The Problems with Buying Promotional Products

Let me be clear.  We are unabashed and unapologetic fans of promotional products.  We know that they are a powerful marketing tool for you and your organization.  You probably know that too.  We have written about how they can help you grow your business, how they can help you do trade shows more effectively, and how they fix the appreciation gap in most organizations.  Promotional products should be a big part of your marketing strategy.

But no marketing media is perfect.

While promotional products are a wonderful way to reach your customers, there are problems with buying promotional products too.  We get that.  So we wanted to address some of those challenges here…and hopefully give you some ideas on how to deal with them!

The Problems with Buying Promotional Products

Let’s just start with the idea that no one likes surprise charges.  And as you will see as we go through some of the industry challenges, surprise charges are one of the biggest sticking points when purchasing branded merchandise.

Your promotional product sales pro comes to you and says “Great news!  I have a special on coffee mugs.  They are $1 and you have to buy 500 of them.”

“Great,” you might say.  “This it will cost me $500?”

With a hesitant look on their face, your promo pro will say, “Well…”  Then they will tell you about the setup charge, the art charge, the proof charge, and the shipping (and don’t forget tax).  It’s about then that you realize that your 500 $1 mugs will cost you about $750.

It’s easy to feel frustrated, and sometimes mislead when this happens.  So let’s dig into why each of these fees exist.

Setup Fee

When you are buying an item in retail, that item was created in bulk.  Each one is essentially the same.  So when it comes time to purchase a pair of shoes on Amazon, they can pick up any size 11 and ship it your way.  The same is not true when it comes to promotional products.  Each order is customized with your logo (and often contact information) on it.  That means with every order, there is custom handling on the order.  Whether that means creating a traditional screen, setting up the art, getting the machine ready to print the job (or many other ways these items are imprinted) there is handling.

The order has to be “setup” to run.  This setup is done by someone that needs to be paid.  It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but this is when “time is money” is real.  Generally, this is a fee charged by the supplier that is “passed through” to the customer.

While you may be saying, “I don’t want to pay set up charges,” or you might be thinking that “my distributor doesn’t charge me for set up,” I would caution you.  Someone is paying for it.  Sometimes the supplier will waive it (so they pay their person and eat the charge).  Every once in a while your distributor might pay it.  Or maybe they are building it into the cost of the item (so you are paying it).

It’s a little like ‘free shipping.”  Most of the time, you are paying for it somewhere.

Bottom line:  A setup fee is a real thing.  The best way to combat this is communication.  Make sure you are asking about any setup fees on the front end.  Whether you like them or not, you want to know about them on the front end!

Art Charges

While there are exceptions to every rule, this is one I think falls under the “legit” charge.  Why?  Because generally speaking, an art charge comes when the customer is not providing quality, vector art.  Want to know what that means?  Check out this blog.  

This usually happens because of one of two reasons.  Either they simply don’t have good art, or they are being lazy (I say this with love, of course).  If you don’t have good art, no problem.  But it does take the work of a professional designer to create that art.  Trust me.  You don’t want to create a branded item with a bad imprint.  That’s not good for anyone and it does your brand a disservice.  So paying a nominal art charge (think between $25 and $65 depending on complexity) is well worth it.

The lazy reason is simple.  The organization probably has the art (they had it created at some point), and the person does not feel like looking.  That’s cool too.  But again, it takes time to recreate it.  It’s amazing how often, when an art charge is brought up, the vector art magically appears.

Bottom line:  Want no art charge?  The answer is simple.  Provide good art.

Proof Charges

This is probably my biggest pet peeve in our industry.  To me, this is a charge to you to make sure we got your imprint correct.  This is nonsense.

This is generally a fee charged by our supplier partners (love you guys).  My take on this is, our suppliers are being beat up to the penny on nearly every item they sell, so they are looking at ways to create margin on their product without (technically) affecting the “per piece” price.  It helps them as they fight to show up with a good price in search.  But customers do not understand (nor should they) that they have to pay extra to make sure the imprint is what they want.  So many distributors like us, simply eat that cost in order to help the customer experience.  As I said above, someone is paying it.  Generally, it’s us on that one.

