Promotional Items Buying Guide: Why Cheap Isn’t Always Better

Columbus Chamber
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Nevin Bansal HeadshotGuest blog by Nevin Bansal, Outreach Promotional Solutions

Did you know over 36% of those receiving a promotional item are more likely to do business with the company who gave it to them? For many organizations, promotional items have become an important component to marketing, growth, and employee satisfaction efforts.   In today’s digital age, these items remain one of the best ways to maintain a personal approach to marketing.

For many consumers, a low price is a critical factor in the decision process when purchasing promotional items. However, getting a low price does not mean you should go “cheap”. A cheap item may not represent your company well and actually not be a worthwhile investment.

Here are a few examples of popular promotional items and options to weigh along with your budget:

  • T-shirts: These continue to be one of the most popular promotional items in the market. The lowest price shirts are usually less attractive and can be almost see-through depending on the quality of the shirt. As a result, those receiving the shirts will never wear them.  If your budget allows, it is best to steer away from a standard white t-shirt.  An Ash or Heather Gray shirt is only slightly more expensive and will be much better received.   Also, if you were looking at a multi-side or multi-color imprint on a white shirt, consider a one-side or one-color imprint on a colored shirt – the pricing is comparable and you will find the impression that is made will be much better.
  • Pens: Writing instruments are a staple in the promotional item industry. They are cost-effective, widely used and easy to distribute.  A pen can stay on someone’s desk for up to 6 months or more.  Going with a cheap pen may mean the ink runs dry quicker or it doesn’t write well from the start.  Because we all have so many pens, the pens that people don’t like to write with get thrown away first.   A small increase of maybe 10 cents more per pen can get you a pen that people will love to use – thus increasing the number of impressions from the item.
  • Awards: Cheaper awards are generally either light plastic, small, or just not well-made. Choosing a cheap award may not convey the level of appreciation you have for the person receiving an award. If you have a fixed budget, go with a nice plaque or an award that has a heavier base, which when held, creates a higher-end feel.  You can also consider a high-end travel mug or other branded gift in lieu of an award.
  • Technology: This is a fast-growing category in the promotion industry. USBs, portable chargers and other gadgets are popular promo items. However, cheaply made items that contain memory chips or tech components run the risk of not working properly. In addition, because technology promos are used in conjunction with high-end devices such as iPhones and iPads, if they are cheap looking or of poor quality, they won’t have appeal and won’t be used. To effectively utilize technology promos and stay on budget, give them to high-end prospects and customers rather than distributing them to the masses. If you are looking for a budget technology accessory, focus on items that do not contain technology components, such as a phone stand, microfiber cloth or iPad case.

The bottom line is that it is important to focus on quality and creativity above price.  Working hand-in-hand with a promotional marketing company is a great way to focus on those two elements and achieve better value. Because promotional companies handle promotional items every day, they stay on top of new items and have knowledge of special pricing opportunities to secure higher-end items at a lower price. Above all, promotional companies should always advise you if they believe an item you want is not the best quality item and recommend alternatives to meet your needs.

Nevin is the President & CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions, a Columbus-based marketing company. Nevin enjoys working with clients, colleagues, and the community to analyze current situations, challenges and goals and develop a path to achieve better outcomes. He is an active volunteer in the business and educational community as a Board Member for the Council of Smaller Enterprises and the Fisher College of Business. Nevin has a BBA from Kent State University and an MBA from The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.