Hospital marketing swag best practices

The do’s and don’ts of purchasing merchandise for your hospital brand

Not long ago, one of our client’s preparing for a hospital brand launch sent us a package chock full of their old swag. You know — baseball caps, pens, frisbees, travel mugs, stress balls, etc. each item decorated with their former logo and company colors. We were like children on Christmas morning — in awe of how much merchandise the hospital generated over the years and we quickly snatched it up. To the hospital staff, the package symbolized a fresh start. To us, their awesome gift also served as a reminder about how to order company swag.

Swag best practices:

Don’t over do it

Every December, we send our clients a holiday gift to thank them for all their hard work and collaboration, from boxes of locally sourced cookies to canisters full of branded M&Ms. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday hype, but in reality, we only give out the gifts once a year. So it’s important not to overbuy.

The same goes for hospital swag. Although some items are timeless, new events or openings will foster new merchandise. Hospital marketers can look at the number of items they ordered last year and compare it to how much is left over, to hit that sweet spot between too many goods and not enough. If there’s a sizable difference, then you probably purchased more than necessary. The point is to order an item that will be of use or value to a consumer. You want to be able to give it all away so that it generates buzz in the community. Keep in mind storage space, too. Make sure to plan ahead, or avoid bulky items if your hospital doesn’t have room.

Get creative with it

What’s the purpose of branded merchandise? To promote your healthcare organization’s services and spread awareness. Avoid purchasing items that aren’t related to healthcare, aren’t desirable, or are not useful. Or else that piece of merchandise might end up in the junk drawer. You want to invest your money in merchandise that generates interest and can be used over and over again. Think about your target audience or healthcare trends when brainstorming ideas.

For example, one of our clients approached us with an idea to give a gift to women who had a baby at their hospital. Instead of a “baby blanket” or “toy bear,” we decided to give out something special and tailored. A Pandora charm with the baby’s birthstone. We sourced a local bead shop that produced charms for Pandora bracelets. The charms were a huge hit and good news about the hospital spread word-of-mouth.

Make sure there’s an ROI

Before purchasing an item, ask yourself what’s the point of the product? Will it promote your organization? Does it help your hospital stand out from its competition? Is it desirable? If the answer is no, then we suggest you rethink that purchase. In order to get ROI, swag needs to generate community buzz. Think about merchandise that is appropriate for an office desk or a piece of jewelry (such as our Pandora example) that men or women will want to show off. Give your audience something that will make them think about your organization the next time they need healthcare.

The possibilities are endless as long as you don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal and stay in tune with your audience.

Leave room for error

What’s worse than ordering too much merchandise? Not ordering enough, which is why we suggest you leave a little wiggle room in the swag budget. If your hospital is headlining a charity event, conference, or presentation, you don’t want to come up short with the crowd. Our philosophy is to order at least ten percent more merchandise than what you initially calculated. That should be enough to offset a miscalculation, but still reasonable enough that you will be able to give it away.

Proof before purchase

Hospital marketers might want to ask vendors for a proof, especially if you’re ordering an item for the first time. Different than a sample, a proof should come in exactly like the item you intend to order. With it, you can evaluate the aesthetics of a piece of merchandise, colors, size, and usability. Plus, some merchandise is more expensive than others. If you’re willing to spend the money, make sure to schedule time to order a proof before making a commitment.