No More Pens, Please!

By Paul Quinn, © 2002.

Consider the impression you leave with a client who spends $130,000 a year with you by handing them a bulk purchased $1.50 pen to thank them for their business. Insulted? With good cause.

Consider handing a Director of a large Corporate who earns in excess of $250,000 a year a $2 branded keyring. Impressed? I think not.

Consider giving a $3.50 mug to one of the HR Officers in a large Corporate who deals with at least eight other agencies. Does your mug set your agency apart or reinforce your point of difference or does it just sit on the shelf in the office collecting dust with a line of other mugs? The shelf if you're lucky, taken home and used as a kid's paint brush holder in all reality.

If you think these examples are a little far-fetched, think again. These are actual examples of "gifts" given to clients by Australian recruitment agencies.

When to use promotional items

It probably sounds like I think promotional items are a waste of money - they aren't. When done well, promotional products can form a very effective part of your marketing mix. They don't work, however, when little or no thought is put into the reasons for their purchase, and the act of presenting the gift is not linked to the delivery of a relevant message.

Here are some ways you can use your promotional items to good effect: (1)

1. Client acknowledgment: Remind your customer that your relationship with them is valued and important.

2. Employee recognition: Express your appreciation for employees or provide as an incentive to employees to achieve more.

3. Competitive advantage: Provide tangible reinforcement of how/why your company is unique.

4. New product announcements: Create interest and excitement for a new product or service.

5. Special events: Act as a permanent reminder to your customer of you and your event.

6. Trade show support: Be remembered long after the show.

7. Product development: Help generate immediate recognition and brand awareness.

8. New market focus: Build an everlasting impression and create interest.

9. Image development: Emphasise themes of value, service, commitment, quality and performance.

10. Increase visibility: Your company name on an everyday staple affords visibility and serves to remind clients of your product/service.

11. Drive website traffic: Offer a visible reminder of how to find you online.

12. Encourage referrals: Offer as an incentive to encourage clients to refer your company to potential prospects.

13. Supplement direct mail: Encourage greater response to direct mail offers by including a promotional product as part of the offer.

How to ensure success:

The choice of what promotional item to use can be challenging. Marketing & eBusiness magazine suggest the approach should, "Examine factors such as the level of seniority of the intended recipients, their nationality, geographic location, time of year and how valuable a customer they are."(2) We suggest you consider these factors as you work through the following seven-step process developed to help ensure maximum ROI on your next promotional item purchase:(3)

Seven-step process:

1. Define the specific objective you are trying to achieve by offering your promotional item.

2. Determine how you are going to distribute the item to your target audience.

3. Create a central theme that supports your image or position in the market.

4. Develop a message to support the theme.

5. Select a promotional product that bears a natural relationship to your profession or your theme.

6. Ensure you haven't picked an item based solely on uniqueness, price or perceived value.

7. Use a qualified and reputable promotional product supplier.

The key to all successful promotional campaigns is to use a promotional item that is different, supports your image and uses a clever and succinct message that emphasises your point of difference.

So, what's worked?

Below are some examples of campaigns that, in our opinion, have used promotional products and messaging to good effect:

A bank targeting small business sent fish-related products with the message: "Are you tired of being treated like a small fish."

An advertising agency sent a miniature rubbish bin. Inside was a piece of screwed up paper that when opened out said: "Don't let your advertising go to waste."

A recruitment agency sent an exclusive pen and Swiss army knife box set with the message: "They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Yet we'd like to offer you one of each to cover all bases (at Agency XYZ we're not known for taking chances.)"

The final word …

In our experience, promotional product suppliers vary in their areas of competitiveness; some offer great discounts on clothing, others on watches etc. Therefore, it's important to shop around for quality products at a good price. Of course, quality and price shouldn't be the only selection criteria; ensure the company you choose is committed to understanding your business so they can help you come up with relevant and creative promotional items that will set your agency apart from competitors and reinforce your point of difference.


(2) It's in their hands. Marketing & eBusiness magazine (August 2002)


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