The one caveat to this is the customer that asks for proof after proof after proof.  Don’t get me wrong, an occasional change is totally cool and makes sense.  But when we proof your order 5 or 6 times, charging for the time does start to make sense.  At that point, you are using the supplier as your art department, and that’s not cool either.

Bottom line:  If you send good art and are using the proof just to make sure everyone is on the same page, I don’t think you should be charged.

Shipping Charges

The best thing about Promotional Products is that we have a very physical media.  When done right, branded merchandise can affect all 5 of the senses.  But when you have a physical marketing piece, you have to physically get it there!  That is where shipping comes in.  We have to ship the items to get them to you, your customers or your employees.  That costs money.

For the most part, your distributor (or even the supplier) does not set those fees.  We are at the mercy of UPS, Fed Ex and USPS.  But here are a few things to consider when shipping promotional products.

When do you need them?  Just like anything else, if you plan ahead you can save money.  If you wait until the last minute, it will cost more!

Where are they coming from?  One of the things your distributor should tell you (but if not, you should ask) is where are these items coming from.  Sometimes the item you are ordering only comes from California and you are stuck.  But often, there are different suppliers that have similar (or the same) products.  If so, you can order from the one closest to you for speed and cost efficiency.

How heavy (or big) are they?  There are certain things that are heavy to ship.  Paper products are heavy.  Drinkware is not that heavy, but it takes a lot of space.  So you are ultimately paying to ship air.  These might be non-negotiable, but if they are, then this consideration might save you some time and money!

Bottom Line:  Shipping is real cost.  But when you can (and most of the time you can) ask for a shipping estimate.  This can help you know on the front end how much shipping will affect your overall bill.

These are real problems you can run into when ordering promotional products.  But once you understand these, you will come to find that, as a marketing tool, promotional products are still totally worth it.  The antidote for nearly all of this, as you might suspect is communication.  One way we are working to remove some of this friction is to provide you a sales order to approve in advance.  This way you have the ability to see all of the charges in one place.  While we are not perfect, this helps to alleviate some of the confusion on the back end.

My final piece of advice is to ask questions.  The goal of this blog was to arm you with some of the questions to get you started.  If you want to create a promotional products campaign that really delivers, click here to chat with us.

Oh…and while many people will say “we wrote the book on…” we actually did write the book on how to do Promo right.  Click here to buy that for you and your team.


How To Use Promotional Products To Grow With Target Accounts

If you read this blog on the regular, you might be thinking something like this.  “Okay I get that you need to retain customers (we talk about that here). I understand you need to grow within your current client base. But at some point you need to get new customers to grow as well!”  

You’re right.  Now more than ever…we need to find new ways to create new revenue.

So let’s focus on that now…with Target Accounts. I think this is one of the most powerful ways to grow your business.

Promotional products are most effectively used when they are targeted.

That is why this concept works so well. Let’s start with the concept.

First, you want to create your “target” list. I have also heard this referred to as the Dream list, Bullseye List, and Bucket List. Regardless of the name, you want to create the list of 100 perfect prospects for your company. These are the exact kinds of clients you want to do business with. I base this list on a number of factors. They include proximity, kinds of businesses, reputation for payment, culture and more. You are going to know the factors that are important for your ideal customer. This is the kind of customer where successfully getting just one of them, will quickly affect your sales numbers!  If you want to dig into this more, check out our free 5 day marketing course.

This is a powerful step for a couple of reasons.

First, as I just said, this Target Customer is the kind who can REALLY impact your sales. They have the wherewithal to purchase what you are selling…in big numbers. Second, it is MUCH more cost effective to market to 100 people than it is 10,000! You can be much more personal, targeted, and relentless!

Now, DO take the time to get them on paper (or in your CRM if you use one). When getting them recorded, make sure to include all the pertinent contact information. This will keep you from “creating reasons” not to follow up. You will have all the information at your fingertips…so no reason not to call!

By the way, this first step is a huge one. Take some time and don’t skimp on the information. You will be glad you have it right in the long run.

Now that you have your list it’s time to create your plan.

I recommend breaking your Target list of 100 into more manageable numbers, like 5 or ten at a time. This does a couple things. First, by breaking the numbers down, you make the list more reasonable to follow up with. In addition, once you have gone through the first 5 (all the way through the process) you have your next 5 all ready to go. You will be glad you did. On more than one occasion I have made the list of only 5, and then when I got through it, got stalled because I had to start the “target list” all over.

