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Copyright 2005 Marketing Comet

Naturally my wife wanted a new Burberry purse when my father in law asked her what she wanted him to pick up in Europe. She’s all about purses. He bought her a beautiful purse in Rome and sent it to her when he got back in the States.

Along with the bag, there was a card-stock envelope containing the receipt and something very interesting – a map of Rome. It was one of those little tourist maps and it had all the Burberry stores in Rome marked off so you could find them.

Absolutely brilliant. First the map is useful, a great marketing tool is something people will keep around. This is why magazine advertising is so effective. It’s also something you might pass on to people you know who are traveling to Rome – and now they’ll know where to get a nice purse just like yours. Also, while you are in Rome you might just decide to pick up a second purse for Aunt Clara and now you can find your way back to a shop.

Companies of all sizes have used giveaways in marketing forever. Gillette had the brilliant idea of giving razors away, and then charging for disposable blades which you had to throw away frequently. Cracker Jacks are known for the toy surprise inside. Food vendors give away free samples to get you to buy more.

The psychological urge to reciprocate when somebody gives us something is so strong that Cialdini wrote about it in his seminal book on Influence. That urge is stronger the more valuable the giveaway. Reciprocity is not the only factor that can make giveaways useful small business marketing tools.

Some of the features of great giveaways:
-They are tools or information that customers will use repeatedly
-They have a positive emotional component
-They can be passed along to others building the marketing effect
-The benefit of the giveaway is overt
-The giveaway builds a strong mental link to your business
-The giveaway helps the customer buy from you.

I personally believe that well-tailored informational products are probably the best giveaway ever. Kraft foods sends out a free monthly magazine full of recipes (all using Kraft foods). That giveaway has all of the above features. So does the tourist map of Rome.

If you’re in business in 2005 you need to take small business Internet marketing very seriously. The Internet is a great medium for giving away information products. If you run a lawn care business, maybe you have a printable planting calendar on your web site. If you own a restaurant near a theater district, maybe you publish a calendar of upcoming shows with your phone number for pre-theater reservations.

I love to go to conventions and walk the floor with a bag picking up tons of free stuff. Honestly, most of it goes right in the trash. I keep pens and other useful stuff, but who has time to look through 500 company brochures? While they are cute, wacky toys and stress relief pillows just clutter up my office. That stuff is very expensive, and I think the marketing value is very small.

This year I went to the Boston wine expo – two days of drinking wine! Some pear grower’s association was there giving out samples of pears. Their giveaway was a cardboard wheel that you could use to match a varieties of pears with a types of wine and types of cheeses. This is particularly useful if you are a chef looking for ways to put a menu together.

My friend who owns a car repair shop is pricing out travel mugs. This is a pretty good giveaway. Ideally, when people have car trouble they’ll have their coffee with his phone number on it in front of them.

What can you give away that is useful? It may just be information in a form that costs you nothing, or it might be a something you budget for. Remember the list of features when you look at your giveaways.

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