...thoughts on marketing technology

New cars, trash and trinkets 

by Lisa Schaertl

I just won a new car.

It was in my lunch box. A cute little radio-controlled job. A gift from some company that, presumably, paid money to sponsor the seminar I was attending. Or maybe they sent a presenter. I donít remember.

Iím pretty sure the words on the package said something to the effect that this company could help me do something speedily.  (Hence the race car. Get it?)

So I brought the car home, and gave it to my kid.

It didnít work.  It had batteries in it (impressive) but one was corroded (not impressive).

So here I am with battery acid on my hands, a cheap toy that does not work, and an impatient six-year-old whose big surprise just fell flat. A trip to the store for new batteries, the child is happy, and allís well. I guess.

Whatís wrong with this story? 

Companies like yours spent $16 billion in 2003 to slap their logos on trash & trinkets (aka promotional products). Iím convinced that at least $15 billion of it is wasted. 

My new car is a case in point.

First, one day after the conference, I have absolutely no idea who gave it to me. Second, the thing was useless. And third, the company allowed its brand to cavort with a cheap, flimsy, disposable product. 

Maybe itís a good thing I donít remember their name, after all.

Three things to remember

If you must spend your scarce marketing dollars on trash and trinkets, at least consider these three rules before you do.

1. Make it relevant, make it memorable. 
The ďspeedĒ tie-in was weak, clichť, and just not unique or relevant enough to be memorable. Spend the time to find something truly relevant to your business and your customers.  Perhaps a book by an expert in the field. Or skip the trinkets and offer information  - educational materials such as white papers and webinars. Just be sure they are really educational, and not just a sales pitch in disguise. Establish credibility by giving something of value that is relevant to the relationship youíre trying to build.

2. Make it useful. A lot of people argue this point. The car was FUN, they say, and everyone could use a little fun at work!  Well, sure. But toys are picked up by people like me, to bring home to our kids, so we donít have to shop at the airport. (Sorry, kids.) And then the toys are buried in the toy box - discarded and forgotten, for all practical purposes. Instead, choose something your prospects will want to keep at their workplace, and keep for a long time. Even better if you can find something that truly helps them do their job. One of our best promotions for a scientific client base was a slide-rule type calculator that helped engineers develop system specifications. They used them. They called to ask me for more, for their new hires. Our company looked smart and helpful Ė the people to go to for good, useful stuff.

3. Donít be cheap. Unless you are trying to be the low-cost supplier, you can't afford to be cheap. Choose quality products that you would be proud to manufacture yourself. If youíre selling a technical product, youíre asking people to rely on you. Everything you do should show that you value quality and reliability. Even your trinkets.


Lisa Schaertl is president of Tech Savvy Marketing, specializing in marketing and PR for high tech companies.



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