Choose your pens wisely

In the United States alone, more than two billion pens are manufactured every year. Pens are still among the most widely-used writing instruments – whether ballpoint, fountain, soft-tip, or roller-ball.

Unfortunately, not all pens are kept or used by recipients. In fact, some 1.6 billion pens are thrown away annually. How do you make sure that the pens with your logo on them are not tossed out into the trash can? Choose wisely – choose utilitarian. Promotional pens are being reinvented to stand out, anyway, so it selecting one should not be too hard.

We at rushIMPRINT recommend ‘Liqui-Light Pens,’ which do not only look great, but are also multifunctional.

 Stock Globe Liqui-Light Pen

The sleek silver casing and the little futuristic-liquid aquarium (complete with a floating globe) make it too nifty not to use. Best of all, the pen features a matching blue light so the user can work even in low-light conditions, and the stylus tip can be used to input data into a personal digital assistant. Add in the gift box and you have a promo pen that will surely be used for years and years.

Manufacturers of similarly-designed writing instruments say that investing in high-quality pens make a sound marketing decision, especially because people of all walks of life think that (multifunctional) pens are designed for them. Everyone – form outdoorsy people to traveling salesmen to nurses – appreciate the versatility, usefulness and good looks of a quality writing instrument.

- Josh

Promotional tools (Part 2)

I thought of writing another entry related to tools as promo items because I came across a rather interesting idea from Theodore Levitt (Harvard Professor Emeritus). He said that over 250 million quarter-inch drill bits are sold every year, but that nobody wants a quarter-inch drill bit. What people really want are quarter-inch holes.

True – especially in promotional tools. When you give someone a Tool N’ Torch, for example, you are not really giving them a Halogen flashlight and a device tote. You are giving him convenience – the ease of doing tool work even in low-light conditions (such as in campfires and during car trouble). This ability to associate with ‘experience’ is what separates promotional tools from other traditional forms of advertising. A buyer is more likely to remember the brand imprinted on a tool he repeatedly uses to make his life easier than the brand mentioned in a 20-second television ad he sees only twice a week (or less).

Tools are also very ‘multipliable,’ because they are likely to be borrowed by or lent to someone other than your original recipient. Give Tom a six-function wrench, for example, and his neighbor Ben will probably use it, too, and so will his friend Anthony. For as low as $6, you have already reached – and have been remembered by – at least three people. If your tool’s lifespan is 5 years, you will reach hundreds of potential customers. Now that is cost-effective advertising.

- Josh

Promotional tools

Probably one of the most hardworking promotional items is multi-piece toolkits, which enable people to work on basic projects even when they are miles away from their toolboxes. You can give basic multi-head screwdrivers, pliers, or knob drivers (among many other basics). Move up the promotional tools range and you can give advanced 25-piece toolkits, survival tools, and even ultra-handy pocket tools like this one from Shelton or this 4-in-1 tool keychain.

 25-Piece Tool Kit
The kit includes all sockets, screwdriver bits, allen keys, wrenches, tape measure, and pliers and extension bars, and many other tooling essentials.

Promo tools are the little well-oiled promotional gears that have the power to increase your business’ revenues substantially. Many managers are now dropping big ideas like ‘revolutionary’ business models or mega-mergers in favor of simpler, cumulatively effective tactics such as this. If promo items were not effective, why do you think the multinationals spend over $15 billion a year on them?

The bottom line: useful promo items such as tools work, and work wonders. Focus your energy on finding the right item for your market. Tools work best for male-oriented industries, but you would be surprised how many women appreciate receiving tools, too. In fact, a good number of them use screwdrivers as levers to open cans :)

- Josh

Back to basics

Credit it to the hip-ness of caffeine or plain old usefulness. Whatever the reason, mugs are still one of the top-selling promotional products. Here at rushIMPRINT alone, we sold a record number of mugs in the last 3 months!

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Some of our best-sellers

The trend is not exclusive to our industry. Even gourmet retailers are experiencing the same drift. Sales of mugs have been increasing by at least 1.9 percent every year since 2003, followed closely by sales of espresso and cappuccino makers, which grow at about 1.8 percent yearly.

What is it about mugs that have people hording them like crazy? The answer is versatility, more than anything. Homes and offices across America use mugs for almost every conceivable purpose – for coffee, for cold beer, for serving ice cream, for holding pens, and even as flower pots.

Do the math and you’ll find that mugs are among the most sensible promo items to give out to clients and potential customers:

1. They’re reusable, so your logo and message can be seen a hundred-fold.
2. They’re also affordable – for less than the price of a Happy Meal, you can already leave a long, lasting impression.
3. And best of all, they’re tough. Quality tempered mugs almost never break, so your logo stays intact for years (and are even passed on).

It’s no wonder that the last couple of months have been all about mugs. In fact I have to go now, because last week’s client reordered another shipment, deliverable by tomorrow. I’ll probably need my favorite. Pour the coffee – I’m pulling an all-nighter.

- Josh

Cheap promo items as premiums

So powerful are promo items that they work for consumers of all ages – even to kids, or especially to kids. I was surfing for marketing data when I came across a new bit about the Japanese Nintendo Club’s successful and inexpensive promotional tactic last year, considered one of the best in their industry.

Their attack was simple enough – they gave some nine thousand mobile phone straps (similar to this) to the lucky kids who buy their Final Fantasy game and register its serial number in their website.

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Photo from Hahacat
The actual straps are inspired by the game’s characters – the black, white, and red sorcerer

The simple marketing plan worked, proving that even cheaper promotional items can be used as premiums if your audience wants them bad enough. The sales of Nintendo’s version of Final Fantasy hit all-time highs – almost as high as their Pokémon Silver and Pokémon Gold games, which, incidentally, also used promotional items to gain worldwide popularity.

