How to get free products for my user-group?
May 22, 2007 2:30 PM   Subscribe

How do I get companies to provide me with free products/services/swag that I can use as give-aways at my user-group meetings?

I've recently been involved in a web-design/creative design user-group in the Pittsburgh area. (URL is in my profile for those interested.)

I would like to get in touch with some companies in order to get some items to give away at our monthly meetings, but I don't quite know where to start! I plan on just sending out some e-mails, but I feel sort of weird doing this. I realize that this is a common practice of user groups to get stuff, but I feel a bit uncomfortable asking.

Does anyone have any tips on how to best go about asking?
posted by punkrockrat to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just ask. Some companies don't mind being (e)mailed and asked for product, especially if you're writing about it and can give some proof. Software companies are especially good for this, since it costs them very little to let you download.
posted by dnthomps at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2007

contact their public relations department. tell them what it's for and how much you want.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:49 PM on May 22, 2007

If you don't get a response from e-mails, try paper letters. They have a little more impact.
posted by alms at 3:31 PM on May 22, 2007

Actually, try the marketing department. Make sure to tell them what they'll get out of the deal (logo exposure, product samples in the potential customer's hands, goodwill, a one-time promotional email after the event, etc). Some folks plan this stuff pretty far out, so if that's the case, find out what you need to do to be on their radar for next year. If you're asking local businesses, I've heard sending a letter and then stopping by to follow up works pretty well, but I've never tried it.
posted by ml98tu at 3:50 PM on May 22, 2007

You could also ask your members to see if they have any colleagues/friends at companies that would give you free stuff. Sometimes a request like that is easier to grant to a former colleague or someone you know rather than a stranger. At the very least, the contact could help put you in the right direction of who to contact.
posted by ml98tu at 3:56 PM on May 22, 2007

Most companies love giving away stuff. We hosted a LAN party last month and got TONS of swag gifts. All we had to do is ask.
posted by fvox13 at 5:17 PM on May 22, 2007

Yeah - just ask around - find a local branch office if possible - find out if there is already a national/international user-group network for your area of focus and then go through them.

It's easier than you think and once the ball gets rolling, pretty straightforward.
posted by jkaczor at 6:34 PM on May 22, 2007

We have user groups constantly asking us for freebies for contests and door prizes and whatnot. This is something that our marketing guys would handle, so when contacting a company for the freeibes, ask for the marketing department.
Your email to the companies in your sights should include an introduction on your user group and on yourself. Add a few details on what your user group is all about and then nicely ask for whatever software/schwag they can donate to your cause. Also ask if there are any affiliate programs or special deal URLs so that your user group members can purchase whatever products that the company sells.
That's about all you need to do. Don't be pushy and don't take it personally if a company turns you down. Why would a company turn you down? Well, we had a special deal URL just for user groups on our site for years and it brought in exactly zero dollars. We still help out a few user groups though. Mostly the ones that are nice.
Good luck!
posted by NoMich at 7:30 PM on May 22, 2007

Thanks for your tips everyone. It's much appreciated!
posted by punkrockrat at 6:11 AM on May 23, 2007

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