4 Ways to Increase the Power of Promotional Items

Promotional items emblazoned with a business logo and website are often one of the first marketing investments for a small business, but do you know whether or how much they really contribute to your goals?

Lynne McNamee has years of experience managing promotional marketing for clients like Bank of America, Avis and Hewlett-Packard, and now owns her own firm, Always Visible Signs.  She says the first step in promotional marketing is to determine whether an item pays for itself.  Promotional giveaways tend to be built on brand awareness, and typically don’t translate into a linkable sale. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw strategy out the window. Here are four ways to add power to your promotional items.

Choose an item that reinforces your brand. Reusable bags are a popular promotional tool, and for good reason: They’re on trend, people use them, and they’re cheap. If you’re a company whose brand message fits with the “green” message (for example, lifestyle companies or consignment stores), they may be an ideal giveaway. If your business or service actually creates a fair amount of waste, they probably don’t fit your brand. Resist the urge to jump on the promotional bandwagon and search for an item that complements your image.

Fill a need. Customers buy based on perceived need and use promotional items on the same premise. Promotions needn’t be expensive, but they should solve a problem for your target market. If you’re trying to attract high net worth individuals, a cheap pen won’t get you too far — but a high-quality, branded flashlight might. If your service is one that customers call in a pinch, a refrigerator magnet may stick around their home for years. McNamee says it can help to first brainstorm what unusual and quality custom items will relate well to your brand and market, and then find a way to source and imprint them.

Track the call to action. If you are using promotional items to increase brand awareness, you may not care about tracking responses. But to be strategic, you should know whether the interested customer or the promotional item came first. Consider using QR codes (the black and white microchip-shaped icons starting to pop up on signs and ads), on your next promotional item. Free sites like QR.net allow you to easily create a QR icon that is linked to a unique URL.  Add the QR code artwork that is generated for your URL to your promo item to enable simple customer data collection and response tracking.

Know your objective. Clearly identify what you hope to achieve with a promotional item before you select it. Like any marketing effort, promotions are a test-and-learn process. With each giveaway, you’re gaining valuable customer information and insights to use for future decisions. McNamee says it’s key that you know your prospect-to-lead and lead-to-sale ratios, find a good price for lead acquisition, and know how your promotional items factor into overall costs.  “Generally, there should be a relationship between the cost of the item and the value of the relationship with the recipient,” says McNamee.

About Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Stephanie Taylor Christensen holds a master’s degree in marketing and has 13 years of marketing management experience for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. She is a regular contributor to sites like ForbesWoman, Real Simple, Mint, Minyanville, and SheKnows, and writes for several private business clients. Her work is frequently syndicated and sourced by Yahoo! Finance, SFGate, TodayShow.com, and The New York Times. She is also a small business owner, having founded WellnessOnLess.com, and Om for Mom Prenatal Yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter @WellnessOnLess.
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