This post is part of The 30.000 Word Challenge. See all the articles in the series! 

 

The last year has been amazing in terms of connecting with brands and companies. As a mostly introvert person, I’ve managed to bring value, have conversations and get cool SWAG in return. Here’s my story + some tips&tricks for you to get some too.

0. What Is SWAG?

SWAG stands for Stuff We All Get and it consists of promotional materials (usually given at conferences, fairs, etc.). They can be:

  • tshirts
  • keychains
  • hats/caps
  • branded phone chargers/backup batteries
  • headphones
  • …and much more.

Most of the time, it’s a small product that’s used to increase brand authority or warm up to cold leads. I mean who doesn’t like a free thirt or an external backup battery for your phone?

Lately, SWAG has gone digital, with products such as Facebook Cover Photos, iPad Retina Wallpapers and Android Wallpapers, as seen on Vanderbilt University’s page. Duke University took it even further with a whole dedicated website to SWAG. Oh, and did someone say dedicated songs in multiple formats? Georgia Tech’s site has got you covered.

More and more unfortunately, I see stuff like coupons and discounts for their own products. This infographic by Zoliro explains the new landscape. Their service provides digital event bags.

I see SWAG as just an extension of Content Marketing into the real world. If articles, guides, infographics, quizzes and GIFs are supposed to make you like, trust and care about the brand, SWAG provides you with something that’s useful in real-life. And you’re also promoting their brand at the same time.

It’s actually such a powerful medium, that some have built it into 6 figure businesses. And created courses on how you can also use these sponsorships. In case you’re wondering what Zook’s up to now – he’s selling his future.

Getting back to the topic of SWAG, digital doesn’t have to mean cheap. You can still offer digital promotional goods that make your brand look cool. A nice emoticon, a great in-game figure, some sweet looking wallpapers…anything BUT coupons and discounts for your own products. That’s a hard sell for someone who might not know you. Rarely will someone actually commit to a year-long contract for thousands of dollars with a company he/she doesn’t know anything about, just because he/she received a lousy coupon for 30% off.

SWAG done right (digital or real-life) makes your brand look cool, promotes it to other people and makes you feel awesome in the process. SWAG shouldn’t be/feel cheap, nor should be something that pretty much anyone can get. Getting SWAG as a reward is a great feeling, as we’ll see in the following examples.

1. Wistia Tshirt

Wistia is a professional video hosting website, couples with analytics and marketing tools, like lead generation.

I was really interested in video and noticed a lot of marketing people started switching from good ol’ YouTube to this new Wistia platform. I was intrigued and decided to give it a chance. But since the good plans all cost money, I never ended up doing anything more than create a free account. In time that became even less effective, as I felt features were taken out of it.

The name, however, stuck with me and I always remembered it. I don’t really know why – it feels like a combination of “whisk” and “fast”. Definitely nothing to do with video, namewise.

Getting back to the SWAG, one day I was browsing twitter and some flickr galleries and noticed people posting pictures of themselves wearing awesome Wistia tshirts. Being someone of a curious person, I decided to investigate further. Even though it was founded in 2006, it didn’t really get traction right away.

One of the big ways they decided to make themselves known was through quality Wistia tshirts. There’s no point in giving something away if it’s not as good as the product itself. You should be proud to wear the tshirt yourself – it represents you.

I noticed there were giveaways, customer support/hapiness people were giving them to clients, but I couldn’t get in on that action. I knew all about awesome brands from Zappos – they sent me The Culture Book absolutely free. And as much as I like them and their brands, I’m never going to be their customers. That is, unless they start shipping shoes to Europe.

Awesome brands care about their customers – and potential customers. And people who might influence their potential customers. So it made sense for Zappos to send me the book, as I could be in contact with people in the United States. Or I could be here talking to you about how great they are.

Wistia hid a little free tshirt page on their website. Using a few google searches and knowing a thing or two about sitemaps, I was able to find the secret page. I quickly entered my details and bang! Less than 2 weeks later, I was wearing a wonderful Wistia tshirt.

Wistia SWAG takeaway: Look for open or closed digital doors. Use the system on your behalf.

2. Insightly Tshirt And Stickers

It all started when I contacted a developer who was building an online course platform, similar to Udemy, for the Romanian market. I became self-appointed Marketing Manager and he was CEO, founder, lead (and only) developer and all around product person.

At the same time, I had written a review for this CRM system I kept hearing about, called Insightly.

When we had to do a bit of course creator outreach for the online course platform, I suggested just using a CRM to handle all the data. It worked great for what we needed. And since I was already looking to boost the online presence of the platform, I started talking to Insightly’s customer support about features, bugs and even asked questions about future releases.

