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How and Why We Give Away Swag

Giving gifts is a win-win situation. You make customers happy, cultivate loyalty, and get good marketing results simply by being generous and grateful.

Today we want to share our experience about how to and why we give away swag, in the hope that what we’ve learned will be useful to you.

Our Swag Story

Since Balsamiq launched, we've enjoyed offering tokens of gratitude.

We’ve been distributing stickers, pins, and sharpies mostly at the conferences we've attended. It always works as a good spark to start conversations with our fans.

Nevertheless, we wanted to do more to show our appreciation.

Our very first attempt at giving gifts was sending out little bottles of balsamic vinegar by mail, with handwritten notes, to a dozen of our clients.

A bottle of Balsamiq's balsamic vinegar

Later on, we've made it more scalable and started designing some t-shirts: less fancy than the balsamic vinegar, but surely a more sustainable way to thank all the love and support our Community's had for us.

And since nothing beats the sentiment of happy customers wearing our tee, it's become part of our way of building and nurturing our relationship with them.

In the meantime, we've kept on crafting a lot of swag apparel and accessories just for us, on special occasions like our annual company retreats.

part of our 2016 Retreat Swag, a bagOur 2016 Retreat Bag

Trying to excel at customer service is our way of doing marketing. Massively distributing company-branded articles wouldn't fit very well with our culture. But here's what happened: after giving away a few t-shirts, people started asking about them, so we decided to make them available at cost, without framing it in a marketing strategy. That's how the Balsamiq swag store was born. Yay!

Who Gets Balsamiq Swag

Our intention is to show how grateful we are to those that go above and beyond as members of our community. We want to keep it unique, and we give away swag only as a form of recognition of something someone did for us that was special, for example:

  • They helped us debug a tough bug.
  • They consistently report bugs or help others in our forums.
  • They gave us great ideas for new features.
  • They are Balsamiq Champions, sharing good practices and knowledge in general about UX.
  • They are do-gooders.
  • They were excellent candidates we met when interviewing for new job positions.

You get the idea 😉

We also do it to welcome new hires or just craft new shirts for no particular reason other than our love for our company.

Here are pictures of part of our newbies' gear. Getting them makes us feel special and part of a great company since day one.

Swag for new hiresPart of our welcome swag

How We Send Swag

Joy, our does-it-all COO, buys discount codes in advance from Spreadshirt, the company that makes our swag. When we want to give someone a gift, we just need to tell Val, the heart and soul of all the swag-giving Balsamiq does. She will then email the codes to our recipients so they can choose what they’d like best from our store (design size, color...)

Every shirt, tote bag, or water bottle is a custom order. In this way, our supplier doesn't have any "stock" sitting around waiting to be sold, and we don't have to worry about what size or color the customer prefers.

Our provider sells through two online stores, one for the US and the other one for Europe. The distribution for the rest of the world could be a problem sometimes since it can cause an extra shipping charge to our recipients. But we don't want our friends to put their hands in their wallet to receive a gift! So, if you happen to know a better way to handle it, we are all ears. We'd love to get suggestions to smoothen out this part of the process.

Speaking of Spreadshirt

We like to do business with companies similar to Balsamiq in size and values, and Spreadshirt is a perfect fit. They produce high-quality items, crafted with responsible and eco-friendly practices by people who care about each T-shirt or accessory they manufacture.

They're focused on an excellent customer service, handling every interaction painstakingly with great empathy.

A quick story: on May 2nd, 2016, a sad day for the music world, we ordered new coupon codes under the name PAISELYPARK. It was a very unusual word, definitely unrelated to Balsamiq. Still, that confusing request didn't stop them from making us look awesome. They read our minds, and created the right codes under PAISLEYPARK; they'd understood we wanted to pay a little tribute to Prince using the name of his record label.

In addition to their great products, service and company culture, they're always going the extra mile with every purchase. They handle all the shipping and customs which makes the process cost-and-time efficient for us. They make sure our customers receive their personalized piece, timely and frictionless.

Take a look at how they print your t-Shirt!

They're awesome!

How Much It All Costs

The truth is, we don't know. We have all the data to calculate it, but we believe there’s no point in squeezing those numbers to get more information. We just have to make sure not to break the bank. However, if you’d like to know even a tiny bit of hard data, we pay an average of $25 for each item we send as a gift. If someone buys a tee directly from the store, we don’t get a cent.

Why Would Anyone Want Balsamiq Swag

You may ask.

We hope it’s because they love us 😍

We make the designs cool and close to our personality without a pushy branding agenda behind them. You can see the Balsamiq Mockups' smiley face, our tagline, and other witty messages, but the focus is never on the name of our company. We'd love that those who wear our stuff feel like insiders, not promoters.

It’s great to recognize each other as Balsamiq lovers and share this sense of belonging.
Besides, who doesn’t love a cool tee? ❤️

Take a look at our store. There's a bunch of goodies, from t-shirts and hoodies to aprons and baby onesies.

Return on Investment

If we don’t quantify the investment, we can hardly talk about a return. Yet, we have qualitative proof that this effort is worth it.

It pleases our customers and strengthens the relationships with our community. On top of that, we’re cultivating arguably the most optimal marketing method of communication, which is word of mouth.

People would most likely talk about us when we reciprocate on their awesomeness. With that gift, we’re giving people a story to tell, online and offline. It doesn’t matter if they are just a handful out of thousands.

We’re trying to do business the most human possible way. This happens in the small honest personal interactions that allow us to build trust. Have you ever read The Thank You Economy?

dominik wearing his balsamiq swag

A mug, a sticker or a pin are a perfect trigger to remind people about our little tool. Who knows? Maybe one day they will suggest Balsamiq Mockups to one of their friends. It’s a simple fun way to go from top-of-mind to tip-of-tongue. Have you ever read Contagious?

We’d love to hear your story: what do you give? Or what did you get? What could we do better? Leave your comment below!

Jessica for the Balsamiq Team

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Comments (6)

  1. Hi Ron!

    If you drop a line to with your details, we’ll get you hooked up with some cool Balsamiq stickers.

    – Alasdair

    Alasdair Manson
  2. I’d love to get some Balsamiq stickers for the laptops of our Business Analysts in the office.

    We use your product on all our projects and promote it to our clients 😉


  3. I love using your software, and I use it to create wireframes to accompany my requirements whenever I can.

    May I have some swag?


  4. Hi Neville! So good to see that you’re still following us, after all this time! I hope you’re doing great!

    Peldi Guilizzoni
  5. I was one of those people to get a bottle of balsamic vinegar. Yummy!

    Thanks Peldi!