Collateral — meaning printed brochures, rack cards, bookmarks, t-shirts, and more — has fallen a bit out of favor in this digital world. The up-front costs can seem high, and there is a limit to how many t-shirts you can give away. But consider this: one great t-shirt worn again and again can reach hundreds of thousands of people! And people will use your collateral because we all like stuff . . . especially free stuff.

The whole point of any marketing effort is to get your message in front of as many interested people as possible. The challenge is to develop something that people keep, reuse, and share so the message keeps circulating.  

We work in the book marketing world, so we always suggest giving books away. I know it can sound counter-intuitive to give away the very books you are trying to sell; but as we’ve noted over the past eight years, the more of an author’s books we give away, the more they tend to sell. However, we’re not giving books away willy-nilly. We’re strategic with our efforts. 

For instance, we might ignite a surprise-and-delight campaign with a client’s social audience or email list, giving everyone on the list who’s opened emails for the past five months an early, signed edition of a client’s book. Rewarding loyalty matters and it repays in kind.

Stuff People Love

We believe in giving away signed books, and to do that we often suggest book plates to clients. Book plates are essentially beautiful stickers with a great quote from the author, which can be signed in advance and added into books later. It turns any book into a signed edition, and makes the books feel very personal and special.

We also recommend bookmarks. Readers love bookmarks and tend to hold onto them. A beautiful design will stay with a reader and remind them of your books for a long time.

It can also be valuable (and fun) to create t-shirts or novelty products that bring the idea of your book to life. Think of the yellow LiveStrong bands that became a viral hit in the early 2000s. The investment was minimal, but the returns for LiveStrong were astronomical. You might not fund an organization on the backs of yellow bands, but you may create something that puts your message in front of a wider audience than you could have through digital outreach alone. 

Or for another idea, I have a bag that I got at a trade show in the 1990s that I still use for every pool and beach trip. People stop and comment on the bag every time I use it, and the TV Land Network gets a little marketing bump.

Collateral works because we like novel, clever things that identify us with a brand, a lifestyle, or a tribe.  

What can you create to bring your community together to share your message?