Once you have the Target List created, it’s time to make the impact with these great potential customers with promotional products! Now it’s time to have some fun.

If you have chosen wisely (and in this case, I mean big!) you will need to understand that these are clients that most people would want! So they probably have “everyone” marketing and selling to them. That’s the bad news. The good news is, most people are being lazy when reaching out. They are sending letters, or cold calling or some other “shot in the dark” sales technique.

Since you don’t want to blend in with the other wannabes, you need to create a creative campaign that will stand out. I recommend a “three tier” campaign for that. This means you will send 3 creative mailers—one after another—until the follow up.

You really need to stand out here. Don’t just send a letter. If you want fantastic results, you need to set out to make a fantastic impact.

Let’s go through a fictitious example:

Let’s say my friend Bill has a Home Improvement store that focuses on carpet and paint. Though he certainly wants every “do it your-selfer” to think of him, he can make larger sales AND repeat sales if he focuses his marketing efforts on contractors. They are in the market for his products over and over. So Bill might make his Target List starting with contractors he wants to do business with.

This is when the project can really be fun. Here are some ideas for mailers that he might send:

Mailer 1

He sends a box with a nice measuring tape with his stores logo and phone number on it. It would need to be a nice one if he is sending it to a contractor. They won’t appreciate junk on something like that! With the measuring tape he might include a letter asking if their current supplier is “measuring up” on service and price. He might include other verbiage about having “room for growth,” and their specialty being the “height of service.” You get the idea. Have some fun to tie the letter to the item.

Mailer 2

In the second mailer, Bill might send a Giant Pencil. This is really designed to get his attention and make them smile. The letter might include something about “penciling him in for a meeting” or “having trouble finding time to source carpet.” You really want to get the clients raising eyebrows here.

Mailer 3

Finally he might send a nice travel mug with an offer to buy him a cup of coffee. In the letter, explain how you know they are “on the go” and you respect their time. Bill might also promise to keep the business relationship “hot” by giving leads back to the contractor. Then it’s time to let the prospect know that Bill will be following up (if they haven’t called already).  Tell them your intention here.  Don’t beat around the bush.

Now you might be thinking, “Wow! This is a lot of money to throw at one prospect.” And you are right. This is probably $40 to $50 per prospect here. But you also need to remember that these are clients that can spend thousands and thousands each and every year. So their impact can be well worth it. It’s also worth noting that you are not going to spend this much chasing each customer…just the Target list!

Now the procedure becomes simple.

First, choose your 3 to 5 first Target Accounts. (Make it a number you KNOW you can follow up with). I tend to choose them based on the ones I am most excited about working with the soonest. This will give me the most motivation to get this process rolling.

Second, once you have chosen the Targets, send out the mailers. I tend to space them out a week apart. This is a bit of a long sales cycle. But it ensures that they will have time to digest the message, even if they are out on vacation, business travel, etc.

Third, just like any business process, the fortune is in the follow up! You must work the phones now to get your appointments with the Target List. If you have done these mailers right (and been creative) you will have a great deal of success.

Be bull-headed in your follow up though.

You have invested a lot of money on these prospects! Work hard to get some time in front them now!

If you have chosen wisely on your promotional items and your themes, you will not only have made an immediate impact with your Target list, but you will also have the chance to have long term advertising with them as well!

If you want more information on how you can use Promotional Products To Grow With Target Accounts, please head here to learn more about us.  Or just skip that step and head here to schedule a time to chat.

Create A Party In A Box

This has been true for years. There is an appreciation gap. It’s the gap between how much companies think they show appreciation…and how much employees and customers feel appreciated.  It’s probably always been true. Studies show you that 69% of customers that leave you will do so because of perceived indifference. Nearly 70% of them leave because they don’t think you care!

And that was before a pandemic, quarantine, wildfires, racial injustice, murder hornets, and the Big Ten postponing football! So showing your customers and your employees that you really care about them is more important than ever before.

