Definition of Promotional Materials

by Anam Ahmed ; Updated July 27, 2018
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Businesses of all sizes and in all industries use promotional materials to increase sales and attract customers. Promotional materials are used to make a business stand out from its competitors and to engage the target audience. While promo materials can come in a variety of mediums, they usually contain the business logo and can be directly linked to sales of the product or service. Both new and existing customers benefit from promotional marketing. New customers get an incentive to try a product or service they have not bought before, while existing customers build brand loyalty by utilizing a promotional offer.

Looking at Promotional Material within Marketing

Promotional materials are a part of the larger marketing strategy of a business. Organizations can utilize many different marketing vehicles in addition to promotional materials to meet their business goals. The marketing mix, as it’s often referred to, consists of different elements such as print and online advertising, public relations, direct mail, social media, events, sponsorship and personal selling.

Promotional materials can fit into any one of the marketing mix mediums. For example, if a business is offering a dollar-off coupon to their customers, they may tell their customers about this promotion through an advertising campaign. Similarly, they may post about this incentive through their social media channels and may mention it during one-on-one sales calls. When it comes to promotional merchandise, businesses often hand out the merchandise at sponsorship events, conferences and trade shows. They can also be mailed out through a direct mail campaign.

As a result, promotional materials and merchandise work in harmony with the other elements of a marketing campaign. By utilizing different aspects of the marketing mix together, small businesses can reach their sales goals more effectively.

Understanding the Different Types of Promo Materials

There are a number of different types of promotional materials, ranging from print or online coupons to mugs and notebooks. Print collateral, such as flyers, posters, postcards and brochures, is one kind of promotional product that small businesses use to attract new customers. These low-cost items are a great way to provide information about your company to customers with whom you speak in person. This is also a great way to help your potential customers remember how they can contact you and what they can purchase from you. Many small businesses that attend trade shows or industry events bring print collateral with them to hand out to their prospects.

For example, if a small business specializes in creating handcrafted baby toys, they may create promo materials like business cards and flyers that include their company name and logo, key differentiators about their products and contact information. These promotional materials can also include information on how the customer can purchase their toys.

Another kind of promotional material is coupons. This is a common way to incentivize customers to make a purchase and is used by both big and small businesses. Coupons can be sent online through direct email marketing or online newsletters. They can also be available on an e-commerce website at checkout. Coupons can be sent to customers in print through snail mail as well. Another way to distribute print coupons is in person through your retail location or at industry events. Promotional coupons can offer a percentage or dollar amount off the price of a product or service or offer a deal such as “buy one, get one free.”

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In the case of the small business that makes handcrafted baby toys, they may attract their existing customers through their email marketing efforts by offering a 25 percent off coupon digitally. In order to attract new customers, they can develop a promotion where an existing customer receives an additional discount if he forwards the coupon to a friend. Another strategy for attracting new business with coupons is to place print coupons in high-traffic areas where their prospects are located. In this case, the small business can create a partnership with a local daycare to place a stack of coupons in the lobby, where parents of babies and young children will undoubtedly see them.

Marketing swag, often referred to as tchotchkes, is one of the most common kinds of promotional products businesses use to incentivize customers. Promotional merchandise contains the logo of the company and is given out for free to prospects and customers as part of marketing communications campaigns. Swag is handed out in person at industry events, trade shows, conferences, customer meetings and anywhere there is in-person interaction between the business and its customers and prospects.

This promotional merchandise can range from small items, such as pens, USB keys and notepads, to larger products such as sweatshirts and hats. Companies are now also utilizing mobile apps in their promotional materials and bringing the swag experience online. The goal of this movement is to increase the opportunities to engage with their customers and prospects. Through a mobile app extension, for example, businesses can gain new ways to learn about their customers and offer further promotions in return. An example of a promotional product that includes an app is a smart Bluetooth finder that helps customers keep track of their important items, such as their phone and their keys. Not only is this app useful, it's also a great way for the business to continue to stay top-of-mind with the customer.

