Promo products for businessI sometimes get the question- can I write off all these old “blanks” that we bought to give away but never did?

Usually the question comes while the business owner is pointing to a stack of old boxes filled with T-shirts that say “Have a Great Summer-2008” or chipped and broken coffee cups with the old phone number on them or the stack of Frisbees that have “Smith & Son” on them but the son has since moved out of town…

Well, you can’t “write them off” in your bookkeeping because they were already an expense when you bought them in the first place.

But you can avoid wasting your time and money on promotional items that don’t really help you market your business.

Promotional items can be a nice way to get your name out or keep in front of clients who may want to use your services again, but that only applies if the item makes sense for your business and fits with your goal.

Many people get the same old items: pens, coffee mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads as everyone else but don’t really think through what they are trying to achieve or who they are giving these things to in the first place.

I came up with some general ideas that I use to guide myself when investing in this type of marketing.

If you have any more ideas, by all means post them in the comments section!

Here are my ten suggestions for making sure your promo item budget is well spent and provides a decent ROI for the effort:

  1. To make it memorable, try and get something that ties in with your business, or that will last for more than one use.
  2. Don’t order more than you will use in a reasonable time frame and try to avoid using a message that expires or is time sensitive so it can’t be reused or given away after a specific event.
  3. If you promote something with a partner company, you can share the cost but still get the same value.
  4. Decide on the purpose upfront- to get your name out, as a thank you, to increase sales, and then pick the item type accordingly.
  5. Don’t forget to factor shipping and design costs into your budget when figuring costs.
  6. Apparel doesn’t have to just be for give away purposes- you can outfit your employees in custom t-shirts or polo shirts to give them a more professional feel for a relatively small cash outlay, and it may help drive additional business if any of your employees work out in public.
  7. Don’t forget to include a phone number and your website along with your name on whatever you buy.
  8. Spending a little more to get something unique may be worth it if it creates a buzz and gets people talking about your item.
  9. Calendars can work well if your business inspires unique photo images, but don’t get more than you can give away since obviously calendars are worthless after the end of February or so.
  10. If you have a popular logo or slogan, you can make some extra money and generate free advertising by putting the image on t-shirts and stickers and selling or giving them away to customers likely to show them off. You’ll know this is the case if people start asking you where they can get your shirts!