Tariffs Are Here. What Does That Mean to YOU?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

how tariffs will affect promotional products

One of the most talked about topics in the last few months in the promotional products world has been Tariffs.  It’s been talked about because it can and WILL affect your marketing.

Our goal at Hasseman Marketing is to keep you up to date with what you need to know…so let’s dig into what this means for you and your marketing budget moving forward.

Previously, I wrote a blog post about how tariffs will affect your marketing. You can find that post Here. 

Just as a reminder, at my most recent visit to the PPAI Expo in January, tariffs were the talk of the show. When it comes to branded merchandise, a huge percentage of the items that are sold in the industry are imported from China. I mentioned in the previous blog post that the “pricing could change.”

And that price IS changing.

David Nicholson from PCNA (one of the largest suppliers in the Promo industry) released a statement on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Currently, this is what we know.

  • Tariffs on the existing $200 Billion of Chinese imports will increase from 10% to 25% effective June 1st (for shipments made prior to May 10th).
  • The 25% tariff impacts the product categories originally included in the 10% tariff regulations that were enacted last September. The major categories relevant to our industry are: Bags and Stationery products, and portions of Drinkware, Technology and other Accessory categories.
  • The US Trade Representative announced Monday that the US has begun the formal process to expand the 25% tariff to all other imports from China (i.e. those currently not subject to tariffs).
  • This represents an additional $300+ billion of imports from China and would cover a large majority of product categories sold in our industry. The public hearing and comment period end June 24th – so the expanded range of tariff categories would not be imposed until after that date.

As I said, we at Hasseman Marketing want to be a great source of information for you and your team.  Whether it be a great idea for posting on social media, tips on video or the trends and news of the day, we want to be a resource.

So what does this mean to you?

It means, quite likely, the price of promotional merchandise that you purchase will be rising. Now is a good time to start thinking about the items you are using to promote your brand.  Here are a couple of questions to consider.

  1. Are you completely happy with the items you have been using?  If the answer is yes, then the price increase might be acceptable.
  2. Can we look at new options that could better fit into the budget moving forward?
  3. Are there domestically made products that might fit our needs?  We are going to be creating a list of some cool products that are made in the U.S. for you and your organization to consider.  Be on the look out soon!

If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to us and we can discuss it! Make sure you never miss an update!  Sign up to become a VIP here.

Crushing Collections Like Commonsku

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Building brand through apparel

Even Finn loves the Commonsku SWAG

Creating a Branded Collection Can Elevate Your Brand

If you are a sports fan, you might remember being encouraged to “Be Like Mike.”  There was an entire generation who idolized Michael Jordan and wanted to emulate his moves on the basketball court.  More recently, if you were a fan of soccer (or football for those of you outside of the U.S.), you might remember trying to “Bend it like Beckham.”  Anyone with a soccer ball was trying to spin it so it curved into the net.  It was a sight to behold!

Now, if you are reading this blog, I want to encourage you to “Crush Collections Like Commonsku!

Okay…maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily (I will work on it), but the message is similar.  If you want to create a brand that people want to wear, support and be fanatical about, you should pay attention to want the good people at Commonsku are doing!

Building A Brand With Apparel

As I mentioned in this article, there are different ways to create value for your brand using Promotional Products.  The first, and most common, is to use the vehicle (whatever that may be) to put your logo, phone number, and contact information on it to give it lasting impact.  This has a ton of value when done right.  When I first got into the business, I was taught to put the “who, what, where” message of any business on the item.  This gives customers and prospects a way to contact you at their fingertips.  It’s powerful.

But another way to create loyalty with customers is to create a “collection” of products that find their way into your audiences every day life.  When done right, this can back up the brand you are building, the story you are telling and create real and lasting loyalty.  Oh, and it makes your customers a walking, talking billboard for your brand too!

Commonsku is a master at this.  Let’s take a quick look at how they make it happen.

buidling brand with amazing shirts from commonsku

Think Cool and Comfortable

As I type this, it’s a cool spring day in Ohio.  I am a little embarrassed to admit I am currently wearing three different Commonsku apparel items!   Why?  Is it because I want to run around Coshocton promoting the Commonsku platform?  Not exactly.  I am wearing them because they are good looking and very comfortable.  Your clients will choose their apparel the same way.  Your collection should have a fun, cool design and be super soft and comfortable.  This is what they will go in their closet and select again and again.

