The Private Investigator Conference Marketing Pitfall
Are you growing your company brand? Or handing out free swag?
Conference season is just around the corner, and you know what that means – free pens, shirts, hats, notepads, and everything in between. If you show up early, you’ll make out like a bandit from all the “swag” giveaways. If you’re lucky, you may win a free iPad, headphones, or new camera from a company trying to “win” your business.
Conferences are the perfect opportunity to show your best work: Flyers, brochures, video equipment, business cards, new website, etc. It’ll help you grow your brand, they’ll tell you. But when it’s all said and done, did anyone really grow their brand? Or did they simply go out on a free t-shirt giveaway campaign? – Did you?
Somewhere along the lines, we confused growing a business and establishing a brand with handing out free stuff. There is a huge problem with the way we do “branding” that is costing us thousands of dollars each year.
The Problem: No one wants to wear your t-shirts, use your pens, or become your ambassador.
The Solution: Give them things that they can use, give them a reason to share your brand and company.
Every time we take on a branding project, we ask our clients that they’re currently doing to establish their brand. The answer is always the same: “We give out free pens and t-shirts at major conferences with our logo inscribed on them.”
Giving out free t-shirts is not growing a brand. If you give me something for free, I’m going to take it with me. Will I use it? Maybe. Will I become your ambassador? (the person promoting your brand to other people) Probably not.
The fact of the matter is that I’ll probably use your pen until the other booth gives me another one. I’ll probably wear your t-shirt when I have nothing clean in my drawer. But I’m not going to lose my mind when I can’t find that pen you gave me. Nor will I flip my **** when I can’t find jeans to match that t-shirt from that one company I met in Houston.
If you don’t have a strategy to follow through with your giveaway, you’re wasting your time and money. Don’t give me a .15 cent pen from a mass shipping company, splash your logo on it, and expect me to use it all day every day and praise your branding efforts. What’s so special about a .15 cent pen?
If you’re going to give me something, make sure it’s something that I will use. I received a gift from a vendor about 2 years ago. A leather, black and red, business card holder that says “Thank you for your business – Pam. 555-555-5555.” It doesn’t have her logo on the outside of the cover, and the thank you message is on the inside pocket away from MY customer’s view. — You have to understand that I don’t want to promote another company while I’m handing out my business card. I know who gave me that card holder, and ifI ever run out of business cards, her phone number is within reach.
Pam found a way to help me remember who she is and what she does. She didn’t hand me a free pen and asked me for work. She took the time to learn about my business needs, then provided me with a thoughtful solution when she saw me pull out a wrinkly business card from my wallet.
So you’re saying not to give out anything at the next conference?
That’s not what I’m saying at all. Giving out free pens, phone covers, t-shirts, etc. is a great way to attract visitors to your booth, but don’t expect those gifts to do all the work – you have to follow through with a branding strategy. Think of the corner street sales man: They build a crowd, then they sell their service. Use your swag to build that crowd, then give them your sales pitch. But don’t think for one second that giving out a free pen and t-shirt combination will turn a visitor into a client for life.
Several of our clients think in numbers: “How many pens do I have to give out to get a case from a client?” This is not something that you need to quantify. The purpose of giving out free pens is not to get work from people, it’s to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself in 30 seconds or less.
I have a friend who has worked in just about every sales capacity you can imagine. He told me: “Don’t rush through the first date expecting to get lucky. Introduce your services and build the relationship first.”
This is his “technique”:
By now, my friend will identify that one of two things will happen:
At no point during sale should you become that salesman that everyone hates. Pay attention to body language, and pickup on all the signs and red flags. Understand that getting a sale will take time. This will only work if you’re willing to put in long hours. As a full time salesman, my friend spends all year building relationships with clients. The clients he met in January will start to pay off in September, likewise the leads and clients he meets in October will pay off sometime next year.
Don’t expect to grow your brand and business because you found a good deal on bulk pen orders. To build a brand (A reputation), you need to spend time with your clients and build trust. If you want to give stuff out, give out things that mean something to your clients. Think about what your clients could use every day, focus on their needs, then give them a solution. If you constantly visit a secretary at a busy attorney’s office that opens letters all day long, give her a letter opener. She’s going to remember who gave it to her every time she’s opening letters.
Whatever you do, please stop giving out .15 cent pens and pass them on like they’re Montblancs. A well throughout gift goes a very long way. Every Christmas, I get a pair of white socks from my Grandparents. Don’t become your client’s grandparents.