How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SWAG

Guest Post by: Derek Maine, Marketing Coordinator at Teague Campbell Dennis & Gorham LLP

When I started in my role as a marketing coordinator I had a dirty little secret that I did not keep secret from any of my co-workers and bosses – I hated SWAG.  I associated promotional products with trade shows I would attend with my father growing up and kept envisioning an empty, broken-down trade show with useless trinkets littering the floor.  I wanted to spend our resources on fancy souped-up legal software, CRM systems, basically anything but a Teague Campbell bobblehead.  I was wrong (it happens from time to time), and two separate instances showed me how wrong I was.

A few months after starting in my new position I received a call from a very lovely, but quite frantic woman.  She was upset.  Apparently she was unloading the dishwasher and a travel coffee mug with our logo slipped through her hands and shattered on the floor.  It was her husband’s favorite mug, he used it every day, and was there any way that I could ship her a new one.  She would gladly cover the cost of the mug and shipping.  I was shocked. People love this stuff.  It’s his mug. Of course I sent her a few new ones and some other fun items and told her to call me anytime if she needed anything.

The second instance that brought me fully into the fold and loving SWAG has to do with relationships.  I went to an early morning coffee meeting for the Raleigh City Group Legal Marketing Association.  There was a gentleman there that provided promotional products to companies.  He didn’t pass around mouse pads with his company’s logo on it.  He joined in on a conversation about CRM software with smart, helpful, tangible advice from his own experiences.  He asked questions and was getting to know and understand the challenges the group faced in marketing.  I didn’t hear him mention SWAG or promotional products once; I only knew what he did based on his business card.  At Teague Campbell, our attorneys are constantly working to get to know their client’s business and industry, instead of listing off a litany of legal services we provide.  We provide ourselves on that because, essentially, our job, like most people’s job in the service industry, is to make someone else’s work-life a little bit easier, a little safer, a little more predictable in an unpredictable business climate.  Here was someone doing the exact same thing – living out the principles we preach.

So we met for coffee. And again, there was not a pitch or some huge magazine of products.  It was a frank and productive discussion on the type of clients we work with, the industries we service, the sort of event we go to.  Most impressively, he had ideas.  We were launching a new service that would include marketing to financial advisors.  With a background in that industry, he went over the various trade groups and associations and the sort of marketing that works and doesn’t work with an unfamiliar group.  He was helping me do my job. And he had specific ideas about promotional products.  Instead of selling me a catalogue, he listened to what my firm’s goals were and got creative about ways we could incorporate promotional items into the events and for our clients and prospects.

Because of where you are reading this, you have already figured out the company.  The gentleman’s name was Ben Hedgepeth of Th!nk Promotional Group.  While we’ve just begun our partnership, it is clear that this is a true partnership, with each us striving to make each other’s job a little bit better, a little bit easier.

One last story.  At a recent unnamed event, I was sitting with a group of fellow exhibitors listening to the speakers.  The talk that day, like a lot of talks and a lot of days in business, was about relationships.  The theme was familiar to all of us — building partnerships at every level of an organization and valuing great service.  I asked a few fellow exhibitors who provided their SWAG.  One gentleman said “some company out of New Jersey,” another one said, “I actually have no idea, I have an email address if you need it.”  Clearly the concept of relationship building and partnerships was not reaching every level of these two particular organizations (and they were two very good organizations). When someone asks me who provides my SWAG, I get to say, “Ben Hedgepeth. He lives and works in Raleigh, if I have a question or need something he can be at my office in ten minutes.”


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