Partner with Amazing Suppliers

There are plenty of people in the promotional world who are very comfortable doing things “the way they always have.”  That’s fine…unless you want to create something memorable.  As Seth Godin would say, “If you want to be remarkable, you need to make something people will remark about.”  Commonsku knows that doing things the way they have always been done will not create a collection that will “crush it.”  So they have partnered with some great supplier partners willing to think outside of the box.  They created t-shirts that are super soft with T-shirt Tycoon, hoodies that are so comfy with Sanmar, and even an amazing pair of joggers (that I am wearing right now) with Redwood Classics.  There are others too, but I only have so much time here.  Regardless, when you decide to create your collection, work with people that help you think outside of the box so you can create something your customers will crave!

comfortable custom cap from commonsku

Cover the Apparel Bases

As I mentioned, I am wearing three different pieces from the Commonsku collection right now.  Why?  Because they have covered the bases!  I don’t just have one item to wear to rep their brand!  I have a t-shirt, joggers, and a cool hat (from BamBams).  As the weather gets cooler tonight I have a zip up hoodie that I love to wear.  And when I want to dress it up on Monday, I have some cool and colorful socks to spice up my outfit.  All in all, they cover any and all of the apparel items I might want to wear.  When you create a collection for your clients, make sure you think of all of the ways they might want to rep the brand!

Listen to the Audience

One final piece of advice, especially as you get going, is to listen to the audience you want to reach!  At a recent Commonsku event, co-founder Mark Graham stood on stage and talked about the term “Skummunity” (now on the shirts for the event) and how the audience coined the term to label the Commonsku community.  Mark said, “I wasn’t sure about it.  But everyone seems to like it, so here we are!”

So many times, we have ideas about what our customers will love…and we might be right.  But sometimes the best feedback for what to do next, or what design might work best, can be right in front of you.  Make sure you are continually listening to your passionate group of customers as to what apparel piece will be the next big thing!

When considering what to do next with your brand, think about creating a collection that your customers will love to wear.  It might be just the thing that will help to take your brand to the next level!

If you want help with your next Promo campaign, you can always start here.  Make sure you never miss an update!  Sign up for our VIP newsletter here!

The Three R’s of Business

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Three R’s of Business

When it comes to a successful education, old timers will tell us about the 3 R’s of education.  The idea is that a focus on “Readin, wRitin, and aRithmatic” would help create a good student.  And though that is (hopefully) not the entire focus of our education system today, we know that those are the basics for success.

When it comes to business, there are also the THREE “R’s” that are a great piece of any successful, long term business.  Those are:

  • Retention
  • Repeat Customers
  • Referrals


Customer retention is such an important topic, we have dedicated an entire blog post, just to that!  You can find that here.  In order to grow your business, you simply have to keep the customers you already have.

How do you that?  In a word?  Appreciation.  You have to let your current customers know that you truly appreciate their support and their business.  Studies will tell you that 69% of customers that leave your business do so because of “perceived indifference.”  That’s crazy!  So, one of the best ways to let your customers know that you appreciate them is to create a quarterly appreciation program.  At Hasseman Marketing, we are big believers in using Promotional Premiums to help you show appreciation and stay in front of your clients.  Regardless of how you do it, your business needs you to reach out and appreciate your customers on a regular basis.

Repeat Customers

All successful business owners want to have a steady stream of repeat customers that come to our door.  These repeat customers are the backbone of any vibrant business.  They are the “holy grail.”  These customers come back again and again and (hopefully) have a loyalty to spending their time and money with us!

They are also our best source for the other R—Referrals—but I will get to that in a minute.

These repeat customers are so great because we have already won them.  It takes a great deal of time, energy and money to capture a customer.  In fact, it’s much harder to convert a non-customer into a customer, than it is to sell to a current customer.  Depending on which study you believe, it costs 6 to 7 times more to capture a new customer than to sell to a current customer.

It’s one of the main mistakes I think many businesses make.  We spend most of our time and money on the clients that are hardest to reach!

So we have a base of repeat customers.  Great!  Now what do we do with them?  I think it’s safe to say the goal is to grow that base.  But how?

The first way is to get these repeat customers to come and do business with us more often!  If we can increase the number of times these customers do business with us, we increase sales.  Duh…right?

Well in two separate studies (in 1993 and 1994 respectively) promotional products were shown to improve repeat business.

Study One—Food Delivery Service

In this study, conducted by Southern Methodist University, 900 people were divided equally into 9 groups.  These nine groups were broken down by type of customer (existing residential, new residential, and business customer) and what they received (promotional product, coupon, or nothing).  The promotional products and coupons were both valued at $2.

*Customers who received promotional products ordered up to 18% sooner than those who received coupons!

*Customers who received promotional products also averaged up to 18% more orders than those receiving coupons.

