Guest Column - January/February 2010

Seven Ways a Promotional Consultant Makes You A Better Marketer

By Sherri Lannarson

he next time you need to put together a brand awareness program or promote new sales incentives for your company, don't try to do it all yourself. Call on the expertise of a professional promotional consultant.

Just like using an architect to draw up plans for a new office building, a promotional consultant has the experience to help you build successful safety programs, create brand awareness, generate new customers, introduce new products, award employees, ensure customer referrals, get the most from tradeshow exhibits, and thank customers and vendors with a business appreciation program.

Since promotional products can be used alone or integrated with other media, there are virtually limitless ways to employ them as an effective part of your marketing and advertising efforts. Popular programs cited most often by industry consultants are for business gifts, employee relations, orientation programs, corporate communications and at tradeshows to generate booth traffic.

They're also effective for dealer/distribution programs, co-op programs, company stores, generating new customers or new accounts, nonprofit fundraising, public awareness campaigns, and for promotion of brand awareness and brand loyalty. Other uses include employee incentive programs, new product or service introductions, and marketing research for survey and focus group participants.

Here's what you can expect when you work with a promotional consultant:

1. Good consultants go beyond selling products. They can help develop programs to fit your audience, budget and goals and achieve your company's desired results. But while a promotional consultant can bring creativity, innovation and imagination to your overall program, it's important to involve him or her early in your program planning. Include your promotional consultant in your marketing meetings as a member of your creative team.

2. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is to think about promotional products at the end of their campaign planning or as an afterthought to the program. Or, they think only about the products themselves and forget about the way the products affect the message or other elements of the campaign. When you work with a promotional consultant, you'll start at the very beginning by thinking through what you want to accomplish. That way, promotional products can do the most effective job as successful advertising vehicles.

3. When it's time to start thinking about the products for your campaign or program, let your promotional consultant make recommendations for the best products to carry your advertising or marketing message. There are literally tens of thousands of different types of promotional products. In determining the right product or products to include, a promotional consultant will ask questions based on the results you are looking to achieve, the overall goal of the program, themes, your audience demographics and distribution of the product. He or she will also consider items in tune with the trends—including products that are hot at retail and may be in demand by the audience you are targeting.

Another reason to use a promotional consultant is that professionals understand the critical product safety measures required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Products that do not comply with CPSIA regulations could damage your brand and put your company at a legal risk. Protecting each client's brand is an important part of being a professional.

In addition, promotional consultants also have access to vast product research resources. While it's true you can find a mug online, a consultant can find hundreds of mugs, in a multitude of colors, sizes, shapes, materials and designs. And, for a nominal cost, they can often provide imprinted samples for your review so you can touch and see the product before it becomes part of your marketing campaign.