How to Use Budget-Friendly Promotional Products to Market Your Business Successfully

promotional products

You don’t have to be Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Google, or any other of the top famous brands to get your company noticed. Non-profit organizations, small businesses, and even personal brands can get the recognition they need to succeed with a properly designed and executed promotion, and that can start with quality promotional products that don’t break the bank.

Can you even find quality promotional products that don’t cost an arm and a leg? The simple answer is “yes”, but you have to dig a little deeper to find the promotional products that’s right for your company and that delivers on the message of your brand.

The True Cost of Promotional Products

A poorly chosen promotional product can cost you not only the advertising money spent on purchasing it, but also the opportunity to gain future sales. That’s not a great marketing move for anyone, so to determine the cost of your promotional products, you must first determine your marketing strategy.

  • Is your company headed to a trade show, conference, or community event?
  • Are you looking to brand your employee gifts to not only provide employee giveaways but also create walking billboards for your brand?
  • Is your company wanting to get noticed by providing quality corporate gifts to the executives of potential clients?
  • Are you sending holiday gifts to your existing clients to increase the potential for word-of-mouth marketing?
  • Is your company planning fun raffles and giveaways to increase engagement?

On an average, promotional product marketing accounts for less than 20 percent of your overall marketing budget, so to decide how much you are willing to spend on any given strategy will depend on which strategies you will execute during the year. Past event data, such as turnout, sign-in lists, registrations, or participation reports for similar past events, can provide a good starting point to refining your strategy and getting the number of items needed per strategy/event.

Once you determine these figures, you will be able to determine your budget per promotional items for your marketing strategy (remember to include set-up fees and delivery charges).

Strategize Before You Buy

You have your budget finalized and know exactly how much you can spend on each promotional product; don’t waste all of your great planning by choosing an item randomly. Focus on any needs that can be fulfilled for each strategy or event, such as promotional pens, lanyards, and custom tote bags for trade shows; custom notebooks and padfolios, desktop organizers, and tech accessories for employees; and golf accessories, wine openers and bamboo cheese trays, and spa gifts for executives and current clients.

Any item you choose should respond to the needs of your target audience and have the potential for a great cost-per-impression (CPI), which is a formula that shows how much of your marketing dollars are spent every time a potential client sees your product, ad, etc. It’s important to note that buying in bulk will dramatically decrease your spending, so your best option is choosing a promotional product that will answer to the needs of the target audience at multiple events.

Chosen promotional items should also be budget-friendly, but not cheap. The difference is that one doesn’t cost too much, but is still durable and stylish, while the other may look nice for a day or two before falling apart.

Budget-friendly items will provide a quality first impression on your audience and will allow them to associate your brand with quality and longevity. Cheap promotional products will inevitably go into the trash and will have a negative effect on your CPI, as well as your reputation.

For example, promotional pens are a great marketing tool because they are worth approximately 1/10th of a cent per impression, allowing them to be one of the most successful promotional products available, but you have to make sure you give away the right pen to suit your marketing campaign.

This brings us to the “why” of promotional products. Tough Nickel, a website dedicated to sharing unique expertise and knowledge about money and finance, states that companies should follow one simple rule when developing a good promotional product strategy and that rule is:

“If You Don’t Know Why, Don’t Buy.”

According to these experts, this simple rule can be followed by asking yourself eight questions before committing to a promotional product strategy:

  1. Will they use it often? Why do I think they will (or won’t)?
  2. Do I want to use this item to reward current customers? Do they want to be rewarded in this way? Or would they appreciate something else more?
  3. Do I want my customers to use the item privately (such as a desk item)? Or do I hope that they will use this item in public (such as wearing a T-shirt at a health club)? Will I be able to find a way to encourage them to use it in the manner that I choose?
  4. Will I be able to afford an item of acceptable quality for my recipients?
  5. What is the potential life of this item? Will it just be used once and discarded? Can I find another way to gain this exposure without a promotional product investment?
  6. Does this item align with my other marketing, advertising, and branding efforts?
  7. Is this a promotion that could be turned into a tradition (i.e. the annual distribution of imprinted calendars)?
  8. Is my item choice easy to distribute along my normal customer contact channels?

