The Best Swag For Your Buck


If you do it right, gifts and giveaways can foster greater awareness of your brand. Use these ideas to make your brokerage logo more recognizable.


October 14, 2016


by Lee Nelson – National Association of Realtors


Whether you’re buying promotional items to use as giveaways or thank-you gifts, there is plenty of swag out there to choose from. The key is to find the right product that will generate buzz and leave a lasting impression.


“We’ve always believed in promotional products,” says Britt Matthews, marketing and public relations director for Beachy Beach Real Estate in Panama City, Fla. The products, she says, exude the essence of her mother, Karen Smith, the owner and face of the company. But they also “have to make people happy, and they have to be things people want.”


Beachy Beach puts its logo on hats, golf umbrellas, sunscreen—even beach balls and buckets for kids. The brokerage always makes sure its gifts and giveaways are a little different from the competition’s. “We always make a joke that if we could tattoo our logo on our agents, we totally would,” Matthews says.


Kelly Gitt, associate broker at RE/MAX Platinum in Omaha, Neb., has gotten the best response from personalized gifts. “A great way to make your client feel valued is to give them something that’s just for them,” she says. Gitt also likes to give away University of Nebraska and Creighton University game schedules or send newsletters featuring recipes for tailgaters or game-day get-togethers.


But gifts for her agents are just as important, she says. Gitt will cover DocuSign costs or give agents a gift card for a free car wash to help keep their rides sparkling for appointments. Covering fees for coaching events or seminars is also valuable for agents’ professional growth and development, she says.


When it comes to brand awareness in the community, Beachy Beach will support local causes and set up booths at community events. A few years ago, the company’s booth at a half-marathon became known for having the best giveaways. Not long after that, Beachy Beach team members started carrying bags of swag in their cars, giving away goodies as a little pick-me-up for people they meet. It can be as simple as lip balm, a hat, or sunglasses. “We find that people are happiest when you do something with no expectations. The rewards are monumental,” Matthews says.


The company’s generosity comes back to them time and time again on social media. New acquaintances and complete strangers donning their company gear will tag their business page in photos on Facebook. There’s always someone showing off their Beachy Beach running shirt or another promotional item, Matthews says. “One girl tagged our Beachy Beach Facebook page wearing the company’s swag on a Guatemalan mission trip. You can’t pay for that kind of advertising,” she says.


There’s a lot of creativity in the real estate industry when it comes to marketing, and some companies that sell promotional products have noticed. Oshkosh, Wis.–based 4imprint released its tenth-edition “Promotional Products Work” e-book featuring 74 ways to get customers’ attention or reward someone for a job well done. The ideas are all based on feedback from actual 4imprint customers. Some of the more unique ideas include putting logo on alarm clocks for someone who attends an early-morning program or on phone charging cords.


“We find that real estate agents and brokers are buying promotional items all over the board,” says Becky Dillenberg, 4imprint’s marketing manager. “They buy a lot of apparel for their agents and staff because it’s nice to have something with their logo on it for open houses and meetings.” This includes blazers, outerwear, polo shirts, sweaters, and more.


4imprint offers real estate–related products, such as plastic chip clips in the shape of a house and magnetic business card letter openers. For something a little more substantial, there are all-purpose utility totes, handy for tools or crafting supplies. And, of course, all the items can be imprinted with a real estate company’s name and logo.


“Some brokers and agents are ordering printed bags and stocking them with goodies such as toilet paper, napkins, and more for home owners’ first night in their new house,” she says. “It’s a fun, different closing idea. And when it’s different, customers will remember it.”





The Institute for Trade Show Marketing Excellence


There's a good reason that an estimated 16 billion dollars worth of promotional products were sold worldwide in 2010. Free stuff is amazingly popular (as most people would guess), which is why promotional products work... but only if you know what you're doing! You need to pick the right promotional product that is best for what you are promoting, and then use the promo or giveaway item in the right way. We've all gotten promotional products (aka marketing giveaways, freebies, swag, corporate gifts, employee appreciation rewards, etc), and we know how many of them end up in the trash can and then the local landfill (a lot!). So how do you utilize promotional products effectively, and keep your customized promotional product from joining the other promotional losers in the trash? Well, with these great promotional products ideas, of course!


