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Promotional Products: Are You a Hoarder?

Updated on June 3, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a promotional products expert and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business.

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They're called promotional giveaways because—duh!—they're given away. That sounds obvious. But I can't tell you how many times I've run into customers and colleagues, especially small business owners, who hoard promotional products. This doesn't save money; it can actually waste money.

Are you guilty, too? Let's look at some examples...

Learn More About Buying and Using Promotional Products

Untrained, Undistributed and Unsuccessful

Was chatting with a customer in November about their year-end promotional product supply purchases. He mentioned that they still had a lot of calendars left over from the current year. What? They still had this year's calendars sitting around? We were working on their order for NEXT year already.

So at a buck or two a pop, if they still had stacks left, they would be throwing out up to a couple hundred dollars in the trash. Not only that, the undistributed calendars didn't help them obtain any additional sales. So they could have been losing a whole lot more.

What was happening? My customer explained that they needed to do a better job of training their counter personnel to distribute the items to customers, especially a time-dated item like a calendar. Calendars can most effectively be distributed starting in the fourth quarter of the calendar year through the first quarter of the upcoming year. But beyond that, it's not that appropriate, except for maybe new customers who come on board through the year. In that case it helps put these new folks on track for the remainder of the year and gives them a preview of the goodies they can expect to receive in the future.

Help for Hoarding: Set up specific procedures for customer contact personnel who will be distributing items in their normal working day. These procedures would include:

  • Who should receive them.
  • How many items they should receive.
  • When the items should be given.
  • When the items should be removed from distribution and display areas.
  • How to dispose of the items if necessary.

Source

You are NOT the Office Supply Store (Even if You Are)

On the other side of the distribution spectrum—and another training problem—are the "generous" customer contact personnel who give handfuls of promotional giveaways to customers and prospects with little understanding or regard for the impact on the company's financials. One warehouse distribution customer joked that his customers considered his company their "office supply store" for pens, notepads, etc. Ugh! This mass exodus of promotional items would not be appropriate even if the business was an office supply!

Business owners whose customer contact personnel hand out promo willy-nilly sometimes try to counter the bleeding by restricting distribution to the point of hoarding. Employees become skittish about handing out anything and think they're doing a good thing by not distributing. This results in boxes of unused and unproductive marketing investment sitting in a storeroom.

Help for Hoarding: Again, this is a training problem in that customer contact personnel are not properly informed as to whom, how many and when giveaways should be given away. Using the guidelines in the above example applies here, too.

Remember, many promos, particularly food items and pens, have a shelf life and will need to be discarded if not used. It also becomes a green issue when unused promotions need to be trashed unnecessarily. The following video explains more about shelf life issues.

Learn More About Promotional Products Shelf Life

Trade Show Trash and Dash

A similar problem happens at trade shows. Booth personnel don't want to take the time to pack and ship the promotional products back home. They're just anxious to escape the show floor to go party or go home. This is similar to the office supply problem just discussed, though the motivations for the behavior are different.

So these booth folks stuff handfuls of swag into the promotional tote bags of anyone within arm-shot of the booth. Worse is if instead of giving the items out, they trash the items with the garbage. Dollars out the door! The landfill then becomes the unwilling hoarder of a valuable promotional investment.

Help for Hoarding: Again, this is a training problem. Booth personnel, whether currently on staff or hired temporarily for working onsite, need to be trained to recognize who is eligible to receive promotional items, as well as when and how they should be given and/or displayed. Post-show handling, shipping instructions and packing materials should be provided. Designating a representative to supervise the distribution and handling will help with the accounting and accountability for these promotions.

Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It was nice to see you in the video. You have a lovely smile. As for the article, right on as always. I can't imagine the guy with the calendars having hundreds left over...what a waste of money.

      Thanks for the practical help. Have a great Sunday!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Howdy, billybuc! Aw, thanks for the kind comments on the video. :) I can't imagine people wasting promo investments either. But have seen it happen too many times. Happy Sunday to you, too! (It's sunny, but cold, here in Chi-town. We'll take that any day!)

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I loved this hub and the video. Funny you should mention calendars as those are the one thing I like to receive as a promotional item and this year, the companies that usually give them out to us at work didn't...until last week. I can't imagine having these in stock the following year. What a waste!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      As with any other element of business, it's important to be strategic with how you use promotional items, else it's money down the sink. At the company I used to work for, they had an enormous supply closet with promotional items -- from polo shirts to computer bags to balloons. Many of the items had an old company logo on them and had to be trashed, or the item was no longer technologically wise (e.g., lots of calling cards). It sure was a shame.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Elizabeth/epbooks! I STILL love physical calendars even though I use my e-calendar for appointments. I'm definitely not alone. Glad to see that the company who uses 'em actually did hand them out during the 1st quarter. Better in your hands than in their storage closet! BTW, our 2014 animal shelter foundation calendar featuring adopted animals was a huge success & we're doing it again for 2015. Have a lovely week ahead!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Yes, FlourishAnyway, it is a horrible shame when promotional items have to be trashed. Some companies donate them to charities or schools since they are still usable. But some companies worry about having their old branding in circulation and trash them anyway. This really highlights the need to really plan these buys. Saves money and the brand. Thanks so much for adding your insight to the conversation! Cheers!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and thanks for sharing. Voting up and sharing ;also wishing you a great day.

      Eddy.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Monday, Eiddwen! Thanks for reading and sharing. You have a great week ahead, too!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi heidi, what a great video! nice to see you 'face to face' so to speak! I remember when we had promotionals at work, what a nightmare! yes I totally understand about the calendars! and it seems that unless someone has their heart in what they do they definitely try to get rid of, throw away or whatever all the products. just a small amount, no boredom and the interest is still there, nell

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Aw, thanks, Nell Rose, for the kind comments! Yep, promotional goodies can be quite a management hassle and expense. Have to be chosen and used carefully. Have a lovely week!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      What a waste of money and business opportunity. Some serious thinking needs to be done by these guys!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Totally agree, rajan jolly! Just makes me cringe when I see people trashing promotional items and wasting money. They'd be better off not buying anything until they have their distribution plans in good order. Thanks so much for jumping into the conversation! Have a great day!

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