Guide to Promotional Products

If you’re a business, marketing department or entrepreneur, you’ll know that one of the best methods for advertising your services to potential new customers is with promotional products. However, that’s the easy part…. the difficult part is to choosing the right promotional products to achieve your marketing goals – hence this guide.
As a guide to promotional products, here’s a few key requirements that should be considered to help you decide what the ‘best fit’ is for you.

Guide to Promotional Products 1
Promotional Products Guide




When we consider promotional products, one subtle aspect that’s often overlooked is originality. As there are many different promotional product manufacturing and distribution companies, there are many different ranges and types of corporate gifts available.

However, it’s also surprising that given this wide range of options, many companies still revert to same ‘safe’ choices, such as pens, notebooks, paper pads, T-shirts etc.

To prove this, take a walk around any exhibition centre when there’s a conference on, and look at the attendees. How many are carrying similar-looking plastic bags containing similar-looking promotional products?

Imagine if you could capture your prospects’ imagination with a totally original gift, one that they’ve never seen before? Even if they don’t end up using the promotional product, they’ll likely still remember your company – which is exactly the aim, right?

So think twice before you buy an unoriginal gift, and look a little deeper for something truly memorable and original to have the best ‘reach’ for your money.

Although this may sound obvious, budget needs to be considered BEFORE looking at any promotional products catalogues. It’s far too easy to be tempted by lovely looking gifts, only for them to end up in your prospect’s desk drawer rather than your company being in his mind.

Companies have marketing budgets for good reason, and most companies have a pretty good idea of how much they’re willing to spend to acquire new customers. Similarly, when you’re budgeting for promotional products, you need to balance the cost of each item against the amount of people you’re considering meeting.

A good idea is to set a budget for different types of customer meetings where you would considering giving promotional products out. For example, an exhibition (where you may meet many people, but only few serious prospects) will likely have lower budget gifts than for a one to one meeting with a genuinely keen potential customer.

In reality, companies would have a wide range of budgets and promotional products to cover a variety of cases, so a good idea is to build this around similar types of promotional products. For example, you could source a stationery set, with a cheaper entry-level pen for conference giveaways ranging up to a nicer, more luxurious fountain pen for qualified leads or executives.

Branding is when companies use a colour scheme, logo, fonts etc. to display a corporate identity. When considering promotional products, it’s an excellent opportunity to choose items that will match your branding. This could be pens, pads, flash drives etc. that can be manufactured in your company livery or with your logo to simply items available in your main branding colours.

Although not always possible, it’s well worth allowing some of the promotional product budget to be on branding. Why miss the opportunity to include your company details?

Although this may depend on the customer, audience or environment where the promotional products will be being handed out, it’s well worth considering relevance.

For example, if you’ve invested in a suggestive calendar of swimsuit models, it would not be well received in a religious or all-female audience, would it?

Although it’s impractical to perfectly tailor every promotional product to potential clients, relevance helps immensely, especially for maintaining awareness.

Ideally aim to procure promotional gifts that your clients will use regularly enough to remain aware of your company, or perhaps just in those ‘emergency’ moments where client will really appreciate their use (e.g. an umbrella for when it’s raining).

Relevance is not related to frequency of use of a promotional product, rather it’s the link between how often your client thinks about your company when using it. A promotional mug that may be one of ten he uses is not particularly memorable or relevant, but if yours is the only umbrella he uses then you will be in his mind more – and stay there!

Before you choose that fantastic idea of a promotional product, make sure it’s a practical choice. Remember you may need to carry a few of them around, often all day long at exhibitions. Of course, if they’re a hassle to carry for you then they will be for your potential client, and they may be quick to discard them.

Compare that with a promotional product that’s easy to carry, as well as being extremely useful, and you could very well have a the perfect corporate gift. This is why flash/USB drives, pens, notebooks, key rings etc. are always popular – because they’re easy to carry around.

When you’re looking at buying promotional products, it’s always worth remembering to keep some as ‘spare’. As popular as your items may be, it’s no good if you’ve run out – and then are invited to a trade show where many prospects are likely to be.
Often corporate gifts are available in a minimum run, so buy enough to last but also ensure you can re-order a new batch in the future if your pens suddenly become extremely popular!

Before ordering, confirm with your supplier what options there are for re-supply. Is the item perhaps a limited run? Will it be available next year? How long will it take to order another batch?

