Free TV or Logo’d Bears? It’s all in the Value.

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In my MIP days, we attended a lot of conferences.  The nonprofit market was highly niched and many groups had their own annual conferences.  It was important for our brand to be visible at their events.

I love conferences – there are so many opportunities for amplifying your brand beyond standing behind the fishbowl and watching the business cards drop in.  You can read about those strategies here:

At the conferences, I always had a daily give-away.  In order to qualify for the drawing, visitors would have to fill out a form and answer all questions (this was to help me qualify the leads upon our return to the office).  We’d hold a drawing each day – the idea was that we could create more of a buzz on Day 2 as a result of the drawing on Day 1, and more of a buzz on Day 3 as a result of the drawings on Day 2 and Day 1.

One year I gave away TVs.  Threw in free shipping.  The result was above average buzz.

The next year I gave away what was the equivalent of beanie baby bears with embroidered across their bellies.  The results were wildly outstanding.  By far, the conference attendees preferred the bears to the TVs.  The cost of the bears was of course much lower.  I would give away 12 bears a day versus 1 TV a day – and the buzz the second day was unbelievable.

Why was this?  For some of the people attending the conference, it allowed them to return home the hero if they had small kids.  For others, they wanted it as a colorful cube ornament.  Observing the winners, they’d show off the bear to their colleagues.  Their colleagues in turn would approach the booth and ask what they needed to do to get the bear.

These bears, roughly $3-$4 a pop were fantastic ice-breakers.  While the attendees were filling out the form for the drawing we could engage in conversation – ask them about their organization and mission, ask them what break out sessions had been the most interesting – what we didn’t do was ask if they were looking for fund accounting software and if they had a budget.  Most of the time, they’d ask us “So what is it that you do?”  When the prospect is asking, versus you telling – they tend to listen more closely.  And when you provide them with value, they tend to ask.