Step onto the trade-show floor like a boss.
Business cards aplenty.
Brochures at the ready.
Even brought some assorted candies to toss.
Why’s that crowd over there?
Your rival’s giving away an iPad Air.
You’re in the Swag Game. Their win. Your loss.
In the hard-core gangsta rap intro above, the protagonist was out-“dolla-dolla billed” by the competition. If I had better rap skills, the story would have unfolded to show that by making smart choices, promotional items can make a big impact with just a little bling.
The ultimate promo piece is something that will get significant use or sit in clear view on a potential client’s desk, gently reminding them just how awesome you are. Because this is a tech article, I’ll try to leave the “most relaxing stress ball” and “which koozie keeps a beer coldest” to someone else (although I have conducted extensive field research on koozies). For maximum impact, our company likes to deploy a three-tiered system.
Tier 1: ‘Sure! Take a handful for your kids, too’
This is the cheap stuff. Cheap doesn’t have to mean bad, though. It just has to have a price point that keeps you comfortable when handing it out to everyone you see:
Pens with a built-in stylus. We’ve had tremendous success with the kind where the tip comes up through the middle of the stylus. Writing with a stylus is an unnatural feeling anyway. People seem to love that the pen and stylus feel exactly the same in the hand.
USB flash drives. I don’t use them much. With Cloud technology, I’m far more likely to share a link than a flash drive. But lots of people do use them. So if you’re going to order a crate of customized flash drives, go big or go home. I’m talking big storage, of course. Nothing crazy, but make sure you’re at least counting in GB’s and not MB’s. And don’t get too gimmicky with bracelets, keys or spring-loaded magic. No one has ever said, “Man, that’s such a good-looking flash drive I don’t even care if all my data fits or not.”
Other suggestions: Microfiber screen cleaners, which are always nice to have around. A USB wall charger, which I can never find when I need one. Silicone sound-amplifying phone docks, which work surprisingly well and should find a home on someone’s desk.
Tier 2: ‘You’re in luck! I have one more left! [wink, wink]’
These are a good deal more expensive. You’ll want to save them for really warm leads or client appreciation gifts. Anything in this category will make a longer-lasting impression than a calorie-rich gift basket of candy, crackers, chips and dips:
Bluetooth speakers. I love them. No cords. Great sound. Work with most devices. The link (as with all links in this article) is just a starting point. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors with which to best portray your brand.
Backup battery power banks. Everyone should have one in his/her swag bag, so why shouldn’t your logo be on it? It’s like jumper cables for your smartphone. (Note to self: Buy jumper cables.)
Tablet sleeves and bags. It’s nice to have something that lets you bring only your tablet and a few accessories when you’re traveling light.
Others worth (not) mentioning: Anything too device-specific like iPad keyboard cases or docking stations. It might be OK to gamble on something specific at a lower price point. From the client side, it’s really not fun to receive a cool gift you can’t use.
Tier 3: ‘Everyone wants what I have, and all I want is your business card’
Strategy changes here. These items are for door prizes and such. One item, lots of leads, but surprisingly tricky. The better the giveaway item, the more buzz around your booth. If you have the budget, pick up the latest tablet, noise-canceling headphones or jewel-encrusted royal scepter. If you’re hampered by reality and budget, try these:
Action cams. GoPro is the gold standard in wearable action cams and, subsequently, there’s a huge selection of mounts and accessories for every activity. The $499 Hero4 Black shoots in professional quality 4k resolution, but my choice would be the $399 Hero4 Silver. It still shoots in 1080p HD and adds a super-handy touch display. I’d also be happy with the $129 Hero. The Polaroid Cube is interesting due to its small size and price. I bet the fun you can have with it is just as big.
Polaroid Socialmatic. Did you know Polaroid was still making cameras fun? While digital photography and social media have changed the definition of “sharing” a photo, sometimes it’s nice to do it the old-fashioned way — with actual prints. The Socialmatic lets you do both. It prints on demand and is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS enabled. You can edit, filter, crop and share directly to social media via an Android operating system.
Wearable tech. It’ll be interesting to see how the Apple Watch changes this segment. My guess is that it’ll ignite an already hot market. I won’t go into many examples here. I’ve already written about the Watch and some of its competitors. That said, a high-quality but affordable fitness tracker like Fitbit is something almost anyone would put a business card in a bowl to win.
These days you can slap a logo on just about anything. So why is it so difficult to find the perfect promotional item? The tried-and-true pens, koozies and water bottles are a safe bet but unlikely to make your company stand out in a crowded field. Other products seem cool at first, but turn out to be solutions looking for problems that don’t need solving. (“I’ve never needed to adhere a credit card pocket to the back of my cell phone, but since it has your logo on it, and it’s free, why not>”
It’s time to step up your Swag Game … and remember to send me one, too.