How Promo Swag is Killing Your Referral Strategy

Who doesn’t love snagging free stuff from companies?

You know the stress ball, the hat, koozie, UBS flash drive…reminds me of my college days where you could get a t-shirt just for signing up for a credit card…or two or three.  More applications = more t-shirts.  Woo hoo!

Currently – at the time of the writing of this article – I am attending a conference in Minneapolis and the promo swag (or promotional material) is flowing.  What makes swag – or free items – promo swag is when you put your company logo on it.  Some of it is really cool…like the really nice notebooks, the coconut oil, the wine charms, a plate.

But most of it will end up in the trash can, sad but true.

[After reading this article, check out the Stacey Brown Randall Live Show (Episode 8) where I go in more depth on why promo swag is killing your referrals.]

When to Use Promo Swag

Promotional materials have their place within your business development strategy.  Most, if not all, businesses have three “sales” plans…a prospecting plan, a marketing plan and a referral plan. If used correctly, promo swag can assist during the buyer’s journey of the prospecting and marketing plans and in some cases, can even be used during the client experience, which is once a prospect becomes a client.

[Related: Where Referrals Fit in Your Sale Strategy]

The buyer’s journey is the time before a client decides to work with you.  It starts when they first learn about your business and then go through the process of deciding whether or not they want to become a client.  Sometimes promo swag is used to grab your attention to learn or acknowledge the business…like the promo swag that is giving away at booths and tables during trade shows and expos.  Promo swag can draw someone into your booth since they have to step in to your booth and up to the table to grab the promo swag item.  The hope is then that the new prospect will keep the item with your logo on it so your company name stays in front of them.  There are other ways to use promo swag during the buyer’s journey – sending it as a gift before you call, hoping the item will compel the person to take your call.  Or as a thank you for taking a first meeting with you.

Using promo swag within the client experience takes a little more thought to have it work well.  I have a client, a homebuilder who gives a gift once the client’s project – new build or renovation – is complete.  It includes a really cool baking dish and they add in a few promo swag items that have their company logo on it…a hat and koozie.  The main part of the thank you gift to commemorate the finishing of their project is the baking dish which doesn’t include their logo. So, pairing a gift with a piece or two of promo swag within the client experience is okay if done correctly.

When I was a productivity coach I was known for having a saying I said to all my new clients, “You are successful.  Sometimes in spite of yourself.”  While a true statement, not all love hearing it.  My goal with the statement was to let them know that while they may be working with me because they want to fix a few things, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are successful.  But they have to be willing to acknowledge sometimes we have success not because we are efficient and effective, but in spite of it.  To have some fun with this statement I had koozies made with the statement and included my website.  I would give them to my new clients when I felt it made sense.

Promo swag works when you are working to convert a prospect into a client during the buyer’s journey and can have its place during your client experience.

But once you put together a referral plan or strategy, promotional materials or promo swag no longer fits.

When Not to Use Promo Swag

Promo swag has no place within your referral plan.


Because when you thank me for sending you a referral or you reach out to stay top of mind with me since I am a referral source, an item – no matter how big or how small – with your logo on it is completely about you.

And referrals aren’t about you…referrals are about the referral source.  An item with your logo on it violates a core principle of how and why referrals are given.  There are three platinum principles you must follow when creating your referral plan for your referral sources.  A logo’d item violates Platinum Principle #1.

[Related: 3 Platinum Principles for Generating Referrals]

Platinum Principle #1: Your referral strategy must be all about them.  

Not you.


What you do for your referral sources must be about them – the referral source.

Which means that hat or koozie (or any other item) with your logo on it is about you…it’s self-promotion.

Which means giving the logo’d koozie shouldn’t be a gift you provide as a thank you for a referral or as a touch point to build or strengthen a relationship for future referrals.

Keep your promo swag for your prospecting and marketing plan but eliminate any promo swag from your referral plan. I know how much it may pain you to give a Yeti without your logo on it but trust me – your referral sources will appreciate it even more.

Remember…generating referrals is not about you…it is about the referral source.

Want to learn more…then sign up for the FREE Referral Growth 15-Day Challenge which starts on October 19th.  Grab your spot now!


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