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Free does not mean cheap. It means “thanks”.

I know many industrial marketing managers don’t like free gifts, perhaps considering them to be in some way unprofessional. I disagree – some of the best branding I’ve experienced over the years has come from decent freebies. I can even name (without looking) many things which have hung around my home and office for years: a Telemecanique umbrella, a Rose+Krieger pen, an Adept Scientific calculator, and some SMC Pneumatics golf balls – and that’s straight off the top of my head.
But what have freebies got to do with online marketing, Chris? Well, here’s my current recommended approach to getting information out of people on your website. If your form asks for too much, you’ll put people off, we know that. So here’s the plan. Ask them for the minimum of information, then incentivise them to give you the rest. The sequence goes as follows:
1. (First screen) Please fill in your name and email address to receive the data sheet on this product.
2. (New screen) Thank you. The data sheet will be sent to you by email in a moment. If you’d like a paper copy, along with our latest catalogue, and a free Parker pen to say thank you, please enter your job title and company address here.
To me, that seems to attack the problem successfully.
Of course, if you disagree, feel free to let me know here, or if you have some suggestions as to the best corporate free gifts you’ve ever seen (or provided), share your thoughts here.

I was inspired to write this by an article called Rock Your Tchotkes (no, me neither) on the B2B Lead Blog. Very American (Tchotkes? Booths? Buttons? Two nations divided by a common language indeed) but worth a read.

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