Using Promotional Products Wisely to Elevate Your Marketing
Maximize the possibilities of promotional products. 12/24/2019 | Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
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“Anything worth doing is worth doing right!” That goes for marketing and promoting your company as well. Traditional forms of advertising, brochures, fliers and the like, are so commonplace anymore that business' that promote in this fashion become viewed as ordinary and average. With the proliferation of the internet and its growing appeal, businesses are finding themselves having to find more creative means to meet, greet and make an impression on existing and potential clients. Long gone are the days of a firm handshake and a gentleman’s deal where once a client/vendor relationship were developed, you pretty much had the client for life. Nowadays, we have come to realize, and for some it has been a rude awakening, that we need to earn the right to do business with our clients daily. The competition is fierce and it’s imperative that in order to survive, unique creative methods of advertising and marketing need to be implemented and honed daily.

Enter promotional products, a sleeper if you will. Many consider the use of promotional products for marketing their company to be frivolous and a waste of money. And quite honestly, the way most people utilize promotional products it is exactly that - a waste. Consider the many ways promotional products can effectively promote your company. Whether your introducing a new product or service, exhibiting at a trade show or saying thank you to a client for their business, promotional products can serve as an effective tool to meeting all your marketing objectives. Make no mistake, I am not saying promotional products are the end all to all your marketing efforts, but if done in concert with other forms of advertising media, the mix can be highly effective. 

Here are a few reasons why you should be using promotional products to promote your business:

  1. 1. It’s different, unique and creative

  2. 2. It’s tractable and measurable

  3. 3. Keeps your name in front of your client.

  4. 4. Tangible and cost effective

All these reasons can also be used to convince your clients to purchase and use promotional marketing in their marketing mix.

Think of the possibilities! With over 700,000+ (who really knows the number, but it’s big) different products which can be decorated in a variety of ways, surely there is something that will meet the need of your client and prospects. With this wide scope of products available, how do you choose, which option is correct, which one will work? That’s the $100,000.00 question. It is important to layout a foundation of what you’re trying to accomplish, the objectives and it is imperative to be specific. For instance; if you are going to exhibit at a trade show, you need to have specific objectives. Saying I want to increase booth traffic is not enough, more specifically you need to say, I want to attract two-hundred qualified sales leads to my booth each day. Your plan needs to be written down so that you have a road map to guide you. This doesn’t mean you can’t take a detour along the way, slow down or stop for awhile; but a well-laid out strategy will give you the focus and direction you need to accomplish your objectives. No one sets out to fail but many, many do. Remember the old saying in business; “Business’ don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”, how true. Another important factor in selecting the proper promotional product is to use something that has value or at the very least a perceived value. My brother was a print broker and promotional products sales rep in Myrtle Beach, SC; and I believe he coined it the best when he worked with his clients. Many ask the same question as to “what is the best product to use?, His reply “…if you see NO value in the product you are giving away to your clients, how can you expect them to see value in it either”. That statement could not be more accurate. 

Before you rush out to buy some “stuff” think about how you would feel if you received a similar item. Does the item you’re proposing satisfy your objective? What does it say about your company? Does it promote an image of quality or does it give off an air of “cheap”?  I remember a client coming to me and requested pens to use as a trade show promotion. After probing her as to why she wanted to use pens her response was she needed something “cheap” to give away. After further discussion I found the majority of the people passing through the trade show were upper level management in the cable television arena. Her objective was to draw and capture these people in her booth. How could one do that with a forty-cent pen? Couldn’t, wouldn’t happen. We eventually found an item that would have a high-perceived value that absolutely met their marketing objectives. In fact, the client reported that it was he best trade show ever as far as accumulating “qualified” leads for their business. When I attend various shows globally, I am amazed at the lack of thought and preparation that goes into a show give-a-away. The next time you attend a show watch the vendors; sit back and watch, it’s merely a feeding frenzy people scarfing things off the tables often not even knowing what they’re picking up. So do others, that can’t be the reason; there must be more. While the product used may be appropriate as a give-a-away or a draw then to the booth, rarely you will hear someone ask questions. How do they know the person is qualified? Why would a person want to buy their product? There must be more thought put into selling and branding the company.  

Imagine the possibilities. What if the company got an attendee list from show management and sent a pre-show mail piece out to all pre-registered attendees, included in that mailer was a call to action, let’s say a card that when opened crowed like a rooster. You could play off the theme by saying, “This is your wake-up call”, bring this card by our booth before noon time on XYZ date for a special gift.” The gift could be a T-shirt but with a slick graphic of a rooster with a T-shirt on bearing the company name. A couple of things could happen here; by doing this you have created a call for action, something must be done in order to get something, the shirt. The promotion is now qualified, did it work? How many cards were returned? We sent out 1000 and had 450 returned, was that successful? Select a time, like by 12:00 noon; this may be a typical slow period, where your booth personnel might have more time to interact with clients and prospects, one on one. Engagement is the key. Consider how many more personal, qualified relationships would be developed and think about the cost savings. To that same qualified list, a mouse pad or magnet could be sent as a follow-up with the same graphic thanking them for their time and inviting them once again to utilize the company’s services. This is an excellent trade show example but there are thousands of spin-offs on the same idea. Don’t think that just because you sell apparel, mugs or pens, you must use those products solely to promote your company. Think outside the box.  

Utilizing promotional products doesn’t stop with promotional items, there is creative packaging. There are many packaging companies in the promotional products industry. Let’s say that you a promoting the fact that you are now offering custom packaging as a service to your clients. You may want to consider sending a mini teddy bear with a printed T-shirt bearing your company name inside of a blown-up balloon with a message on the balloon “We now do custom packaging…call XYZ company for details” – with the latest technologies, the options are limitless

Questions have been asked as to whether-or-not the company name, logo or phone numbers should be put on every item? That would need to be determined on a case by case basis. Depending on what your objectives are, that will determine how a product is to be decorated.

Many companies contact me to do the creative work and the for their companies. Most have expressed, “they do not have the time or expertise to sit and drum up these ideas.” That should be a wake-up call, you should view this as a differentiator and a huge opportunity. If you are currently selling promotional products, it’s imperative to set-the standard high, be different. You want people to view you as the creative person they want to partner with. Today, just sending a coffee mug or pen is not enough, it must go beyond the norm to get noticed, to make an impact.  

When utilizing promotional products for yourself or for a client program, remember these points:

  • Have a plan, write it out, be specific about your objectives

  • Know your audience

  • Make sure it is something of value

  • Make it engaging

  • Give it a purpose

  • Have a call to action

  • Be different, creative and exciting – utilize packaging

  • Have a follow-up strategy - MEASURE

Using promotional products in conjunction with other methods of promotion, will balance out and maximize you advertising and marketing efforts. Make the most of your dollars for the maximum return on investment and return on objective. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, continued good selling!  CQ

The first 25 readers who email me your thoughts about this article, will get a free copy of my project Discovery Brief. 

Just mark the subject line: Response and Discovery Brief Offer.

Cliff is the Director of Marketing for iPROMOTEu, additionally and for over 30 years, Cliff has been speaking, training and consulting internationally to associations and national business groups on more effective ways to market themselves, their products and services, as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid award 27 times and the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times in three years. He has also received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he also was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100," as having a significant influence in education. He has also been recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content in 2016. In December, Cliff will be launching his third book, 30 Seconds to Greatness along with a workbook. Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at
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