The best (and worst) promotional products to market your business

Promotional products can be a great way to keep your business top of mind for current and potential customers. 

There’s no doubt that promotional products can be an effective part of your marketing strategy. In fact, a 2017 consumer survey by the Promotional Products Association International showed some surprising statistics on the efficacy of promotional products. Of the 89% of respondents who received a promotional product from a brand in the past six months, 80% researched the brand and 83% said they were more likely to do business with the brand. Furthermore, 81% of surveyed consumers said they continued to use the product for more than one year.

If you are ready to invest in promotional products for your business, start your search with these providers.

However, these results are surely skewed by survivorship bias - the fact that consumers are answering questions about the promotional products they remember. For every successful promotional product that consumers do keep and use for years, there are many more cases where the product is just thrown away and forgotten.

Make sure you are investing the in the best promotional products for your business. Because the worst promotional products don’t just end up in the trash – they might even turn potential customers off from working with your business in the future.

Who should invest in promotional products?

There are many businesses that can benefit from investment in promotional products. Sometimes, businesses in certain industries may need to invest in these products because of pressure from competition. If your business is not filling an advertising niche that all of your competitors are hitting, you could be losing customers.

Here are the top industries for promotional products:

  • Education – particularly higher education
  • Financial services – banks
  • Health care – hospitals, clinics, etc.
  • Non-profits – community organizations, charities
  • Real estate – brokers and companies
  • Government – political candidates, agencies, public offices etc.

Which promotional products are the best?

The best promotional products for your business will depend on several factors: what your business does, who your customers are and what you’re trying to achieve with your promotional products.

Promotional products need to be relevant to be effective. This means they need to be relevant to your business functions or services, and they need to be relevant to the customers you serve. If you give away branded products that are disconnected from your business and your customer, you are almost guaranteeing that they will be thrown away.

You also want to make sure that the promotional products you buy are useful to the recipient. Think back to the last time you went to a tradeshow or convention. Were there stress balls, paper weights or other novelty items in your goodie bag? Did any of those products make it home with you, let along stick around for a year or more?

Great promotional product examples

Luckily, there are some tried and true promotional products that can be relevant to almost any business or industry. Some of the winners for promotional product sales numbers year after year are:

Wearables: 32% of sales by product category

The big winner is this category is shirts. Whether you’re buying polo shirts for your team or t-shirts as giveaways, shirts offer a way to show your branding and messaging to a new audience every time they’re worn. Invest in soft, high-quality t-shirts and feature beautiful graphic design for the best results.

Writing instruments: 8% of sales by product category

Pens, pencils, highlighters and permanent markers are used by almost everyone every day. Pens are the most popular product in this category. To make your promotional products stand out, make sure you are buying something more interesting than a cheap pen. Higher quality products will last longer and get more use.

Bags: 8% of sales by product category

Tote bags are a big winner for their versatility and usability. Suitable for men and women, you can get bonus points for investing in tote bags made from recycled materials. Tote bags are an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic products that will eventually end up in a landfill.

Drinkware: 8% of sales by product category

Other items that we use over and over again are coffee mugs, water bottles, beer glasses and even shot glasses. Mugs are the classic choice because they cross so many demographic categories and generate, on average, 198 ad impressions per month for the life of the product.

There are plenty of other smaller, niche items that may be more relevant to your business or customer. Whenever you start searching for a promotional giveaway item, keep your customer top of mind so you can make sure the products you chose are something they’d want to use.

Promotional product don’ts

The biggest mistake you can make with your promotional product strategy is buying something that is disposable or meant to be thrown away. The clearest example of this is plastic water bottles. Not only are they bad for the environment, plastic water bottles are a one-use item that your customer will probably not even look at twice.

Another misguided promotional product strategy is investing in a novelty item that is “fun” but impractical. Stress balls, big keychains, desk toys and anything that requires explanation to make the recipient understand what it is or what it has to do with your company are all promotional product “don’ts.”

Promotional products can be a great part of your marketing strategy if done well. If you are ready to invest in promotional products for your business, start your search with these providers.

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