You Get What You Pay For (In Promo)

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you get what you pay for

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I first got in the promotional industry is simple.  “The cost of a promotional item is not determined at the point of purchase.  It is determined at the point of usage.”  To translate into simple terms, it means “you get what you pay for.”

The cost of any item matters.  Regardless of what you are going to purchase, whether it’s a car, a refrigerator, or a branded t-shirt, you have a budget.   It’s important to stay smart about your money.  And this blog is not about trying you to spend more.  I cannot tell you how many times I have told a client, “You can do that.  But if it was my money I would not!”

That being said, I would like to make the case that there are times when spending a little more makes a huge difference for your brand.  It’s the difference between the item being in your client’s kitchen or the landfill.  It might determine whether your logo is in the closet or at Goodwill.

ButterSoft T-shirts

One of the places I think it makes the most sense to upgrade is on t-shirts.  Yes, we can all still get you the “promotional t-shirt.”  These are the cheap, scratchy, ill-fitting shirts that our industry was known for for years.  And there is (probably) still a place for them.  But would YOU wear them?  The answer is simple…not if you don’t have to!  So why would your clients?  If you want your clients to want to rep your brand, give them a shirt they get excited about.  Yes, it costs more.   Yes, it’s worth it.  When we did our first “soft” shirt, we never looked back.  Now people tell us that our shirts are their favorite shirts to wear.  THAT is what you want your customers to say to you.

Premium Beach Towels

Studies tell you that the average lifespan of a beach towel is 7 years.  At my house, I think that is low.  A nice beach towel is not a cheap branded item…but it’s worth it.  Not only do your customers, employees, and prospects keep them for years, but they tend to use them on a fun occasions.  That means your brand is being tied (with a quality feel) to some good times in the person’s life.  That, my friends, is a good place for your brand to be.

Vacuum Sealed Tumblers

If you want to reach just about everyone with a branded item, drinkware is a great space to live in.  You don’t have to worry about gender, sizes, or many other factors.  Everyone drinks something.  But don’t go cheap…not if you want someone to use your drinkware!  This does NOT mean you need to buy a branded Yeti product.  You shouldn’t and here’s why.  But there are some great Vacuum Sealed Tumblers in the promo world that are amazing.  These are the branded drinkware items you targets will use over and over again.

Custom Calendars

Calendars continue to be a very cost-effective way to reach customers every day of the year.  But the trend is that stock calendars slip.  But if you want to buck that trend and get in front of clients all year around, think custom.  When you create a cool custom calendar, you get your “who, what where” message on the wall of the client…and it goes even deeper.  Essentially you hand your brochure on walls all over.  Yes, custom is a bit more expensive…but in most cases it’s very worth it.


If you want to make sure someone keeps one of your branded premium promotional items, put their name on it.  It’s as simple as that.  There is nothing we humans like to hear or see as much as our own name.  It’s music to our ears.  When you have the chance, add personalization to your branded merchandise and you will expand your impact.  Yep…it costs more.  And yes, it’s worth it.

Here’s the thing, there is still a space for less expensive promotional items.  We get it.  But if you want to have more impact for your brand (you do right?), and create less crap in a landfill, think about doing better SWAG.

It’s true in every area of life.  You get what you pay for.

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Why You Should Never Buy YETI (in Promo)

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never buy a yeti

There are plenty of great ways to determine the value of a promotional item.  You might want an item that is flashy and gets someone’s attention.  Your organization might want something with lasting value, like a calendar that hangs on the wall.  Some companies want to focus their promotional efforts on tech items, that tie their brand to your phone.  These all make sense in executed properly.

I like to keep it simple.  I want Promotional items to be:

Useful:  In my opinion, the best promotional items are ones you (or your customers) use on a regular basis.  They are useful.  That’s why the top categories of promo center around apparel, drinkware and writing instruments.  They are used every day.