As I've written in other trade show articles here, promotional products are great for trade show giveaways (which is why I've provided some specific trade show giveaway ideas). But promotional products are also great for other business promotion and marketing events (like grand openings) as well as for corporate gifts (to important customers) and for employee gifts, and for employee reward programs. If possible, you should select a promo product that will meet all your marketing needs. For example, if you are choosing a promotional product idea for your trade show giveaway, order extra, and then use it for other marketing (like sending to your best customers at Christmas and other holidays as gifts). Promotional products can be used for employee appreciation gifts and rewards (like for perfect attendance, hitting sales goals, etc). Promotional products can also be used for personal events, like family reunions, baby showers, anniversary celebrations, etc. Generally promotional products for personal events are more limited in scope, and include items like custom-printed t-shirts, silicon wristbands, and baseball caps.


For cheap promotional products ideas, I'm a big fan of custom-printed pens and silicon wristbands, as well as keychains and various puzzles. For more expensive promotional giveaways and also for corporate and employee gifts, I'm a big fan of embroidered logo apparel, such as polo shirts, jackets, and baseball caps. And if you really want to impress corporate customers or reward special employees, all the Apple electronics, such as iPads and iPods are extremely popular, though putting one's logo on them can be challenging (USB flash drives and memory sticks are a cheaper and more easily imprinted option).


If you are using a promotional product as a free giveaway to market your business, a few basic rules apply (similar to the rules for using trade show giveaways effectively)


1. YOUR COMPANY NAME: The promo item needs your company or business name, logo, and contact information on it.


2. ADD SOMETHING UNIQUE AND CATCHY: If you can, add something unique to the imprint, like a funny, memorable, and/or useful phrase, tagline, or motto, and if possible, relate this phrase to your business. Something catchy on your promotional product giveaway will encourage people too keep your giveaway instead of a competitors giveaway if they have multiple items that are the same and only keep one.


3. COST AND COST EFFECTIVENESS: The cost and price of the promo item needs to make sense. You need to be able to afford to hand it out to as many people, prospective clients, and/or customers as needed, and you need to make more in return from the promotional effect of the promo item so that it more than covers the cost of the items and giving them away.


4. THE KEEPABILITY FACTOR: What is the "keepability factor"? It means will people keep your promotional product giveaway, or will it end up in the trash? Is the item useful, helpful, or funny? Is there a reason to keep it, and hold on to it, or will it just get discarded?


Here's an example of a promotional product that would be unique and useful. A beer bottle opener made out of a rail road spike. Now just image your company name and website (and perhaps a tag line) are printed or engraved on the side. If you've ever had a bottle opener like this, you should know it is something you would keep and use, and everyone that uses it would see your company name on it. This is a great example of an effective promotional product.

More Common and Not-So-Common
Great Promotional Product Ideas

baseball caps



key chains

Air Fresheners
Alarm clocks
Arm Bands
Auto Emergency Kits
Back Packs
Back Scratchers
Badge Holders
Beach Balls
Beach Towels
Beauty Aids
Beer Openers
Beer Mugs
Beverage Coozies (Koozies)
Bicycle Flat Tire Repair Kits
Bottle Openers
Bottled Water
Boxer Shorts
Breath Fresheners
Business Card Holders
Candle Holders
Ceramic Mugs
Chewing Gum
Christmas Decorations
CFL Light Bulbs
Clamps & Clipse
Coffee Mugs

Coloring Books
Computer Accessories
Coupon Keepers
Crossword Puzzles
Desk Accessories
Dog Tags
Duffles and Duffle Bags
Electric Outlet Protectors
Fanny Packs
First Aid Kits
Flip Flops
Foam Toys & Novelties
Folding Chairs
Gift Baskets
Gift Wrap
Golf Balls
Golf Tees
Hand Mirrors
Hand Sanitizer
Hide-A-Key Devices
Ice Packs
Ice Scrapers
Insect Repellents

