Developing a Program to Sell Promotional Products

If you are in the business of selling marketing services, promotional products should be a key element to the offerings you provide your clients. Items such as embroidered apparel, T-shirts, and custom imprinted giveaways like pens and magnets fall under this category. Developing a program with your client to decide upon the best way to spend their marketing dollars will take a little bit of research on your part, but could in turn be a profitable arrangement for both sides of the deal.

As more companies enter the business of selling promotional products, the items they produce and sell become more commodity based. Quality workmanship and reasonable delivery are necessary, but no longer sufficient conditions to guarantee profitability. So, while promotional apparel may be sold at bid-based prices, the positive results of those products can be sold at a more robust profit. To accomplish this means you’ll have to shift your thinking and approach from simple product selling to promotional accountability. Program selling’s accountability starts with having specific measurable objectives, and ends with evaluating whether those objectives were achieved by the promotional methods used. Selling a client a program for promotional marketing is rooted in understanding your client’s business and using promotional products to produce a specific, measurable outcome.

Decide on specific objectives

This is the first and most important step in determining which promotional products will work best for your client. Often the goals of a program are revealed through casual conversations with clients or prospects who think they have no requirements for their marketing. Keep your ears open for stated or implied needs.

To discover truly worthwhile objectives, work with the client to develop a list of as many organizational needs, problems, challenges and opportunities as possible. Then narrow the list down to the few that are most important and can probably be accomplished through getting people to work more productively in definable ways. For each of these important challenges, identify the specific activities or performance levels that will help the most. For example, for a sales-incentive program you might consider the number of calls or contacts, percent of sales quotas met, new accounts generated, or specific types of products sold.

Agree upon a budget

Sometimes the client will hand the budget to you. Other times it needs to be developed based on what the program is meant to achieve, what the financial benefits from the program will be, what the costs of not achieving your goals will be, what has been done in the past, and other concerns. Many budgets are simply based on a percentage of the projected savings or incremental profits that are expected. Generally speaking, the greater the trust-bond between you and your client, the easier it will be to discuss these points openly and candidly.

Create a central theme to the promotions you sell

The theme needs to fit with the image of the organization, the target audience, other ongoing communication patterns within the organization, and the goals they have. It needs to be creative, catchy and thoughtful. Perhaps incorporate a unique cartoon character mascot designed specifically for the company, to make the theme more tangible and interesting.

Develop messages to support the theme

Even promotions need promoting. If your promotional program is longer than three months you will need to give it a number of boosts to keep the message fresh for the client’s target audience. These messages can be placed on fliers, pay stubs, on posters, on banners, stickers, and promotional products. They need to support the creative theme the same way carbonation supports soft drinks-with creative sparkle. In this manner you align the messages, theme, company image and objectives.

The products

Promotional products such as custom embroidered outerwear, caps, T-shirts and coffee mugs should round out the program, supporting the theme and promotional messages. Consider them the attention-getters, educational tools and reminders of the program’s existence and importance. They should be added to on a regular schedule to keep the promotional message fresh and interesting.

Be careful to select the appropriate promotional products. Again, alignment is important. Ideally, the products you select should be appealing to the target audience and bear a natural relationship to the objectives, theme and message.

Is it working?

Finally, you need to establish a way of measuring results. This final step is extremely important. It provides the feedback you need to demonstrate the success of the program and to improve future programs.