Perspectives: Actions Speak Louder Than Words


It’s easy to talk about the power of promotional products but it’s more important when you use them to promote your own business.

The reason branded merchandise works so well for promoting a distributor’s services is the same reason why it works well for all kinds of businesses: promotional products stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. And when you put your own branded product in a potential client’s hands, it tells the client you trust and use the advertising medium you are recommending for them.

I recently posted a conversation starter on PPAI’s Promo Connect and heard from distributors about the strategies and successes behind their self-promo efforts. Christina Conley, key accounts manager at Show Your Logo in Oswego, Illinois, told me she uses self-promos monthly, sometimes weekly, and likes to pick items that are different, trendy or useful. She’s now using paring knives, velvet can coolies and lip balm (the latter was imprinted with variable numbering to enter a raffle and got an 85-percent response rate). She also gives imprinted pens to restaurants, dog groomers, dry cleaners and the like. “That pen will change hands 17 times and I have gotten lots of new business,” she says. “No doubt the local competition has signed their charge slip with one of my pens.” She targets small groups of industry-specific accounts, prospective customers and people she hasn’t heard from in a while. She also gives out thank-you gifts and referral gifts. “I pump up the enthusiasm with emails that some ‘fun mail’ is coming their way. I monitor who ‘wakes up’ after a mailing, who says thank you and who orders. If a campaign works, I use it on a different group,” she says.

Jae Rang, MAS, principal at JAE Associates Ltd., in Oakville, Ontario, says she’s very strategic about using self-promos, but they don’t always go as planned. For example, her company agreed to sponsor a ladies’ invitational golf event and created a contest, prize and a series of signs reflecting the event’s tropical theme. Her artwork had flamingos and palm trees with the tag line: “Your Marketing Edge in Any Climate.” Unfortunately, through a series of actions beyond her control, golfers didn’t see Jae’s signs, and the logoed tins of mints she had provided went unserved. It was a disastrous $800 spend but Jae’s save was brilliant. She repurposed the artwork and tag line to invite customers to Client Day at September’s Promotional Product Association of Canada National Convention. She and her team created t-shirt-shaped screen cloths imprinted with the tropical artwork, the show invitation and the tag line and mailed them to 100 local clients. Then, she took the same artwork, added a polar bear and snow, and worked with supplier Chocolate Chocolate to create a custom trio card that includes three foil-wrapped chocolate bars. She mails about 250 of these branded treats every year to clients, favorite suppliers and others (I’m a lucky recipient, too!). “Given that our market includes Canada, the U.S., Bermuda and the Caribbean, the double meaning of  “Your Marketing Edge in Any Climate” couldn’t be more appropriate,” she says.

Jedd Parker, president of Rain City Promotions in Seattle, Washington, also believes in being strategic and in using high-quality items that are on-trend or expected to be. Instead of doing mass mailings, he targets those clients he’s trying to make a statement with: those who have ordered recently and show great promise, those who continually support the company or those who appear to be a good fit and for whom they could do a good job. “We are not shy about spending for unique and useful quality products, so we are prudent about where we send those,” he says. This strategy has paid off with many orders received as a result. “But more importantly, we think we validate for new or existing customers why they chose us as a vendor,” he says, adding that his office receives calls or emails from recipients saying they get a lot of self-promo items but the ones from Rain City Promotions are appreciated, kept and used because of their high-quality and high-perceived value.

Choosing the right product is, of course, the key to success. Maria Healy, CEO of Kreative Marketing, Inc. in Neptune Beach, Florida, told me about a recent self-promo sent primarily to her largest customer, a worldwide financial institution. She chose a reusable stainless straw kit engraved with her company logo and packaged in nice suede bags that were also logoed. The kits were shipped to all client branches and departments along with their apparel catalog and a flyer with a 10-percent-off coupon. “We got a huge response and a lot of new branches/departments of this financial institutions are now using us for their corporate apparel,” she says.

So next time you are thinking about how to promote your company to clients and prospects, remember the power of promotional products—and what that decision says about your company.

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Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB. 

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