ILP 🍁 Early Stage Financing. Data Entrepreneurship. Cybersecurity.

The Secret to Distributing Challenge Coins as Swag


We’re seeing challenge coins pop up in the cybersecurity industry as a swag/keepsake item.Β 

Today, coins are given out to show affiliation with certain groups and having been through special events.

The tradition of challenge coins dates back to WWI, though Wikipedia is conflicted on the exact origins.

Not being one to miss out, we minted a short run of coins with our corporate logo emblazoned on the front. I’ve been selectively distributing them at meetings, private dinners, and a trade show in place of business cards.

How People Respond

Most recipients find them delightful, and reception has been universally positive.

We seem to always get one of three reactions:

  1. β€œIs this a bitcoin?” said [mostly] tongue in cheek
  2. A story of the last challenge coin they received (stories have included Secret Service, FBI and more)
  3. Desire to flip it for heads/tails decisions

Cost of Challenge Coins

They aren’t cheap – but aren’t expensive either.

A premium business card runs around $0.20 – $1 per card, depending on volume and options. Challenge coins can run $1 – $5 depending on volume and options.

Therefor, if a coin increases conversion 2 –  25x (depending on options) over business cards, they are a better value than cards.

Formula for 98% Email Reply Rate

The trick when giving out challenge coins is to reference them in your email follow up.

Step 1: When giving out the coin in person, palm the coin and give it to the individual when you shake their hand.

Step 2: Explain the tradition of challenge coins to the recipient. Optionally, make a joke about bitcoin.

Step 3: Follow up by email, and reference the coin.

Step 4: Expect a 98% reply rate.

Where does the come from? It seems to be a combination of: 

  • Being small and heavy, the challenge coin ends falls to the bottom in a pile of cards and hand outs at the end of the night
  • The uniqueness of the coin has a chance of becoming a paperweight or memento on a desk, with our logo top of mind
  • Provided that there’s story telling done when giving the challenge coin, it cements the memory of me as a person vs the other people they met at the event

What I’d Do Differently

These things are heavy. I packed 25 in my suitcase for a weeks worth of meetings/networking, but only carry a few with me every day. I’d look at smaller diameter if using for a trade show.

Make sure to use a different design front and back – see above about wanting to use as heads/tail flipper. 

Increase text size on the rim. Interestingly, they can print text way smaller than people can actually read. 

About the author

Ian L. Paterson
ILP 🍁 Early Stage Financing. Data Entrepreneurship. Cybersecurity.

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