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HOW TO START WITH COMPANY SWAG THAT ABSOLUTELY ROCKS

by Niels Vandecasteele

Everybody loves company swag, but starting your own company merchandise collection is a serious task. You have to juggle designs, products, sizes, stock levels, shipments and more on top of your core business. The prospect of creating merchandise can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. We created this guide to help you navigate the incredibly fun journey from vague idea to kick-ass merch! 

WHAT IS COMPANY SWAG?

Company swag is the translation of your brand identity, vision & values into wearable apparel. It’s a lot more than slapping your logo onto some cheap shirt and hoping for the best. Our most successful projects have been with collaborations with companies use their swag as a solid marketing tool to get their brand into peoples homes and lives: from the first sip of morning coffee in a company mug to the evening run in custom sportswear. Company swag has come a long way from the boxy oversized t-shirts businesses used to hand out. Choosing the right products is crucial and it all starts with how you plan to use your merch.

How to make your swag work for you

INCREASE EVENT & FAIR VISIBILITY

Whether you’re organizing a company conference or have a booth on a trade fair, it’s important to have branded apparel for you and your team. Here's why:

  1. It’s clear to visitors who’s part of the crew, so no awkward standing around and looking for help.
  2. Great company swag gives your team that extra credibility & panache.
  3. When your team is away from the booth for mingling or an afterparty, they're still carrying your brand name on them.

Products: T-shirts, Polo shirts, Knitted shirts, Sweaters

CUSTOMER ACQUISITION

Mailchimp, a marketing automation platform and emial marketing service, was sending out branded t-shirts (and later socks) to everybody that opened a free account. People were signing up like crazy to get their free piece of swag. Because of their clever marketing funnel, Mailchimp converted those leads into clients and their campaign generated massive ROI. But what was the hidden powerful bonus? All these people started wearing the Mailchimp merchandise, generating massive buzz and brand awareness.

Products: T-shirts & Socks

EFFECTIVELY REDUCE CHURN

As a Saas company, your two most important metrics (especially when starting out) are acquisition & churn, respectively meaning  getting more users and keeping those users. The previous example was how Mailchimp used company merch to acquire new platform users, but how can your business implement merchandise to reduce churn? It's quite simple. Customer reward strategy is very powerful, certainly when you get your timing right. You can, for example, send a small ‘thank you’ merch package to every customer that uses your platform for 6 months or to anyone who signs up for a year. This will quickly generate good results. However, if you want great results, you better have your data present like in this example:

  • 60% of your users doesn’t continue their subscription after 6 months trial
  • You can automatically send a company swag pack after 5 months
  • You drastically reduce your churn because people feel grateful for the merch package 

Products: Socks, Mugs, T-shirts or Caps

RECRUIT NEW TALENT FOR SUPER CHEAP

Company swag is a highly effective tool for recruiting. It’s important to get your company and brand in front of the right people to get them to join your team. So how does swag come in? Imagine giving your development team branded t-shirts & hoodies. They wear them proudly during daily life, while commuting and when visiting friends. As you can deduct, developers have a lot of developer friends (who are the people you want to attract). They see your employee's cool merchandise and soon, the conversation is about your company. When people are looking for a new challenge, you’ll be top of mind. And company swag is a lot cheaper, effective and basically a lot more fun than paying heavy recruitment fees.

Products: leisure clothing for your team

ENHANCE COMPANY CULTURE

Just like merchandise can assist you in recruiting new team members, it can also help you to improve and enhance your current company culture. You probably have a couple of company traditions like a yearly teambuilding or after work beers on Fridays. You can stretch the feeling and effect of these events with merchandise. Imagine custom woven Christmas jumpers for your next Christmas party (and all the social media pictures that will keep the holiday spirit alive) or your next company fun run in completely unique sportswear.

Products: all branded products

christmas-jumper-team

The 3 pillars of great company swag

MERCHANDISE DESIGN

Why is design so important? People have to want to wear your company swag, so it has to look great. You can’t make ugly hoodies and expect your team or clients to proudly wear them, right? Designing custom company swag is a completely different skill set than designing web pages or content posts. It requires a profound understanding of all technical aspects in product development and textile production. It’s a lot more than just designing a print, it's everything from fabric to labeling. Merchandise design is closer to product development than graphic design. That’s why we built a team of specialist merchandise designers to create stunning merchandise based on our clients' corporate design and target audience. They help you approach your SaaS brand like a fashion brand and help you build your collection.

WHY PREMIUM QUALITY MATTERS (AND RESULTS IN  A HIGHER ROI)

You can have the best design in the world, but if you choose poor quality products, nobody will wear them. Think of the crappy t-shirts that are somewhere on the bottom shelf of your closet. You might use them to mow the lawn, but they won’t deliver ROI (unless you’re a lawn mowing company, in which case, good for you! 😉 ). It’s crucial that you get your merch on the shelf where people keep their favorite t-shirts and recent retail purchases. Good quality helps you prolong the life of your merchandise. Let us illustrate this by the following graph.

screen-shot-2019-01-29-at-14.56.35

THE DANGERS OF POOR QUALITY

It's a given that your company swag will directly be associated with your brand. If you come out with high quality merch, people will value your brand and company. If you decide on poor quality merch, it will reflect your brand in a negative way. It’s important that you take your company swag very seriously because for a lot of software companies, their merch is the only physical part of the company. Protect your brand by protecting your merchandise quality.

