Imagine how many more happy customers you could have if you could get inside people’s heads. Think Being John Malkovich with an entrepreneurial twist. Unfortunately, you can’t literally get yourself in someone’s head, but you can get your brand in there.

Promotional items are everywhere and (most) businesses aren’t giving away free stuff simply out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because it’s a great marketing strategy. You can increase brand awareness, generate new business, and encourage brand loyalty. It’s a way of using gift-giving for money-making!

Psych 101

Human brains are hardwired to respond in certain ways. When it comes to exchanging gifts, studies have shown that we are prone to feeling a sense of obligation when we receive a gift. We might not be conscious of it, but the good Giftsfeelings we get when we are given a present makes the giver appear more endearing in our eyes. This perspective then inspires us to do something for them. For businesses, this usually means the initiation or continuation of a profitable relationship. Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory, explains it well (we knew TV was good for something).

Choose wisely!

Almost anything you can conceive of can be printed with your logo. So pick something that underscores your marketing message and sets you apart from the competition. You want a person to use your gift and start to remember and recognize your brand. In other words, don’t be cheap. Good stuff has a natural way of making it into conversations and there is no better way of being recognized than by word of mouth.

High-quality items will usually get physically passed on. Promotional items often have a way of getting re-gifted to other people (an acceptable exception to the standard no-no). Businesses do business with other businesses, after all, so try to pick something with a long shelf life.

How do you get your promotional item in the right hands?

You get more bang for your buck if you give away an item that your target market uses in a setting where they can make decisions about your company. This tactic is called environmental tagging, and it plays on the unconscious part of our brains that picks up on small details and start to associate them with the bigger picture.
The other option is to take advantage of foot traffic. Think: do you have a trade show coming up? Or are you hosting an event for your clients? Both are good places to hand out free gifts that can be used as incentives for existing products or to introduce a new service. The added bonus is that by targeting your niche market, you can ask for an immediate return. A good example is connecting your swag with market research. Ask questions as they approach your booth. They’ll feel obligated to answer (since you’re being so generous) and allow you to gather more information about your existing or potential customers.

Don’t rush into it. Good things come slowly.

Take the time to sample a variety of items so you can select one that works well and looks great. How embarrassing would it be if, for instance, the free water bottle started leaking with its first use? Remember, this is your chance to sneak into someone’s brain and associate your brand with something that the person can see, touch, smell, etc. So, flash a little cash, because gift-giving as a business is a way of making money as a business!

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