Who doesn’t like promo items? Stopping by a booth at a trade show or getting a bunch of cool stuff when your favorite client or business partner stops by is always fun. We all like getting them. What I like even more is ordering them for our company… but is there a rhyme or reason for making assorted promo items work effectively for marketing? There should be.

Often times, when there is some unused marketing budget burning a hole in our pockets, we go online and order the cool promo item we saw at the last Chamber mixer without thinking about whether it truly fits our company and strategy. Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of 500 rubber chickens and have no idea what to do with them! Wasted space, wasted inventory, and wasted budget.

So, how can you prevent something like this from happening? It’s simple, really: Have a strategy. Last week, CharTec hosted its first ever Marketing Lab and had a big show and tell and discussion about promo items. What we were using and what our partners were using. We found a common trend: A bunch of promo items that had no connection to each other, the brand, or what we were trying to sell.

For example, stress balls serve as great promo items, but if our techs see them, they engage in an all-out stress ball war! Plus, how many stress balls does one company really need? Yes, we know they come in many cool shapes and sizes, but you probably don’t need one of each. How stressed can you possibly be before a stress ball won’t do the trick?

Pens and pencils are common go-to items; but it seems that if we take them to a trade show, we always have a group of people who will (what it seems like) stock up on school supplies for their children from all of the vendors’ swag.

So, what should you do for promo items that are not only going to be cost effective, but also serve an efficient purpose for your marketing efforts? Make sure your promo items stay consistent with your current brand and image. You may have a random promo item or two that doesn’t match overall; however, know that they may be associated with a certain campaign.

As examples, our personal favorites are promo items for internal events. One of our programs for our MSP is Tech Bites, which is held in our small training room over lunch time. In terms of promo items, we selected cool mouse pads for each of the computer systems the attendees use and Tech Bites chocolate bars. We also recently hosted a client appreciation barbecue. We themed the barbecue “Step into Summer,” so we selected ARRC fans and sunglasses to give to each attendee. The goal was fun connections to our overall event themes and purposes.

Bottom line, make sure you have a plan for your promo items, don’t just get excited and buy the first promo item that you see! Make a plan and have a purpose for the promos. Make them exclusive so not everyone gets one, or make them work for a full promo item. For example, mail an RC Car to prospects and make them set an appointment to get the remote for it (Note: this campaign does not work nearly as well in reverse. Let’s face it. Remotes are not that sexy.)