Purchasing Tips - Promotional Items

Business.com / Business Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

With thousands of promotional items that could be used in any situation, it’s essential to refer to the specific objectives for the campaign

The promotional item chosen will depend on the motivation behind its use. First, look at the objectives of the promotional effort—are they designed to increase sales, strengthen branding, or retain top talent? Then consider how the array of promotional items available fits into the purpose of the campaign. Here are some examples.

  • Sales Objectives. This is one of the most common objectives related to giving away promotional items. As such, it’s important to determine the specific sales goal of the promotion. For example:
  • Increase overall sales?
  • Increase the sales of a specific item?
  • Promote a new line or range of products?
  • Increase brand or name recognition?
  • Increase traffic to a website or trade show?
  • Generate phone calls and email communications?
  • Stimulate donations or volunteer commitments?

Next, it’s important to determine how the promotional item will be delivered to customers or clients. Different situations often require different items. For example, a mug cannot be as easily or inexpensively mailed as a pen or keychain. Will the promotional item be delivered:

  • By mail?
  • In person?
  • Online?
  • At a retail establishment?
  • At a convention or trade show?
  • At a public-awareness or community event?

Once the delivery method of the promotional item has been determined, a business can begin to focus on the types of items that will work best for that promotion.

  • Promotional Objectives. Promotional items are a more subtle approach to branching out and reaching more customers than advertising. Promotional gifts or giveaways are offered to loyal customers in the hopes that they’ll recommend the organization to others. These gifts are sometimes offered as incentives for customers who purchase or upgrade a product or service. Other situations where a gift can be offered to existing or potential customers include:
  • Souvenirs from an event that was sponsored by the business.
  • Milestone markers for customers who have been with the firm for a number of years.
  • Commemorative awards resulting from an organization receiving recognition (such as a customer-satisfaction commendation).

Investing in promotional items that will be given away in circumstances such as these can generate revenue for a business by improving the company’s image among existing customers and building a reputation that attracts new ones. Choosing suitable items for these circumstances can help the company remain in the front-of-mind of existing customers while enabling their current satisfied customers to more easily generate referrals.

  • Employee Motivation Objectives. Keeping employees motivated and working to their highest capabilities is important in any business. Offering gifts for exceeding personal goals can motivate many employees to work even harder than they normally would. Such promotional items should have an everyday use, and a personal or unique slant. Some objectives of employee-motivation campaigns are:
  • Increasing productivity through the use of incentives.
  • Boosting company spirit.
  • Celebrating loyalty and dedication.
  • Recognizing and rewarding exceptional performance.

Choosing items suitable for these circumstances is easier once the manner in which they’ll be awarded has been determined. Items can be personalized in advance if the receiver’s identity is known. Rewarding long-term employees for exceptional performance motivates other team members to aim high in an attempt to also benefit from these incentive programs.

Examples of Ideal Promotional Items

There are thousands of promotional items that could be used in any situation, so it’s essential to refer back to the specific objectives for the promotional campaign.

Sales Objectives. Ideal items related to this objective can vary greatly with the particular situation. If the item is being mailed directly to a potential customer, then sending a pen, fridge magnet, or keychain may be best, as they’re all items that are small and inexpensively sent via snail mail, but are also objects that someone can view or use on a daily basis.

If the objective is to boost sales of a specific product, handing out clearly labeled product samples is a reliable and effective promotion. Look for vendors who can assist you with packaging or labeling your own product for free distribution.

Handing out items at live events may require something more original, such as tote bags or hats with the business name, logo, and slogan clearly printed on them that people can begin using instantly. Similar ideas include handing out sunscreen samples at the beach, or branded plastic ponchos during a rainstorm.

Rewards Objectives. Promotional items used as customer rewards are generally more expensive, because the organization doesn’t want to appear to be “cheap.” In these circumstances, something like a desktop calendar, or an alarm clock with the business name and logo on it, can be ideal.

Relating the promotional item to the business can also be beneficial; for example, a business that sells skin-care products could offer a free item after a certain number of purchases; or a computing business could offer USB memory sticks as an incentive to customers to continue doing business with them. The ideal promotional gift is not only useful, but reinforces the company’s brand.

Employee Motivation Objectives. These items can be tricky to purchase because they must serve the objective of motivating future behavior, not just rewarding past behavior. Overly lavish gifts or decidedly underwhelming gifts can send the wrong message, discouraging employees rather than motivating them.

The Most Popular Promotional Items. Anything that can be imprinted can be used as a promotional item, so the range of choices is enormous. However, most promotional-item vendors stock those that are high in demand and offer competitive rates for imprinting them.

Here is a list of the top 10 most popular promotional items in 2012 according to a leading trade magazine:

1. Pens
2. Cups and mugs
3. Keychains
4. Hats
5. T-shirts
6. Calendars
7. Tote bags
8. Stress balls
9. Water bottles
10. Insulated drink sleeves (“koozies”)

These just represent a selection of promotional items, and are not the only items that can be offered as gifts or giveaways. It’s important to remember that conceiving of unique promotional items is a way for businesses to truly stand out.

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