The use of promotional items has been a long-debated marketing tactic, particularly in highly client-focused industries like field services. It’s up to you to decide if promotional items are worthy of a place in your limited marketing budget and how you will use them if you do decide to invest. Of course, the real question is not whether to use promotional items or not, but which items you choose and how you use them.
To make customer freebies worthwhile, you need to have a plan. The value of a promotional item is that it exists and lasts in the real world. Every time someone sees or uses a branded item, they will be reminded that your company offers quality service and rewarding little extras. But free t-shirts and pens aren’t magic. Each item should have a purpose and fit into your plan to bring back one-time customers as return customers and turn return customers into regulars. With the right choice and implementation of promotional items, you can see significantly more returns, even if months and years go by before a customer needs your services again.
Freebies and the Conversion Funnel
The key here is choosing items your customers will find useful, keep around, and make use of on a regular basis. You want your promotional items to still be around the next time a past customer needs the service you have to offer, for your name to have lingered in their mind all this time, and for your phone number to still be right there printed on your promo item.
For field services, freebies fit into your return customer conversion funnel. In other words, they contribute to convincing people you have helped before return to your service instead of hiring another random local service based on a Google search. This means you need an opportunity to hand over the item, and for the item to somehow defend itself from winding up in the trash. To do this, it’s all about the items you choose and how you leave them with a customer.
A Maintenance Schedule Card
The first, best, and easiest “freebie” to incorporate into your service is a maintenance schedule card. The utility is simple: they are a service courtesy to let customers know when their next regular maintenance check-up should be. You probably won’t find these sold by promo-item vendors but that’s okay. Any commercial printer can make you a stack of waterproof cards with your brand and contact info on the top followed by a series of lines for maintenance dates.
There’s no need to make a fuss about this helpful freebie. Instead, instruct your technicians to estimate the future maintenance schedule by month (ex: Dec 2018, July 2020, Dec 2020, etc.) so that customers have a friendly window and leave the card taped helpfully to their appliance. Casually let the customer know that you’ve left them a recommended maintenance schedule and thank them for calling your service. For customers who care about keeping up with maintenance and who check on their appliances from time to time, the card itself will do the job politely with no flash or ‘promo’ feeling.
Of course, many customers simply never look at their appliances and only ever call for service when something outright breaks. In most families, refrigerator magnets can come from anywhere and will sit on the refrigerator for years unnoticed until someone needs information and starts ‘reading the fridge’. This puts your magnet in the ideal spot for your info to still be round in two or three years when your service is needed again.
If you leave a simple flat magnet covered in service information, most likely it will be used to hold up children’s artwork and takeout menus for a long time before anyone takes note of it again. But when the AC breaks down, the yard needs relandscaping, or the satellite dish falls in a storm, you’ll be the service they’ve been unconsciously looking at for months or years. Just make sure the magnet is strong enough to hold up a takeout menu and you’re golden.
Surprisingly Useful Pens
Every car dealership, law office, school, and medical practice in the world seems to offer these cheap little-branded ballpoint pens. Despite the usefulness of a good pen, most people are sick of the thin pens that break or dry out at the drop of a hat. The vast majority of promotional pens get thrown away. However, a surprisingly nice pen that writes smoothly, fits well in the hand, and has a sturdy pocket clip will rattle around in a home office or utility drawer for years simply because it’s too nice to throw away.
As field service professionals, you are in a unique position to know exactly what makes a pen useful and sturdy as opposed to cheap disposable trash. Look for weightier pens with a good writing tip, thicker bodies, and possibly even a pen-light. Then it will never be thrown away and your brand will be subtly associated with usefulness and quality.[Continued in Part 2]