Early on in my career at the Renton Printery, my boss told me about the importance of SWAG.
““What’s ‘SWAG?’” you ask? According to my boss, SWAG stands for “Stuff We All Get.”
You collect a great amount of it whenever you go to a trade show or business expo where the booths hand out free stuff to those attending.
Handing out SWAG is not only a great way to increase brand loyalty, but it is also reminds people in a fun way that your business exists.
What type of SWAG is best for your business depends on what sort of business you run. But SWAG is important to all businesses who want to establish a strong following of loyal customers.
SWAG can be anything from pens, notepads, and bumper stickers to refrigerator magnets, tote bags, and key chains.
Two features define SWAG:
For example, whenever we go to a trade show, my boss and I always make sure to bring free football schedule refrigerator magnets, free window decals, free notepads, and so forth.
But why must your business flood the market with (more) cheap junk? You’d think that people have had enough of these things already!
The truth is that people can never get enough of this stuff. The power of free is never to be underestimated. You never know who might want your company’s branded tote-bag when they see it offered at your booth.
Maybe this person wants to re-gift it her friend whose shopping bag is to getting old and worn.
Maybe someone else has a proud tote-bag collection and is eager to add more to it. I have at least two such bags, and I cherish them dearly.
The power of “free” combined with the psychology of gift-giving endears people to your business. They associate the value of what they received with the giver.
For instance, low quality SWAG leads people to think of the giver as a source of low quality goods or services, never mind what their actual product is.
By contrast, useful, cool, or fun SWAG, like my trusty green tote-bag, is a reminder that this company helped you.
To put it another way, the moment you think of a product you need or want, and you know that the person who provided your prized SWAG is looking to sell you that product, who’s the first person you’re going to call
Now that you’ve been convinced of the power of SWAG, gentle reader, you might be asking, “Well, that’s all well and good, but what kind of junk— err, I mean SWAG, should I give out?”
As stated, the Renton Printery gives out notepads, window decals, and magnets, but what about your business? It all depends on what kind of business you run and the customers you want to attract.
If you’re a bank, for instance, you want to provide SWAG that is useful, like my tote-bag, and therefore makes the recipient believe that the services of that bank are also useful.
If you’re a B2B commercial printer, like us, then you want to provide SWAG that communicates the soundness of your product and that might be used by someone who spends a lot of time jotting down notes. Hence, our notepads!
SWAG is a staple of marketing, and has helped our sales efforts here at the shop greatly. Pens, notepads, and magnets are like candy to customers. They’ll eat up your free stuff and might later feed you business.
A strong knowledge of your products and customers combined with a little creative will help you utilize this tactic to the greatest degree. If you understand these two things, you will know just what sort of SWAG to use!
We at the shop are intensely invested in our community. We frequently attend chamber functions, neighborhood events, and business expos.
Concerning the last of these, I’ve often found myself missing something important at a business expo or a chamber function. My dad, being more experienced and organized, is less likely to forget anything.
1.) Business cards
I cannot remember how many times I have gone to chamber function and forgot to bring business cards. It led to many awkward moments and fizzled opportunities.
You should never let yourself fall into that kind of situation. Business cards, even in today’s wired world, are a vital tool for networking. Everything you need to know about a prospect can be summed up on a three-inch long piece of cardstock.
I always make sure to carry some business cards in my pocket, another bunch in my wallet, and another bunch in the box full of the other stuff you bring to an expo.
You should always have some kind of brochure or pamphlet that you can give to visitors at your booth. It gives more info than a business card but is also a great way to plant the seed of interest in case someone decides they want to learn more.
Small, tri-fold brochures are generally the best. Big, 8.5x11 brochures are inconvenient to carry around, especially if your potential customer doesn’t have a complimentary tote-bag from some other booth. Better to play it safe and stay small. That alone could pay big dividends.
3.) A Banner
You need to make your table stand out from across a crowded exposition hall. The best way to do that is to have a big banner behind your booth, proudly proclaiming your company’s name, tagline, and website in big letters that are visible from a far off distance.
While the nitty-gritty of designing your banner is a different subject, here’s a pro-tip: Make sure that whatever information you put on your banner isn’t going to change any time soon, like numbers or dates. That way you can recycle your banner for future occasions.
Doubtless there are dozens more things that you could bring to a business expo (just look at the picture above!), but that's for another day. Until then, forget these things at your own peril!
Bonus Tip: Banners are also good to have in the background when you take a picture of the people manning the booth. We did exactly this for a Maple Valley trade show several years ago, before posting the above picture on our Facebook page for #ThrowbackThursday. Score!
Marketing Director at the Renton Printery. Providing advice on print-buying and business, along with notes on the state of the shop.