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How Do You Use Your Promotional Products–Like a Shotgun or a Rifle?

I attended a very informative webcast today offered by the American Marketing Association and led by Bullpen Marketing called “The Truth About Branding with Promotional Products”. Once we got past the whole”definition of a promo product” bit (which I’ll admit lumped in quite a lot more that I would rather call branding or identity than promotional products), there was some interesting information on how to make promotional products useful again. I’m not going to cover the entire presentation here, but I would like to go over some of my takeaways.

1. Promotional products are no longer limited to dust-collecting junk.
As a matter of fact, the more useful the item is to your customer, the longer they’ll keep it and the more exposed they’ll be to your brand. Out of sight is out of mind. Consider branded hand sanitizer for clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals. That would probably get a lot more use than a mousepad, right? And be a lot more useful to their target customer. I mean, how many mousepads does one person need?

2. Have a plan going in.
And all that entails, from your target customer, your budget, your timeline, and your goals. That’s what will help you determine if your promotional product campaign was a success or a failure–or didn’t even cause a ripple. Knowing that will give you and your marketing team a starting point for improvement the next time around.

3. There’s an ROI for that.
Bullpen Marketing’s Creative Director Suzi Senna shared their formula for determining ROI on promotional products. There’s actually research that can show statistically how likely different kinds of promotional items are to be used in a month, and how often other people are likely to see your product when your customer uses it. Turns out, depending on the item, promotional products can get more impressions for your brand than the same amount spent on most other advertising media, it’s just over a longer period of time. Of course, that doesn’t mean take all of your advertising budget and pump it into promotional items! It just means that promotional items should be considered as a part of your budget–how much will depend on your business and your goals.

4. Don’t assume your customer knows what that awesome doodad is.
I can testify to this myself. I attended a conference and got the obligatory swag bag. Inside was this little block branded with the corporate logo (no other information, by the way). After fiddling with it, I eventually got the block open, and revealed a black velveteen bar. Could be a lint roller, could be a markerboard eraser. No one I’ve asked seems to know. I hold on to it more as a puzzle than anything else, and as a reminder of how ineffective promotional items can be. During the webcast, Bullpen showed examples of how they had used inserts to demonstrate how a promotional item is used, as well as give a little extra space to share your message. They offered up the case study of using a cell phone holder as a placecard holder for a luncheon, with an insert mocked up like an iphone to show how the product was meant to be used.

5. Time is money.
Just for practical purposes, the more lead time you have on your promotional product campaign, the fewer rush fees, expedited shipping charges, and costly mistakes you’ll incur. Give yourself enough time to explore your options, and most important, get proofs of your promotional items before they’re mass produced and delivered to your customers with the wrong phone number.

So are you using your promotional items like a shotgun, blasting them out there and missing more than you hit, or are you aiming your promotional campaign like a rifle, with specific, measurable goals that reinforce your brand and target your potential customers?