Have you ever been given a “free gift” by a company or church or whatever? (Is there any other kind?) It’s nice, right? Except that you most often don’t need/want the gift you’ve been given.
That’s what happened to me today. I won’t name the company because I don’t want to hurt their business, but they sent me a “free gift” as a promotional.
Their plan backfired, for several reasons.
First of all, I’ve never deal with their company directly. I’ve only bought from their Amazon store, so I was more than a bit confused when I got a package in the mail with their label on it. I instantly thought that my Amazon account had been compromised. Once my panic subsided, I was able to think through the chaos and track down the company’s customer service number where a nice lady informed me that I had received a “free gift.”
Secondly, the gift is a Kodak proprietary USB adapter.
This would be really helpful … if I owned a Kodak camera.
I don’t. This is a big failure on the company’s part. The only products I have purchased from their Amazon store were cases for an iPhone 4s. They should have sent me something that would have been useful to an iPhone owner, which they could have safely assumed I was based upon my actual purchase history. By sending me this random accessory, they have communicated to me that they had a surplus of obsolete garbage they could pawn off on their customers.
Now, poor corporate marketing aside, does your church hand out “free gifts” to guests? We do. We used to hand out travel mugs. Now, we hand out 1 gig USB drives with info about your church on them. (You can format the drives to make them actually useful.) If you come back a second time, then we really seal the deal with … a travel mug … full of candy!
There’s nothing wrong with this plan, but we’re always looking for new ideas. One idea was to hand out t-shirts which read, “I visited (Insert Church Name) and all I got was this t-shirt.” I’ve suggested having a selection of gifts ranging from gift cards to family devotionals. We’re not sure what we’re going to do, but we have decided on a few things.
Our “free gift” shouldn’t be a “white elephant.”
A white elephant is a gift that you wish you hadn’t received. To paraphrase the late Mitch Hedberg, we don’t want to hand a guest their gift and have the subtle message be,
“Here, you throw this away for us.”
That’s what this company did to me: we can’t do it to our guests.
We need to “know” our guests.
It wouldn’t have taken that much more effort for this company to have cross-referenced recent customers with what they actually purchased. If they had, I might have actually received a gift I could use. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like the idea of handing out t-shirts. Our church generally attracts families with a healthy (i.e. large) number of kids. How is one t-shirt going to communicate “We’re loved having your here today” to a family of six? Granted, you’ll never make everyone happy, but you can at least try not to disappoint everyone.
With a little bit of effort and a good deal of strategy, a “free gift” can help your church—or company—stand out as thoughtful and inviting. However, simply offering a gift won’t necessarily help you.
What does your church offer guests as a gift?
Have you ever received a white elephant as a free gift?
[Top image via MCSimon]