But let’s be honest, it can be harder now.  With those challenges, many events have been cancelled.  The places where we saw customers have been shut down.  So while we need to say “thank you” more than ever, it’s harder than ever before to do it.  That is why some companies are thinking outside of the box with appreciation.

Create A Party In A Box

Many companies are looking at the fact that traditional Holiday parties are going to be difficult this year.  We want to show our team appreciation, not get them sick!  On the other hand, the holidays is when many of us take the time to show appreciation to our employees and our customers.  And since we just said, we need to show more appreciation this year, what can we do?

What about a virtual Party In A Box?  The idea is simple.  While we might not be able to physically get together, what if we did it virtually?  We create a Zoom meeting (or pick your platform) and then ship each of your team a box with some amazing items so you can all celebrate together.  Depending on your team (and your budget) you can create a branded package that might include an apparel item you want everyone to wear, a bottle of wine, a set of glasses, some sweet treats to eat, and even hand sanitizer!  You could create a “party in a box” that really dazzles.  And just think, you won’t have to rent a facility or cater a meal…so you can use that budget to build your team, your culture and your brand.

As a side, many of our suppliers are working hard on drop ship programs so you can do this more efficiently and cost effectively than ever before.

What do you think?

If you are interested in exploring an idea like this to show your team or customers that they are special, let us know.  You can reach out to your Hasseman Marketing rep…or you can click here to reach out to us!

Why Promotional Products Work

“Let’s get more customers! We want better customers! And let’s spend less money to do so!”

This is the battle cry of any business owner, marketer or sales person. Whether you are Vice President of Sales for a Fortune 100 company, or a small business owner in Middle America, the goal is still the same. You want to drive more customers into your funnel. Then once you have them there…you want to keep them!

And of course, if you are this VP of Sales or anyone else who is charged with marketing their company, you also understand that there are a LOT of ways to advertise and market your company (or product or service). Between radio, newspaper, magazines, television and the internet, each of these media is working to show you why their way is the best to reach your potential clients. And let’s face it…sometimes they might be right.

A mistake some business marketers make is to focus solely on these mass media advertising elements when marketing their company. Though they may utilize promotional products in some cases, these dollars are spent only after the “real” advertising is done. Though many savvy business marketers are really beginning to understand the power of the promotional product, many are still utilizing them like “trinkets and trash.”

If you consider this promotional tool this way, those are the kind of results you will get.

In today’s marketing mix, well utilized promotional product campaigns can bring powerful, measurable results. But why do these imprinted items bring positive results? And more importantly to you, how can you utilize them to create real results in your marketing plan? That’s what we hope to continue to show you on this blog!

First let’s talk about WHY promotional products work.

There are many reasons for the many different situations, but let’s focus on three simple reasons why they are effect.

  • Promotional Products are targeted!
  • Promotional Products are cost effective per impression!
  • Humans appreciate receiving valuable gifts!

Let’s elaborate just a bit.

Promotional Products are Targeted 

This is one of the oldest reasons to utilize Promotional Products…and still a viable one. Done correctly, you are giving your promotional product (whatever that product might be) directly to the customer or potential customer. You are reaching out into their office, kitchen, car or yard and greeting them with your “who, what, where” message! As one of my first teachers told me, you are taking your business card and putting it on their wall (or desk or pocket). Since you are reaching directly to the people you want reach, there is little or no waste.

That same teacher handed me a calendar and asked me, “What is the worst thing that can happen to this when you give it to a client?”

I looked over the calendar for a moment, turned and cavalierly threw it in the waste basket. I waited for him to be upset, but he simply laughed and said, “Exactly!”

Smiling at the confused look on my face he explained, “You looked at the calendar—the advertising message—considered it and then discarded it. That’s the worst thing that can happen. But consider this; that is the BEST thing that can happen to nearly all other kinds of advertising! If someone listens or sees an ad long enough to consider it, that ad has succeeded. But with our advertising that is your worst case scenario! Most likely that calendar will be hanged and give you valuable advertising space on the customer’s wall all year.”

Which leads nicely into…

Promotional Products are Cost Effective

When considering many advertising venues you will hear terms like range, frequency, circulation to showcase the overall power or effectiveness of the medium. And although those can be impressive statistics, they are not always totally accurate. Just because 100,000 people CAN listen to a radio station doesn’t mean they DO.

