The 5 W's of Promotional Products

There’s a difference between knowing who your customers are and understanding why they behave the way they do. Whether you’re a veteran or a novice in the promotional products industry, it’s always worth taking a moment to review the reasons behind your customers’ actions, so you can anticipate their needs and remain a step ahead of the competition. But before you dive into the puzzling web of consumer behavior, you need to identify the five critical questions that shine a light on the customer buying cycle:

Who buys promotional products?

 What kinds of products do they buy?

Where do they find the products they want?

When are they more likely to buy these products?

Why did they decide to buy them in the first place?

Who and What?

The first rule of successful sales is quite elementary – you have to know who you are selling to. You don’t have to go into the personal details of your clients’ lives, but having a broad overview of the industry they operate in, as well as knowing their investment preferences can weigh in on the probability of repeat sales potential and customer retention. According to the PPAI 2017 Buyer Study, out of 400 U.S. professionals in a media buying role, 96% of them actively buy promotional products, with 60% of them representing the B2B market, and 30% of them catering to the B2C market.

This data gives us perspective on the specific audience-based purchasing habits of promotional products buyers. For instance, B2B professionals are generally motivated by logic and reason, with their branding strategy expanding on areas of relationship building. Therefore, they will be more inclined to purchase corporate gifts and practical items that can appeal to their business market. On the other hand, B2C professionals are motivated by emotional investments and opt for a more transactional branding approach. Their buying habits may include more giveaways and incentive-oriented product options that will appeal to a larger audience.

Where and When?

A typical promotional products business is not what it was a mere 20 years ago. The mediums of advertising alone have gone from print catalogs, to broadcast channels and now have firmly landed in the hands of digital media. Modern-day consumers have access to advanced technology that gives them the option of scouting competition and exhausting all options before making an informed decision. On average, more than half of buyers (59%) will use between two and three sources to purchase promotional products (PPAI, 2017).

A detailed analysis of brands’ promotional products purchasing habits shows that:

  • 50% use distributors as their main source of promotional products.
  • 54% use full-service companies with a promotional products division.
  • 59% go directly online to purchase their promotional products.

Now is more important than ever before to have a strong and reputable web presence. Before your customers will pick up the phone to inquire about your offering, they will search your company name and judge your branding potential based on the quality of your website. If you don’t yet have an established online presence or want to revamp your site to bring in more customers, take a look at SAGE Websites. With plentiful customization options, and modern, full-width layouts, you will have no trouble finding a virtual headquarters that fits your audience.

Even though our industry has been growing exponentially over the past few years, promotional products are still considered a niche marketing tool for many businesses. Nearly 43% of agencies involved with promotional products advertising report their work as project-based, demonstrating a need-based buying process (PPAI, 2017).  Media buyers in this category are driven by a specific need and usually have a locked in a relationship with their distributor of choice.


There are many reasons why media buying professionals bring promotional products into their marketing mix, most of them attributing their power of advocating brand recall and reputation resonance. An impressive 96% of buyers believe promotional products are an effective form of advertising, and their use of promotional products  falls under the top 5 most useful marketing strategies (PPAI, 2017):

  • Generate reviews (91%)
  • Generate referrals (90%)
  • Spark word of mouth (90%)
  • Customer acquisition (89%)
  • Motivate behaviors (87%)

As you can see, most of these strategies don’t yield same-day ROI, and rather point to the long-term success of the buyers’ businesses. Companies these days are busy mapping customer experience programs that can increase their satisfaction, and ultimately generate more reviews, referrals, brand awareness, and customer retention.

What Next?

We are living in the age of the consumer, no longer the age of the seller. When you don’t just knowyour customer but are able to understand their goals and concerns, you can tailor your messaging to adhere to their goals and provide them with products that are a perfect fit for their business. Consider the following questions a quick entrance exam to each prospect customer:

  1. How did you hear about my business?
  2. Have you worked with promotional products in the past?
  3. What does your immediate audience look like?
  4. Who else are you comparing my business to?
  5. What is your acquisition timeline?
  6. What is your budget?
  7. What will it take to win your business?
  8. Do you have concerns (if any) about this transaction?

Your customers want to achieve a certain outcome with their purchase and focus mainly on their business priorities. When you’re aware of their concerns, you can easily connect the dots by outlining advantage outcomes to them doing business with your distributorship. As the B2B industry gets further saturated with more vendors offering similar products, being able to clearly articulate your value to the customer will be the key factor that separates you from the rest.





6 Things You're Missing Out on by Not Using Promotional Products


Promotional products aren’t just for niche industry operations. Whether you are a small organization looking to grow your business, or an established company wanting to reach a new market, a product branded with your company name and logo is the most cost-effective way to promote your hallmark. Here are six things your business is missing out on if promotional products aren’t a part of your marketing mix:

Reaching a broader market

When you give away a promotional product, it’s not just the recipient that sees your message. Your audience widens to family members, friends, coworkers, passersby, and anybody who happens to catch a glimpse of your gift. While your main concern should be marketing to your target audience, it doesn’t hurt that promotional products are extremely mobile and can reach audiences to which you’ve never marketed. Promotional products also give you more visibility compared to other advertising mediums. TV ads get fast-forwarded through. Magazine ads get flipped through without hardly a glance. Only promotional products provide a conscious, interactive experience for your marketing message.

A more positive brand image

Creating a positive brand image doesn’t happen overnight—you need to consistently shape your customers’ opinions over the years by delivering what they need and driving home your message with promotional products. Research shows promotional products create a more favorable impression of the advertiser 42 percent of the time. Establish goodwill by associating your brand with charitable or community events by handing out promotional products to highlight your company and its positive involvement.

Happier customers

Happy customers buy and come back. Hand out promotional products to make a situation right (an order mishap or long wait time, for example), or simply give them as a freebie to thank customers for their business. Receiving a gift makes people feel special and shows customers their business is valued and appreciated. Besides, everybody loves a freebie.

Higher direct mail response rates

For direct mail campaigns, bulky is best. Stuff a small, lightweight promotional product in your envelope to boost open rates. Not only will recipients be more likely to open your mail piece, but they will also have a more positive impression of your company and will appreciate the free gift. This is particularly effective if the promotional product you include is useful to them, so try to match products to your target market.

Soak up the buzz

Every business owner wants their company to be talked about (in a positive way, of course) and to drive more sales by word of mouth. Giving out promotional products is a powerful way to attract attention to your brand. This is especially true at tradeshows, where exhibitors are battling to attract attendees to visit their booths. There’s nothing like a cool freebie to break the ice with potential customers and engage them in conversation. Plus, they’re more likely to listen to your marketing pitch because you just gave them a gift.

Making a lasting impression

If your promotional product is useful or appealing to recipients, they’ll keep it and use it. Fifty-three percent of people use a promotional product at least once per week, meaning it gets repeated impressions from both the person using it and anyone who sees that person using it. Repetition is key to remembering a message. By handing out promotional products, you’re giving your audience repeated exposure to your brand, helping them remember your company and what it’s about.


Are you already using promotional products to market your business? If so, share your successes in the comments below. We are always looking for good ideas to share with the community!