8 Ingredients for Awesome Promotional Gifts

promotional gifts

It’s no wonder that promotional gifts for clients are so popular. Promotional gifts are a $2.2 billion industry (PDF) according to the Promotional Products Association International.

Corporate gifts have the power to please clients and prospects by showing you’re thinking of them. Done well, they also make your business more memorable. They help convey what your brand stands for — be it playfulness, creativity, productivity or something else.

I have kept promotional gifts from vendors for years if they were unique. I love them.

Now, I’m not talking about your everyday swag gifts here. There’s certainly a place for simple swag — such as a coffee mug showing your product and a cute saying, or a reuseable tote bag with your brand logo on it. Swag is great for trade show giveaways. I’ve kept simple swag items that appeal to me, too.

But the promotional gifts that really make an impression on me are those that go beyond the standard branded promotional items.

I’ve received some great marketing gifts, and along the way I’ve noticed what makes them stand out. A marketing gift for clients to remember your company by can be distilled down to some concise pointers. When it comes to developing ideas for promotional gifts, consider these eight guidelines:

1. Create Something Unique

Yes, unique. After all, to remember a promotional gift, it has to be different. I am using a coffee mug from a vendor right now. It fits my hand well, it’s microwaveable and it’s the perfect size. I’m using a post-it note pad from another vendor. I certainly appreciate those items.

Yet, when I think of a promotional gift off of the top of my head, I don’t think of that cup or that post-it pad. Without looking, I can’t even remember the vendor’s name on the post-it pad.

When I think of memorable corporate gifts I’ve received, I think of more unique items.

One of the most memorable promotional gifts I ever received was from Mark Anderson of Andertoons. He created a customized Lego figure of himself at his cartoon drafting table (pictured). I was so impressed, I actually created a video of it, which I’ll show you in a moment. That’s how much it moved me. That’s the sort of uniqueness I am referring to.

promotional gifts

2. Make it Thicker than an Envelope

People get excited to open packages. When they see a package or box, anticipation builds. An element of surprise is built-in because they don’t know what to expect.

It’s much more exciting to receive a package, versus an email or a flat letter. (OK, maybe if the letter is telling you that you won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes it can be more exciting than a package, but how often does that happen?)

There’s a place for a handwritten thank-you note or card — and you should send them. But those aren’t promotional gifts.

The point is, create a sense of anticipation when people receive your gift.

3. Give the Recipient Something to Do

As in, don’t get your customers a set of bookends. Nothing against bookends — they’re fine for the right situation.

But if you give clients and prospects something they can touch and assemble and use, it may stick in their memory better. Make the item interactive — something that just begs the recipient to touch it, assemble it or interact with it.

4. Make it Relevant

Does your promotional gift relate to your business? Can you weave a story around the item that conveys some meaning about your business?

The most memorable corporate gifts reinforce the business you are in. The item itself or something about it brings to mind your product or service or the benefits you provide.

5. Let it Be Creative and Classy

Need I say, don’t look cheap?

Look, no one in a small business wants to spend a lot of money on promotional gifts. We want the item to be inexpensive.

But cost and impression are two different things. The cost should be cheap in cost — but a great marketing gift should not look cheap or seem cheap or generic. It should seem classy. And creative.

Besides, many corporations have restrictions prohibiting their employees from accepting expensive gifts. Often the value limit is $25 or less. So that’s another reason to keep the cost of promotional items low, or the recipient may not be able to accept them.

6. Include Your Logo

No brainer here. It’s important to include your logo. Tastefully. Whatever your gift may be, your logo serves to remind people of your business.

7. Pick Something that Lasts

I enjoy getting flowers and food gifts as much as the next person. I’ve sent them as gifts, too. I am not going to say those don’t make fine client gifts. A beautiful potted plant or a cookie box can be a welcome gift.

But they are not the same thing as a memorable marketing gift that someone can keep nearby. The lasting nature of the item can be a reminder for years — long after that box of candy was gobbled up and forgotten.

8. Put in Special Effort

Finally, you don’t have to spend a ton of money — and probably don’t want to, as pointed out above. But if it is something you spent some effort to create, your promotional gift is more likely to stand out.

Going back to the example of the Andertoon’s Lego figure, it is clear that the giver spent a lot of time coming up with the concept and customizing it to represent his business. He spent less than $25 on each gift. In that case, it was more about the creativity and the investment of time, than about spending a lot of money. Recipients were left with no doubt that he put special effort into creating that gift.

Here’s the point. If this is the year to make a splash by giving a memorable marketing gift, follow these eight guidelines. By taking the time to develop something unique and memorable, you serve your business well and honor your loyal customers. You also impress sales prospects.

And you know what else? You and your team will have a great time exercising your creativity and launching a special project.

For inspiration and an example of one of the most creative promotional gifts I’ve ever received, check out this video.

OK Hand Gesture Photo via Shutterstock

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

6 Reactions
  1. Really nice ideas. Sometimes, you really need to think outside of the box if you want your potential customers to notice you. With so many things to take their attention, it is hard to compete.

  2. I like the idea of a gift to clients after a great year but I appreciate something useful. The Lego man is cute but I would not have time to construct it nor is it useful. It would collect dust. Food items/vouchers or event tickets are useful, appreciated and remembered.

  3. Anita: I like the LEGO gift. I will ask Mark if he could put together a podcaster figure! 😉 He had hot sauces back in the day…

    I will have tea as my promotional product in the future. You could have an open teabag and fill it with loose tea leaves and then clips it together. On the string you have a paper note with a promo message! 😉 And if you want to have a long shelf live, put bulk tea in a practical tin with your logotype.

  4. Lego looks great, but maybe a bit immature for somebody that runs a serious business and does not want toys on the table don`t you think?

  5. Being in the promotional products field, I couldn’t agree with you more ! While there will always be a place for the staples of the marketing industry ( pens, mugs, totes)- giving out a custom promo piece that conveys your brands personality speaks volumes and will have a much longer retention factor ! Plus , they are fun for us marketing consultants to come up with 😉

  6. Over here you will get to know about the gift ideas for teacher appreciation week.Here you will get to know in detail about the topic which are in demand. I enjoyed alot while reading this article and would recommend other too.