If you look around your home, you likely will find a promotional product lying around. Most likely, you’ll find a pen with some company’s name on it. And yes, it’s probably “stolen” but they don’t care.

Branded items are useful bits of plastic or paper. They might fill up bins at thrift stores, but they also grace refrigerators and desks in every home in America and possibly across the world.

They’re your potato chip back sealer, they’re your favorite pen, they’re the fridge magnet holding up that adorable picture of your niece on the fridge. And they will help customers and leads remember you for a long time (even if your business fails).

But how do you know what objects to buy as promotional products? There are just so many. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Know Your End Goal

This is part of your marketing strategy. It must be part of your plan. And it must help you work toward your end goals.

Ask yourself who your target audience is. If your target audience doesn’t care about the quality of your promotional products, then you can create a much smaller promotional product budget.

If your audience is refined, they might expect quality. You might need to invest in custom products that reflect your brand’s awareness and value.

Now you need to think outside your niche. That’s right, brand awareness doesn’t stop at your audience.

Think of brand awareness like a virus. There might be some people who carry the virus but are immune. They will pass it on to other hosts who will react to the virus and exhibit symptoms.

Not everyone in the general public will care about your brand. But that doesn’t mean they won’t take a free pen or a free t-shirt.

Then these people will wear your awesome-looking t-shirt and someone who is in your audience will see it. They’ll ask about it and eventually fall into your funnel.

Thus, you must think of promotional products like viral marketing. When something goes viral, tons of people see it, but not everyone will react.

Figure Out What’s Popular

Your marketing budget might not include a “happiness machine.” But you might be able to spread some happiness with your promotional products.

The whole point of promotional products is happiness. Or at least usefulness. I’ve seen a lot of crummy promotional products in my time. Often, those ones get a huge pass.

A good example of horrible promotional products are pencils. Wait, you’re telling me I have to do some sort of work before I can use this thing? Does anyone who isn’t an artist even own a pencil sharpener anymore?

On the other hand, the most popular promotional product is the t-shirt. Especially comfortable t-shirts or well-designed t-shirts.

If you spend a little extra money on a super comfy activewear shirt, people are more likely to wear your brand name in public. If it’s an uncomfortable cotton shirt, they’re more likely to only wear it when painting their house or doing yard chores.

Some other ideas for popular promotional items include drinkware, grocery bags, custom self-ink rubber stamps, hats, usb drives, and calendars.

Do Your Market Research

The worst thing is a dusty bin full of crap just sitting in your office. And an even worse thing is knowing it’s all your fault you wasted your promotional product budget on targeting the wrong audience.

You need to understand who you’re selling to. If you don’t understand that, I don’t know how you’re running a business. It must be on luck, honestly.

If you’re a B2B company, you might consider what office people will want to have. This could include calendars or mini staplers.

If you’re looking for something that crosses almost every marketing niche, go for the pen. If it’s a high-end business you’re marketing to, then get the pens that swivel and include metal bands and hooks.

What are the demographics of your audience? Women might want bags. Men might want bill-folds (some women like bill-folds too).

If your audience is rural, they’ll love drinkware embossed with your logo. Get those beer pints out and get them engraved.

Anyone will appreciate a logoed USB drive. But outside of businesses, only older adults will care for a calendar unless it’s of cute kittens or puppies.

You Can Measure Metrics With Promotional Items

It’s true you can’t track metrics with physical objects in real-time (unless you’re sneaking GPS chips into your materials). But you can do retrospective studies on the effectiveness of your objects.

Create a survey to give out to your customers. Ask them how many of your promotional objects made it into their hands. Ask them how often they’ve seen your objects around town.

Ask more qualitative questions. Were the objects effective? What did they remind your customers of? Were the objects useful or did they end up in the trash?

You can then take the date and refine your approach. If more of the objects ended up in the trash, then you know you’ll need to switch to a better product.

Your Goal Should Always Be Longevity

Your product should become a staple in your customer’s life. This is why t-shirts might get grabbed up but not be effective unless comfortable.

But how do you make a product become a permanent part of someone’s life? You certainly can’t offer tattoos, can you? (Well, maybe in some parts of the country.)

You need to make the product fit the environment. If your clients are in the Siberian desert, then maybe parkas with your logo would be appropriate. But if your clients are on the Florida Keys, then you might not want to give out parkas.

Just like your business services or products, you should always try to solve a problem with your promotional products. The best ones do. Think about a pen, it gives people the power to remember things. A USB drive is the power to store information. And a chip clip keeps your chips from going stale.

These are the things you need to consider. So go out there and start promoting your business.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.