The following article was originally published by Print+Promo. To read more of their content, subscribe to their newsletter, Print+Promo The Press.
Promotional products distributors are experts in advertising their customers’ companies. They know how to pick a product that end-users will appreciate, place a logo or branding, and get it into the right hands. But, all of that attention to detail and drive doesn’t necessarily carry over to promoting yourself. Hyping up your customers and going all-out might be second nature, but it can feel sort of weird to do it for yourself sometimes, can’t it?
So what goes into a good self-promo for a distributor? How does the process differ from your own creative process for your outside clients? How do you get the product into the right hands and make sure it’s something that reps your brand well enough that you start receiving calls?
We spoke with Scott Thackston, director of marketing and product development for Bandanna Promotions by Caro-Line, Greenville, S.C., about his experience working with distributors creating self-promotions, and how the right product can expand your pool of customers. With Thackston’s help, we identified five keys to an effective self-promo.
1. Don’t Be Too Specific
When you’re working with an end-buyer client, they often already know who they want to receive the product, what it advertises, the desired effect, whether it corresponds to a special event and so on. Part of the distributor’s job is tightening up any details that the end-buyer might not have finalized yet. For a self-promo, though, your prospective group of end-users is a much wider audience, so you need to cast a wider net.
“It’s a little more vague usually with a self-promo,” Thackston said. “You’re going after an entire base rather than a niche market, like you would be if you have interest from an end-buyer. They’re usually more dialed-in on the use of the product or the target market, whereas a self-promo is a little more broad of scale, which gives you more opportunities.”
2. Market Yourself (and Your Products)
One of the best things about a self-promo is that it doesn’t just alert new customers to your business. It’s also a way to show existing customers a new product you might be offering.
“Self-promo basically gives you the opportunity as a distributor to be able to market yourself with a product that could be intertwined into all of your customer base,” Thackston said. “So, it gets you in front of them seeing something unique and potentially a category item that this particular end-user has never used before. [A self-promo] has two or three different layers in my opinion. One would be, of course, it’s branding the distributor. Two, it’s introducing a potential new product. And then, depending on the end-user, it could be a whole category opening up for them on how to market.”
3. Use Imprint Areas Wisely
Thackston’s forte is bandannas, which he calls “the original square of logo magic” because of all the different decoration and application opportunities. But there are a lot of lessons you can glean from the noble bandanna.
“It can technically be used in so many different areas and categories for end-users—anything from a wearable to a cheering device to just something that can be framed or saved, especially a concert or certain sporting event you go to or playing in a golf tournament,” Thackston said. “That said, it does have a very large imprint area that you can be very unique with your brand, along with different printing methods. And, in addition to that, it’s a functional item and it’s very inexpensive when it comes to printing in bulk. So, it’s a great handout for hundreds to thousands of potential buyers of that brand your end-user is promoting.”
While Thackston is talking about bandannas specifically, the lesson translates to self-promos overall. The ideal self-promo item has space for information about your business and your capabilities, it should be a product that your prospective customers will want to hang onto, it should convey what you’re capable of both in terms of product sourcing and decoration, and you should be able to produce it for a large group of people. That is, of course, if you want to appeal to a large group of potential customers.
That decoration is an audition, so to speak. If you can showcase the different design elements you’re capable of, it gets your business in front of prospects while simultaneously showing off your capabilities. If you can show off a variety of logo treatments, too, your prospects can see different options all in one place.
4. Think Digital
If you’re new to the promotional products industry as a distributor, it might be intimidating to get your name out. In ordinary circumstances, you could go to trade shows and hand out promo products for yourself. But, the last year has taught us that you need a different way to advertise yourself without relying on in-person events. Thankfully, we have the internet!
“You can send out a mass email to your customer base and say that there’s a free new product you’d like to get into [prospects’] hands, and then just have a clickable email that pops up, already pre-populated,” Thackston said. “You can send it out that way. They could have the product of the month on their website or an e-blast with that. You can also make sure that the different sales reps take these promo products already printed with their logo on it out on their sales calls, and just hand them out. There are a lot of opportunities to do it electronically now, and also promote on social media that they’ll have these new items that are available free of charge for their next event.”
This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become an Instagram influencer overnight. But combining a digital ad with the promise of new products that you’d like to send to potential customers allows you to reach a wide audience without any actual travel involved.
5. Show Yourself Off
At the end of the day, a promotional product tells a brand story. Who knows your business better than you do? Just as you’d do for your own clients, make sure your self-promo helps you put your best foot forward and offers an honest representation of yourself and your business.
“A self-promo needs to be reflective of how your brand looks, but [also] how your brand-users would potentially use this,” Thackston said. “Entice them to understand what the capabilities are of the product, not only promoting your brand that you represent in this, but additionally all of the ways that it can be used. Be creative. Don’t just get a product with a logo on it and expect a ‘wow’ factor. You have to put the little extra into the layout and design to really get it to move the needle and get more sales.”
Used with permission from Promo Marketing