Promotional Products : A Winning MarginOctober 2009 By Erik Cagle
WHAT WOULD you say if we told you that you could earn as much as a 40 percent margin on a product you wouldn't have to manufacture, or need to inventory, and wouldn't require any ramping up funding? And what if we told you that this product would be desirable to the customers who are already purchasing your printed products?
By this point, your BS detector is probably going off louder than the most obnoxious car alarm. You maintain a polite smile, perhaps nod and add a impressed "hmm" for full effect. Be sure to furrow your brow to give the impression of focusing on what's being said.
Curiously, as much as the opening paragraph sounded like an intro to a cheesy cable television informercial, it also happens to be 100 percent true in the case of promotional products. Many commercial printers sell them to supplement their other product and service offerings. Relative to the balance of a printer's capabilities menu, promo products are uncomplicated.
It's hardly a well-kept secret, as different organizations estimate the industry at around $20 billion per year. But, for those not actively selling promotional products, there are some obvious questions. Are they easy to sell? Is there a learning curve involved? How do you go about selling them? Do you go through a distributor or do it on your own? What are the hottest products? What products should you offer?
We'll try to answer as many questions for you as possible, drawing on some prominent experts from the promo products industry.
Are promotional products easy to sell?
This is one area where printers can add a profit center without any capital investment, notes Gregg Emmer, vice president and chief marketing officer at Battavia, OH-based Kaeser & Blair, one of the industry's master distributors. "It's a natural because printers are typically involved in the early phases of a client's marketing/advertising campaign," says Emmer, who himself joined Kaeser & Blair after a long stint in the printing industry.
"Being able to coordinate a promotional component, along with a graphic component, puts you in at ground zero. You can coordinate designs, colors, etc., at a place where you can touch the fringes of agency work, because you're providing more than one component."
Printers that work with agencies, he says, likely have a month's head start on the competition when they inquire about promotional components of a marketing campaign.