When measuring the effectiveness of a well-executed promotional product campaign, I like to consider the CPI or Cost Per Impression of an item. Measuring the CPI of an item gives you a stronger understanding about the power of an individual product. It also quantifies the value to you, the marketing professional, of that same product.

Let’s take a promotional watch for example.

A decent watch for a customer might cost you $20 (less or more but let’s go with this for this example; you can do the math for other price ranges). Initially $20 might sound like a lot to reach this customer. But consider that the average person looks at their watch about twice per hour, 10 hours per day. Let’s also assume they wear this watch for the better part of year, or 300 days. That customer has now looked at your branding message 20 times per day for 300 days…or 6000 times! Now if you divide that $20 watch by the 6000 times your branding message was in front of your customer you realize the CPI on this watch was $.0033 per impression! Not a bad investment for your marketing dollar!

Of course you can easily think through the math on any promotional item. You don’t need to know any fancy statistics; common sense will do the trick. That’s why some of the classic staples of the promotional products industry are products that have lasting power. The more long term usefulness a product has the more value it has to your brand!

Humans Appreciate Receiving Valuable Gifts

Though this sounds like sort of the “duh” moment, it’s deeper than that too. It is true that many people like to receive things that are free. Unfortunately sometimes that leads us to think of the lowest common denominator of mooch out there that only comes to trade shows for the free stuff. Those folks are out there…but that is not what I am talking about.

Studies show that giving your customers (or potential customers) a promotional “gift,” you actually create a sense of obligation in that person to do business with you. That’s right. It’s called the Rule of Reciprocity. Studies prove that by giving that $5 item, your customer will actually feel like they owe you or your company the opportunity to do business. You have provided them something of value. Interestingly enough, this Rule states that this effect increases over time. So the more often you present that prospect with a promotional “gift” the more likely they are to give you an order. They subconsciously feel like they owe you!

And though that might not “exactly” be the intention, it is a wonderful added benefit.

I make it a habit. Each time I go to visit one of my customers; I make sure I bring “goodies.” As I tell them, I don’t want them to say, “Oh no, Kirby is coming.” I want them to be excited for my visit saying, “Oh, Kirby is coming! I wonder what he will bring me!” I am NOT above gift giving to gain business. I will trade a $5 promotional item for $1000 worth of business every day!

So remember…promotional products work for three simple reasons. They are a very targeted form of advertising, they are cost effective and people love free stuff (the Rule
of Reciprocity)!

If you want to get more customers, get better customers and spend less money doing it, then a well-thought out promotional product strategy had better be a part of your marketing mix!

The key here is “well-thought out” plan.

If you simply go around handing out things with your logo to anyone and everyone, you have lost the idea of “targeted.” So in essence, you negate one of the things that make promotional products effective. Think about it…have you done that? Then you say, “Wow I didn’t get any return on that.” Of course you didn’t! You blew it!

So when you are creating your marketing plan for the end of this year and beyond, make sure you consider promotional products and their three benefits to take your results to the next level!  If you want help, click here to contact us!

5 Reasons To Attend Hasseman Marketing MasterClass

At Hasseman Marketing, we believe the best way to battle business challenges is through learning and hustle.  I know the term “hustle” is sometimes over-used right now, but the reality is, your effort is one of the things you can truly control.  It matters.  In addition, when times are changing and challenging (as we can all agree they are right now), looking for ways to grow is one of the best ways to make sure you are prepared to adapt.  That is why we have been so focused on providing education during this time (like this FREE 5 Day Marketing Course).

That is why we are so excited to host Hasseman Marketing MasterClass.

Yes it will take some time.  It will take some effort.  But we hope this event will be well worth it!  If you are still on the fence, we wanted to give you 5 reasons to attend the first ever Hasseman Marketing MasterClass.

Amazing Keynote Speakers

Bill Petrie and Bobby Lehew are two of the most talented speakers in the marketing world.  Both are industry professionals for sure.  But each has wonderful perspective on story-telling and a track record for marketing success.  I am thrilled they have agreed to share their talents with us.  Each of their sessions will be well worth the price of admission as you plan the rest of your year.

