I’m a major fan of two things: sports and books on business. So when my client and pal Mimi Altman (@mimialtman on Twitter), also an avowed sports fan, suggested that I read billionaire Mark Cuban’s book, How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It*, I quickly downloaded it to my Amazon Kindle. And with NCAA March Madness in full swing and our Chicago Bulls riding high so far this season, a book about basketball was a great selection.
It was inspiring and instructive to read Mark’s journey to billionaire-ship. His ability to seize opportunity when it knocks and change course when necessary is definitely worth modeling by small businesses and entrepreneurs. I found his advice to be spot on throughout this quick-reading e-book. There are so many quotables in it, aside from this possible exception:
- “NEVER EVER EVER buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it’s okay to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your… polo when they’re out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.”
Whoa! As a swag seller, you can imagine I was a little taken aback by that at first. So before I got all bent out of shape about it, I had to look at the spirit behind this advice. And, heck, I’ll listen to what someone who’s made billions has to say. So here’s what I take away from this and what you should, too:
- Customers Are Not Going to Wear YOUR Swag. Nope, Mark is right, your customers are not going to wear YOUR shirts and such out in public, unless they’re those who will wear anything because it’s free. (Do you really want those people as clients?) My favorite instance of customers not wearing swag in public is imprinted T-shirts worn as pajamas. Oh yeah, great ROI on that. Always look at how your customers will likely wear your logo shirts, hats, etc. in the real world. If they won’t be wearing in places and situations that are beneficial for you and your business, don’t be buying them. It’s the green thing to do for your cash flow and the planet.
- YOUR People Should Wear YOUR Swag. As Mark notes, “If your people are at shows and in public, it’s okay to buy for your own folks…” Yes, yes, yes! Branded wearables should be part of your marketing strategy in the public arena and at trade shows. Use ‘em!
- Buy and Give Swag on Purpose. If you buy promotional products just because you think you have to or when you don’t understand how to use them, don’t. Conserve your cash or learn how to use them correctly. That’s really what prompted me to write the SWAG book. I saw so many small businesses, entrepreneurs and consultants making useless investments that didn’t have a stitch (pun intended) of marketing value.
So is Mark Cuban anti-swag? No, I don’t think so. But I would say that he is anti-stupidity when it comes to spending money in a startup business. What do you think about swag for startups? Spend or save? Share your thoughts with us in Comments below. And check out Mark’s book. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
- How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It by Mark Cuban*
- Shop for Sports Promotional Items at PromoWithPurposeShop.com
- See Branded Wearables from the Branding Wear Collection for Shows and Events
- Get SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business (for Amazon Kindle)
*Link to Amazon, but not affiliate link. I’m in Illinois!