Back in 2014, they were still building their blog and getting the hang of Content Marketing. I wrote a few articles for them about using a CRM system for the first time and gave them an interview about my experience using it.

I assume that by now I was on their radar: I had written a review, I created multiple pieces of content for them and I got the online course platform feature in their case studies section. Out of nowhere I get an email from them, telling me they want to send me a goodie bag and I needed to provide them with an address.

I can’t even tell you how happy I was when I walked out of the post office with a free tshirt + stickers. That’s the moment I knew engaging with companies is mutually beneficial. I still recommend Insightly as a great CRM and use it from time to time on different projects.

Insightly SWAG takeaway: Find out how you can improve the company/brand you like and offer your goods and services to them. For me, it was writing posts and reviews.

3. EduPOW Tshirt

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know I enjoy creating courses and teaching online. This piece of SWAG sort of came out of nowhere. I was on Udemy, Skillshare and Skillfeed at the time and on the search for more platforms/marketplaces where I could spread my courses.

I finally found EduPOW, but looked and felt like something built in a weekend, using WordPress, a theme and some plugins. It didn’t really inspire confidence.

I did however sign up to the platform and one day I got the magic email: they let me know that they were running a special offer. You pay about $10 and you get a money making course, a digital book from the founder AND a tshirt. You could argue in this instance that this last element wasn’t actually free. But $10 for a nice tshirt + free shipping? Still sounds like a pretty awesome deal to me.

And like a great gift that keeps on giving, as I looked at the tshirt label, I found out where they had printed it. And so I’ve learned about one of the cheapest tshirt printing businesses in the world, somewhere in the Philippines.

EduPOW SWAG Takeaway: Read all your emails (to find special exclusive offers) and sign up for platforms that you might be interested in. A great place to find those is Product Hunt.

4. Hotjar Tshirt

By now I was already a seasoned SWAG aficionado, so getting something from Hotjar was just a matter of time.

Hotjar is a set of tools that helps you better understand your website’s visitors (heatmaps, visitor surveys, visitor recording and much more). I signed up for their beta and I was constantly talking to their team via email and in-app messaging.

In exchange for filling out all my personal details and referring a few other beta users, I got a nifty Hotjar tshirt in the mail.

The beta has come and gone, but you too can have the chance to get awesome Hotjar goodies. All you have to do is register for an account (it’s free and requires no credit card). Then you’ll see an ad for the promo they’re running. Depending on the amount of people you refer to Hotjar, you can receive:

  • A free lifetime business account
  • A Hotjar tshirt
  • A Hotjar hoodie
Hotjar SWAG Takeaway: Make yourself known. Use the product, chat with the support team. Provide valuable feedback and be on the look out for promos.

5. Buffer Tshirt And Stickers

If you’re in any way related to Content Marketing (or basic social-media), you should have heard about Buffer by now. Founded by Joel Gascoine in 2010, it’s become a powerhouse mainly thanks to its blog.

Alongside Neil Patel and few others (Authority Hacker, Sujan Patel and Niche Hacks come to mind), the Buffer blog is an amazing resource of tips, case studies, interviews, guides and much much more.

Furthermore, they manage to crank out a staggering amount of great content. And the best thing? They share all their success and failure with us, the readers.

I was a fan, but not a paying customer, of the app. So I did not think there was any way I would be able to get anything just for using the platform. I was dead-wrong. Not sure if this was part of a global/coordinated customer support campaign, but I got an email asking me for my email address.

About a week later, an awesome Buffer tshirt + stickers came via mail. I was delighted and have remembered them forever thanks to this little gift.

Buffer SWAG Takeaway: Use Buffer. Be active. Get free SWAG.

6 MailChimp Monkey Hat

This one was a doozy. Previous care packages came rather easy. But this was MailChimp we’re talking about. Definitely in the top 3 email marketing platforms on the planet. And #1 for the cutest mascot.

Furthermore, previous companies were using SWAG to get leads, increase traffic and increase their authority. But MailChimp didn’t really need those. The platform was so awesome that people just kept talking about it. It was like a never ending rolling snowball, getting bigger and bigger. MailChimp isn’t exactly a young startup – it’s 15 years old. They weren’t just going to give anyone free SWAG, so I had to be resourceful.

Rumours about their monkey hats were floating around the internet. The basic idea is that if you’re a loyal customer, you’d get one eventually. I wasn’t a paying customer and since I’m not very patient, I would rather have something now than later.

Lucky for me, I do work in a digital agency and we do have clients that use MailChimp as their main/paid email marketing platform. Over the course of a few weeks we ran into a few issues with campaigns not sending, lists weren’t getting updated properly and automations weren’t running. All issues were promptly resolved, all questions were quickly answered by their excellent support team. And here is where the magic happend.

