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Clients like promotional gifts, especially when they can use the by Perkal

Specialty advertising is a growing industry because promotional gifts enhance both employee performance and customer loyalty. Vending and OCS operators are in a great position to cash in.

What can you do that is new and exciting to promote your company this year? Any business must have a solid marketing program to thrive in the fiercely competitive world that we operate in. Of course, "marketing" may mean coldly knocking on doors, telemarketing (which is quickly becoming very restricted, due to new laws), relying on that invaluable referral from a loyal client, or, some combination of the above.

You may even utilize trade show exhibiting, or other methods, such as Yellow Pages, newspaper, radio or direct mail. All of these can be effective, but are very costly means for the hopes of getting your telephone to ring, particularly because they target the masses, rather than your finely tuned, intended prospect audience, such as, manufacturers with 200-plus employees.

However you choose to grow your company, your marketing plan should include the use of promotional items, both as gifts to employees and customers, and as a means of building your company's identity in the market you serve.

You can place your company name, logo or advertising message on virtually thousands of items. Consider a logo embroidered polo shirt for your route drivers to add a clean, up-to-date professional image of your company. This is a subtle, but critical, factor in building a reputation in the community. The nuts-and-bolts of using promotional products could be a note cube with your logo on four sides and a slogan on each sheet. It is a functional item that will be reached for on your prospect's desk hundreds of times, and for only pennies per impression!

Coffee mugs work every time

During my tenure as an operator, coffee mugs were effective at spreading my message, particularly because I heavily promoted OCS. In the 1980s and 1990s, ceramic was popular, if not the only choice! Now, trendy stainless, classy copper, heavy-duty acrylic, and glass, along with an even wider choice of ceramic drinkwear styles are available from a variety of sources. Once you select a mug design ... get creative! Fill it with a fraction pack of coffee or gourmet chocolate. Promotion item suppliers can even finish it off with an attractive ribbon, or add a bulk candy fill.

For a client that you want to show special appreciation to, consider a sleek roller-ball pen set, with your company name (or their name!) laser engraved on it. The beautiful thing about a nice gift, such as this, is you can often produce as few as two dozen at a time. The recipient, however, will remember your thoughts for years to come. After all, you want your operation to be top-of-mind for them.

Magnetic clips make a statement

The effective use of promotional products is only limited by one's imagination. As an example, one machine manufacturer used a heavy-duty, magnetic Power Clip for a recent NAMA show. It serves multiple purposes. It is sharp looking, in metallic gold or silver, or several translucent colors (perhaps to match your corporate colors!), with a rubber grip. Best of all, it carried the logo of Crane Merchandising Systems imprinted on it to promote their new SureVend system.

It may sound great so far; however, one of the defining factors in choosing a promotional program is longevity. The Power Clip may likely find itself inside a new machine to hold service histories or drivers' notes, etc. It could also, very likely, be on an office file cabinet ... for years, or even on a break room refrigerator, still displaying the same message.

If you're looking for some terrific ways to get your company name in front of the right prospects in 2003, consider putting your logo, unique message, or company name and telephone number on something handy and useful, and possibly, fun! For a minimal investment, and a non-dated (can be used anytime) promotional product, consider:

* Shirts

* Writing instruments

* Outdoors/fun Items/awards

* Caps

* Note pads/cubes

* Mugs/drinkwear

* Jackets

* Mouse pads

* Tools (very handy pocket screwdriver)

* Bags

* Computer/desk items

* Food gifts (popular at holidays)

* Stress reliever shapes

* Key holders

* Electronics gifts (from $2.00 and up)

* Golf essentials

* Calendars

If you have a specific concept, for which you are seeking help, pick up the telephone and call a promotional products expert for ideas. These promotion professionals normally use a database to source and cross-reference hundreds of thousands of products available, both domestically and overseas, all customized with your logo or message. If your needs demand, for example, only union-made products, this requirement can be accommodated as well.

Specialty advertising is healthy

The specialty advertising industry is not immune to general business conditions. The industry declined 5.5 percent in 2002 from 2001, but this was much less than advertising as a whole in 2002.

More importantly, 2002 marked the first decline for specialty advertising in more than a decade.

When you are considering looking at a marketing program using customized promotional products, a final suggestion is to always examine a physical sample before selecting any item. You want to be certain that a catalog image properly depicts an actual hands-on piece that your client will receive.

Vendors can tap suppliers for specialty

I advertising help "Thousands of dollars are lost each year from missed co branding opportunities," said Rick Mann, president of Lasting Image, based in Sinking Spring, Pa. He has seen success in the vending channel combining an operator's logo with a manufacturer's logo. "A coffee mug is a good place to start because there is a lot of copy space for both companies." Mann suggested that the co-branding Companies split the cost of the promotional item.

The main thing to keep in mind when thinking of promotional items is what message needs to be conveyed or what problem needs to be solved. "lf a vending company has a problem with motivating the route guys, we can help," said Mann. Such things like free t-shirts or hats go a long way in company morale.

Another use for promotional items is to set up a rewards program. He has seen success with these programs where the client earns points for products from catalogs. Another option is a step program where clients get free coffee mugs on the first step, then a free picnic lunch for all the employees on the next level.

This article was published on Saturday 05 April, 2008.

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