Four ways to use branded merchandise to generate leads

Customer loyalty as a strategy for repeat business is getting a lot of attention at the moment as consumers look to familiar brands in a time of uncertainty – but the time is right for cold acquisition. Over 70% of Americans state that they have strayed from the brands they have previously been loyal to, and the vast majority of those claim that they will continue with this “unfaithful” behaviour.

With a lot of motion in the market, it’s time to get competitive with branded merchandise and invest in new business.

1. Remember that the numbers are everything

There are many different ways to quantify success – but the bottom line will always be that if an average lead costs more than it brings home, then it is hurting your business. Small differences in cost per unit really add up, so it’s important to make a considered choice between the options when you are selecting what merchandise to go with.

This doesn’t mean go cheap, but it does mean go smart. While simply distributing branded merchandise has a massive impact on general consumers’ brand awareness and recall, this doesn’t mean careful thought isn’t required. The length of time a promotional item is used can be well over a year depending on what it is, so think about who you want to give these items to: how will you reach this particular group and what is useful to them? All of these factors will contribute to a robust ROI that you can be truly proud of.

2. A branded item need not be physical

In an increasingly digital world, a ‘thing’ that you give to a potential customers need not be something they can hold in their hand. Take a look at the number of branded apps out there that provide a function for free. It’s not so different from handing out a physical object; you just need to know how to reach the people who might use your service. Outdoor pursuits and fitness have led the way with this type of marketing by offering something that fulfils a clear need. Although this may fall under your Digital Team’s remit, it’s worth making sure that these sides of your business talk to each other.

Remember that with an app, you are literally inside someone’s phone, giving you plenty of opportunity to initiate dialogue, start free trials or market to them directly. The journey is up to you, but they’ve already taken the first step.

3. Not all leads represent the same value

With traditional branded merchandise, it’s worth thinking about your prospects in different categories or levels. Imagine you are working behind the counter in a deli which stocks a range of products. If someone looks in at the window, you might incentivise them to come in by offering a free sample, perhaps an olive or two. Maybe they buy something, maybe they don’t – overall, some money will be made if you offer this to all window shoppers. Now let’s say you have someone who comes in and asks about your caviar and they clearly know their stuff. In this case, it would be a good idea to let them taste what you have, as they may turn into regular caviar buyers who make you a lot of money.

Some people will show more interest and knowledge than others, and you should reflect this in the way you offer your merchandise. For example, higher value items for more interested people should be exchanged for contact details for that crucial follow up.

4. Always think follow up

The difference between a brand awareness campaign and lead generation is all about what happens after a free giveaway. How are you going to make sure that your conversion rate is as high as possible? What journey will you take your new leads on after that first interaction. Take inspiration from different sources. In the 2010s, the charity sector realised that its traditional supporter base was ageing, and cash donations by mail were falling. They adapted by using mobile text in advertising: ‘Give £5 to help x to do y’.

The overall strategy of these campaigns was not to raise cash via that specific campaign, but to capture mobile data and convert one-off texters into regular givers, using their mobile numbers to do so.

Respond to change to stay successful

People are ready to step outside into the world again, so be prepared and think carefully about what is relevant to your prospects. Have their priorities and values shifted since the start of the pandemic? If yes, how can you use merchandise to respond to those changes? Remember, these objects are going to be in the hands of your potential customers for months, even years, so choose wisely and think carefully!


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