Are Promotional Products an Expense or an Investment?

  • Jul 19, 2017

I was recently approached by someone who had gotten my contact information from a local printer. This person publishes e-books and had decided, on his own, that license plate frames and "maybe pens" were the way to promote his e-books. In regards to the license plate frames, he had decided that it would create a type of affinity club if people saw the frames on cars as they were driving around town – much like seeing a PBS Member license plate does.

During the course of our phone conversations, I told him that, as a promotional products distributor, I could certainly take his order for whatever product he decided on. As a promotional marketing consultant, however, I would not recommend licence plate frames to him for a number of reasons. First and foremost, most people won’t attach a license plate frame to their car unless it’s a cause, organization, or part of their life that they feel strongly about. Simply buying an e-book through amazon.com is probably not going to give the average consumer enough reason to rush out and proclaim their affinity to this publishing company.

I gave him information on the frames and on pens. In addition, I gave him product information on two other items that I know will be better suited for promoting his line of books. What I did not give him yet was my recommendation on why these products would be more effective, nor my ideas on how they should be used. (In the end, even the right product used the wrong way will not achieve desired results.) I did let him know that, should he decide to go with one of my recommendations, I would explain my reasoning and how to use them to achieve maximum results.

His response back to me was, “Thanks. I also plan to check with Big Box Office Supply Store (name removed to protect the guilty) because I think they sell this kind of stuff.” In other words, “I want to see if they’re cheaper.”

I’ve gone to my local branch of the store he named to see what a promotional product buying experience would be like there. With all due respect to them, I asked about promotional products at the service counter and was given a catalog to look through. When I asked what she would recommend for my needs, I was told that, “Pens are always a good bet.” When I asked why, I was told, “Because everyone can use a pen.”

OK, so you can buy the same type of items from an office supply store or online, and it may be less. The question you have to ask yourself is, "Will I see results if I get this product?" If you don’t know the answer, or you’ve done it and didn’t see results, then you can classify that money spent as an expense.

If, on the other hand, you worked with a professional consultant who was able to guide you to an appropriate promotional product for your needs and showed you how to implement a promotional campaign that would give you measurable results, isn’t that worth paying more for? Especially since, depending on the quantity, more often than not, the difference is less than $100?

Which would you rather do? Spend $100 and see no tangible results, or invest $150 and get a measurable ROI/ROO?

How much is your money worth?