In other words, the customers that received the promotional products ordered more quickly and more often than those that received coupons…or nothing.

Study Two—Dry Cleaner

This study, also conducted by Southern Methodist University, tracked the activity of 300 new customers at two locations of a dry cleaner.  These customers were randomly assigned one of three groups, all of who received a welcome letter.  Two of these groups received, in addition to the letter, a promotional product or a coupon—both valued at $5.

*Over an 8 month period, new customers that received a promotional product spent 27% more than those who received coupons, and 139% more than those who received only a welcome letter.

            *Promotional products recipients were 49% more likely than coupon recipients and 75% more likely than letter recipients to patronize the dry cleaner in each of the eight months studied. 

Again, those that received promotional products were spent more and were more regular customers than those that did not.

If repeat customers are the “Holy Grail” to business success, then you need to consider how cementing that relationship with a promotional product can help you grow.


Another huge part of any successful business is the second R…referrals.  As a business friend once told me, “The best way to get referrals is to deserve them!”  That is so true!  But I am going to assume that you are running a business that is worthy of referrals.  Now let’s talk about how to get more of them!

As I mentioned earlier, your current customer base is often the best place to look for growth in your business.  It’s also the place that many business owners and marketers ignore.  Let’s face it, your current client base already “gets” you.  They understand what you are all about.  So they can be a fantastic source of other potential customers.

The problem with referrals is, no really likes to ask for them!  Admit it.  You don’t like asking.  Most people don’t.  Nearly every time I speak to a group, everyone agrees that getting referrals is a great way to grow your business.  And just as consistently, most groups admit to failing to “consistently ask” for referrals.  See the problem?

How do we make it easier?  Give a promotional gift before asking for the referral.

A study done in 1993 by Baylor University shows that customers who receive a promotional product are more willing to provide referrals than those that don’t.  The study was conducted with 20 Mary Kay beauty consultants, half of whom distributed a promotional gift to customers; the other 10 offered no promotional gift.  The results were impressive.

*Customers who received a promotional product were 14% more likely to provide leads than those that did not.

            *Salespeople who gave promotional products to their customers received 22% more referrals than the salespeople who did not use the promotional gift.

Providing even a small promotional gift to customers will increase the likelihood that they will provide you with great referrals.  Combine that with the fact that you have a business worth referring…and you have business gold!

Create a Referral Program

Are you still struggling to ask for that referral?  What about creating a program that asks for you?  It would go something like this:

Create a flyer that could be emailed, mailed, faxed (sent via smoke signal) to your current customer base.  This flyer would advertise a nice “Referral Gift.”  This gift could be anything from a nice watch to a piece of luggage (use your imagination).  The gift does not have to break the bank, but it does need to be nice enough to garner attention.

Send the flyer letting customers know that if they provide a referral that turns into business for you, they will receive this fabulous gift.  Boom.

Here are some things to consider on a referral program.

  • The gift needs to be nice enough to get your customer to act.
  • Make the first purchase minimum enough that the proceeds from that sale will cover the cost of the item. That way you might break even on this transaction, but now you have a customer for life!
  • Make it feel somehow “exclusive.” Maybe you only send it out in groups to your top 20% of clients.  They are the most likely to give you the best referrals anyway!

This simple program will take “the ask” out of the referral!  You have gone from asking them for a referral to giving them an opportunity for a great gift!

Either way, you want to have a strong case of the Three R’s if you want a successful business.  Now you know how promotional products can help you!  If you love this blog, you can find more information like this is the book Delivering Marketing Joy available here.  

What Do You DO After the Meeting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A Good Sales Meeting Can Be A Great Investment

This past week, several members of the Hasseman Marketing sales team (and me) attended an intense, multi-day sales event at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.  It was a “speed dating” style event where we got the chance to meet with a different supplier every 18 minutes.  It was fast.  It was productive.  And…it was exhausting!  We left with lots of ideas for our clients and ourselves.

I love to attend sales meetings and events like this because, though they do require time out of the office, they can really recharge your passion.  You certainly get new ideas.  But sometimes the most powerful takeaway can be an old idea that you have not implemented!  Either way, I view these events as opportunities to invest in myself and my business.

But what do you do after the meeting?

One of the challenges I find with events like this is what comes next.  We have all been there.  After being out of the office for several days, we find that the world did not stop in our absence.  As a matter of fact, I sometimes think things get more busy when I am gone!  You get back to the office and face a pile of priorities, a mountain of emails and several emergencies.  Despite the best of intentions, and tons of good ideas, you get back into the day to day and don’t follow up.

It’s called the Whirlwind…and it’s easy to get lost in it.