Once you have answered these questions and find that your promotional product ideas still work for your strategy, it is safe to continue with your marketing campaign by choosing the right product from the right promotional products company and for that right price.

Budget-Friendly Promotional Products for All

You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy promotional products, but you do have to choose a reputable corporate gifts company that offers quality promotional products for every price range to make your marketing strategy work. The truth is, there are many promotional products that offer great cost-per-impression.

There are even great promotional products that can provide a great potential return on investment due to their low cost, with some products priced at or around $1 when you purchase from leading corporate gifts companies). Whichever promotional product you choose within your price range, it should always follow the rule of Why.

If you are looking for different ideas for specific marketing opportunities, then you should delve into the type of event and the promotional product that complements it. For example, remember those marketing strategies from earlier? Let’s go back to them and see what budget-friendly promotional products are available to fill the needs of the particular audiences associated with each one.

Community Event, Conferences, and Trade-Show Giveaways

Quantity is very important for trade shows, community events, conferences, company-sponsored events, public relations events, or even other national events such as marathons or concerts, as hundreds of guests will meander through space, collecting information and determining what will best suit their needs. The difficult part about providing promotional items for this type of strategy is that you have to stand out from the large crowd of competition gathered, so to gain brand recognition, generate sales, and gain new customers, you need to provide a product that will make it impossible for you to blend in.

It’s important to remember that promotional products are not a stand-alone strategy. When you attend a trade show, company function, conference, or any other large event, your promotional products strategy should complement your overall marketing strategy to get the brand recognition you seek from the event. Here are some steps that will ensure your company will be the talk of the crowds:

Set Your Goals: The first thing to consider before signing up for an event is to determine the goals for that event. If you cannot think of a way in which the event can benefit your company, there is no reason to attend. Establish your goals and make sure every detail planned complements those goals.

Plan in Advance: You should always plan well in advance to ensure that your pre-show, during-show, and post-show processes are well-thought-out and align with your goals. You can register for events, such as trade shows and conferences, months ahead of the event date, and you should use that time wisely to ensure you plan every detail about how you can engage potential clients. This is the time in which you should decide which promotional product will help further your mission.

Set Up Shop Strategically: A company event should have a table right at the entrance where you can check in your guests, a trade show booth should be located in an ideal space on the trade show floor where guests will not miss your brand, and a conference will allow for specific spaces in which you can network. Determine the ideal space and then make sure you create a booth or space that invites people to see you. Don’t block off your space with a table, but create a space where people can walk in, engage freely, and leave with a promotional product that will keep your brand name top of mind even after the event is over.

Publicize the Event: It may be your event or it may be an industry event you attend, but it is always a good idea to help publicize the event to get more people to attend and to let more people know where they can find you if they have questions. Discuss the details, such as date, time, special guests, seminars, etc. on your social media accounts, employee newsletters, B2C newsletters, press releases, and any other avenue on which you can spread the word.

It is also important to discuss what potential attendees can expect from you. Are you going to be presenting in a certain conference room? Will you have demonstrations at your booth? Are you going to do a raffle during the event? What trade show or event giveaways will be on-hand for everyone that visits your space? The more your target audience knows where to find you and why they should come to see you, the more leads you will receive.

Don’t Be a WallFlower: Events that host hundreds of people are always a great opportunity to make your voice heard. If there are opportunities to speak, do so. That can be in the form of a seminar where you provide a topic that aligns with your industry to establish your company as an “expert” in the field, a sponsorship lunch (typically companies that sponsor meals are provided with an opportunity to share information about the company), or, if it’s a company event, a brief introduction speech welcoming guests and explaining the purpose of the event. Every opportunity to speak with attendees is an opportunity to provide either your business card or a quality promotional product that will leave a lasting impression. What? Did you think you had to stay in your space and wait for people to come to you?