While not all small businesses will be able to develop an app as part of a promotional giveaway, they can certainly utilize promotional products in other ways. In the case of the small business that makes handcrafted baby toys, they may choose to develop a reusable tote bag with their logo on it. They can then use it for the customers' purchases and give it to them for free as a thank you. In addition, they can use the tote bag as a giveaway at trade shows. The tote bag is something their customers or prospects may use on a regular basis, which will help to make that business memorable.

Developing a Promotional Marketing Strategy

Like any marketing vehicle, it’s important to develop a strategy to ensure you hit your objectives and meet your sales targets. Before deciding what kind of promotional products you will use, figure out what you want the goal of your campaign to be. Do you want to sell more products or services to new customers or do you want to build more loyalty among your existing customers? Do you want to sell more units or do you want to increase profitability? By figuring out the answers to these kinds of questions, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of promotional material you need. This will also help you to decide how you’ll distribute your promo products.

If the baby toy small business wants to increase profitability for each unit they sell, then using coupons as a promotional vehicle may not be the best strategy for them. If they offer a discount on each unit, they will likely decrease the profit margin on their toys. Instead, they may choose to use promotional merchandise, such as a reusable tote bag, to entice more sales. If they offer the tote bag for free with each toy purchased, they may increase the number of toys sold. In addition, if they offer the tote bag for free without purchase, they may attract new customers and existing loyal customers alike.

Benefits of Promotional Merchandise

Promo materials have many benefits. One of the major ones is cost, which resonates with many small businesses. Promotional merchandise is generally lower cost than other forms of marketing, such as print and online advertising. While it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to create an advertising campaign, printing promotional materials often only costs a small fraction of that amount. Many organizations also purchase promo products in bulk and use it throughout several marketing campaigns to save on development costs.

Promotional merchandise helps make the company or product memorable. Studies have shown that organizations that use promotional items have a better chance of being remembered by their customers. It’s a great way to increase brand awareness and get people to see your company name and logo. In addition, if the promotional product your business is offering is useful for your customers, they are likely to see your company name and logo multiple times.

Unlike some forms of marketing, promotional products can often be directly linked to sales. Coupons, for example, are a great way to see the return on your promotional campaign investment because they are directly tied to sales. By printing your company name and logo on promotional swag, you provide your prospects and customers with inspiration to reach out to you. If the prospects of the small business that makes handcrafted baby toys received one of their branded tote bags at a trade show, they may be more likely to buy a toy from that company simply because they are now more familiar with them.

Creating Promotional Products

There are a few different ways to create your promotional materials. Depending on your business and the kinds of materials you need, you may be able to do some of the development in house. If your small business employs someone with graphic design skills, you can create a graphic with your logo and company name. If you’re planning on making print materials, such as business cards or flyers, this is something else you may be able to design in house.

When it comes to printing your promotional products, you can go to a local print shop to print out your files, or you can use an online printing company instead. Online printing companies often provide bulk discounts and free shipping, and they may have some promotional offers of their own that you can utilize. Local print shops may also offer bulk discounts. One of the main benefits of using a local print shop besides helping the local economy is that you can see your promo materials in person. You can touch and feel the paper and select the quality you feel works with your business’s requirements. Another benefit of using a local print shop is that you have the opportunity to develop a partnership with another company in the neighborhood, which can be beneficial to your business.

If you’re printing your logo on tchotchkes instead, there are also local and online companies that offer the development of these promotional products. These businesses often have a large catalog of promotional materials that they stock, ranging in style, price and color. You can look through the catalog to find an item that works within your budget and fits within your marketing campaign. Once you’ve selected the item, you can negotiate a bulk discount or another incentive. When purchasing large amounts of promotional merchandise, be sure to consider the amount of space you will need to store it. While 5,000 pencils may not take up too much room in your office, 5,000 backpacks may be more than your business can store at one time.

Increasing Sales with Promotional Materials

When used effectively, promotional materials can create a memorable experience for your prospects and customers and incentivize them to purchase from your business. Remember to develop a strategy before creating any promotional materials and ensure that it fits in with your organization’s overall marketing strategy. Track the use of your promotional products so you’re aware of when they are being handed out and to whom, so that you can calculate your return on investment effectively.

About the Author

Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.

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