When it comes to promotional
items, “so little time is spent thinking about them, yet
so much money is spent on them,” says Marty Bear,
president of Professional Marketing Services Inc. in Fairfield,
Conn. “Everyone uses them,” he adds, “but very few people get
how to buy them.”
Following are tips for selecting and ordering those ubiquitous
custom-made items that keep a company’s name in the limelight, help
orient attendees and provide a keepsake from a particular
Choose a vendor
Only about 10 percent of promotional-product distributors (PPDs)
specialize in providing goods for meetings, according to Bear. To
find a good supplier, Bear and other marketing experts suggest the
Look for meetings know-how. Find a company that
works with meeting planners all the time. These companies usually
exhibit at meetings industry gatherings. Also, ask other meeting
planners for recommendations.
Some of the benefits of using good, meetings-focused PPDs:
" They know the details and pricing of their catalogs, as well
as what is in stock.
" When dealing with gifts or prizes, they will ask whether to
send them to the meeting or to recipients’ homes.
" They offer quick turnaround times. Once-standard turnarounds
of up to 120 days are not acceptable in today’s faster-moving
" They provide proofs of the product for your approval before it
goes into production.
" They have a good system of tracking items, and they guarantee
" They understand the narrow window of time through which they
can send items to a hotel or convention center. Too early, and the
venue will not want to store the items; too late and, well, it’s
" They can demonstrate good value. This is not about who can
offer the cheapest price, but who provides high-quality products
with efficient and comprehensive service.
" They understand transactional issues such as drayage.
" They are willing to pre-stuff the tote bags with registration
information for large conventions.
" They have proven capabilities for processing digital
Search out innovation. There aren’t a lot of
truly innovative items nowadays, says Bear, so try to find a
company that concentrates on discovering interesting new products.
Keep in mind, of course, that innovation ultimately is less
important than consistency and reliability.
Investigate fulfillment. Ask if the PPD has a
fulfillment house a warehouse in the United States where items are
packaged and quickly sent out. That helps if lead times run short,
says Michael McGurk, president of Greenwich, Conn.-based Classic
Sportswear & Promotions.