Key Chains
Key Holders
Key Tags
Lapel Pins
Laser Pointers
LED Lights
LED Key Chain Lights
Letter Openers
License Plate Frames
Lint Removers
Lip Balm
Luggage Tags
Lunch Boxes
Magic Tricks
Measuring Tapes
Memo Pads & Cubes
Microwave Popcorn Bags
Mouse Pads
Office Supplies
Party Favors
Pen & Pencil Sets
Pens & Pencils
Photo Cubes
Picture Frames
Plastic Travel Mugs
Playing Cards
Polo Shirts
Post-It Notes
Reading Lights & Lamps
Re-useable Shopping Bags

Sewing Accessories
Shot Glasses
Silicone Wristbands
Sports Bottles
Sports Equipment & Accessories
Stadium Seat Cushions
Stainless Steel Travel Mugs
Stress Balls / Relievers
Stuffed Animals
Sudoku Puzzles
Sun Visors
Sunglass Keepers (Leashes)
Suntan Lotions
Survival Kits
Tool Kits
Tote Bags
Travel Accessories
Travel Mugs
USB Flash Drives
Wine Corks
Wine Glasses
Wine Openers
Word Find Puzzles

silicone wristbands

travel mugs


re-usable shopping bags


Just remember when you're picking a promotional item for marketing your cause or business, the point of promotional products is NOT just to give out free stuff, or even worse, free junk. The point is to promote your business! You need your promotional item to be useful so it is kept by the recipient, and also to help promote your business. It should be a win-win... a win for your future customer because it is something they will keep and use, and a win for your company because it will result in the person contacting you in the future to do business with you. Don't just hand out junk, and don't hand out stuff to people that will never become your customers. Remember the point of promotional products... they are for promoting your business. Be smart, and pick your promotional products carefully and wisely. Make sure they also fit in with your overall marketing strategy. And remember that often the best promotional item is the most obvious item... a sample of your product or service. Nothing identifies and defines your company more than a sample of what you make or do, so remember to consider samples as promo items, but also remember to make sure your samples are labeled with your company contact information!





Why You Should Buy Company Apparel


Akshay Kothari


During the first year of Pulse, I ran the startup on an extremely tight budget. I remember picking up abandoned whiteboards from Stanford. I remember having six different styles of black chairs, because they were all loaners from other companies. I remember ordering cheap pizzas for team events. And I painfully remember, on more than a few occasions, saying no to company t-shirts. Eventually, I caved and we got company jackets, although I asked our employees to pay for 50% of the cost.


If I had to do it again, I would do all of the above differently. But especially on that last point, I stand corrected. No matter what stage the company is, I strongly recommend investing in a company jacket (or t-shirt) for your employees. You don’t need to go all out and spend a fortune on it, but a decent company apparel has a pretty high ROI.


Here are 3 ways it adds value:


Starting Conversations
Countless times, I’ve been on Caltrain or at a party, where someone would look at the “Pulse” logo on my jacket and strike up a conversation. It ranges from “What is Pulse?” to “I use the app all the time” to “You guys should really consider doing x, y and z”. True story: One sunday morning at Coupa Cafe, I randomly bumped into a Pulse user and iOS developer, Robin Guldener. He noticed my Pulse jacket and came up to give me feedback about improving performance on the iOS app. I invited him to come meet the rest of the team next morning. The following summer, he spent two months interning at Pulse, improving the app design and performance significantly.




Building a Brand
Your company’s brand should not be restricted to the app or website you’re building. It should extend itself to the physical working space, events or parties and company apparel. As with all things in life, it should be done in moderation and good taste. I think Pinterest has done a remarkable job at this — Look at their office — there are Pinterest t-shirts, Pinterest pillows, Pinterest cupcakes and so on. At this point, just looking at a pin icon and red color is enough to know it’s Pinterest!




