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Promotional Products: 12 Things Your Boss Wants You to Know

An educated promotional products shopper is an empowered one. We know the pressures you face in your daily job, and we don’t want buying promotional products to add to your stress level.

Before shopping for promotional products, consider the following things. It is likely that your boss hopes you already know them!

1. An Effective Budget.

Your budget is a key factor in deciding which promotional products to invest in and which promotional product companies to research. It is the first question you will most likely be asked by any promotional product company. If your boss has not given you a budget, but instead told you to figure one out, here are some pointers to help:

How many events will you be attending in the next 3 months, 6 months or year, and how many attendees will be at each event? This will give you a basic calculation for the total number of potential giveaways you are dealing with. If you attend 2 large trade shows with 10,000 attendees at each, plus another 4 local events with 200 at each, that’s at least 20,800 total giveaways you need at a minimum.

What is a reasonable cost per acquisition for a typical customer? If you don’t know your company’s cost per acquisition (CPA), you can probably discuss this with a sales person to get a decent idea. Don’t consider spending $5 for a giveaway to 2,000 people unless you are certain that gaining even a handful of new customers from that giveaway will have a good return.

2. The ROI.

For this you have to start with what the budget is going to be. But sometimes bosses are funny. They want to know that the return on investment is going to be worthwhile before they budget anything for it. This is really a question that asks: do promotional products make profits? And the answer is: yes, generally speaking promotional products have some of the best cost per impressions than any other form of advertising:

Here are the top five promotional products that produced the most impressions in the United States:

3. Know Your Message and Goals.

Go into your next trade show or event with a specific message and goals.

> Your Message

What message are you trying to get across? Remember that your brand will be associated with the swag you are placing it upon. Be careful how much – or how little – you spend on making an impression. And be sure to align your message and audience with the medium upon which it appears.

If you are a law firm and want attendees to receive a message of professionalism and expertise, you probably do not want to put your brand on a fidget spinner.

If you are an airline and want to give attendees the urge to get out and see the world, a quality travel bag or luggage accessory would make a perfect promotional item. If you are a bank and want to make your attendees feel welcome, utilizing a branded writing instrument would be a great medium for your message. Check out the success Huntington National Bank received from their promotional pen re-branding campaign.

> Your Goals

What are you trying to achieve at your next trade show or event? Are you trying to gain a lot of impressions and drive awareness for your brand? Do you want to reach new customers or re-engage current clients? Are you promoting a new product line? Each company has a unique goal. Clearly define your goal and create a plan for achieving it at your next event or trade show.

For example, a recent Leaderpromos client has a simple goal: increase registration for its loyalty card. Leaderpromos created a custom tote bag that would be given away to any customer who registered for their loyalty card and spent a minimum amount with their newly activated card during a specific weekend.

During this giveaway weekend, the average store sale increased 45 percent, and loyalty card acquisitions increased by 52 percent!

The moral? Identify your goal, and establish a promotional products campaign that will help you achieve it.  

4. Know Your Audience.

Who are the people attending the event and walking past your booth? Describe them in detail, including job titles and roles in their organizations, demographics, ages and interests. What can you offer them as a giveaway that they will look at over and over again? Is there a promotional product that your audience will use that others will see, extending your reach even further? To better know your audience, consider three factors: Gender, Age and Location.


Gender Top Promotional Products Environmentally Friendly Made in the USA

1. USB Drives
2. Drinkware
3. Outerwear

40% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 52% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
Female 1. USB Drives
2. Outerwear
3. Bags & Totes
49% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 58% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA


Age Top Promotional Product Environmentally Friendly Made in the USA
18-24 Outerwear 58% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 59% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
25-34 Outerwear 57% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 56% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
35-44 Outerwear 43% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 56% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
45-54 USB Drives 38% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 55% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
55-64 Drinkware 39% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 57% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
65+ USB Drives 36% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 59% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA


Location Top Promotional Products Environmentally Friendly Made in the USA
Urban 1. Writing Instruments
2. USB Drives
3. Outerwear
43% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 51% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
Suburban 1. USB Drives
2. Outerwear
3. Drinkware
43% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 51% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA
Rural 1. Performance Wear
2. Drinkware
3. Mobile Power Banks
42% cared if the promotional product was environmentally friendly 61% cared if the promotional product was made in the USA

5. What’s HOT.

This is a question that can go much deeper, and we will explore the depths of this need later in the article. But suffice to say, one way you can have a good chance of impressing your boss – buy the hottest items. The old adage “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” applies to promotional products as well.

So how do you find the latest and greatest giveaways? Here are a couple of ideas.

