The Smart Way to Use Promotional Items to Build Client Relationships

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A friend of a friend gave his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Relating this story to me, my friend wondered out loud how it was possible that his buddy was still alive.

This is the classic gift-giving mistake: gifting something that’s supposed to be practical, but comes off as too impersonal and utilitarian.

There’s another — even more common — gift-giving mistake, and that’s giving something that you would want to receive.

I suppose that sometimes our intentions aren’t all that terrible. We think that if it’s something we would want, others should feel the same way.

I also suspect that sometimes we believe that since we are close to the person receiving the gift, that we’ll get to enjoy it or use it as well, so it’s almost like giving the gift to ourselves.

Small business promo gifts

And this brings me around to a common small business gift giving error: Giving important customers or clients gifts that are all about promoting ourselves, and nothing about those who are receiving the gifts.

While promotional giveaways may seem like a great idea, you need to think about the message you’re sending and the results you want to achieve.

I’m not against handing out promotional items or sending them to clients or prospects, like gimme hats (You know, “Gimme one of them hats!”), calendars, magnets or ballpoint pens, but there are times when these kinds of promotional merchandise are not appropriate.

Think about the trade shows that you’ve attended. If you’re like most of us, you occasionally navigate up and down the aisles just looking for the promotional giveaways that are sitting on the counters. You grab a handful, stick them in a tote bag you’ve picked up at one of the booths and continue on your merry way.

The logos on these promotional products will remind you of the companies that offered them, but only in the most minimal of ways. This brings us to the crucial question of how you should weigh the merits of incentive gifts:

Do you only want to remind a client of your business in “the most minimal of ways” or do you want to make a big, lasting impression?

ROI of promotional goods

I suspect that when it comes to important clients, you want to make a big, lasting impressions. If that’s the case — even though we’re talking about promotional merchandise as incentive gifts — you need to go back to rule number one of gift giving: It has to be about the recipient.

In other words, don’t be like people who select gifts according to what they want; your gifts should be items that those people will treasure. In the grand scheme of things they are “promotional giveaways” but only in the sense that you have shown your appreciation for a person by taking the time and expense to select a valuable and lasting gift.

Instead of printing your logo on something, why not print the logo of the recipient’s company? Or the recipient’s name, or initials? Make it about the person receiving the gift, and in the long run you will enjoy more value out of your investments in promotional merchandise.

Finally, if you’re trying to improve your company’s position with some major clients, don’t be a penny pincher. Think for a moment how much you would spend to entertain these clients. Perhaps you occasionally take them to dinner or to sporting events. Those can be costly promotional outings and when they’re over, they’re over.

However, some high-quality products that you can give away as promo gifts will last for years. Over time, your investment has the potential to pay for itself many times over.

For more small business marketing tips, you can read more of Susan’s posts here.

About the Author: Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert. Sign up for Susan’s Success Tips Newsletter and get your free copy of “Smart Marketing Strategies for Small Biz” ebook.

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