It was about my 5th time talking to the support staff about that client’s paid account, so I knew they must’ve had me in the system somewhere. They could also see my status as a paying customer, since you fill in your username before you chat with them. I’ve also seen info on their own websites that they provide priority support to clients who spend money on the product. So I was not only on their radar, I was also on their paid radar, which sometimes helps a bit more.

After the answer to my question that day, the friendly support staff person asked me that amazing question: “Is there anything else I can help you with today, Sorin?”. Similar to the Stalking Vampire Technique, I found my open door for SWAG.

I wasn’t really into tshirt any more so I wanted something special. I asked them about the monkey hats. Straight up, direct question: “How can I get a monkey hat?”. Seconds later I was in heaven: “Just send us your full address and we’ll send you one soon”. Done and done.

About 2 weeks later, I got that great gift in the mail. Since it arrived at work, I did wear it for the second half of my day, getting weird looks from colleagues, asking me what that is and how I got it.

MailChimp SWAG Takeaway: It helps (a lot) to be a paying customer. It also helps if it’s a fun company you know has cool stuff to giveaway. Talk to their support staff, make your conversation human, about building a relationship with trust as the foundation. You should also check out the story behind the hats here. It’s pretty awesome!

7. Inbound.org Tshirt

A great community needs great identification methods. I drooled at the Inbound.org tshirt ever since I joined the community and saw it in the online shop.

One day, I came across this post on the homepage. Having the SWAG experience I do, I enjoyed the idea of having to invite friends. About three days later, not later did I have 5 friends on the platform, but 2 of them were already hooked. They didn’t even know what they were missing all this time.

It was a bit annoying to connect with twitter while creating the account, as twitter isn’t that popular in Romania, so they all had to create twitter accounts for this SWAG. Their accounts will probably never get used again.

One amazing thing about the giveaway is that I wasn’t the only one getting SWAG. Me and my 5 friends all got the sweet care package, courtesy of Inbound.org.

Inbound.org SWAG Takeaway: Be an active member of the community and visit it daily. There are always competitions, discussions and giveaways. Don’t miss out – visit it daily.

8. Moz.com Tshirt

If there was some SWAG I didn’t ever think I had a chance of getting, it was this one.

Moz is a great product, I’ve been following their company and blog since they were called SeoMoz and I have the utmost of respect for them. Partly because they create amazing content, but also because they’re not afraid to go really personal. Rand especially really inspired me to talk a lot more about my experiences (good or bad) and I’ve found it to be a great relationship builder.

I am not a Moz subscriber, I’ve used their service a few times (a few trials, a few paid versions) and found it to be a very competent SEO inbound marketing tool. The UI isn’t very friendly at first, but you get used to it.

Getting back to the SWAG, I have seen their tshirt and friendly robot stickers around online, but thought they were mostly for employees and larger customers. Unbeknownst to me, Moz really does kick ass, even for non-paying customers.

I was approached on twitter by someone selling cheap marketing accounts to apps like SEMRush, Alexa, WordAi and Moz. Now, while there are tools like SEM Compass and Follow.net that offer some functionality of the full apps they pull data from, this wasn’t the case. So it immediately seemd odd – $9 for something that costs about $75. Not really sure if they were buying one account and sharing that info with multiple clients or just using stolen credit cards to buy the original accounts.

I decided to be true to myself and inform all of the companies that were on that list. SEMRush was the first one to respond and they were shocked at what they read. Not only shocked, buy delighted. A few days later, after sending their Cease & Desist email, they were no longer on the cheap/stolen apps list. I was delighted – I was offered a free 2 week SEMRush account (worth about $35), just for helping them.

Most other companies contacted me and thanked me for my help. Moz, however, went the extra mile. Not only did they know about this – and were making efforts to take the offer/website down – but they wanted to show their appreciation for letting them know. Quickly sent them my mailing address and a tshirt (and possibly other goodies) are on their way to me as we speak.

Moz.com SWAG Takeaway: When dealing with a big company, look for ways to provide value in terms of content, taking care of their brand or suggesting features. Make sure they know your name.

9. Final Takeaways

  • Be nice to people, interact with influencers and try to forge a genuine relationship.
  • Provide value at every step and think of it in terms of “I work for them, I should help them”, not “I’m an outsider, ony looking for SWAG”.
  • Do things that others won’t do – extensive research, talking to support staff, asking questions while in the trial period, etc.
  • Find out what SWAG products are available and how you can get some for yourself.
  • Write posts about your experience (like this one) and learn from other cool marketers around the world.

Oh, and if you’re a company and want me to spread the word about you, some SWAG sent my way will do wonders!

What marketing SWAG have you gotten over the years? What tactics did you use to get it?