Real World Breakout Sessions

As great as the speakers are going to be (and they are going to be awesome), I am really fired up about our Breakout Sessions.  We will be tapping into our speakers (in a session about creating content), our team and even our customers.  We have asked our team and customers about topics that would help them move the needle and responded.  So we have a session on improving your website, how to maintain company culture during this time, changing your marketing during changing times, and more!  We are adding more speakers and sessions all the time…so be ready to be inspired!

A Virtual Trade Show

As we discussed doing this event with some of our customers, one thing came up again and again.  “We still want to be able to meet with your suppliers!”  After over 15 years of hosting a successful trade show for our customers, we have created a demand.  Great news.  Some of our best supplier partners will be joining us virtually to show you the best and brightest year end gift ideas, apparel options, and branded merchandise to help you move the needle and end 2020 strong.

Innovative Learning

We have all heard it until we are blue in the face, “we are living in unprecedented times.”  While it’s true, I am tired of hearing it.  That being said, these times call for innovative solutions.  We have a fun interactive platform and an energetic way to keep the learning going.  It’s not going to be “just another zoom meeting.”

Inspiration For Year End

We are being bombarded with negative news every single day.  Whether it’s CNN, FoxNews or your Uncle Joe on Facebook, it can be hard to escape.  This event is designed to provide information and inspiration to help you take control of your marketing and your organization.  We will be hearing from real people that have implemented real ideas to help them navigate this time.  I mean, one idea might be, “How to host a virtual conference so we can continue to do business!”  Just a thought!

Bonus Reason (for a limited time)…Great Box of SWAG

You know we love our swag!  This is for a limited time, but for the first 100 to register, you will get a box of branded merchandise that will be more than worth the price of admission.

We are fired up about this event.  If you want to learn more, please head here to read and and register.  The cost is only $10 and I guarantee you will get your money’s worth.

Create A Tribe with Your Branded Merchandise

Despite the fact that technology makes us more “connected” than ever before, that is not how most of us feel.  Studies tell us that people feel more lonely than ever.  And this was true BEFORE Covid-19 forced us to isolate even more.  Our culture is starving for real human connection.  We want to have a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging.  It’s a basic human need….and many of us are struggling to meet it.  We want, and need, a tribe.

Believe it or not, great brands can help.

In his latest book, “Marketing Rebellion,” author Mark Schaefer says that the best brands build a tribe that helps them create a sense of belonging.  These brand loyalties, when they are strong enough, help us to explain not only where we belong, but where we don’t.  Harley Davidson, for example, has created a tribe that is passionate about a lifestyle of freedom.  Yeti is a brand that represents outdoor living and high quality.  The people that belong to these tribes not only are loyal to their brand, but they are proud to share the message too.

And how do they share this love for brand and show their sense of belonging?  Promotional Products.

In his book, Schaefer talks about a Nike fan that was so passionate about his desire to “Just do it,” that he tattooed the swoosh logo on both ankles.  While most of us are not willing to tattoo a brands logo to our body (more people do this than you might think) we often do the next best thing.  We advocate for our favorite brands with less permanent “tattoos.”  These might be stickers on our laptops, fun images on our socks and even t-shirts that we wear all the time.  These simple pieces of branded merchandise help us to spread the brand gospel and show that we are part of a tribe.  They show what we stand for…and what we don’t.

Done right, promotional products and branded merchandise can help our fans create a sense of belonging that is missing in their life.

We just need to be intentional about helping them create it.

For example, did you know that 22% of Harley Davidson sales are not the bikes?  They have created merchandise that not only allows their fans to spread the gospel, it’s created a nice revenue source too.  In addition, when YETI was getting it’s start, they included a branded t-shirt and/or a cap with every purchase.  They used this branding strategy to help spread the word (and create that tribe) with every purchase.  And remember that brandivate launch I wrote about a few weeks ago?  They used branded merchandise to create a tribe from day 1.

As a side note, the response was so overwhelming that brandivate needed to go back to the well!  People who wanted to be a part of the tribe reached out strongly enough that they created a 2nd wave of mailers for people that wanted to be in the group.

It can be exciting when we understand the impact we have have with our marketing efforts.  Done right, you can not only impact your sales efforts, you can create a tribe and a sense of belonging for your fans.

And that is a purpose worth working towards.