That’s why it’s so important what you do after the meeting or event.  Remember, the event is an investment.  It’s not just about pumping you up (though that’s great).  The idea is to create a new and better business that is ready to grow.  So here are a few things I try and do to make sure the ideas don’t get blown away in the whirlwind.

Schedule Time for A Debrief

After the meeting, before all of the ideas get lost (or the notes get thrown away) set some time to go over what you learned.  By yourself or with the team, look again at some of the ideas that had you excited.

Get Specific Ideas on Paper

This seems obvious, but I often miss this step.  I like to get the ideas I want to execute all in one place.  Otherwise I spend a lot of time thinking “where did I write that down?”

Schedule Time to Implement

Now that you have gone over the meeting and created a list of “things to do,” put some time on the calendar to actually do them!  My role is, if it is not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist.  So create the time to make the plans come to life!

I always struggle to get events on my calendar.  They cost you time and they cost you money.  But every time I take the time to invest in myself and my business this way, I am glad that I did.  It’s just important to make sure you take the time to make it worth it!

P.S.  Congrats to the OPPA Promotional Group for putting on such a great event!  Make sure you never miss an update.  Sign up to be a VIP here!

Giving First with Promotional Products!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“For it is in giving that we receive.” ―St. Francis of Assisi

We are in a “Give First Economy.” 

I believe this in my bones.  We even talk about this here…and some ways to succeed in this space.  But how can we talk about Succeeding in the Gift First Economy without talking about creating “marketing joy” with Promotional Products?  You can’t.  So let’s dig into how to “give first” with Promo.

Created in back in the late 1800’s, Promotional Products are often an overlooked part of the marketing tool box.  There are even some college professors that refuse to talk about Promo when it comes to marketing classes.  This is short sighted, small-minded and frankly irresponsible.

Why?  Because Promotional Products Work…and it’s not just my opinion.  Study after study is proving it to be true.  So much so, that I wrote an entire book (Delivering Marketing Joy) on the subject.  I don’t want to “re-litigate” the entire argument here.  But I will include this one sections from the book here.

I am sure every form of advertising is accused of “not working.”  As I heard once, “Just because you can’t put the ball in the basket, doesn’t mean there’s a problem with basketball.  Maybe you’re just not good at it.”

Promotional Products do work. 

Many of us have known this for years.  But more studies are coming out all of the time that proves it.  That’s the best thing about marketers getting more interested in measuring ROI.  We are getting facts to back up the theory.  Here are just a few from a study released in 2010:

*Of 1000 people surveyed that had received a promotional product, 89% could recall the advertiser.  Say that out loud people.  The name of the game in advertising is to create customer recall.  Nearly 90% is a number that you might want to know when you are figuring your budget.

*14.7% of participants reported contacting the advertiser after receiving the promotional product.  That is nearly 3 times greater than other media.

When done right, promotional products are incredibly effective.  The more the facts stack up, it’s just hard to argue.

Work Too Well?

The great irony is the other side of the coin is it can be argued these products work too well.  Don’t believe me?  Well look no further than the laws written to limit the amount of promotional materials that can be given in the healthcare industry to Doctors.  These laws were put in place because Big Pharmaceutical companies were creating “undue influence” over these Physicians.  Now some will argue that these laws were put in place because of free trips, game tickets, and extravagant dinners.

Maybe so.

But then why legislate the kinds of products that can be given to doctors’ offices?  To put it simply, these laws were created because promotional products were having a huge influence on healthcare decisions.

The goal of any marketing campaign is to affect behavior change.  When you can implement a campaign so effective that it needs to be legislated…you may want to consider that strategy to promote your organization!

Promotional products have been around since the late 1800’s and I think sometimes this is part of the reason the results are discounted.  Everyone wants to know the newest, hottest ways to reach customers.  You should!

But don’t sleep on the power of promotional products.  Now more than ever, you need to include them in your marketing mix.

If Promotional Products work so well…how can you use them to help you grow in the Give First Economy?  Let’s dig into that.

Marketing They Say “Thank You” For

As we like to say in the promotional world, when you create a Promotional campaign that works, your customers and prospects will thank you for your advertising!  No disrespect to radio, or TV, or newspaper, or social media…but no one thanks you for advertising there!

So how do you create a Promo Campaign that works and resonates in the Give First Economy?  Here are just four things to consider to make sure you hit the mark.

Don’t Just Go Cheap

Probably the biggest mistake I see businesses of all shapes and sizes making is considering your promo ONLY on price.  Of course, your budget has to be a part of the discussion!  It should be.  But just like in EVERY other area of your life, price should not be the only piece of information you consider.

