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What is swag management (and why you should even care)

Printfection Blog

Ryan Campion

March 1, 2018

Swag management is hardly a popular term on Google.

Yet, most companies are already managing swag today — and doing it better can lead to tremendous benefits in saved time and increased revenue.

Unfortunately, the term ‘swag’ often causes confusion, so let’s first clear that up. b

By swag, we’re referring to promotional merchandise, or promotional products, among many other terms.  We’re not talking about one’s stylish confidence though.

Swag can range from custom t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, pens, notebooks, water bottles, webcam covers, backpacks, and the whole host of things you’ve seen if you’ve ever graced a trade show floor.

Businesses use it to raise brand awareness, give away at events, deliver to new employees, reward customers, etc.

Some really smart ones even use swag in their marketing, sales, and customer success efforts to incentivize leads and reward customers for certain actions, like referrals (we’ll touch more on this later).

The big problem with swag is this: while it’s been shown to be highly effective at generating awareness and revenue, no one wants to manage it.

Doing so typically means:

  1. Researching suppliers from which to order
  2. Having the items drop shipped to your office
  3. Finding some sort of space or closet (or swag “dungeon,” as our customers often call it) to store everything
  4. Then manually selecting items and packaging them for shipment for your various initiatives

It can even mean taking time out of your day to drive to the friggin’ post office to ship items. There’s also the ongoing pain of trying to maintain accurate inventory counts.

Ever prep for an event or class of new hires only to realize you’re out of water bottles or t-shirts? We’ve been there.

swag management - inventory levels

All of this can be a huge time suck to whatever department(s) get tasked with it (very often it’s Marketing!)  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

That’s where swag management comes in.

Swag management is the process of purchasing, storing, and distributing your promotional merchandise in an automated, scalable fashion that saves you precious time and headaches.

And most people don’t realize there are solutions out there, swag management platforms, that help you accomplish all of this.  From procuring items to fulfillment, with a few clicks of a button you can save hours of time.

Printfection has developed an online swag management platform that helps hundreds of customers manage and distribute swag on the fly — but let’s get to the meat of this post and address why you should even care about swag management in the first place.

Why Care about Swag Management?

We’ll consider two approaches — one a bit more tactical, one more strategic, but both important in different ways.

The Tactical Argument

We touched on the tactical side earlier, but it boils down to how much swag consumes your time. Consider a real-life example from my own experience.

Let’s say you’re a typical growing company. You go to a couple trade shows per year and host a handful of your own events. You also recruit a handful of employees every several months.

Furthermore, you’ve got a couple outside sales reps in the field, preaching your company’s gospel. They come to you whenever they’d like to send some swag to key prospects and new customers.

If you’re an office manager, or a marketing manager or coordinator, you’ve got quite a bit of work cut out for you.

For each of your events, you have to orchestrate your booth set-up and ensure you have enough swag ordered in time.

If you’re designing new items, you need to work with your promo products supplier, and probably need time to ensure your colors and quality are on-point before approval.

And that’s not even the full battle.

You also have to locate those items, likely diving into a disorganized and scary swag closet.

Then you need to manually package them up, order shipping labels, and schedule them to be picked up. Or worse, maybe you even need to head to the post office or UPS store to send them yourself!

Next, you cross your fingers that your items arrive to the trade show venue on time.

After the show, you have to rely on your attending team to package up anything that wasn’t used and ship it back. Perhaps you get stuck with this if you’ve gone to the event yourself. Yay.

This process alone can suck up hours of time, and let’s face it — it’s about as enjoyable as chewing sandpaper.

While you’re grappling with this, you get a call from one of your sales reps. She wants to send a mug and a notebook to 5 of her key prospects. However, she’s all out of her personal stash, so she asks you to do it.

You’re a go-getter, so of course you’re willing to help, despite the fact the neglected tasks of your core job function are steadily mounting.

Shaking off your worries, you gather the names and addresses from your rep and get those items packaged up and shipped.

Later in the month, your HR Director swings by and lets you know you’ve got a class of new hires who will need their customary t-shirts and water bottles.

Once again, you gallantly (but sadly) make your way back to your chaotic swag lair.  After half an hour, you realize you don’t have enough shirts in enough sizes for the crew.

We can go on and on, but let’s stop.

Consider the time you’ve spent managing something that isn’t really related to your core job.

In a year, it can equate to a hundreds of person-hours and thousands or more likely tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how many initiatives you’re running.

We put together a rough breakdown of how much swag costs, and how much you could save by leveraging a swag management platform (you’ll find it towards the middle of the page).

A Better Way

If you had a platform to manage your swag, you could store your inventory at a warehouse. Then, with real-time access to your inventory levels, you could ship your swag to your events with a few mouse clicks. No more swag dungeon!

You could also empower your rep to send swag on her own.

Imagine your rep popping into Salesforce, requesting a series of items be sent to a prospect, and then either you or someone on your team approving the request and it automatically being fulfilled. At Printfection, we refer to this as a Collection campaign.

Perhaps this in-the-weeds story resonated with you.  Perhaps it didn’t. If not, there’s a more strategic lens to swag management as well.

The Strategic Argument

Most people tend to associate swag solely with trade shows or employee gifts, but there are myriad ways it can support the objectives of every area of your business.

Swag can be a key driver in customer success and lead gen initiatives, for instance.

New Relic leveraged our swag management platform to net 30% more qualified leads by incentivizing prospects with a free t-shirt if they signed up for a trial of their product.

The concept is called a Giveaway campaign, a simple but highly effective strategy to generate more leads, influence demo attendance, or close deals faster.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You select certain items you’d like to offer to someone, say a pair of socks, a sticker, and/or a t-shirt
  2. Next, you generate a personalized URL directing the person to a branded landing page featuring the items
  3. There they can redeem their item(s) after they complete your desired call-to-action
swag management platform screenshot of a giveaway campaign

Example of a Giveaway landing page

Our customers often email these URLs directly to their target audience. In the case of social giveaways, they post them directly to the platform of their choice, like Twitter or Facebook.

You can integrate these into your marketing automation tools, like we’ve done with Marketo, to make this process even more fluid.

Using Zapier, you can integrate to other automation platforms as well.

No matter which use-case you pursue, the end result is the same. You take swag, something no one likes to manage, and automate it in a way that directly influences the revenue of your business.

Swag management also benefits the world of the customer.

You can send items to customers when they refer prospects to your business or send them a gift as part of a loyalty program.

Perhaps your customer encountered a bug or had a bad experience.  You can send them a physical care package, going the extra mile to make things right.

In today’s digital age, it’s pretty unique to receive something physically in the mail, especially from a business contact.

In fact, after receiving branded merchandise, customers often take to social media to share their experience. This small action alone does wonders for a brand.

With all the automation and reporting a swag management platform provides, you can free up your team’s time to focus on their key job functions.

Furthermore, you can finally say goodbye to that horrible swag dungeon. As a marketing professional myself, I loathed the days I had to rummage through our haphazard swag room.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage swag management to save time, drive leads, manage events, increase customer retention, or any combo of these things, feel free to contact us or request a demo.

We’re also happy to share hot new trends in swag merchandise so you can better engage booth attendees at your next event or wow your next new hire class.

In fact, we just wrote a post about some unique hot-trending swag items right now, so check that out if you’re hungry for new ideas!