Time will tell what the future holds, but in the meantime, businesses are working hard to make sure they don’t lose any steam gained in 2022. This means making the most of their marketing budgets in 2023.
In an era defined by online-first interactions, consumers and businesses seek more authentic, interesting ways to connect. Promotional products can bridge that gap, and in tough economic times, you’ve got to make the most of your marketing spend.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg marketing your brand. With the right approach, you can still thoughtfully promote your business with promotional products — without draining your budget.
14 tips for buying promotional products in a soft economy
You have a budget but want to stretch it as much as possible. Here’s how you can see greater returns on promotional products in a soft economy.
1. Clean out your closet
Do you have branded products from past campaigns floating around somewhere? Take inventory of any leftover promotional materials you could reuse.
You might need to supplement your current stock with a reorder, but that’s still cheaper than letting good materials collect dust in a closet. (If you have products that need a new home, consider donating them to your favorite cause.)
2. Brand all swag
We love name-brand goodies, too, but even if you opt to give name-brand promo products to your audience, make sure people know it came from you. Otherwise, you’re just giving away retail gifts without a business strategy backing them up.
Whether you provide notebooks or high-end leather bags, always ensure your promo products have a branded element. This could be a tag, a sticker, or a card included that reminds your audience where their new piece came from. Work with your promo product partner to be creative about the entire purpose of branded products: to get your name and business ideals out there.
3. Monitor KPIs as you go
You need to make the most of your promotional products budget. Since the goal is the return on investment (ROI), you should track quantifiable results to stretch your budget.
It isn’t as easy as tracking a social media post or email campaign, but you can develop lead attribution for swag products through:
- QR codes: Add a QR code to each product that takes people to a unique landing page they can only access with that code. This is the easiest way to see how promo products drive traffic to your website.
- Promotional codes: Share coupon codes or unique download codes for digital coupons or freebies. You can easily track engagement using a single code for each campaign.
- Exclusive online spaces: Create an exclusive online class, community, or space that people can unlock with your promotional products. As views and engagement increase, so will your ROI.
From here, you can track where leads go after that initial touchpoint. All of this requires a little finessing in your analytics software, but you can easily measure the sales generated from promotional products.
4. Choose strategy-aligned promotional products
You don’t want to choose promotional products willy-nilly. You need products that align with your business’s marketing and sales objectives.
In a strong economy when you have a healthy budget, you might be able to take more risks with promotional products. But in a softer economy, you have limited resources, so spend time choosing the right products for the job.
Look at your campaign goals, customer personas, and KPIs. Every piece you order should tie back into these strategies. This ensures your promo products align with your business goals, making it much more likely that you’ll see a return on your investment.
5. Choose products with staying power
Single-use items like cookies, sticky notes, or disposable masks have many benefits, but if you need to stretch your budget, opt for promotional products with staying power.
You want people to see your brand name every single day. That means opting for durable, reusable goods that people will happily use on a daily basis. That might mean choosing products like:
The more folks use these products, the more they’ll think about your brand. When in doubt, get to know your target audience to learn which products they use regularly.
6. Order larger quantities
Economies of scale are a clever and easy way to cut promotional product costs without compromising quality. Manufacturers will usually cut you a deal if you order more products in a single order. If you have room to store the extra products, buy larger quantities to save money.
By the way, your department doesn’t have to be the only one footing the bill. Go in on a bulk order with other departments in your company. Boundless’ GroupBuy program allows you to do just that: take advantage of economies of scale. You can split up the cost among different departments’ budgets, which can help you save even more money.
7. Be discerning
You wouldn’t give cheap rubber duckies to B2B buyers on a $5 million contract deal. And you probably wouldn’t hand out free AirPods to hundreds of people at a community event.
You want to wow people, but your promo product needs to match the situation and context. Give out more affordable swag during brand awareness events and save high-dollar products for valuable touchpoints with the media, CEOs, venture capitalists, or influencers.
8. Get creative!
In a soft economy, you want to spend your money on promo items that will turn heads. The good news is that it’s possible to be creative without busting your budget.
Opt for these affordable, out-of-the-box promo products this year:
- 5-in-1 charging cable
- Pocket cookbook
- Eye gels
- Nail polish
- Color-changing mood pencils
- Bluetooth trackers
- Fidget toys or popper balls
- Portable tea infuser with loose-leaf tea
- Eye masks
See? These ideas are affordable and go beyond typical promo product fare.
9. Build a brand box
You don’t have to give your audience just one piece of swag. In fact, you can create an affordable curated experience through a brand box.
You can send brand boxes to customers, employees, the media, influencers — you name it. Add multiple low-cost promotional items to the box to create a high-end feel without overspending.
The key is to create a theme for your box, like:
- California Love
- Welcome Aboard
- Winter Wonderland
- Taco Tuesday
- All the Feels
- A Toast To You
- Passport to Paradise
The theme makes the box feel more cohesive and special. If you want to keep the party going — without spending more money — you can take the boxed experience online. Print a QR code on the box that links to a Spotify playlist, custom online game, or quiz contest to engage with your audience even more.
10. Order ahead of time
Last-minute requests cause chaos for everyone involved and cost you more money. Rush production and shipping fees needlessly drain your promotional products budget.
Try to complete your order with at least a three-month lead time (for holiday items, this means August). This will give you time to test products, ship them, and request any corrections long before showtime.
11. Ask for samples
There are plenty of affordable, high-quality branded materials to choose from. The thing is, sometimes you can’t tell if a product is high-quality based on the manufacturer’s photos.
Make the most of your budget by asking for samples before placing a huge order. Most suppliers are happy to let you test the product’s quality before you spend your money.
If the product isn’t to your liking, this gives you the chance to select a different option. It’s way better to test things out now and realize it isn’t a fit than it is to pay for 500 pieces you can’t use.
12. Ask your promo partner
If you’re trying to maximize your promotional product budget, ask your promo partner where you can trim some costs.
When you have a great relationship with your promo partner, listen to their suggestions about creative ways to stretch your budget. As an actual partner, they’re there with you to make sure you can still fulfill your needs without breaking the bank.
13. Order small products
You don’t have to order gym bags to impress your audience. Opt for smaller products to preserve your budget. These are usually less expensive to ship and store, which means you can generate more value from your marketing budget.
Go for smaller products like:
- Handheld Bluetooth speakers
- Collapsible water bottles
- Selfie lights
- AirPods cases
- Blue light glasses
- Food storage boxes
14. Try co-branding
It takes a village to promote a business. If you’re trying to squeeze more out of a limited budget, there’s nothing wrong with asking for some help.
Find a complementary business that you can co-brand swag with. Ideally, this should be a company that your target audience is already familiar with, so the pairing makes sense.
For example, if you’re a software company, you might co-brand swag with another software company that your product integrates with. This is a great way to highlight the integration itself, but it also means you can split the costs of the promotional products between the two companies.
Plus, the other company will pass out merchandise with your logo to their audience. That will get more eyes on your brand with less effort.
Protect Your Marketing Budget With A Strategic Promotional Product Campaign
The future of the economy is murky and still up for debate. While some companies are tightening their belts just in case, marketers are working hard to get more creative with their promotional product marketing campaigns.
Don’t despair: embrace this challenging environment as an opportunity to think outside the box.
Of course, it’s hard trying to do everything yourself. That’s where Boundless comes in. Get inspiration, direction, and tools from our expert team of promo marketing professionals. See the Boundless difference.