Time and Thought: Keys to Successful Promotional Products

  • Mar 25, 2017

Think Before You Buy

Some think of cheap pens and throw away items when they hear the words promotional product.  However, they are one of the best ways to engage and connect with your customers, build your brand identity, and ultimately boost sales.

But, thought and time must be given to the purchase.  So often, the purchase is last on the to do list.  Or they just buy whatever without truly considering the purpose of the giveaway.

Here is part of an article I came across by Ginny Smith in 2015.  2 years ago and all still holds true.

“We compiled our top ten tips that we consider are essential to consider before you buy promotional merchandise:

  1. Objective-consider and prioritise your objectives for using promotional merchandise. For instance, getting people to sign up for your newsletter and to communicate with you more, or drive more customers to your website and increase on line sales are clear objectives.  Perhaps it’s to help launch a new product at a trade event or exhibition, ensure that your objectives are clearly defined and communicated throughout your organisation.  
  2. Engagement-our experience and feedback from customers informs us that the correct use of promotional merchandise creates higher engagement with your brand. Promoting brand recognition and retention is key and an example would be to have a promotional item that has a handy phone number, a help line, slogan or message that is useful, memorable and resonates with the product or service your company delivers.  
  3. Suitability-the product(s) should be applicable to your target audience. We know of one outdoor clothing company that produced a compass with the words 'Helping you find your way to the best clothing supplier'.  Consider also multiple items to compliment your offering and provide choice to convey your message.  Recipients love variety and 82%* would keep an item they were given rather than give it away, so it feels good to receive a freebie too!
  4. Reliability-we are all familiar with the phrase ‘fit for purpose’-well that’s what your promotional products should be. Unfortunately, we have all been given a pen that only lasts as long as the event or exhibition, don’t let this be your pen!  Ensure that your promotional merchandise partner advises and guides you to select the highest quality you can afford.  If in doubt, it’s better to have fewer products of a higher quality than stacks of cheap product.  Be remembered for the wow factor of your promotional items! The same applies for your choice of promotional merchandise supplier.  There are lots of merchandise suppliers to choose from and quick internet quotes have their place.  But they are somewhat impersonal and are more about a quick sale rather than a supplier who seeks to understand your brand, develop a relationship and outline their service level commitment to you.  
  5. Innovation-in a fast paced world, our attention is in constant demand and so promotional products have to resonate and attract the recipient’s interest quickly. Your supplier should ask lots of questions to get to know what the most important objectives and messages are for your promotional activity. Often a session of brainstorming will follow and you should expect some innovative suggestions, samples and idea development from your supplier.  In fact, you shouldn’t settle for anything less!  So keep it useful, but make it quirky! 
  6. Time-it always runs away from us and it’s quite common to be up against deadlines and schedules. Addressing the promotional merchandise to support your campaign is often last on the list, or delegated to a less experienced member of the team.  The impact of this can result in a more costly and less innovative ‘stock solution’ being the only option.  The earlier contact is made with your supplier, the more time it provides to find the right products, at the right price, delivered on time.  A panic purchase, or one that doesn’t truly reflect your brand, its values and aspirations, is always going to lessen the impact of your event.  Added to which, it could possibly undermine all those carefully made plans and activities that seemed a higher priority at the time. 
  7. Place-how are you going to store and most importantly, distribute your promotional merchandise? Sometimes, we even hear of boxes of unused promotional merchandise ending up under someone’s desk!  Thankfully it’s not ours, but the chances are that if this happens, it may well be due to not addressing one, or any, of the points outlined in this post. It’s a costly mistake and so easily avoided, ask your supplier about a call-off facility and let them advise you on offering a service to store, pick, pack and send to your recipients, event or office, as and when needed.  Good promotional merchandise companies know about this and are willing to fulfil to your requirements to keep your costs down, so you can concentrate on your customers and your brand. 
  8. Measuring-you can’t manage what you can’t measure, right? This point relates back to Point 1. Objectives.  Be clear about setting some goals and returns on your investment, in terms of the actual merchandise items and in the wider context of the promotion, marketing activity, event or exhibition.  Set out the criteria for giving the products.  For example, if they are to be distributed as free gifts, how many leads will it generate?  What was the uptake of interest in a new product or service?  How many people attended your event and what was the feedback? If you can measure what worked and what didn’t and see clear patterns emerging, it will help you target and refine future activities. 
  9. Follow up-you probably wouldn’t stand on a street corner and give away pound coins, so the same can be said of promotional merchandise. Following up after your event or distribution of promotional merchandise is key.  It represents another opportunity to engage with your customers and recipients.  The most obvious leading question to ask is what they thought of the promotional item?  You will gain insight into the habits of the recipient, their interests, motivation and what they think of your brand; all of which are valuable insights. 
  10. Calendar-the most prevalent promotional products** remain pens, followed by mugs, calendars, mouse mats, USB's, sticky notes and diaries. The recipients of which, confirmed that they could recall the advertiser and the product six months after they received the promotional item. Therefore, if you are new to buying merchandise, it’s advisable to ensure you have some of the above in your offering as core products.  However, the more confident you become, you can seek out innovative and cutting edge products.  So, it makes sense to ensure that within your events calendar you make provision to contact your supplier and ask them ‘What’s new?’  Remember, your suppliers attend trade shows too and are constantly looking for products suitable for the promotional sector and their customers.  We offer to maintain an events calendar for our customers so that we can manage lead times, events and delivery, because it ensures we are better aligned to understand our customers' needs and sometimes their pains.  Regular updates, communication and working with your supplier will result in your customers engaging on a higher level, ensuring that your brand is one to remember.  



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  • Tags: promotional products, know before you buy, how to buy, Marketing, Branding, Brand Identity