Strengthening Camaraderie
I never understood American Football. But, when I wear my Stanford sweatshirt to see our football team play against other schools, there’s a sense of pride and excitement. I’m fired up to see our team win. You see where I’m going with this — there’s nothing douchey about wearing your company jacket or t-shirt. In both good and bad times, it enables a strong feeling of camaraderie among the team members. It brings people together to continue marching towards their mission.




Thanks to Brian Rumao, Greg Bayer and Tim Jurka for reading drafts and suggesting edits.




The Power of Positive Employee Recognition


How to Provide Effective Employee Recognition


By Susan M. Heathfield


Updated May 23, 2018


Provide employee recognition to say thank you and you will encourage a positive, productive, and innovative organizational climate.


People who feel appreciated end up experiencing more self-worth and their ability to contribute to the company. The result is a happier and more productive employee.  Although these beliefs about employee recognition are commonly held by employers, why is it that employee recognition is so closely guarded in many organizations?


Why Is Employee Recognition Scarce?


Employee recognition is scarce because of a combination of several factors. People don't know how to provide employee recognition effectively, so they end up having bad experiences. They also assume that one size fits all when they provide employee recognition.


Additionally, employers think too narrowly about what people will find rewarding and what constitutes true recognition.


Guidelines for Effective Employee Recognition


Here are some guidelines and ideas to help you effectively provide employee recognition and avoid potential problems when you undertake acknowledging your staff.


Decide what you want to achieve through your employee recognition efforts. Many organizations use a scatter approach to employee recognition. They implement a whole bunch of employee recognition and hope that some of it sticks. Or, conversely, they recognize just a few employees, and not very often.


Instead, create goals and action plans for employee recognition. Recognize the actions, behaviors, approaches, and accomplishments that you know will make your organization more productive and efficient.


Fairness, clarity, and consistency are important in employee recognition. People need to see that each person who makes the same or a similar contribution has an equal likelihood of receiving recognition for their efforts.


Ensure that your organization establishes criteria for what makes a person eligible for the employee recognition.


For example, if people are recognized for exceeding a production or sales expectation, everyone who goes over the goal shares in the glory. Recognizing only the highest performer will demoralize all of your other contributors. Make sure the criteria for employee recognition is clearly stated and understood by everyone. 


Set guidelines so leaders acknowledge equivalent and similar contributions. For example, each employee who stays after work to contribute ideas in a departmental improvement brainstorming session gets to have lunch with the department head. Or, recognize each employee who contributes to a customer, even the employee who just answered the phone—their actions set the sale in motion.


Approaches and content must also be inconsistent. You want to offer employee recognition that is consistently fair, but you also want to make sure that your employee recognition efforts do not become expectations or entitlements. 


For example, if employees are invited to lunch with the boss every time they work overtime, the lunch becomes an expectation or entitlement. It is no longer a reward. Additionally, if a person does not receive the expected reward, it becomes a source of dissatisfaction and negatively impacts the person’s attitude about work.


Be specific about why the individual is receiving the recognition. The purpose of feedback is to reinforce what you’d like to see the employee do more of—the purpose of employee recognition is the same. In fact, employee recognition is one of the most powerful forms of feedback that you can provide.


For example, say something like, “the report had a significant impact on the committee’s decision. You did an excellent job of highlighting the key points and information we needed before making the final decision. Because of your work, we’ll be able to cut 6 percent of our operating budget.”


Offer recognition as close to the event as possible. When a person performs positively, provide recognition immediately. Because it's likely the employee is already feeling good about his or her performance; your timely recognition of the employee will enhance the positive feelings. This, in turn, positively affects the employee’s confidence in their ability to perform well in their position.


Remember that employee recognition is personal. One person may enjoy public recognition at a staff meeting while another prefers a private note in their personnel file. The best way to determine what an employee finds rewarding is to ask your employees.






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