ETHICAL & ECOLOGICAL

Quality does not only mean the technical quality of your products, but also the values of your production partner. We think all aspects of production should be ethical and durable, no exceptions. We guarantee humane working conditions, no child labor whatsoever, fair wages & continuous education. Check for organisations like the fairwear foundation that guard these working conditions. We also convince our clients that organic cotton and other ecological fabrics are the future of textile production.

Story & Distribution

You’ve decided on a great design for your merch. You’ve produced it with a premium partner and you’re super happy with the box of t-shirts you received. Now what? We meet a lot of clients who've had negative experiences with merch. They partnered up with a supplier who couldn't help them with the implementation of company merch and ended up with boxes of swag gathering dust in the back of their warehouse. What they needed was someone who could help them use the merch in an effective way.

We offer all ranges of involvement to our clients. Do you want to give the merch to your employees on a teambuilding? Great, receiving your merch in time is a priority. Do you need a complete ecommerce solution with global logistics because you want to commercialize your merchandise? Also great, our team is ready to help. Always pick a partner who goes beyond the production of your gear and you’ll get a lot more ROI out of your swag investment.

To highlight the importance of this, here's a quick example of what happened to one of our clients:
Our client ordered a year's worth of merchandise at once (t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, beanies & custom boxes). That way, he got the price advantage of a large volume purchase. We keep his stock in our warehouse and every time he needs to send a swag package to an employee or client, we make the package and ship it for him. He has fully automated his merch. Because the swag was such a success, we decided to work together to get his ecommerce shop online and to run it completely for him. His swag is generating money for him now, on autopilot!

Finding the right company swag partner

 
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As I've tried to point out in the previous chapters, company swag is a lot more than just some printed t-shirts. If you partner up with the right merchandise partner, you’ll see that your company swag starts to work for you by generating leads and keeping your clients and team happy. Everybody loves company swag, but it’s your responsibility to do it right! To guarantee success, we advise you to keep the following three things in mind when partnering up with a merch supplier.

1. HIRE EXPERTS, NOT JUST PRODUCERS

Don’t go for the cheapest screen printer on the market. Your core business is your software, it’s not merchandise. This means that you’ll need to get results quickly, without investing too many hours of work. Time is money, and with the right partner you’re buying time.

2. CHECK EXPERIENCE AND CREDENTIALS

Look for a partner that has experience in working with SaaS companies. You’re not the construction company screen printers are usually working with. You're a fast paced, high quality business and you need a partner that respects that. You need someone who takes your time seriously and does all the proactive things so you only have to say yes or no. At least, that’s our philosophy. Check if there's an informative website and if they can provide the right portfolio that matches your company.

3.  MAKE SURE YOUR PARTNER IS SCALABLE

As a Saas company, scale is everything. Oftentimes you start out small, but then grow rapidly. You need a merchandise partner that can keep up with your pace. That means going from 10 to 100000 pieces of swag in the blink of an eye. Make sure there are no limits concerning design, production or volume reductions. You need the best value for your chosen quantity. Pick the company that matches your flexibility and scalability.

How to take your company swag to the next level

We have a couple of ways to make your merchandise a true experience and not just... "stuff". These two tactics help you make the most out of your branded apparel and assist you in reaching your targets.

Packaging & boxes
Everybody loves to receive a present. By packing your merchandise in a custom box, you’re transforming it from an item to a gift, which is a strong move. Combine that with the ability to add more information to the box (why you’re giving it, product information, inviting them for a visit, a call to contact you…), boxed merchandise is a unique way to make a difference. Interested in a company swag box? Check out our option, the merch box.

The E-commerce growth hack
When handing out company swag, it’s a bit tacky to talk about the monetary value of the package. You might have invested $50 in a great merch box, but the receiver probably doesn't have a clue how much it's worth. Their perceived value could be way off. Fortunately, we provide a fix for this. For a lot of clients we set up an online shop. The purpose of this is not really to sell the company swag (although some clients chose to do this), but rather to give clients an insight in the value of their package. For example...

  • I send you a sweater and you estimate its value at $25. 
  • I send you a sweater that’s for sale on my webshop for $59. Now you estimate its value at exactly $ 59.

E-commerce is a great way to increase the perceived value of your gifted company swag.

How can we help you?

I hope this article helped you in your quest for epic company swag. I would also like to introduce myself, my name is Niels Vandecasteele. I’m the founder of Merchandise Essentials, and we’re specialized in designing and producing awesome merchandise based on your brand.

We also offer a lot of extra services like warehousing, logistics, e-commerce and education. If you are interested in premium company swag, I’m sure we can help you as a strong, reliable and scalable partner. Just send us an e-mail or give us a call, and your personal account manager will guide you through the complete process. Whether you’re looking for only 10 caps or for more than 10.000 hoodies, we can help!

Topics:Merchandise MarketingStrategy

About Merchandise Essentials

In 2015 Merchandise Essentials consisted out of two young guys with big dreams. Working out of their parents’ living room they started turning those dreams into goals.

The living room became a 600m2 office space with a showroom. The two man team turned into a workforce of more than 30 young and talented individuals who are now designing and producing merchandise for brands and businesses in 43 countries.

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