Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @VickieMacFadden. Vickie MacFadden has operated retail Internet sites since 1999. Her first web business was Five Star Baskets, a gift basket business. In 2002 Vickie started (and still operates), PROMOrx.com, which provides a wide variety of customized promotional items to companies and schools nationwide, helping businesses and organizations tap into the power of branded marketing items.
SmallBizLady: What are branded marketing items and do they really work?
Vickie MacFadden: Everyday items plus your business logo equals branded marketing items. Pens, iPad and iPhone cases, solar chargers, notepads, flash drives, shirts and hats – the list goes on and on! Some uses of branded marketing items: tradeshows, to increase direct mailing responses, encourage repeat business, for business referrals, customer appreciation, employee recognition, motivation and more.
Here are a few numbers from the Promotional Products Association International: 82.6% of people can recall the company name on their promotional items. Branded items generate 15-50% greater recall than other major media. 58% of people hang on to and use a branded promotional item.
Take a walk around your home or office and count the number of items you personally have and use. It’s what I did when I started this business! I can still tell you the name of the bank on that original jar opener and too many others to name!
SmallBizLady: If I am just starting, when should I include promotional items in my marketing equation?
Vickie MacFadden: As soon as you start marketing your business, you need branded items! Instead of a business card, let a product be your card. My favorite right now is a cleaning cloth for mobile devices, cameras or your sunglasses. The cloth is folded into a clear pouch and I have my business card in the middle. We have also printed the actual cloths with business card info.
Getting your brand on drinkware, tote bags or caps (if appropriate for your business), gives you credibility and creates walking billboards! Benefit #2: you’ll appear more established!
SmallBizLady: How can I choose branded items that will make people think of my business?
Vickie MacFadden: Choose an item with a tie-in to your business. If you are a veterinarian, get reflectors with your business name that can be affixed to a dog’s leash or collar. In addition to a tie-in and your logo, color is a powerful tool to brand your company.
Go big or go small—with items like notepads, order unusual sizes to insure your logo gets noticed. Unusual shapes like oval shaped lip balm containers are another example of getting a little outside of “normal”.
SmallBizLady: Which is better: quality or quantity?
Vickie MacFadden: Quality wins hands down when it comes to branded items. Better to purchase 100 items people will use than 1000 items that will end up in the trash!
When a pen that doesn’t write well and is on its way to the trash, what’s the last thing someone sees? Your logo! Not a good association at all!
Know your audience. Targeted branding campaigns produce results for your bottom line.
SmallBizLady: How do branded marketing items compare to traditional advertising for impact?
Vickie MacFadden: Think of branded items as ads with legs. Ads and discount coupons get one-time customers. Notepads and adhesive notes (aka sticky notes, post-its) are 25, 50 or 100 page billboards for your business. That’s a lot of legs!
Branded marketing items go hand in hand with your overall marketing plan. The difference is do you want a giveaway or do you have a marketing mission that is tracked?
SmallBizLady: Aren’t promotional marketing items old fashioned advertising?
Vickie MacFadden: Not if used appropriately. Some businesses need “old fashioned” items. We did Farmer’s Almanacs for a feed and seed company last year. They have ordered again. Why? Their customers are requesting them!
Make sure the branded item matches the tone of your business. We’re finishing up orders for several tech and software firms this week. You’re probably not surprised there’s not a calendar or Farmer’s Almanac order to be found!
Some might consider journals “old fashioned” but they are one of our top sellers this month. Why? Watch Shark Tank and you’ll see every shark has one along with a great pen. Oprah is also a huge fan of journaling. These trends trickle over to the branded marketing item industry.
SmallBizLady: Is it ever okay not to use my logo for marketing items?
Vickie MacFadden: Yes. From a 10 year veteran of this industry, I’m sure that surprises you! We suggested to a large account last year to switch to client food gifts without their company logo on the container. It is on the ribbon around the box, but not on the crystal candy dish or the decadent chocolates. Low-key and upscale—it’s a great fit for their business. They were overwhelmed with responses last year—and that’s what they wanted—a connection!
We listen to each client and make recommendations based on their business and the results they want. You need to shake it up from time to time to get noticed!
SmallBizLady: What insider tips do you have for ordering branded items?
Vickie MacFadden: Think ahead and order for the quarter or year if you have storage room. Higher quantities typically mean lower unit prices.
Take advantage of 4th quarter ordering. Prices historically go up first quarter.
Partner with a professional who should ask lots of questions and will be honest with you! They could be aware of issues you hadn’t thought of! PROMOrx.com is an internet business, so we can offer input from client experiences coast to coast!
Price isn’t everything! You really do get what you pay for. Go first class to reflect the quality of your company.
SmallBizLady: What’s the best way to thank clients at the holidays?
Vickie MacFadden: Zig when everyone else is zagging for maximum impact. Instead of joining the Christmas crowd, your thank you gift will stand out at Thanksgiving or right after New Year’s. What better time to tell a client you appreciate their business than at Thanksgiving?
If you’re considering food gifts, get the freshest available. Two of our favorite suppliers make the chocolates, popcorn and cookies within three weeks of shipping to you or your clients. Many that you see in retail or warehouse stores have been sitting for months. We’ve sampled and know there’s a huge difference.
Know the recipients and go for quality. My husband received a beautiful grill set in an aluminum case years ago from one of his suppliers. He still uses it and there’s that company logo engraved on the case. Classy!
Consider delivery. If your business is local, do you want to hand deliver? Or like our company, are you internet based and need gifts shipped to each client? A professional can handle all the details for you.
SmallBizLady: How do I find the hottest tradeshow giveaways for my business?
Vickie MacFadden: What works for one business may be totally wrong for another. Forget what’s hot and focus on what’s right for your company and budget! Who’s attending the event? Who do you want to draw into your booth? Are you doing a pre-show mailing?
There are 3 main categories for tradeshow giveaways: Funny, Practical or on the spot convenient. For more info, check out my blog post http://blog.promorx.com/2013/10/how-to-select-the-best-tradeshow-swaggiveaways
SmallBizLady: Is searching the internet for branded item ideas the best way to utilize resources?
Vickie MacFadden: No. You and your staff can spend hours scouting websites and still end up empty handed. Lack of inventory, not enough time to produce to meet your event date and shipping costs on top of item costs are some of the challenges.
We are working with a new client who found an item on the web and wants their four color logo printed in a tiny imprint area. It won’t be readable. We could have saved them a lot of time! Time equals money. Go to a professional who will guide you through the almost ONE MILLION items that can be printed or debossed with your company logo!
SmallBizLady: What are the trends you are seeing in branding right now?
Vickie MacFadden: Color = impact. Comfort and personal items always trend in 4th quarter with blankets and food gifts as well as sweatshirts and sweaters.
Tech is a year round trend. We are seeing short supplies of portable charging devices. (be aware there are some that don’t work with Apple products!) iPad/iPad mini/Kindle and other tablet cases debossed or color printed and personalized with recipient names are also popular.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.