Keep your eyes open. If your company has attended events in the past, ask those attendees what they remember. What were the hot products? Analyze the market using the web. Google the phrase "top promotional products" and look at several sources.

Call a promotional products company for advice. An established professional promotional products company will have a staff of experts who have been in the business a long time and see all the trends – sometimes before the trends actually get hot! Imagine being the first at your trade show to give away the next Big Thing! If you call a promo company and only talk to order takers, keep calling until you find one who provides a more consultative approach.

Talk to promotional product experts. When researching different promotional products companies, make sure you know what kind of salespeople you will be talking to. Will you be speaking to order takers only? People who assume you know exactly what you want (maybe you do) and merely take your order? Or will you need to work with someone at a more consultative level? Many promotional products companies work to funnel new customers to the least qualified person necessary to answer questions and close the deal.

6. What’s USEFUL.

It is important to find trending promotional products that will attract attendees to your booth. However, it is even more important that you utilize promotional products that are useful to the consumer. This is especially true with practical promotional items, such as writing instruments and USB drives. According to a 2016 study conducted by the Advertising Specialty Institute, usefulness outweighed attractiveness by five to one.

When U.S. attendees were asked why they kept a given promotional product, 77% said “usefulness” and only 29% said “attractiveness.”

Here are some statistics on the importance of usefulness vs. attractiveness for specific promotional products:

Useful promotional products get used more often and are kept longer by attendees. That means your brand and message is seen more frequently and reaches more people. Attractiveness is still very important, especially if the promotional product is a form of clothing or apparel. In the best case scenario, you find promotional products that are both useful and attractive to event attendees.

But when push comes to shove, prioritize usefulness over attractiveness. As a result, you will more effectively promote your brand and message.

7. Get Samples.

Ok… you know the budget, the ROI, the message and goals, the audience and the hot and useful promo products on the market today.

You presented the plan and your boss loved it! You were prepared and so proud of your hard work.

And then your boss asked…"Can I see some samples of the promotional products you’ve been talking about?" You are caught off guard because you have no tangible example promotional items to give your boss. Don’t make this mistake.

Be one step ahead of your boss and request some promotional product samples. Many promotional products companies are happy to provide samples to clients and prospective customers. In fact, some companies offer pre-production samples. A pre-production sample is the exact product your end users will receive. Pre-production samples will often showcase the specific promotional product, the imprinted color and the custom company logo.

So request some promotional product samples! They will help positively influence your boss’ decision making process while simultaneously displaying your forethought and preparedness.

8. Know How Much Event Space Your Items Will Need.

If necessary, you may have to store your items onsite for several days. For example, where would you store a bunch of bottles? Will the trade show store your promo items on location? And if so, what do they charge you to store it? Many promotional products vendors can drop ship directly to a show, but typically those vendors will need at least 5-7 days of lead time for production.

9. Know the Artwork and Logo Requirements.

Promotional products serve the primary purpose of advertising your company’s brand and message. Without your unique company logo and artwork, promotional products lose this essential purpose. Therefore, it is imperative that you have prepared all the necessary artwork you want to display on your promotional products.

If you are creating the company logo and artwork yourself, make sure your designs meet the requirements specified by the promotional products company you choose to work with.

For example, at Leaderpromos, all artwork and designs must be submitted to us in a vectored .EPS file. If our customers need help getting a file in this format, we will help.

This vector file format is created and manipulated by professional drawing software products, such as Adobe Illustrator® and Corel Draw®. Check with your promotional products company to make sure you meet their unique artwork requirements. If you do not want to create the artwork yourself, some promotional product companies have in-house design teams that provide art services. For an additional fee, they can create your custom artwork within their unique specifications and according to your needs.

10. Understand the Ordering Process.

Getting ready for a trade show or event requires lots of foresight and careful planning. It may sound obvious but you need to receive all your promotional products well before your upcoming event(s). You don’t want to be surprised by an unknown lead time on an order, additional fees and how fast you can get re-orders.

To prevent potential issues, make sure you understand the ordering process of any given promotional products company. Call the promotional products company and ask some of the following questions:

  • What’s the lead time on the order?
  • How fast can we get re-orders?
  • What are the set up charges on new orders and on repeat orders, and why?
  • What about the process for ordering embroidered apparel?
  • Can I ship my orders internationally?
  • Do you provide rush ordering and shipping services?
  • Is there a minimum order size?
  • Is there a discount for buying in larger quantities?
  • What form of payments do you accept?

Getting this information will help you accurately plan for every trade show and event this year.

