift bags they’re giving presenters and attendees. Most will let you insert a sufficiently valuable piece of branded merchandise for free. Many of the rest will allow it for a small sponsorship fee.
7. Local Partners
If you have a friendship or strategic partnership with another local business, you can ask them to do almost all of the things we’ve listed already, spreading the word by gifting the merch to their customer base. Reciprocating this is the least you can do, but you can also engage in joint offers to build your brands.
Put together a collection of branded goods, plus one or two overstocked items popular among your customers. Hold a raffle, online giveaway, charity gifting, or another high-visibility event that gets eyes on the prize and on both of your brands.
8. Breakrooms & Lounges
This is similar to the airport idea but a bit more focused. Identify medium and large employers in your area whose workforce might need what you offer. Speak with management about giving away valuable merchandise to their teams.
For those who say yes, make a sign and drop the items off in their breakroom. (Bonus points for including a coupon or discount code to encourage those who take it to interact with your brand.)
You can do the same with private clubs, airport lounges, and similar spaces. As with the breakrooms, be sure to ask permission first.
9. Your Employees
Employees love free stuff, and giving them free things they can use often or wear puts your brand out among the community. If someone has a friend or family member who works at your shop, it gives you one more point of contact that can nudge them toward a buying decision.
Ensure the swag you give your employees is nice enough for them to wear or use outside the office. Otherwise, they’ll choose to wear and use other brands during their time off.
Whether it’s you personally or representatives from your team, volunteering onsite at local schools, charities, and events is a time-honored and effective way to build awareness and a positive brand reputation.
Ensure your volunteers arrive fully decked out in branded t-shirts, hats, jackets, and anything else you think would be helpful and appropriate. If it works for the volunteer effort in question, also send them plenty of branded merchandise to distribute among other volunteers, paid staff, and the general public attending the event.
Final Thought: The $10 Tchotchke
This model is growing in popularity for online advertising, and done correctly, it can produce a stream of high-quality leads.
The idea is to create a branded product that shows substantial value and costs your company between $3 and $5 per unit. Many companies are now using a full-length, printed book, but you can brand any quality item with a perceived value in the $10 to $20 range.
Offer that item free, asking people to cover $10 (or $9.99) for shipping. Then dial in your advertising until you spend a total of under $10 on each sale for unit production, shipping, and advertising.
The result is a stream of leads you know will spend money, each of whom costs you nothing to acquire.
Chase McEntyre is a longtime freelance journalist in New Jersey.
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