Considerations with Promotional Items

Every company needs giveaway promo items but how much should you spend and on what type of items?  It’s a real bummer to order 1,000 of something only to find out it didn’t have the effect you were thinking.  Remember, just because you think something is cool or useful doesn’t mean everyone else will.  These things are very individualistic and a lot of stuff gets thrown straight into the trash after you walk away.  But one good thing about promotional items compared to printed material is they last forever, or I guess until you change your logo or tagline.

Thanks to some contributions from my long-time promo items rep from Standing Ovations, Don Nichols, below is a list of some things to think about when deciding which promo items you should carry.

  1. Stay away from dot.com online promo sites
    That does not mean don’t utilize distributor websites because they all have them and they are a great tool. But stay away from sites that don’t offer you your own personal sales rep. These sites are interested in only one thing and that is selling volume but often with nonexistent service. They are not personally vested in your company’s growth. Distributors that offer good customer service and have good references from other successful companies are the ones you should direct your attention to. Having your own personal rep to handle you promotional account is paramount in securing the absolute best value for your promotional dollars and working with you in a crisis (urgent needs).
  2. Get to know your rep personally
    You want a face-to-face meeting with your rep to establish a good base for your relationship. You both need mutual trust in each other. Your rep should have your best interest in mind at all times. They should offer you fresh and innovative ideas that work well for your typical needs and for your target market and buyer persona.
  3. Don’t always go with the cheapest thing
    Sometimes you feel like you just need to get your name on something. That’s how stuff get’s thrown in the trash. Let your rep suggest items to you. You might not like what they have to say initially, so ask them to explain the reason. Believe me when I say I’ve gotten some very unique ideas from Don that I never would have thought of and that really were a big hit.
  4. Variety
    Get at least 2 or 3 different items for the different types of clients you’re targeting and for different occasions. I typically recommend stocking items in the following price bands: under $1, $1-2, $3-5, $10+.  As you can imagine, you’ll stock much higher volumes of the items at the lowest price points and only carry a small amount of the highest price item because they are reserved for your VIP customers and special occasions.  While spreading things out in various cost categories, also try to address different application uses.  Something used in cars, on desks, at home, on your clothes, at parties, etc.
  5. Shirts
    Surely you’ll have logo’d t-shirts, which is fine for casual use. But if you’re going to meet a prospect/client or traveling to a show you’ll want something nicer like a polo-style golf shirt or a button-down shirt that you can throw a sport coat over (for men).
  6. Artwork
    This is critical. When having your logo designed you must look at the big picture. What all is your art going to show up on? It must be usable and transferable to other products for both embroidery on wearable items like shirts and hats.  And it also must be imprintable on hard items like decals, pens, mugs, calendars, magnets and 900,000 other items that are available to you. Try to keep your logo design to basic colors and, if possible, never use more than 3 and don’t blend them into each other. I know it looks cool but you can change this later after your company takes off and you have a pile of money to spend on logo’d items.  You might also want to create a 1-color version of your logo for use on the lowest cost items.  It really helps hold the costs down.

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Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen nearly 1,000 startup pitches, advised more than 200 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, serving twice as President and three times as CMO, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now his emphasis is purely focused on helping startups and early stage tech companies. Through his Shockwave Innovations advisory practice and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon is an active angel investor, VC and startup advisor.

7 thoughts on “Considerations with Promotional Items”

    1. Gary,
      Your Logo is very innovative and attractive with good balance. But I want you to consider that the larger part of the logo is color fillied. When doing embroidery, this will relate to stitches. Emb costs are priced according to the number of stitches.
      Also there is some very fine detail in your logo. When relating this to embroidery make note that the detail will not come out as clean and sharp as printing it. Emb needles have to take a path to one side or another of the thread on the garment being emb’. So your pipes might not appear as straight as they are in your orginal artwork.
      But over all, very nice work.
      Don Nichols.

      1. Thanks Don, That is a logo that we have used for 26+ years. It started out blocked, then a few years ago in slanted, and very shortly after that I added the “speed bars” We had some shirts embroidered and the extra cost from 7$ to $10 was no big deal. I dont recall if we kept the detail in them. Now we are changing from MacGregor Services to MacGregor Instrumentation, I am having to work up a new logo. Will see how that goes.

      2. Thanks Don,
        That is a logo that we have used for 26+ years.
        It started out blocked, then a few years ago in slanted, and very shortly after that I added the “speed bars”
        We had some shirts embroidered and the extra cost from 7$ to $10 was no big deal.
        I dont recall if we kept the detail in them.
        Now we are changing from MacGregor Services to MacGregor Instrumentation,
        I am having to work up a new logo. Will see how that goes.
        Thanks !

  1. A nice piece of information about what to use as promotional items and points where you should take care before taking them as for your promotions.

  2. The best thing about promotional items to me is the fact that a lot of the items are very fun to play with. They have robot shaped USB drives, stress balls are no longer sand filled balloons (miss those), and of course the pen’s that have the cruise ship moving around in the pen when you turn it upside down. Innovation is why branding items works

  3. Follow Don’s advice and you can’t go wrong, especially involving price. Try testing multiple products and break it down by ROI, then stick with what works. Thank you Don for sharing your pool of knowledge on promotional products

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