I’m sure you’ve been to a trade show in the big city with big time vendors and corporate representatives handing out cool “freebies” with their logo on them. The “big dogs” certainly aren’t the only ones who can have a cool item or gadget to pass out to potential customers. It doesn’t matter what size business or what size town you live in, a promotional item can work for your business and will continue working for you even after your client or potential customer is long gone from your office or event.
When you’re in a larger market the promotional item game can get a little more tricky. You have more competition and more items floating around. Choosing an item for small town distribution is also a lot different than choosing an item for a large trade show, for example. You don’t have to “out-do” everyone else, or make as large of an impact. At a trade show the average customer is going to see 20 or 30 vendors and you want to make sure they hang onto your item. Some of these obstacles are non existent in the small town. I’d be willing to say there’s not that many items floating around already.
Choose an item with a descent “shelf life.” A magnet, note pad, ink pen or mouse pad will hang around your customer’s home or office a while and get much more exposure than even the most unique business card would. A clock or calendar will continue to advertise for you long after they receive the item.
Stay away from key chains, flashlights, calculators and similar items. I don’t know anyone who walks around with a pocket full of loose keys. The odds are against you when handing out key chains, people are funny about their keys and when you hand someone a new keychain it’s very rare that they pull out their keys and immediately put that promotional item to use. The keychain will get set aside, put in a drawer or heaven forbid tossed out. Flashlights are handy and almost every promotional item catalog I’ve looked through has them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for you and your business. First think about when they’re used: in the dark. The power just went out, it’s pitch black and now is the time to promote your business? Yeah right. Calculators are better than flashlights, at least they’re used with the lights on, but their recipients don’t reach for them as often as they reach for a nice pen, notepad or letter opener. Many software programs have calculators built in, all computers have them, so why would someone reach in a drawer and hunt for a calculator when another one so readily available?
Keep in mind that promotional items are an extension of your company and your brand. You don’t always have to go with the very top of the line when choosing a specific promotional item, but do steer away from “budget” items. An ink pen that falls apart, a notepad with only 10 sheets of paper, or a magnet not strong enough to stick to the fridge with a note under it isn’t going to extend the message you want portrayed. The last thing you want to be accused of is being “cheap.”
The best piece of advice I can give is to use common sense. If your business name doesn’t reflect what you sell, choose a promotional item that has space for more than just your logo. “Smith Productions” doesn’t say “we offer event planning.” So Mr. Smith probably doesn’t want to hand out an ink pen with only enough room to print his company name. Common sense can carry you a long way. Plan out the entire process: choosing an item, deciding what to print on your item, and determining how to distribute them. Many aspects of running a business in a small town can be daunting, but executing a promotional item campaign is certainly not a project you should expect to lose sleep over.
About the author:
Neal Rohrbach is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Idea Anglers, an online small business collaborative tool that helps turn ideas into successful businesses (http://www.ideaanglers.com). He also owns Dixie Design.us, providing graphics, marketing, and web products. His portfolio boasts successful projects on both small and global markets, from “Mom & Pop” businesses to professional sports teams and Fortune 500 companies. He is a marketing zealot, graphic designer and entrepreneur. He thinks outside the box, not off the shelf.
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