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.


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

Insulated mugs

When I started working at rushIMPRIMT some years ago, one of my first assignments was to help a radio station choose promotional items to give to its employees for its anniversary party. The station employed only about 40 people, and they were pretty close-knit. It was important for me to find a promotional product that they could use in their daily lives.

I had only one day to come up with my recommendation (because this is rushIMPRINT), so I talked to their representative and asked some questions – unusual questions – to help me make an informed suggestion. I found out that the majority of the employees are in their early thirties, took the train to the office, were heavy coffee drinkers, and spent about $50 a week on Starbucks. That was when I decided on the perfect promo item:

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A 24-ounce thermos bottle with two mugs and a comfort grip molded handle to make it easy to carry. It’s perfect for coffee-drinking commuters, because it can keep coffee either hot or cold during long morning commutes. It’s also great for busy offices like a radio station, where employees keep going back to the kitchen for their morning cup of coffee.

My recommendation apparently worked, because just two days later, the radio station placed a reorder. Oh, and their employees cut spending on Starbucks, because they can now bring brewed coffee from home. :)

- Jen

Lip Balm…..Who Knew?

Every pocket, every handbag, every dresser, or every bathroom in the United States probably has a stash of lip balms. So popular are lip balms, in fact, that brands like ‘Lotta Luv’ has sold more than 30 million of these products during the past two years, and the brand ‘Leashables’ ships out about 1.5 million of them weekly.

I personally carry two kinds of lip balm in my purse – one orange-flavored, one cherry. I find myself buying packs of lip balm monthly. And I’m sure the rest of the world does, too. Lip balms have definitely become staples not only during winter, but throughout the year.

How do you take advantage of the trend? Put your logo on them! For less than $2, you will be putting your name on a product that is used by virtually all Americans every thirty minutes, or at least ten times a day.

Flavored Lip Balm
These are some of the lip balms we carry here at rushIMPRINT. They go for as low as $1.83 per piece.

The lip balms we carry are medicated with the right SPF formula to protect lips from dryness, cracking, and sun exposure. Best of all, they come in luscious flavors that taste so good, they may as well be candies.


PDAs versus paper folios

I thought I was the most technologically-backward person this side of the country, until I read this: Most people still prefer traditional paper folios to personal digital assistants (PDAs). And it makes sense, really.

Many carry phone numbers in their cell phone, and therefore do not need electronic organizers to do that for them. Most professionals are always sitting at their computer and lugging around their laptops, anyway, so what use would they have for a digital assistant? Conclusion: Electronic organizers are often redundant. They’re also pretty scary – you have to religiously synchronize them with your main computer, or you risk losing data.

The best thing about paper folios is that they are very simple but still work well. I’ve already tried using a PDA, but I find that there is no better alternative to dark ink on bright pages. The glare on screen texts makes reading harder. Paper is still easier on the eye, tangible and portable.

That probably explains why the orders we get for paper folios still continue to grow. In fact, we get a lot of orders from IT companies! That just goes to show that no matter how tech-savvy or ultra-modern people are, their affinity for paper never goes away.

 Cutter & Buck Jr. Writing Pad
This is one of our Cutter & Buck paper folios, crafted from stylish top grain leather in chestnut color.

So, should you buy a digital organizer or renew your paper planner? That is a personal choice. I know I won’t trade in my paper folio for anything electronic this year. For me, the paper folios work, and work well.

72-hour marathon DAY 3

The demands of producing promo items ten times quicker than the normal industry turnaround is nothing new to me. Most of my days here run on deadlines. We are, after all, the web’s first source for logo merchandise ready to ship in 24 hours. Clients who need promo items fast come to us everyday, because that’s what we do – we take care of last minute needs. They can simply select and order promotional products online before 12 noon of any day, and we can ship it less than two days later.

We do everything with the precision and regularity of clockwork, from customer orders, to order fulfillment, to shipping. We do all the worrying so that our clients never have to. It’s a stressful job, sure, but it is also very gratifying.

This just in: I got a call from my dentist, and he was asking if he could have fleece crews made to give to his staff for their anniversary, which is tomorrow. Great idea, considering that his office is quite chilly. He and his assistants can layer these fleece crews not only to protect themselves (as required by the state and OSHA compliance laws), but also to keep warm and promote the clinic. He was worried that the notice is too short, but I was quick to correct him, of course. I told him what I always tell clients: At RushIMPRINT, it’s never too late :)


72-hour marathon DAY 2

Everything is going pretty well with the fleece wear order. Production is in full swing, which means I can now put down my third mug of brewed coffee, breathe, and do some research for the client.

Warming up to fleece
Our instincts were right. Clothing is still the most popular category for promotional items (more popular than mugs, actually). T-shirts are still the most used, followed by fleece vests and hats. But fleece is really moving up – many experts say that it is now quickly replacing golf shirts and polo shirts (the ‘it’ promo items in the late 1990’s). Everyone is now quickly realizing that fleece is lightweight yet warm (twice as warm as wool), very durable, dries fast, and always looks good.

Now a staple in colder climates, fleece clothing is permeating even upscale fashion in the guise of ‘corporate casual style.’ But not all fleece apparel is the same. Recipients will probably throw pieces with cheap, shoddy workmanship straight to the trash, along with the company logo. That’s why we at RushIMPRINT make sure that every promotional item we produce maintains functional and visual integrity. We carry only well-made polar fleeces with stretch binding at the armhole and the bottom opening, and fashionable contrast inside-collar, collar binding, and side panels. You don’t want your logo on anything less.