June 9, 2022 | By Warwick Merry

I am a big fan of promotional products. But, like all business decisions, a little bit of strategy makes all the difference on the return that you get. Too many businesses seem to forget that the promotional product is not about them or about what they think is “cool”. They should be all about their customers and their prospects. It has to meet their needs and be something that they want and will use.

Here are five things to consider when planning promotional products.

What outcome do you want?

If you are just giving your visitors a gift, then you will give them something different than if you want them to buy from you. Too often exhibitors tell me, “Oh it’s just for branding purposes”. Unless you are a massive firm like Coca-Cola, Apple or Ford, it’s time to jump off the “branding” band wagon.

The outcome may be that you want your existing customers to feel appreciated and show them you value their patronage. If that’s the case, a branded Frisbee is not for you. Another outcome you may want is for the prospect see your logo frequently and be reminded of your services so that when the time is right, they come to you.

Understanding the outcome or purpose of the promotional product is essential. So, what is the outcome you’re after?

What is the value of the gift?

What is the perceived value of the gift? This is different to what you have spent; it is what the gift means for the recipient. For example, elegant cufflinks with no branding may be seen to be far more valuable than a branded drink bottle. For others who may be into exercise, the drink bottle will be of more value.

To understand the best value, you need to first consider who your target market is and how they will perceive the gift. Everyone will place a different value on the gift, but it is your target market or gift target and the purpose of the gift that will best define its value.

Do you need two-tier gifting?

Some of the most cost-effective use of promotional products that I’ve seen is two-tier gifting. That is, depending on the quality of the visitor, you determine their gift. Trade Show visitors are renowned for their lust for “freebies” and many of them seem to arrive early and run around collecting anything that’s free. They can be managed using the two-tier approach.

The first tier is a relatively inexpensive gift that meets your outcome needs and that you don’t mind sacrificing for low-quality leads. These items are given freely to any who ask for them.

The second tier is for a high-quality lead. The conversation may start when they claim a first-tier gift and as you continue the discussion you find out that they are exactly the customer you’re after. In return for getting further information about them, you can then give them the second-tier gift – a higher valued object suited to your ideal prospect.

The two-tier approach ensures you are financially responsible with your marketing spend and getting the best return on that spend.

What is the cost per impression?

This is one of the least considered but most important factors when choosing a promotional product. Too often, companies spend significant money on funky items that are either single use or their prospect then turns around and gives the gift to their kids, never to be seen again.

If you are putting your logo or contact details on an item, make sure it is an item that your client will see time and time again. Give your details a chance to really embed in their psyche. This is why items such as branded shirts and office equipment are so effective.

For example, if you give a prospect a branded polo shirt, they may wear it on many different occasions and then, as it starts to show wear and tear, continue to wear it around the house or garden. Over a prolonged period, your cost per impression or cost every time they see your brand is very low.

Another good item for this is a branded USB key. The continual use of the key with your brand on it can work out to a low cost per impression. But if you are giving out a USB key, maximise the opportunity and load it with a PDF detailing your products and services, a short video or even a personalised message saying thanks for coming to that particular show.

Brief your booth attendants on how to distribute the gifts

You have spent thousands of dollars on promotional items, you have a strategy for distribution, you have a specific outcome you’re after when they are given out but if you don’t brief your team on what you’re after, you have just wasted all of that time, effort and money. It is heart-breaking to see people on the stand just distributing the products at random.

Some of the most important time you will spend on the booth is the time you spend briefing your team on what you want from the stand, your objectives for the day, how you will measure your success and how they are to use the promotional items as a marketing edge.

If you consider these five factors, you are well on the way to maximising the value of promotional products when you next exhibit or sponsor an event.

Warwick Merry is a Certified Speaking Professional, dual Certified Virtual Presenter, the recipient of the 2021 Global Outstanding Intrapreneur award, the 2022 Breakthrough Speaker Award and the 2022 Nevin Award for service to the speaking industry. For over 20 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Facebook group.