Are you wondering how you can save money on promotional products, also known as swag? We all know that with the many options available on the Internet now it is easy to shop and find the lowest price for just about anything. With a little bit of time online we can often save quite a bit of money.
As many of us have found out, however, there are certain areas where you have to be careful or you may find that the lowest price isn’t actually the least expensive. If you were going in for open-heart surgery would you choose a doctor based only on price? While not as critical as open-heart surgery promotional products do have some complexities you need to be aware of if you really want to save money on promotional products.
With 35 years of experience in the industry, we have seen it all, at least once. From that vantage point, we have learned a few things about getting the best price on promotional products that we would like to share with you.
Choose the right product
This may not be something you would normally consider when trying to save money on promotional products, but it is actually the most important factor. There are two questions you need to ask yourself:
- What action (work) do I want this item to accomplish?
- Will the item I have selected cause that action?
If you don’t accomplish the action, your goal, then your purchase is too expensive. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you paid for it.
For example; I was recently explaining how we help our clients gain Return On Investment (ROI) on their promotional products purchases to a business solutions partner of ours and she told me this story (I am telling it in my own words but she has verified its accuracy).
In a previous position working for an art supply vendor, she was in charge of selecting a promotional product for a one-day outdoor art festival in Atlanta GA. In previous years, they had given away pens with their company logo printed on them. She decided, being as it would get hot during the day that a hand fan with their logo on it would be much more appreciated than the pen. She also thought, correctly, that it would provide more positive feelings towards her employer than the pen would.
Everyone agreed with that and the request was given to the person responsible for purchasing the items. That person went about doing what they felt was most important, finding the cheapest hand fan available in a valiant effort to save the company money. They found and purchased a really cheap fan – great job, right? Well… not exactly. The fan was so flimsy that it was useless. The first time they tried to use it the fan crumpled and became unusable. As you can imagine, the fan did not achieve their goal, and the entire purchase was a waste. Money down the drain.
There is a rule of reciprocity that has been researched and tested by Robert Cialdini (cal-DEE-nee) and reported on in a CNN article. He states that “those who have received a free item from a business are significantly more likely to purchase something from the business”. But he adds one condition: “If what you’re offered is cheap, unwanted or wasteful, you won’t think of what you’re receiving as a gift but rather as a trick – and the tactic backfires”.
We recommend that you work with a product consultant to create a plan that will achieve your desired action. Plan not only your purchase but also the execution of your promotion so that it ties into the action you want to create. For some help on planning a promotion check out this article.
Then ensure that you purchase a quality product that will not be seen as a trick. If neither you nor your consultant is familiar with the product it may be a good idea to get a sample of the item to verify it’s quality. At Ads-Up Promotions we do that for our clients if there is any reason for concern.
In the story above the fan idea was great, but it was sabotaged by the belief that cheaper is always better. We’re not saying all promotional products need to be expensive. Just that the cost of the item is not as important as achieving ROI. With a plan in place, a product can be selected that will work with your budget, accomplish your goal, and truly help you save money on promotional products.
Some of the highest avoidable costs associated with promotional products purchases come with rush orders. There are times when a rush is unavoidable, but whenever possible it’s best to start well ahead of the date the items are needed. Here are some of the ways an early start can help you save money on promotional products:
- You can avoid expedited manufacturing and/or decoration costs (the cost of applying your logo or message by printing, embroidery, etc.).
- You can avoid expedited shipping costs. And if the item is bulky or heavy these can add up very fast.
- Having some time allows us to watch for sale items or, if the occasion allows it, a discontinued item. This can often provide significant savings.
- When you have an item that you use regularly like your favorite pen or that perfect item for your trade shows you should ask us to alert you when the item goes on sale. Then you can stock up on it.
- And while we’re talking about quantity, it’s always better to buy higher quantities whenever possible. The price per piece on most promotional products decreases as the quantity increases. Do you plan to use the same item often? Do other departments, branches or business units use the same item? If you can purchase a larger quantity to last all year or longer, or if you can partner with another group within your company to increase the total quantity then you have an opportunity to buy higher quantities and that will help you save money on promotional products.
- Errors occur more often when an order is rushed. Everyone involved needs time to review and sign off on artwork, virtual samples, and in some cases actual samples. They also need to ensure that the item creates an action and is a quality item that will provide a lasting good impression. When orders are rushed we more often bypass or rush these steps, increasing the chance of errors. These errors add cost to the product by lowering or even eliminating the benefit received from purchasing the product.
If you end up with a rush order in spite of your best efforts make sure you take the time to review proofs and any virtual samples to ensure correct information and content. Also, work with a promotional products consultant who will ensure that all of the steps are covered. At Ads-Up Promotions, we have worked with rush orders often enough to be familiar with the process and the steps required to reduce errors and we do all we can to avoid them. Even with the best efforts of all, however, the chance for them to occur still increases when orders are rushed.
Shipping can be a significant part of the cost of and therefore a great way to save money on promotional products, so we want to point out some misconceptions and pitfalls to avoid.
If your items are heavy or bulky the shipping costs can go up significantly, obviously. If you then need to expedite it they can go through the roof. Coffee mugs, for instance, are fairly heavy and bulky. In addition, they are fragile, so they need to be double packaged. This adds even more to both the weight and size. For these types of items especially, it is important to keep the shipping distance as short as possible.
This may be the reason why many people feel that they need to purchase from a local promotional products consultant in order to reduce shipping distance. The reality is that we at Ads-Up Promotions, like most promotional products providers, have manufacturers all over the US. So we will select one close to you, no matter where you are located. We do this on every order for our clients to keep the shipping cost to a minimum.
Then there is the old shipping scam; you find a product from one supplier that is less money than all the other suppliers even though it is an identical item. So you buy from that supplier only to realize later that your shipping was marked up to make up the difference.
To avoid this scam we recommend that you ask for a shipping estimate. The actual shipping may vary depending on the packaging, but that estimate should be close. We are happy to provide you with a quote that includes the estimated cost of shipping.
Choose items that work well with your logo
There are items that can only be printed in one color and only in stock colors. Some can be printed with a free color match to your PMS color, while others will have a charge for that. And there are those that can be printed in full color at no additional charge. Others, again, will have a fee associated with that.
There are many different fabrics and product materials available in promotional products. That means it is really important for you or your product consultant to know which items will work best together. This knowledge will help you avoid additional charges for color matching and additional color charges for a multi-color logo. Understanding this can not only help you save money on promotional products but will also ensure that your items will look professional and provide you with a better value.
Qualify your recipients
Another hint to save money on promotional products is to qualify the recipients. Consider your goal, the action you are trying to create. Which role or group of people are you trying to influence? If you can qualify your recipients to a smaller group you can reduce the number of items you need to purchase. That will allow you to choose between spending more on items and possibly increasing the effectiveness of your campaign with higher quality, or saving money on your purchase.
We hope these ideas will help you save money on your promotional products purchases. With 35 years of experience, we have learned various other ways of helping our clients save money. Each situation is unique, so give us the details of your project and we would be happy to work out the best solution with you.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
If you have had a good or bad experience with getting ROI on a promotional product we want to hear about it. We love to brainstorm and we would be happy to offer recommendations if you are interested.