Have Lasting Impact:  I also think great promo lasts.  It’s the reason that calendars are still a valuable marketing tool.  I love it when I give my customers and prospects items that they keep for years.  That makes the “cost per impression” very low…and the value very high.

High Perceived Value:  Finally, I love it when I am able to spend $5 on an item that my customers and prospects think costs more!  One of the reasons t-shirts continue to be a great promo items is because they have high value.  Your customers think they cost more than they do. You can create a huge impact when you get this value proposition right.

This why you should NEVER buy YETI (in promo).

YETI is a fine brand of products.  They have created a brand that people are loyal to and appreciate.  I love the idea that they create drinkware that can keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for hours.  But they were really late to the Promotional Products game.  They decided they did not want to play in the promo industry.  That’s cool.  But they challenged an industry known for “knocking stuff off” to knock them off.  And guess what…the promo industry did not disappoint.  Not only did suppliers create Vacuum Sealed Drinkware, but they created a product that was really good!

Multiple studies have been done.  In some studies, the YETI did a little better.  In some studies, the YETI did a little worse.  But most of them will tell you that the product is VERY comparable.  In addition, the companies that live in the Promotional Products world are way better at creative decoration and branding.  So if the products is (essentially) the same (and it is), and the branding is better, I want to ask you a simple question.

Why would you pay 3 to 4 times more for the YETI?

The simple answer is, you should not.

If you want a really cool Vacuum Sealed Tumbler (and you should, they are awesome), we have many options to choose from.  Please let us know how we can help.

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5 Great Promotional Products Made in the USA

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5 Promo Products Made in the USA

Yesterday on this blog, we talked about the affect that Tariffs will have on your marketing budget.  They will have this affect because a high percentage of promotional products are imported from China.  With that being said, there are some great promotional items that are made domestically, that can still wow your customers and prospects.  So, here are 5 great promotional products that are Made in the USA.

5 Made in the USA Promotional Products

16 oz Tervis Tumbler

This classic double walled Tervis Tumbler is not only a hit in retail, it is made in the USA.  These amazing drinkware pieces are almost impossible to break, and are a great branding piece that will used over and over again.  Check that item out here.

Sticky Notecubes

And speaking of long lasting, how about these 3 x 3 adhesive cubes?  These amazing promotional pieces not only give you a great imprint space to tell your story, they tend to last forever.  And since they are adhesive, each sheet is seen again and again and again.  There are plenty of sizes and shapes and price points.  Check out one here.

Lip Balm

Just in case you are thinking that you can only get higher priced items, think again.  One of the best bang for your bucks in marketing comes in the form of Lip Balm!  This item has a great price point and the perceived value is great!  As a matter of fact, 40% of your customers are probably addicted to Lip Balm.  What a great marketing piece to have your brand image wrapped around every day.  Check out this option (with SPF) here.


Believe it or not, you can get a quality made t-shirt in the United States.  So if you want to avoid changes in pricing on your apparel, or you just want to promote “all USA made, you can do that with a quality t-shirt.  From cotton to fabric to sewing, this t-shirt is put together here in the US.


As summer (finally) starts to show up in most of the United States, now is a great time to think about sunscreen as a promotional items.  For outdoor company events, golf outings, and so much more, sunscreen is the perfect promo piece (regardless of where it’s made).  You can learn more about this item here.

There are plenty of other great options to create an amazing promotional campaign and avoid the tariff issue.  Just talk to your Account Executive for more ideas.  And if you need someone to be “your person” you can head to our About Us page and pick one!  Or just email us here and we will take care of you.

One Final Thought on Tariffs

Although this is a big issue for our industry, I do want to say one thing to put your mind at ease.  If you are working with a good promotional consultant, this should not be a huge issue for you and your company, long term.  When you meet with your representative, it’s simply about budget setting.  As you discuss the project with them, just make sure they (or we) know your budget constraints.  It’s the job of the Promotional Professional to keep you in between the lines.

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Tariffs Are Here. What Does That Mean to YOU?

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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

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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

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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.