Operate A Promotional Products Business

Coffee mugs and pens are among the most recognizable promotional products.

The purpose of promotional products is to encourage recall in prospects and previous customers. Promotional products can include such things as hats, T-shirts, pens, coffee mugs and bags. This is an advertising strategy that dates back to the first letter press technology in the 1450s. With an increasingly crowded marketplace on and offline, it can be a profitable business model for those who can produce promotional products.


Setting Up the Business

1. Develop a business plan by highlighting how you will produce promotional products cost effectively; how you will market to businesses who want to buy promotional products; and how you will gradually expand your business. Determine who your ideal customers would be and provide the products and services they need.

2. Choose the promotional products you will sell. In the book “The Power of Promotional Products,” Maria Carlton and David Blaise write that the most effective products are calendars, diaries, desk pads and wall planners “Calendars have been a perennial favorite because of their interactive nature, usefulness, and the likelihood that they’ll be seen by recipients on a daily basis.”

3. Create a unique business name. Search through the U.S. trademark office database to ensure you don’t choose a trademarked name. Register the business entity with your local municipality. Choose a sole proprietorship if you will run the business alone. You can also register as a limited liability company to reduce your personal liability. If you have business partners, register as a partnership. Register as a corporation if you want to eliminate all personal responsibility.

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4. Find a storage facility to store the products you will sell. Search classifieds, online publications and Realtors to find warehouse locations if you plan to emboss, monogram or screen print on the products within your own facility. If you plan to outsource the production, schedule interviews to speak with possible candidates.

5. Purchase equipment. If you are doing the embossing in house, you will need to purchase equipment such as screen-printing presses, dye, foil stampers and embossing machines. Purchase in bulk from wholesalers the products you will sell such as hats, mugs, etc.

6. Hire employees familiar with working with the equipment. Also hire graphic designers to ensure the products look professional. List the jobs you will need to have completed. To recruit employees, post help-wanted ads in local classifieds. Screen the resumes and narrow down your top candidates. In the article “Recruiting, Interviewing And Hiring,” Bob Schultz writes: “It’s also important at this point to look for a PHD attitude, which stands for “poor, hungry and driven.”

Promoting the Business

7. Create an online catalogue with the products you will sell. Include examples of products with your own company logo on them so prospective customers will see what their purchases may look like.

8. Print a physical catalogue that can be sent to decision makers. Print in full color. Organize similar products on the same page to maximize space.

9. Create a list of potential customers. Send them your print brochures along with an introductory letter. Follow up with a phone call. Cold call other prospects, and tell them about your business. Ask if they would be interested in receiving your catalogue.

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10. Create a presentation for businesses that need a little more push than a catalogue. In “The Adams Businesses You Can Start Almanac,” Katina Jones writes: “There is quite a lot of competition in this field… develop a presentation focused on each client’s distinctive needs and expectations. You give them several appealing options, and you carry out the detailed ordering and delivery process.”

Day-to-Day Operations

11. Develop a system for day-to-day operations, including how your sales team should handle inbound and outbound calls. After closing the deal, they should transfer the call to your design team. From there, transfer the designs to a proofreading team. Allow your proofreading team to contact the customer for final approval before items go into production. Stick to operations procedures.

12. Establish a shipping and receiving system. For materials you receive from clients, such as trademarks and logos, develop a system that notates the receipt and keeps track of the items throughout the printing process.

13. Complete projects on time. Correct any mistakes your employees make, and consume the expense. Don’t force your customers to pay for your mistakes.

14. Send a “thank you” note and incentive offer after projects are complete to encourage future business. For any clients who are more trouble than their money is worth, add them to a database so your employees know to never accept their business again.