The way we market our businesses is getting ever more sophisticated. With big data analytics, programmatic digital advertising, chatbots taking over every website and complex algorithms sending personalised email content, it seems that we can know more about our customers than ever before.
In this world of hyper-personalized, dynamic content and online bombardment, you’d be forgiven for thinking that old-school, ‘above the line’ forms of advertising have had their day. The billboard ad, print article and promotional gift are all dead - right? Wrong. Sales of promotional products especially are booming, as more and more small businesses realize that branded items are a surprising effective way of cutting through the noise.
Having your brand at someone’s fingertips - on their desk each day, worn across their chest, on the pen they right with, the phone charger they use or the coffee cup they drink out of has a real value. This level of almost subconscious, drip fed brand awareness is actually pretty hard to get - but with a well chosen item, you could be there day in day out for your customers - and be front of mind when next they have a purchase to make.
Seeing your brand on a daily basis has real value. But getting your choice of promotional item right is key to producing something useful that people will actually want to make a part of their lives. With almost any item available to be branded up - from custom t shirt printing to solar powered phone chargers with your logo on, the choice can be a little overwhelming. The best items are chosen carefully with your intended customers in mind. Like any type of business success, getting it right here depends on knowing your audience - what are their daily lives like? What is their routine? What do they love to do? It’s also great to be useful - a produce which really serves a need is likely to get lots of use - it could be as simple as a magnetic notepad. If it fits your audience and is also appropriate to your brand and what you do as a company, then it's likely to resonate better.
There are many avenues out there to get the items you need, but product range, prices and lead times can vary dramatically, so it's always best to look into two or three suppliers - you can also use this to negotiate on prices with suppliers and drive down the cost per unit. Items will have a minimum order quantity, and the price you pay per unit is higher the less you order. Generally speaking, it's better to purchase your items in bulk, so consider when you will be using them and where you can store them - you may even need to factor this into the price. Don’t be afraid to request samples as quality can be very variable and is impossible to ascertain online or in a printed brochure. It's not always the best idea to go for the cheapest item - if things break or are low-quality, is that really what you want people to associate with your company? A lot of the items are shipped from China - some are printed up out there, which can increase the time you have to wait for your order. Other companies pre-purchase the most popular items in bulk and personalize them over here, so you may find some times can be with you within a week, whereas others can take a month - ask about lead times on the outset, especially if you’re working towards a deadline for a tradeshow or similar. Remember that you may need to factor in time to ship your completed items on to a conference venue as well. Forming a great supplier relationship is key - when a promotional items company knows that they will gain repeat business from you, they are likely to be more flexible on price and provide a higher level of customer service - and they may also give you a heads up on cool new items coming into stock which would suit your marketing goals.
Once you’ve hit on the perfect promotional item to spread the word about your business, you need to have a clear distribution plan. After all, there’s no sense in having your office covered in piles of cardboard boxes full of tote bags, branded water bottles or tins of mints going out of date - these items need to shift and get out into the world in order to be providing you with a marketing return on investment. Think about what you want these products to achieve for you. Is it to attract new customers? Increase your trade with existing customers? Start a dialogue? Promote a new product line? What you want to achieve will affect when and how you choose to give your items out. If you have a target list of customers you want to do business with, sending them a timely promotional gift is a great idea. This can be around a news event - either something topical going on in the wider world that you can tie your item into, or something internally-driven, like a company anniversary, receiving an award, or launching a new product line or service. Mail out your items as a way into companies you’d like to work with. Alternatively, if you’re attending trade fairs or large conference where there will be a large number of potential prospects, it can be a great place to spread your message by offering people something for free - something most won’t say no to!
If your business is location dependent, then get out into the neighborhood and hand stuff out - you’ll be surprised by how much positive interest this generates and the conversations it might lead to. When members of the public see others crowding round to get something, they will naturally be interested too, and it creates a buzz around what you are doing. Marry this up with some targeted digital activity such as a promotion on social media and your campaign will really start to grow wings.
Today there are more options than ever before to help your business succeed! Tools like e-procurement solutions can help your business compete with large companies much easier.