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7 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Promotional Products

Ready to get and stay ahead of your competition? Promotional products have a ton of staying power — up to two years in some cases. Your boss wants you to achieve insane ROI from your marketing resources, and branded products are a powerful way to make a statement.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Promotional items are versatile, but they come with plenty of pitfalls if this is a new marketing strategy for your brand. It’s easy to spend too much, order the wrong quantities, or overlook embarrassing typos with your first order. 

Put your best foot forward while making the most of your marketing budget. Avoid these seven common mistakes when you’re buying promotional products. 

1. Ordering without a strategy

The biggest mistake you can make is ordering promotional products without a good plan for them. Instead of ordering koozies “just because,” you need a strategy to get traction for your brand — otherwise you’re just wasting money. 

If you haven’t already, create a buyer persona and a campaign strategy for your promotional products. Instead of ordering swag for the sake of it, you should think carefully about which products, specifically, will work for you. 

And yes, your strategy has a direct impact on your product order. If you need swag for an upcoming conference with limited booth space, that means you should order smaller, lighter items instead of bulky boxes of t-shirts. And speaking of t-shirts: a promotional product strategy will also ensure you order shirts with the right fabric, design, and sizes to best appeal to your audience.

Your promotional strategy doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Set aside 30 minutes with your team to brainstorm a few ideas and you’ll be off to a great start. 

2. Bad design

If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on water bottles, they need to look good. The last thing you want is to pass out products that look like you hastily designed them in Microsoft Paint. 

Good design will make or break your promotional product campaign. Be sure to work with a graphic designer so you include the right balance of text, imagery, and white space. If you aren’t sure about your design, run it past a few people at your company (or with a promotional products partner like Boundless) to verify that it’s good to go. 


3. Forgetting your audience

Maybe you ordered Bluetooth headphones as your conference swag because you thought they were cool. But is your audience going to think so?

Audience is everything in marketing. Choose promotional products that your audience would actually find valuable. Remember, promotional products aren’t about you; do a few paid interviews with your customers to see what they would appreciate and use.

Sure, you could try to pass out generic products like pens or sunglasses, but that isn’t a memorable way to promote yourself to your specific customers. Go back to your customer personas to make sure your promotional products tick all the right boxes. 

4. Procrastinating

You’re busy worrying about a zillion other things until you realize — with a week to spare — that you need promotional products for your brand activation event. While it’s certainly possible to order products at the last minute, that’s a recipe for mistakes, added fees, and stress.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to order your promotional products, place your order 1-2 months in advance. That might seem excessive, but it gives you time to:

  • Choose the best product for your strategy
  • Communicate your vision to a designer
  • Iterate a few versions of your product design
  • Test several product options before ordering 3,000 units
  • Catch misprints or design errors early enough to fix them

Most promotional product companies ask for at least 4-6 weeks to turn around your campaign, so the further in advance you can plan, the better. 

5. Only thinking about the money

We get it. You’re constantly being tasked with doing more and more with fewer and fewer resources. Ostensibly, the less you spend on promotional products, the more money you have for your other marketing campaigns.

But here’s the thing: if you go for chintzy, bottom-of-the-barrel products, it’s going to scream “cheap” to your customers. In some cases, you’re better off not sharing swag at all because of the damage that inferior, low-quality products can cause to your reputation.

You don’t have to bust your budget, but don’t let the sticker shock trick you into making a bad choice. Pick products that best serve your campaign goals but also fit into your budget range. 


6. Letting a typo slip

There’s nothing worse than ordering 500 stress balls that have your name misspelled on the front. Incorrect colors, the wrong logos, and terrible typos can quickly turn your promotional product excitement into an expensive nightmare. 

Ask multiple people to review your product design before you send it off for printingfresh eyes are more likely to catch embarrassing slip-ups before it’s too late. Of course, if you work with a partner like Boundless, we’ll also double-check your design so you can always be assured of putting your best foot forward.

7. Playing it safe

The purpose of promotional products is to make your brand stand out. If you’re passing out generic pens, frisbees, or koozies, you aren’t making a big impression. These products can still get you results, but in a world where your competitors are trying to one-up your every move, isn’t it time to take a calculated, smart risk? 

As long as you order products that delight your customers, feel free to shake things up! That might mean ordering things like: 

  • Yoga mats
  • Waterproof speakers
  • Corkboards
  • Nice beach towels

You get the idea. If your campaign strategy, audience research, and customer personas justify it, try something different to earn more brand buzz. 

The bottom line

Promotional products build a ton of excitement with your audience, provided you order carefully. Treat your swag like the ROI-positive marketing campaign that it is. Maximize your returns by avoiding these seven common promotional product missteps.

Let’s turn ordinary products into something extraordinary. Boundless collaborates with brands like yours to elevate marketing campaigns. See how we help brands generate a tsunami of interest with the power of promotional products.

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