Sharing is Caring
When companies are choosing promotional products, one factor often overlooked is number. Generally, one corporate gift is given to one person.
Imagine if your promotional product encourage your prospect to further share your item, for example a tin of mints? Isn’t it a wonderful opportunity for your branding to be shown again, and again, to a constantly increasing number of people?

Think about this carefully – every time your prospect shares your gift, it’s multiplying the awareness of your company.

So when you’re looking at promotional products on websites and in catalogues, spare a thought for items that could be ‘broken down’ into smaller numbers, or perhaps encourage sharing.

Post-It notes are excellent in this respect, as are sweets, golf ball sets and display books with detachable A4 pouches.

Once of a day, promotional products were very blatant in their branding. A calendar with a company’s phone number and address, a pen with a logo or a T-shirt in company colours.

However, in these days of guerrilla marketing, more subtle and clever ways of promotion work extremely well. Examples of this are a Post-It Pad or foldable sun protection blind for windscreens which has the details on the inside, or even branding which ‘teases’ the company name or tagline (but no details).

See the idea with creative promotional products is based on the fact that prospects become familiar with your details if they see them every day, so they stop noticing them. Far better in some instances to ‘pop up’ now and again and then your prospect remembers your company, or that he needs to call you to set up a meeting?

Make your prospect feel special
Imagine if you’re at a trade show, and you engage in conversation at one of the exhibitors’ stands. As you discuss more, the exhibitor reaches under a table and gives you a bigger, better and more memorable promotion product than he’s been giving to everyone else.

How special does that make you feel?

How much more likely are you to remember him and his company rather than any of the other exhibitors now?

Don’t underestimate the value of perceived upgrades or increased value of promotional gifts in this instance. Perhaps consider a general promotional products then an ‘executive gift’ when you’re choosing corporate giveaways next time?

Another excellent way to get your promotional message across is by increasing the quality of corporate gifts. Think about this in terms of polo shirts being given out an exhibition; who remembers colours or logos if one exhibitor gives you a far higher quality item? T-shirts are often mass produced for the promotional product marketplace – and it shows.

However, for a additional investment, it’s usually possible to obtain a higher quality item – perhaps even from a branded manufacturer that’s widely known – and this brings a greater appreciation and longer-lasting memory from the recipient.

This concept works particularly well with clothing and stationery. Prospects notice right away if they recognise a brand and it speaks volumes about the company that’s giving those items.

Conclusion: invest in considering promotional products that achieve your marketing goals, rather than their cost

Given the wide range of considerations for choosing promotional merchandise, it shows that foresight in choosing concepts is often more worthwhile than just browsing catalogues for inspiration.

It’s fare less about the investment of money, rather it’s more prudent to ‘think out of the box’ and conceptually about promotional products and then inspiration will surely arrive.

A creative choice of promotional product stays long in your prospect’s mind after all the meetings and trade shows. The more attractive and unique your corporate gifts are, the more it says about your company and how it markets itself.

It may even be the case that potential clients and customers actively contact you because of the reputation of your promotional products.

Think how many times recipients of your gifts may actually be marketing for you, either amongst their own company or even their suppliers – all of which broadens your reach!

However, cost and value need to be considered also when it comes to promotional products, as they can be extremely expensive – especially if the phone doesn’t ring after any trade shows or meetings!

A good idea is to consider a range of promotional products, that work well either on their own or even together – e.g. a set of golf balls, tees, an engraved tee remover through to a luxurious golf umbrella.

This way, your company branding can be delivered across a range of personnel within a company. If it’s done correctly, it may even create an impression of affinity with a brand before a commercial link, which can only reflect well for future dealings together.

One final consideration needs to be strategic.
It’s often the case that marketing managers simply get sold on promotional products that seem ‘fancy’ rather than useful. Far better to work through the list of considerations above and then draw up a shortlist of possible promotional products, and then find a supplier. Too many times, promotional products are picked from a brochure rather than a strategic process followed to select the optimum choices.

So as a guide to promotional products, the first thing to do is to spend a little time and thought working through concepts.

The last thing to do is to thank yourself that you took the time and energy to do so when your client signs that big deal, all because your promotional products made him aware of your business!

Good luck in choosing, and enjoy the process – think original, think big and think value rather than cost, and you’ll always succeed with promotional products.

Don’t be that poor guy who can’t even give away his cheap pens!

We’d love to hear your views as we’re always seeking to improve. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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