This only goes to show that promotional items never have to be too expensive to work. They can be worth a dollar and still triple your sales. That sure gives meaning to ‘bang for your buck.’

-Josh

Selecting the right promo item

Last Monday I met with a new client – a representative of a local university. She was a very cheerful lady but had no marketing background, and was completely in the dark about what promo item to choose. At the top of her list were magnets – she wanted ‘refrigerator magnets’ with her university’s logo, and she wanted the enrollment and inquiry trunk line imprinted, too.

I could understand where she was coming from. Magnets are, after all, among the cheapest promo items, and at roughly $0.56 each, they fall right within her budget. But when I asked her what exactly she wishes to accomplish with these magnets, she answered, ‘to promote ourselves to high school seniors so that they would consider us for college.’

RED ALERT. The common mistake people make when choosing promo items is choosing in terms of price. The cheapest is not always the most effective. In this case, for example, the magnets will only stay in the student’s refrigerators at home (if it even makes it there), where they can sit idle with no promotional leverage. These magnets will fail miserably at spreading the word among other students.

I ended up talking get into buying rulers and pens instead.

 Translucent Colored Rulers

For few more cents, she could really promote the school. Students can use their pens and rulers in class and tell their friends, “This school is where I’m going to for college.”

Now that is efficient promotion for less than $1 each.

- Josh

Shoe horns

The shoe horn may be reclaiming its glory, and may quickly become as indispensable as a hairbrush or comb. That’s right – these little plastic scoops are making their way back into shoe cabinets, and quickly.

Shoe horns are another nice idea of a promotional item

Shoe horns are not readily available in shoe stores these days, so people who receive them as promo items keep and cherish them almost as much as they cherish a nice sweater or a fleece blanket. People find it so much easier to ease a dress shoe on to their feet with a shoe horn. Many seniors, especially, say that these devices make putting on shoes easier.

How does it work? The handle lets a person put on footwear without bending. The blade of the shoe horn is pressed firmly against the inside back of the shoe. This enables the wearer to easily slide his or her feet into the shoe, toe first and then heel. The shoe horn is then slipped out from between the heel and the shoe. It is especially helpful for breaking in new shoes or getting into custom-made fitted pairs.

This probably explains why a lot of first-rate hotels and inns give them as complimentary gifts to customers, and why many of the companies we work with – especially those with a lot of clients within the 45 and up age group – are ordering them by bulk. Shoe horns make high impact because they are unexpected, unique, and very useful. Give them to your clients, and they will remember you every time they put on their shoes – which is, well, everyday.

- Jen

Promo items complement lead generation systems (PART 2)

Another growing trend in the lead generation industry is the ‘referral marketing,’ which, according to surveys, is one of the best methods of generating constant streams of customers and potential customers. In fact, about 70 percent of internet users say that they do visit the websites of companies referred by people they know.

The problem: How do you get people to refer your products and services to other buyers? The answer: Offer them incentives. You can give your referrers discounts, but I suggest you give them more immediate and tangible – free promotional products.

In order for referrers to feel compelled to recommend you to friends, the free items you hand out must be desirable in the first place. Topping the list of the latest and most sought-after promo items these days are technology products USB sticks, iPOD accessories, and virtually anything computer-related. Stylish branded bags and wearables still appeal to the ladies. Throw in useful shoe bags and you just might get more leads.

The keys to maintaining your referral marketing system are consistency and innovation. Send the free items when you say you are going to, and introduce new ones regularly, or better yet, let the referrer choose from among many. This way, people do not get tired of telling potential customers about you. The grapevine is still one of the most effective promotional channels. Make it work for you by using promo items.

- Josh

Promo items complement lead generation systems (PART 1)

Whoever said that direct mailing is passé obviously hasn’t read the latest statistics. Direct mailing is still one of the best methods to target ‘best buyers’ and widen customer base. It’s so effective, in fact, that many businesses claim to have doubled their profits within just 1.5 years by using direct mailing.

But let’s face it – target consumers receive hundreds of direct mails everyday, and it can be pretty difficult to stand out. You can use colorful envelopes, emblazon them with catchy tag lines, but your mail can still go straight to the trash, unread.

How do you get your target’s attention? Give free stuff. Everybody loves free stuff. Throw in a promotional item or two and watch your target customers go from “I’ve never heard of that company before” to “Yes, I know that company,” and finally, to “We buy from them. They’re great!”

Choose the right promotional item to complement your direct mail carefully. Avoid ‘dormant’ items – they will likely get thrown out, too, together with your mail. Instead send something useful and practical. Ask yourself what you would use. A tasteful shirt, a nice CD case, golf balls, or even a handy tool kit should do the trick.

-Josh

Brand extension at work

I noticed that some of our clients are now shifting to higher-quality, higher cost items and imprinted with their logo alongside the manufacturer’s. Cutter and Buck pens, four-piece portable cafes, and Nike apparel are some of the most-ordered higher-end items.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with brand extension. When our clients sponsor a golf tournament, for example, they want something more than just visibility – they also want to be associated with a top brand. Who can blame them? Branding has always been proven to reinforce recall.

Even the top brands realize this. Nike, for example, now permits company logos to be embroidered next to ‘the swoosh,’ and many other top brands are doing the same. The benefits are mutually-beneficial. Top brands sell more products, and logos of companies promoting themselves are exposed and connected to trusted names. The old-school formula works yet again: association = memory.

- Josh