Does this scenario sound familiar? You look at the calendar and realize that your big trade show or event is coming up very soon. You also realize that you have nothing to give away to the prospects you meet there.
Nenette Gray, owner of Baton Rouge-based Lemonade Creative Marketing, has been there before. She says she named her business “Lemonade” because she helps business owners and marketers turn their “lemons” (last-minute events, tight deadlines, limited budgets) into lemonade with creative promotional product ideas.
We asked Gray how business leaders can choose the best promotional products for their budget and audience.
“Begin with the end in mind,” Gray says. She starts by asking about the end goal: Do you want to create brand awareness and visibility? Gain new prospects? Make immediate sales?
As you’re considering your goal, think about the specific event. Let’s say you’re going to a national trade show with 1,000 attendees. Gray says many people assume they need 1,000 items to give away, but she encourages focusing on the slice of people who make up your core audience. For example, if your footprint is regional and you’re targeting four states, make sure your marketing strategy homes in on people from those states — not the event population in general. “The strategy should be laser-focused on those prospects,” she says.
When it comes to selecting the right promotional products, Gray says, “everything is driven by target audience.” If your audience is executive-level, the right product is likely different than if you’re targeting consumers. “The better we can define the audience, the better we can come up with a branding item to meet their needs.”
Plus, she says, you need to know what kind of impact you want to have and what kind of emotions you want to evoke.
Consider how much you’d like to spend, but remember your goals and your audience. Gray says the biggest mistake people make is choosing promotional products just because they’re cheap — which can result in issues such as pens that explode or don’t work.
“If it ends up in the trash before the person even leaves the event, it’s a total waste,” she says. “You might save money in the short term, but in the long term it costs you more. You don’t want people to associate your brand with something negative.”
Once you know your goals, audience and budget, it’s time to get creative. Gray encourages leaders to think about their audience’s pain points. When the marketing “talks to their DNA,” a customer is more likely to connect with the message and take action, she says.
She thinks about a product’s visibility: Will the person use or see the product often? “Anything that will be on a person’s desk or in their car is a good choice,” she says. So are tech-related products: For the past few years mobile phone chargers have been some of her most popular items. “Everyone has a cellphone or mobile device. Charger, batteries, phone cases — they’re all branding opportunities that people will take with them everywhere they go,” she says.
Gray also finds good results from promotional products that fit into a bigger branding and messaging strategy. Some of the creative campaigns she has engineered include:
There are thousands of products to choose from, Gray says, and narrowing down the choices is easier when you understand your goals and clients. At the end of the day, she says, promotional products are fun: “They’re the only form of advertising people are actually happy to receive!”
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