Thursday, 22 February 2018 23:19

The best (and worst) promotional items to advertise your business

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Promotional mugs provide one of the best potential returns on investment despite a low cost per promotional item. Promotional mugs provide one of the best potential returns on investment despite a low cost per promotional item. Anthony Varriano photo

Sure, a business card will remind a potential customer who you are, how to contact you and what your business does, but you can be sure most people will never look at that business card again unless they absolutely need your services. And even then, they’ll probably have a hard time remembering where they stashed it. I know I have multiple stacks of business cards on my desk and bookshelf in the office that were organized in a certain manner I can no longer remember.

 

Even the nicest business cards get lost in the literal shuffle. Your business needs more than just business cards to convert potential customers into paying customers. If you really want to make a good first impression, you need to leave potential customers with promotional items they love so much they won’t even consider them advertisements. They’re just cool things they want, or even need. So here are the best promotional items to advertise your business and turn potential customers into paying customers.

The Best Promotional Items

5) Clever T-shirts

While more expensive than your typical promotional item, a clever t-shirt worn by a loyal customer is the best walking billboard in which you can invest. Not only do you have ample space to let people know what makes your products or services unique, but you have an ambassador who can pay lip service to your company’s quality, too.

 

T-shirts are an especially effective investment for nonprofit organizations because their supporters are much more likely to represent the organization on their backs, or even pay for the t-shirt to represent their favorite nonprofits. Nonprofit supporters associate themselves with their nonprofits of choice like sports fans associate themselves with their favorite teams. They aren’t just consumers or spectators -- they have a real effect on the game. Some nonprofit fans even get in on the marketing efforts by designing t-shirts for their favorite nonprofits. That’s the case for the Marijuana Policy Project, which holds a t-shirt design competition annually.

 

You can save some money by printing your own t-shirts. Here’s a video on how to do just that. Personally, I can attest to how difficult it is to make great looking t-shirts, not because making the t-shirt is difficult. The problem is never applying the ink to the shirt, but properly exposing your silk screen. If you mess it up, you’re out at least $50 -- $25 for the screen you ruined and $25 for the new screen you’ll have to buy. The best screens we’ve worked with we built ourselves rather than buying at the arts and crafts store. They still work to this day despite bottles upon bottles of ink going through them.

 

Building and exposing your own screens might not be worth your time given the many options to design custom t-shirts online for around $3 to $6 per shirt, depending on quantity. But if you intend to print a ton of t-shirts over a long period of time, having a means to print them yourself whenever you need them would be a wise investment.

4) Mugs

Ranging from 60 cents to around $2 each, a customized, ceramic mug is something everyone can use and everyone around them can see. Giving your potential customers or even loyal customers a mug is commonplace in many industries. Most of my mugs advertise something: the title company who helped me close on my house, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, New York Air Brakes, Makoshika State Park, Hershey’s Chocolate. In fact, just one of my six mugs lacks advertising.

 

Mugs are always useful and tend to be used in the company of others. People at the office drink coffee or tea from their personal mugs at meetings, and people at parties drink beer from glass mugs. Both of which should be advertising your business.

3) Mobile Phone Wallets

As phones get larger, pocket space gets smaller. Enter the mobile phone wallet -- a silicone wallet to hold identification, credit cards and cash right on the back of your phone. The backs of people’s mobile phones are like billboards for your brand. People are on their phones constantly, so your brand is bound to reach people while giving your potential customer the convenience of carrying less stuff.

 

You can easily design your mobile phone wallet using online software and choose multiple colors so your potential customers are comfortable affixing your promotional item to their precious mobile phone. You can order mobile phone wallets in bulk at less than 70 cents each.  

2) Calendars

Classic car calendars are my personal weakness. Everytime I see a classic car calendar for free I take one. I could have two at home and still find another place to put a third. You can never have enough calendars or pictures of hot cars. It’s cheap wall art as well as a practical item that serves a purpose. But not all calendars provide the same promotional payoff.

 

First of all, don’t bother with the peel and stick calendars that simply have your company logo atop a small, plain calendar capable of nothing more than telling your potential customer the date. There’s no space to write on it, so it’s not likely to get much attention. It also can’t be easily seen nor does it attract the eyes of passersby. If you’re going to give a potential customer a calendar, make it a calendar that draws their eyes as well as the eyes of anyone in the vicinity.

 

The same could be said of desktop calendars. They’re just too small, and while more practical and useful than the peel and stick calendars, you’re not going to catch the eyes of anyone except the person behind the desk.

 

The traditional, spiral-bound, hanging calendar is still king of the calendars. The average price of a customized calendar is less than $1, and you can design one yourself using online software and your own images.

 

Magnetic calendars are starting to catch on because they combine two great marketing materials into one. Most people’s magnets on their refrigerator/freezer were probably free and probably advertise something. Of the eight magnets on my fridge, I paid for one, and that’s because I wanted a momento from The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which is well worth your time and money if you’re in Sin City. While I have no use for a calendar on which I can’t write, a magnet always comes in handy, which brings us to the best promotional item to advertise your business.

1) Magnets

While most calendars have a promotional life of one year, magnets will promote your business for as long as they’re magnetized, so don’t pinch pennies, which is all you’ll be pinching. Most magnets can be had for less than 50 cents each unless you’re going big. While I really like the practicality and convenience of magnetized notepads, they too have a limited promotional life, so stick with a magnet that won’t exhaust its usefulness.

 

Invest in a thick magnet that will stand the test of time and secure a bunch of stuff to the fridge. There’s nothing more annoying than a cheap magnet that struggles to keep my cousin’s holiday, family photo attached to my freezer. But don’t pay the premium for the magnetized paper clips. They don’t allow you to convey any other information about your business besides your logo, which will be lost amongst the many papers the clip will hold.

 

The only real drawback of magnets is the competition. Refrigerators are consumed by children’s drawings, “A+” test papers, grocery lists, to-do lists and all manner of coupons or receipts -- each suspended there by a different magnet likely advertising a different company -- maybe even a competitor of yours. So it’s very important that your magnet stands out from the crowd.  

The Worst Promotional Items

3) Keychains

The only people who see keychains are the owners of said keychains, so you can’t expect your investment in this promotional item to payoff. But I’ve seen variations of this promotional item that keeps it out of last place.

 

After a football game one day, I was handed a keychain that doubled as a windshield scraper. I’ve seen others that serve as flashlights. The best keychain I’ve seen is a bottle opener with a beer brand advertised on it. So if you’re going to go this route, make sure your keychain serves a purpose besides hanging from people’s keys.

2) Hats

People who regularly wear hats tend to have hats they prefer to wear. A cheap, trucker hat with your company’s logo is not likely one of those preferred hats. The only time I wear promotional headgear is when I’m doing construction work outside and don’t want to ruin one of my preferred hats. That’s not going to get your brand noticed.

 

Hats are also expensive promotional materials, especially given the limited return on investment. You can expect to pay about the same amount for a hat as you would a t-shirt, which is just asinine.

1) Pens

Pens are too small to allow others to see what’s advertised on them. And while they’re an affordable investment (less than 40 cents each), the return on investment in terms of lead generation is next to nothing.

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