Have Your Follow-Up Strategy Ready: Marketing your company during an event doesn’t end when the event does. After it is over, that is when you begin your post-event follow-up to further engage the leads with which you spoke or the leads that provided their contact information to you via sign-up or business card. It is especially helpful if you remember your interaction with this person and can personalize the email as part of your lead nurturing campaign.

Analyze Your Efforts and Results: Immediately following the show, it is important to discuss the good, the bad, the ugly, the accomplishments, and the failures. Did everything align with your mission as planned? Were the promotional products well-received? Were you able to generate leads? Was the attendance as anticipated? How many attendees did you engage in conversation? Was there a good turn-out for your speaking engagement?

Go through every aspect of the event to ensure you repeat the strategies that caused success and begin brainstorming on how you can alter the strategies that caused failures.

Executive, Client, and Employee Gifts

Client and employee retention are one of the most important aspects of business, so including corporate gifts chosen specifically for these audiences are important for your business. Show employees you appreciate their hard work in closing a big account or reaching that sales goal and turn them into brand ambassadors for your business with branded employee gifts that will make them smile and show your clients how much you appreciate their support with every repeat order by providing a high-quality, branded corporate gift they will love.

Boosting morale with corporate gifts allows you to nurture your relationships with employees and clients, showing them that you care about them and the loyalty they show to the company. Research has shown that employees that work in “fear”, tend to perform at a lower level than employees who feel secure in their workplace from the support they receive from the company. Another study showed that happy employees trickle down that happiness to clients, improving on business-client relations and boosting sales.

The number of promotional items needed for this strategy depends on the number of clients and employees you have, so choose your promotional product wisely to ensure it still falls within the marketing budget. Of course, the key to a corporate gifts strategy is finding the right product to convey your message, and that product should still answer to a “need” of your target audience, in this case, your employees and clients.

Fun Raffles and Giveaways

Social media is a great branding tool and can even bring in new leads for the right product or service. Make the most out of your digital advertising dollars by combining them with a fun, low-budget giveaway that will:

  1. Draw in those virtual crowds with a free gift that will inevitably remind them of your company. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
  2. Get attention from the media with a carefully planned giveaway that will promote your business enough to warrant news coverage. The key here is the marketing around the giveaway. Create a strategy that will “wow” people and cause people to talk about you..in a good way of course.

The success of this strategy is dependent on the universal appreciation of the promotional product chosen. Items that are universally appreciated will make it so anyone that wins the prize will enjoy it.

Promotional Products Born for Out-of-the-Box Marketing Strategies

You can’t always rely on the tried-and-true methods of marketing. If your business allows you to choose a promotional product that is highly-specific to your target audience and doesn’t appeal to the masses, then you may end up with a marketing campaign that not only brings in leads but brings in qualified leads.

If you have a niche target market that will appreciate the thought put into your promotional product, then the best strategy is to be direct and intentional.

Choose the Budget-Friendly Promotional Products That Will Work

Choosing promotional products that will work is dependent on the products that you feel will provide the best cost per impression. As discussed earlier, promotional pens lead the pack on CPI, but so do custom tote bags. In fact, tote bags get more impressions than any type of promotional item, with an average of almost 6,000 brand impressions. Other items, such as USB ports, calendars, mugs, and umbrellas that also provide an excellent return on investment for your marketing campaign. All of these items even surpass the results of other traditional media.

Whichever budget-friendly promotional product you choose, make sure it fits your budget, complements your brand, is an asset to your overall campaign strategy, and is a high-quality item that will prove to be durable and stylish to whoever receives it. Following these guidelines will ensure your campaign will have a huge impact on your return-on-investment (ROI) and maximize your results.

About the Author

Arelys Alexander

Arelys Alexander

Arelys Alexander has more than 15 years of marketing, writing, and editing experience, currently working with Blueberry Ink. Her focus is on ensuring her clients’ great ideas translate into strategic copy and design and well-planned marketing campaigns for increased brand awareness and sales success. Much of her work involves branding and marketing research which she then conveys into easily to understand marketing blogs and other content.

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