According to the Global Advertising Specialties Impression Study, an impressive 76.2% of consumers can recall the product, advertiser, and message of a promotional item they received in the last two years.

But without thoughtful consideration and a solid promotional strategy, these products can also be an evil dark sinkhole that drains your advertising budget with little to no indication of effectiveness. By looking at your nonprofit’s promotional budget as a key advertising channel and measuring, tracking, and constantly seeking to improve it, you will maximize your promotional product effectiveness.

Here are four ways to get the most out of your promotional products.

1. Plan with outcomes and metrics in mind

The key ingredient that sets successful campaigns apart from failures is proper planning. The same can be said about the use of promotional products as a marketing strategy – planning is key.

Determine desired outcomes 

What does this product need to achieve in order to be considered a worthwhile investment?”

“What impact do I hope these promotional products will have on my organization, or the community at large?”

In 2004, Livestrong’s answer to those questions might have been, “raise awareness for our organization and the fight against cancer”. Their little yellow bracelet was the means to an end for Livestrong. This ubiquitous promotional item ultimately brought in more than $70 million for the organization.

So start with the end in mind by determining the desired outcome of using promotional items. As a nonprofit organization, this can be any number of results – whether you’re looking to raise $70 million towards cancer research and awareness, or want 50 potential donors to subscribe to your monthly e-newsletter in one month. Don’t hesitate to involve stakeholders in this process to provide “big picture” context. In identifying your strategic goals and objectives, don’t be afraid to dream big and shoot for the stars — but be sure to quantify the target that you are aiming for.

Establish KPI’s

“What metrics do we need to track in order to achieve our target outcome?”

After you have identified your target objectives, determine which needles you need to move that signify success. Key performance indicators (KPI’s) help you measure results. These must be clear and actionable. They might look like:

  • Visitors to your organization’s website
  • Total donations
  • Phone numbers and emails collected
  • Phone calls to your organization
  • RSVPs to an event
  • Any other metric that indicates success

2. Align promotional product choices with your message and goals

You should have a firm understanding of your audience: build the overall campaign around reaching him/her. Determining the right promotional products and appropriate messaging for your audience will help you reach your KPI goals.

Be memorable. Be fun. Above all, be effective 

77% of consumers claim a promotional product’s usefulness is the main reason they keep it. Branded T-shirts, embroidered bags, and promotional tech products are some of the most popular items that are considered useful, however, a large part of their success comes down to the execution of the giveaway:

Interactive Promotional Content

Hand out flash drives with content that helps drive your messaging every time they use it. Informative videos or podcasts can be very effective for raising awareness of your cause, from topics like caring for a foster dog to prenatal health for expecting mothers.

Multifaceted Promotions

Offer a part of an item with the promise of the remaining parts upon further interaction. Hand out branded drink koozies at a community event or street fair with a note asking them to come by your charity’s booth or tent for a free drink. You could also mail out part of a set – such as a single branded speaker — with the promise that they will receive the mate if they take your survey, sign up for your organization’s mailing list or attend your charity function.

Promotional items as an incentive or “thanks” for participation

Use promotional products to incentivize participation or attendance for a charity event. For something like a fundraising dinner, commemorative wine or beer glasses are a great incentive for people to attend. Branded t-shirts, wristbands or water bottles can be a useful way of thanking participants at a charity race.

Promotional items as contest prizes

This is a great way to make your budget go even further by giving away higher priced items that more people may desire. It might be much easier to get 100 people’s info in return for a chance at one $100 item than it would to get 100 people’s info in return for one hundred $1 items. Plus, it’s much easier to guarantee interaction if contest entry is dependent on it. “Like and share us on Facebook to enter.” “Enter your email address” etc. This allows you to drive social engagement and future marketing opportunities.

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3. Make your calls to action trackable

“Enter Promo code XYZ987 to sign up for our mailing list and redeem your prize”

“Visit us at ____ to learn more about our cause and how you can help”

“Call this number to donate”

These are great examples of actionable calls to action (CTAs) that, with some preparation, help you get the biggest bang for your promotional product buck. CTAs can easily be imprinted onto the promo product itself or as part of its packaging.

Use unique URLs, promo codes, or phone numbers in your CTA. By setting up a custom landing page or a page redirect, you can use Google Analytics to track your page views, traffic sources, and conversions that can be attributed to a specific event or product.

Similarly, using a dedicated trackable phone number that forwards to your normal call line helps you differentiate calls from your general audience and the promotional product itself. Using unique calls to action permits you to achieve measurable results and subsequently, a needle you can push to improve your return on investment.

4. Evaluate to help with future promotional product choices

Measure your ROI

So, did it work?

It’s time to determine if we hit the target we set. Perform a post-mortem on your promotional campaign to find out if it was a success.

Collect as much data as possible and synthesize it in a manner that makes sense to your organization. Using a qualitative data approach, take a hard look to determine if the achieved results justify the resources invested (money, brain space, time, etc.). Ask close-ended questions to help you identify success based on the planning session in the beginning of the process.

“How many interactions can we track through the use of promotional products?”

“How much funding did our organization raise?”

“How many people attended our charity event due to receiving or being incentivized by our promotional item?”

“How many phone numbers, e-mails, social likes, or other forms of future marketing opportunities did we generate?

Aim to do better next time

Executing a promotional product strategy and measuring success are just the first steps! It’s time to plan your next move.

Consider what went well, what went poorly, and design a new iteration of your promotional strategy.

Make a hypothesis, test it, and shift your strategy based on your findings. As you learn what works and what doesn’t, use those findings to select promotional products for future campaigns.

Measuring and tracking only become useful if you use the data collected to improve your efforts.

Do not be afraid to discontinue the use of ineffective promo products. Your job is to cut wasted spending so you can use it on successful promotional efforts. Keep measuring. Keep tweaking. Keep improving.

If you follow these tips, I can’t promise you a grand slam on every promotional product, but I can guarantee that your promotional product efforts will become much more efficient.

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Jason Robbins

Jason Robbins

Jason Robbins is the CEO of ePromos Promotional Products, which he founded in 1998. ePromos was one of the first companies in the promotional products industry to sell products online. Jason prides himself on helping others achieve their business dreams, and does so by writing about entrepreneurship, startups, branding, trade shows and of course, promotional products and how they can successfully be used in business.
Jason Robbins
Jason Robbins

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