If you are shopping for a car, most people do not just look at price. You consider the features you are interested in.  You think about the reputation of the dealership.  You consider whether you want to drive lots of miles (so gas mileage might factor in) or if you will be going off road or driving in the snow.  If you only consider price, you will likely get a vehicle you are unhappy with.  You want a vehicle that is a good value.  It should meet your needs AND fit in your budget.

When you are considering a promotional piece, think about that item being a very real and tangible representative of your brand…because it is.

Consider Where It Will Be Used

Now that you have decided to create a promotional piece that is not just a cheap piece of junk (we all thank you), you should consider how and where the item will be used.  Do you want your prospects or customers to have your branding around their office?  Is that where these decisions are made?  What about the kitchen?  You would be surprised how many decisions are made there.  Regardless, you need to consider your customer and where you can bring them value.  When you spend just a little time to do that, you can come up with a promotional piece that is used, appreciated and valued for years to come!

Consider Advertising Versus Branding

Next, consider what you are trying to accomplish with the promotional piece.  Sometimes, you want to provide your customers and prospects information where they can reach you.  Maybe (and I am just spit-balling here) you are a pizza place and you create a dry erase board for your best clients.  You want them to place this on the fridge and have your phone number, website, etc. in front of them all the time.  Great.  This is more of an advertising or direct marketing approach.

But sometimes you just want to create more brand affinity…and there is a ton of power in that.  You might want to create a super soft, comfy and cool t-shirt.  This warm piece reminds your customers of their feelings for your brand every time they put it on.  You aren’t going to plaster your phone number all over the t-shirt (seriously, please don’t).  With a piece like this, you create more brand recognition.  Done right, they will remember you.

By the way, neither of these is wrong.  But it’s important to understand what you are trying to accomplish when you begin.

Make It A Thank You Gift

One of my rules in sales is to (occasionally) go to your clients and prospects when you are NOT asking them for money!  As entrepreneurs, salespeople and marketers, we are often guilty of following the rule of Glengarry Glen Ross.  Remember that scene from the movie when Alec Baldwin declares “Coffee is for Closers!”

Baldwin stands at the chalkboard and yells at his underperforming sales team and shows them the ABC’s of Selling.

A:  Always

B:  Be

C:  Closing.

I disagree.

Promotional Products can be the perfect way to go to a client with a marketing gift just to say “thank you.”  Going to your client, on a regular basis, with a simple “thank you” and a small token of your appreciation for their support, will go a long way toward creating a long and profitable relationship.

Simply put, giving first is all about creating value for your customers and prospects.  The best promotional campaigns are designed to do just that.

As always, we want to help you.  If you want to join our VIP newsletter so you can have access to all of the content on a weekly basis, you can sign up here.  Oh…and it might make sense to bookmark our blog page where all of our content comes out!

How Tariffs Will Affect Your Marketing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

hasseman marketing tariffs

One of my goals with this blog is to provide value to those that read it…and make sure we, as a company, help to keep you informed.  Whether we show the latest promotional merchandise, or keep you up to date on trends, we want to help you in your marketing and branded merchandise efforts.

That’s why I want to talk about Tariff’s today.  Wait!  Don’t click away or fall asleep!  I will keep it brief!

As I mentioned in this recent blog, at the PPAI Expo (the largest promotional trade show in our industry) Tariffs were the talk of the show.  Everyone is talking about them, worrying about them, and asking questions about them.  Why?  Because when it comes to branded merchandise, a huge percentage of the items that are sold in the industry are imported from China.   This is such a concern that there are suppliers in our industry that have printed their entire catalog without putting in pricing!  Why?  Even those that have included pricing have included less information or large disclaimers saying that “pricing could change.”

So what does that mean to you?

It means, quite simply, if you use branded merchandise, your budget very likely could be affected.   This is not a threat or a political statement.  It’s just a fact.  If the tariffs continue, the price of your promotional material will go up.

So what can you do?

There are a couple of things I am recommending.

1.  Begin to adjust expectations.  As you move into 2019, just understand that the pricing for promotional items are in flux.  If there are items that you order regularly, you might want to stock up a bit or check in on pricing.

2.  Consider domestic options.  Though I do not expect to see American manufacturers of promotional items start popping up everywhere, I do expect an uptick for those that already are here.  When you are creating a marketing plan, make sure to include something made in North America. This is not the end of the world and the sky is not falling.  I just wanted to spend a few moments to put this trend on your radar.

If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to us and we can discuss it!   Make sure you never miss an update!  Sign up to become a VIP here.