11. How to Stand Out at Your Event.

Nothing can drive marketing success like creating BUZZ at an important industry event. Increase brand awareness and stand out at your next trade show or event with the following tips:

> Display Those HOT Promotional Products

It is time to put all your knowledge and hard work to use. Like we discussed, nothing grabs people’s attention like todays trending promotional products. Combine your knowledge on current promotional product trends (hot and useful), your messaging and goals and your audience at a given trade show or event.

Create a strategy that will most effectively attract attendees to your booth. Check out the 2017 Industry Trends and the Top 17 Promotional Products we believe will help drive awareness for your brand.

> Use Custom Packaging

When giving away your promotional products, consider using custom packaging for your gifts and items. Using bland wrapping or no packaging at all does not draw your audience to your booth. Make your booth stand out by packaging your promotional items in custom packaging imprinted with unique designs and your brand. Think about the following benefits of custom packaging:

  • Novelty: Custom packaging makes your recipients feel special.
  • Longer Shelf Life and Secondary Exposure: Recipients will often share and save packaging because of its uniqueness.
  • More Message Opportunity: Custom packaging gives your brand another chance to promote your message.
  • Promote Product Launches: If you are presenting a new line of products, custom packaging will help you fight for visibility when competing with established products.
  • Can Be Environmentally Friendly: If you are a “green” company, custom packaging that is environmentally friendly or made from recycled materials can further support your brand reputation.
  • Differentiates From the Competition: Separate your brand from the competition by using custom packaging and your audience will remember you first.

> Market Your Brand with Interactive Collateral

Anything that makes your booth unique will help increase brand awareness at your next event or trade show. Your brand needs to capture other people’s attention. Custom marketing collateral is engaging and gets you results because it presents your brand through unique, interactive designs that will make your company memorable.

See if your promotional products company can create custom collateral pieces for your brand. At Leaderpromos, our in-house designers specialize in creating marketing collateral to help companies stand out at their next event or trade show.

Today, a trending collateral piece is interactive brochures. Check out a Custom Loop Brochure our designers recently made and consider utilizing custom marketing collateral to deliver your brand in a way that’s entertaining, informative and memorable.

> Advertise Your Booth and Promotional Products on Social Media

Inform clients and potential customers about your booth and promotional products weeks before the day of your next event or trade show. Get ahead of your competition and start engaging attendees with a social media campaign.

Attendees will have the information and incentive to immediately visit your booth first. Better yet, social media is a great way to continue to engage attendees long after your event is over. Here are some ideas to promote your booth and promotional products on social media:  

  • Use a Hashtag – Create a unique hashtag that captures your brand and message for an upcoming event.

Have that hashtag imprinted on your promotional products and encourage people to use the hashtag when they receive a promotional product at your booth. You could incentivize attendees to promote your booth on social media by giving a special gift to attendees who use your hashtag. Check out the success we had pairing promotional products with the hashtag #QueenSugar to advertise a new show on the Oprah Winfrey Network at the Essence Music Fest in New Orleans.

  • Share a Photo – A picture is worth a thousand words.

Offer a special promotional giveaway to attendees who snap a picture at your booth or with your promotional product and share it on social media.

This is a great way to inform other attendees about your booth and display your quality promotional items. The possibilities are endless and the rewards are yours to take. For more ideas on how to stand out at your next event, call or contact Leaderpromos. We would be happy to help!

12. How to Be Remembered After Your Event.

The main purpose of promotional products is branding. People pick up their pen or use their mouse pad every day, and they see your brand, over and over again. More brand impressions should lead to more contacts with your company and more sales. But depending on your audience and end users, certain products might have more impact than others.

There are ways to ensure your brand continues to impress as many people as possible long after your event or trade show is over. The promotional items and gifts you giveaway at your event or trade show continue to drive awareness for your brand for months.

Across all promotional products, attendees keep a typical promotional product for an average of seven months.

Some promotional products, such as umbrellas and calendars, have a staying power of over a year. But it doesn’t stop there.

Promotional products are often passed along to other people and, thus, continue to extend the reach of your brand.

In the U.S. and Canada, almost two-thirds of unwanted promotional products are given away to other people.

Promotional products won’t stop working for your brand after your event or trade show is over. They will help you be remembered for months or years and spread your brand to numerous people. While your promotional products will do most of the hard work, there are plenty of opportunities to re-engage with your audience.

When in Doubt… Talk to a Promotional Products Expert

Preparing for a trade show or event is no simple task.

Every company is different and your needs are unique. If you have questions and want to get some promotional product ideas, please do not hesitate to contact or call the brand experts at Leaderpromos. We are committed to help you succeed at your next trade show or event!