What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “promotional products”? Perhaps you, like many in the marketing world, think immediately of “trinkets and trash”. A pile of tchotchkes dumped on your desk by the promo peddler vying for their next order. My goal is to break through this stereotype and change this perception of our industry.
Let’s begin with the very essence of promotional product marketing – the brand. A brand is what sets you apart from every other company – your people, products and core values all represented by a unifying graphic design. Your brand tells the world who you are and defines what sets you apart. The J. Paul Company has built an identity over the last 20 years. Without it, we would just be another “Promotional Products Company”. Perhaps your organization would be just another Bank, Insurance Company or Refreshment Company without your own unique brand to set it apart.
Consciously or not, your brand has been built with a specific set of values you bring to the marketplace. Quality, service, and price are three of the more common, but perhaps you want to be known for being creative, innovative and unique. No matter what values you focus on, those unique elements are the key to determining whether the promotional products you implement are either trash or treasure.
Last year I met with a CEO who built his business on providing superior quality. When he brought up promotional products, he said “This stuff doesn’t matter. It’s just for people grabbing freebies at our trade show.” My response to him – “If it doesn’t matter, don’t put your logo on it. Put your logo on something that does matter. Use the same budget allocated for that pile of cheap pens and purchase a small selection of items that reflect your image of quality. Present these items only to the top prospects that truly show interest in your company.”
With the same spend, one product was destined for the trash and the other was absolute treasure. While our CEO’s average client acquisition per trade show was 3 in the previous year, in just the first show of this season with the new focused giveaways, he’s landed 5 new clients. It is too early to establish measurable results, but we are thrilled with this progression. It goes to show that the more consistent your messaging is, the easier it is for your customers to connect and recognize the value proposition of your company. Promotional products really do work – if they are done right!
Not every promotional product needs to be inherently expensive to carry value. Creative graphic design, copy, packaging and delivery all have a huge impact on perception. If your brand’s focused value is “Low Cost”, it does not mean you are stuck giving away plastic keychains. Moving from the lower end of one product category to the higher end of another will save you money and people will still feel like they’re getting a better product. For instance, instead of a really cheap polo, purchase an amazing t-shirt with a great design.
A promotional product consultant that truly cares about your business will have the courage to provide your team with honest feedback and advice on how to leverage branded items while maximizing your spend. They should have a long successful track record and provide an extensive list of value added services in their own facilities. A great support team will have dedicated employees in sales, customer service, accounting, production, graphic design, and shipping. They should all be asking themselves the same questions our team does before we present a solution:
- Does this product accurately reflect the image of the company?
- Will this campaign increase brand awareness and/or increase revenue?
- What is the staying power of this product?
- Does this product help convey the story our client is telling?
- Do all the products presented conform to our client’s brand standards?
- Have I done more than just present a product? Did I explore the need for our value added services? What more can our team do to help?
- Did we save our client time, make them more productive and deliver a thoughtful solution?
- Are we on budget with this project?
In turn, what is it that your company asks about its current promotional products provider? Here are just a few questions to consider.
- Do we truly know our current vendor(s)?
- Have we made an unannounced visit to their facility?
- Do we know who authorizes branded merchandise purchases in our company?
- Do they have a complete understanding of our brand standards?
- Is our vendor a consultant or a “friend” of an employee? How did we meet this company?
- Do the products our vendor carries truly represent our value proposition? Do we review these products with our vendor on a regular basis?
- Do we currently track the results of specific projects?
If you are interested in making your promotional marketing efforts more productive you will need to gather a lot of information. We offer assistance with this process by providing a free performance evaluation. Our evaluation will provide your team with a summary and grade on each of the following – Pricing, Quality, Service Level, Brand Compliance, Efficiency, Creativity, Inventory, and Opportunity. This is not a hook or trick, there is absolutely no cost or obligation. We want to help because we believe your brand and this industry do matter.
At the very least, please consider visiting your current vendor’s location. See where you logo is controlled, meet their people and see what value their facilities add to your overall branding efforts.
Best of luck and continued success!
The J Paul Company