As I mentioned in an older post, I’m reading Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin. His chapter on The Powerful Culture of Gifts has me thinking about some “free” gifts I’ve received lately and wondering, is free corporate gift giving dead?
Does gift-giving always involve an ulterior motive? If a company offers a free white paper, or other free useful information, do they always want something in return? Sure they do. Obviously they hope that by providing useful information to their target market or potential customer body, they will in return get more orders, make a sale, make money, etc.
But some companies seem too trigger happy with this tactic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll come across a free white paper that looks interesting, download it and then get a call that afternoon or the next day from a salesperson trying to sell me a product or service. I haven’t even had the time to fully read and digest their 20-page white paper before they are already knocking on my door asking for time and/or money.
As a marketer I think it’s a smart tactic to use educational information to engage potential customers. Seth writes about giving gifts of art, and he says true artists “do it for respect and connection and to cause change.” Our website has a section with free case studies, educational articles, and other materials on promotional products marketing. But I believe we use it in a tactful way by generously giving free information to our customers or potential customers to educate and help them improve their promotional marketing efforts. We don’t follow up hours later with a hard sale.
By generously giving and not immediately expecting a reciprocal gift we have positioned ourselves as experts in the industry and allow our potential clients to learn more about promotional items and promotional marketing for free. We have found that this builds trust with our clients and we’ve been rewarded with inquiries about our products and services, large scale RFPs and — yes — an overall increase in sales.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to getting a follow up call after I download a white paper, but I think there are certain companies that seem to be overzealous and too quick to expect something in return.