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How to source promotional merchandise. 6 Top Tips.

How to source promotional merchandise. 6 Top Tips.

By Graham Howarth, Director, P&MM Source-e.

From product giveaways to business gifts and premiums, promotional merchandise is widely used in external marketing campaigns to thank customers, introduce new products and services, generate sales leads for existing products and boost direct mail response rates to name but a few applications while, internally, it is often used in employee motivation schemes.  

Its popularity and the reason for its increasing presence in the marketing mix can be attributed to its well-known strong and direct influence on brand awareness and purchasing behaviour, a factor that was highlighted in the survey we conducted into ‘What’s on Your Desk?,’ which revealed that over half of respondents purchased from the companies that were branded on a piece of merchandise on their desk.

With this in mind, getting the right product, in the right way, is vital.

To help with the process below are some top tips on sourcing promotional merchandise.

1. Prepare a full brief

The quality and success of any project depends on the quality of the brief. If the supplier understands the business objectives and background it is more likely to be successful and for this reason preparing a thorough but precise brief is essential.

Among the areas this should cover are:
- Information on the company
- Background to the campaign and its objectives
- Description of the target audience
- The role of the promotional merchandise within the campaign
- Whether it is for a one-off event or an ongoing campaign
- The expected outcome of the project
- The timescale of the campaign
- The available budget

2. Choose the supplier carefully

With thousands of suppliers out there vying for the business it is important to select a supplier with a good reputation, experience and long-term relationships with manufacturers and suppliers.

An experienced team will understand the demands involved in selecting promotional merchandise and be able to offer free professional advice.

Always be willing to discuss the brief with the potential supplier and be open to suggestions as, in many instances, they may be able to offer some added value or alternative options and recommendations.

3. Don’t buy just on price

Of course the budget is a key factor but it shouldn’t be at the expense of quality of service which, if not as high as desired, can lead to many issues throughout the course of the campaign.

Choose a supplier that treats all of its customers equally regardless of whether the order is for thousands of products or just a few.

4. Consider ethics and the environment

Many companies source products from overseas to take advantage of the price and flexibility it can offer, however, it is important to be aware that there are risks involved.

Ensuring the goods are produced to the highest standard possible and that factory workers are not exploited in any way is vital as if it later transpires that the goods were manufactured using child labour or in other unethical or environmentally unfriendly conditions, then the damage to the brand could be serious.

Choose a supplier that uses only those factories that comply with Social Accountability 8000 best practice in order to maintain just and decent working conditions throughout the supply chain.

5. Adhere to any relevant legislation, safety or quality guidelines

If sourcing products that will be targeted at children in Europe, for example, then they must carry the CE Mark, which is the manufacturer’s declaration that the toys meet the essential requirements of the European Safety of Toys Directive.

6. Timing and logistics

The lead time for the campaign needs to be clear from the outset and remember to ask the supplier for a written schedule of activity, including product samples if necessary.

Given the date sensitive nature of many marketing campaigns involving promotional merchandise it is important to be confident that the product will arrive on time as well as to the exact specifications.

If the product is custom made and coming in bulk from the Far East, for example, then it is essential to work well in advance and allow good time for delivery and for customs clearance. If the product is going to multiple addresses then remember to include the cost of despatch in the budget.

If it going to one central point, then check how it will be delivered, for example,  whether it’s in boxes for deliveries across the UK or palletised for onwards distribution – and double check that the delivery point can accept them in that form.

Promotional merchandise can be used by any size or type of organisation and is highly effective in raising brand awareness, communicating new messages and as an ongoing reminder to those who matter.

The range of products is huge from mass market low budget items such as pens which are designed to reach a wide target audience to products such as mugs and clothing which, with their longer shelf life, are often aimed at existing contacts.

At the top end of the scale are business and executive gifts, such as embossed leather goods, which will be retained by the recipient and used time and time again.  Sourcing such products may seem like a potential minefield, but with this advice kept in mind buyers can be confident that they will source the right product for their requirements.

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