One of the areas where companies inevitably spend money but see absolutely no return is in the area of company clothing and trade show give-aways. The company clothing for your employees at trade shows is ok, so is producing some t-shirts or ball caps with your logo but please do not try to convince me that giving away crap (and let’s be honest for the most part it is crap) with your logo on it does anything for your business. I say this fully cognisant of the fact that it absolutely boosts team spirit to give your employees some logo’d clothing but in terms of appealing to consumers partners and as importantly investors, free spending in this area can actually be detrimental and be a sign of either ego or just poor decision making. Don’t take my word for it, Mark Cuban recently wrote on his blog “Never ever ever buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a start-up is when someone sends me logo polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public it’s ok to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your polo you sent them in public, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.”

In fact, I actually think that in the economic times we are facing companies that can be creative with the whole idea of “swag” – taking it from pointless gimmicks to something that actually promotes your brand – can be huge winners. If you feel the need to hand out branded items why not be creative and at the same time do some good? My idea for you is very easy to implement, actually captures leads for you (something your hoodie sweatshirt isn’t doing) and at the same time is a way to give the same $ you are spending to a worthwhile cause.

Changing The Game – Be Charitable & Do More Business

Instead of whatever crappy gift you were going to get branded – let’s take a budget of $15 per item – get some really funky business cards (check out some creative ones here or here) or some other wallet size item and have it custom printed with some info about a charity of your choice and a URL to visit. Give the card holder notice that by visiting the URL (set a custom URL like so people know this is specific to the fed you gave them) and upon submitting their contact info (or whatever you seem necessary) you will donate $2 to the charity referenced on the card. Give each card a unique code to ensure it is entered only once and be sure to put up one of those fancy charity thermometers showing just how much money has been raised to date. You may also want to be generous and start off your fund with an initial donation which will have the bonus of people assuming many before them have participated.

The total cost to you of a promtion like this is actually probably lower than any other swag and you accomplish the business goal of gathering leads and building your business. Although it might be cool to think of thousands of people waking around in your branded gear, in reality it is not going to happen. Spend your money on something that will actually grow your business and at the same time will prove you have a staunchly business mind but a generous human heart.

Oh ya and if you really “must” have someone showoff your branded gear you may as well check out girlinyourshirt – at least that way you get the satisfaction of knowing your t-shirt gets some love (heck I’d love your shirt for $75 too).

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