Targeting Promotional Products for an Event? Avoid These Mistakes

CustomUSB | Onnit - Gorilla Kettlebell - Replica Flash Drive

Promotional product success begins well before you hand out an item at a promotional event or trade show. The strategy you choose will go a long way toward promoting your company and getting a return on investment in the project – instead of diminishing returns.

All along the way, from the moment you begin thinking about purchasing promotional products to the assessment after a campaign is over, you have the opportunity to boost the chance of your promotional campaign’s success.

These are some common promo product mistakes even seasoned pros can make in the rush to get a return on investment, and when the day-to-day demands of the business get in the way of making strategic choices.

Mistake #1: Distribution

The distribution plan for the promotional product is just as important as the item you choose to hand out. Failing to make a plan for distribution can bring the promotional product campaign to its knees.

Let’s say you’ve ordered custom calendars to award your most loyal customers, but you don’t take the time to strategize the list of most loyal customers. In the end, these calendars will end up in the hands of the wrong customers, and your ROI is diminished.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve identified your customer list, but you don’t put a strategy in place to actually deliver the calendars into their hands. Before you know it, January, and now February, has passed, and the calendar’s value and impact on customers is decreasing. With better planning, you could have given out those calendars with a little oomph behind them, and really put your time, resources and money to good use.

Mistake #2: Goals

Investing in promotional products is exciting and the selection process can be a fun one for the team members involved in dreaming up the campaign. However, ignore the goal for the campaign or the product and it’ll fall flat on its face.

Before you select an item (or items), your team should have a clear goal in mind in terms of what the product should do. Increase awareness? Get leads? Whatever the goal, working your way backwards from the goal to the product will ensure you make a strategic selection.

Mistake #3: Lead Time

Lead time is another component of a successful campaign – and a mistake many teams make when planning a campaign. While a promotional product company may have quick turnaround times, you don’t want the success of your campaign to hinge on a tight turnaround deadline. And if you’re planning on a producing custom promotional product, you’ll definitely need to take lead time into consideration.

In general, savvy businesses take into account the “glitch factor,” making room in the planning phase for things to go wrong. For example, if you send artwork to the promotional company and it needs to be tweaked, that will add time to the project’s deadline.

Mistake #4: Innovation

Even if your old promotions have always worked, don’t rest on your laurels and assume that every year when the trade show rolls around that the same old, same old will continue to work. This is one of the common mistakes businesses make.

Instead, adopt an innovative mindset and at least vet new ideas. It’s possible that by ignoring a product that could perform even better – just because you’re satisfied with the status quo – you’ll eliminate the chances of landing on an even higher-performing campaign.

Mistake #5: Price

In some cases, budgets are tight and there’s little wiggle room. However, sacrificing price over quality is a big no-no. What if you could spend 10 percent more on a promotional product and get a 40 percent higher return on leads? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to spend more upfront? Don’t let price be the deciding factor at the outset.

Consider the brand effect that promotional products, such as custom flash drives, have on consumers. The majority of consumers – nearly 90 percent – can recall the brand advertiser’s name within two years of receiving the item, according to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI)[i]. Making an impression is important, and higher-quality items make the right kind of impression.

Mistake #6: Audience

Offering an enticing promotional product that appeals the wrong audience doesn’t get the kind of return your business needs so stay afloat and thrive. A cute, adorable stuffed animal might draw every parent in the crowd to your trade show booth, but who will see that promotional item once it’s home and in the loving arms of a toddler? Not the right audience!

Mistake #7: Logo

Perhaps the single most important factor to remember when choosing a promotional item is location, location, location – for your contact information and logo, that is. Getting to this point in the game without carefully considering its impact will bring the campaign to a screeching halt.

Your logo will help with brand recall, and when a customer needs to contact your business, your phone number or email needs to be clearly outlined on the product. Otherwise, you lose an opportunity to get a lead or a sale.

Think strategically when it comes to placing contact information. What is the best way for customers to get a hold of you? Is it through the phone? Are you properly staffed to answer calls? Is it via a web form? Does an employee check that form or database regularly? Can you get away with displaying your logo only, and will consumers have enough product knowledge for the logo to make an impression, or do you need an email address as well?


The process of creating a promotional product campaign that exceeds your wildest dreams involves a number of carefully established steps. Think through distribution options, end goals for the promotion and lead time. Consider innovative ways to promote your brand, invest in quality products and target the right audience. Last but not least, include relevant, clear contact and brand information that will leave a lasting impression on consumers – enough so that they’ll want to contact you, or even better, make a purchase. After all, that’s the reason you’re committing time, energy and resources to building a promotional products campaign.

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