Do Promotional Items Pay for Themselves?

by Stacey Phillips - Thu, Mar 23, 2017 8:00 AM

The other day I saw a gentleman wearing three different brands as he walked around as a mobile billboard for these businesses. He had a hat that advertised a local body shop; a t-shirt that was touting a restaurant and in his hands he was carrying a bag that was promoting a popular energy drink.

So, yes--promotional items are more popular than ever, and it you don't believe it, spend some time at a mall near you and count all of the logos and messages on things that people wear on a daily basis.

While some body shops believe in promotional items and others do not, everyone can agree that the ad specialty industry is not going anywhere soon. According to IBISWorld, it's a $21 billion dollar industry that grows an average of 2.4% annually, employing almost 250,000 people and including almost 28,000 businesses worldwide that create, sell and/or distribute promotional items.

Giveaways—we’ve all received them at one time or another from a trade show, the doctor’s office or even the gym. Whether it’s a pen, t-shirt or a sleek keychain with your body shop’s name emblazoned on it, you may have been tempted to buy promotional items with your company logo and hand them out to your customers.

But, the question we're posing (and answering) here is this: Are promotional items (aka ad specialties or "swag") really worth the investment and will they bring you additional business?

Promotional products are the oldest form of advertising. Many businesses say they can be a powerful and effective marketing strategy. Customers seem to enjoy a token of appreciation and can’t resist getting something for free. Often when people receive a gift, they want to reciprocate and return to your place of business as a way to thank you.

Some of the advantages of offering giveaways at your body shop:

• Leaves a lasting impression and customers are reminded of your generosity

• Advertises your business in a simple and direct way, with just a logo and a tagline, in most cases

• The additional exposure helps build brand awareness

• It’s a great incentive for customers to return to your business or refer friends and family

• Freebies can also increase your sales and customer loyalty

• More cost-effective than other marketing efforts such as television or radio commercials

If you decide to purchase giveaways for your customers, you’ll want to make sure they are suitable. Choose items that remind your target audience of the type of work you do. Also, try to find options that have a longer shelf life so they aren’t thrown out quickly.

In addition to the popular traveler mugs and flashlights, there are a variety of auto-related options that are ideal for body shops. These include USB car chargers, license plate frames, ice scrapers and even a tire gauge. You can also get creative with items such as car-shaped stress balls. Just type in “promotional items” using your favorite search engine and a seemingly endless list of items will pop up.

If you are considering clothing, such as t-shirts or hats, keep in mind that although you love your company and its logo, many customers might not want to wear clothing with your logo. Instead, consider using a unique slogan such as “We Try Harder” from Avis or "Got Milk?"

Can’t decide which promotional items are the best fit for your business and customers? Another option is to purchase several different types and let your customers choose which one they would use most. Be open to giving away two of an item and encourage customers to pass one along to a friend or family member. With a little effort and creativity, you can easily and affordably market your business and keep your company name in front of past and potential customers and pay for themselves over time. 

Stacey Phillips
A professional writer and editor for more than 20 years who specializes in creating content for a wide range of businesses and industries including automotive, engineering and healthand wellness.