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Steal These Ideas

Just because a big bank has had success with a certain product doesn’t mean you can’t use it. You may learn a lesson or two from your peers in other industries. Here’s how four major sectors are using promotional products. Follow their lead to pump up your next promo.

There are some promotional products out there that can be found in promotions in any industry. Take USB drives, for instance. Dale, director of marketing for a promotional products distributor, says that these techno-tools can work for virtually any promotion – no matter who the recipient might be. “It is a techie item, but every industry sector uses them to store data, market their wares or promote their name,” she says. Pedometers are another good example. Dale says that health care companies, such as HMO’s and fitness centers, are keen on these, but “we are selling more to the Intels of the world because it is good business to promote wellness in the workplace.”

Still, there are simply some products that seem to have been adopted by certain industries. Real estate agents favor calendars, for example. Doctors are big on pens and hand sanitizers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t steal their favorite promotional products and embrace them as your own. Here’s a look at how four sectors are using a select group of promotional products. Feel free to copy their secrets.

Here’s to Your Health

Health care companies – whether individual hospitals, hospital groups, pharmaceutical companies, wellness centers or clinics – are frequent users of promotional products, and with good reason. Their various publics are multiple, and competition is fierce. Anything that aids the memory in a subtle, convenient and professional way is a prime candidate for a useful promotional product in this industry.

“Pharmaceutical companies in particular have very specific needs, and you have to understand their peculiar challenges these days,” says Rosalie Marcus, a business coach and author specializing in the promotional products arena. New governmental and association laws and rules have severely restricted the kinds of promotional products and incentives pharmaceutical salespeople can leave behind for physicians when promoting particular drug products, Marcus says.

“These companies have to give doctors something they would use during the normal course of their day, and that’s why pens, notepads and antibacterial lotions are popular,” she says.

She notes a particularly effective product one of her pharmaceutical clients used to promote a major pain reliever: a pen that, instead of being cylindrical, had three flat sides, each side imprinted, in turn, with the name of the pharmaceutical company’s particular product, the medical indications that would suggest the use of the product and the promotional tagline.

“We also did a T-shirt for the sales staff to support the campaign,” she adds.

Competition always drives marketing, and seldom is it as fierce as it is among hospitals.

“We try to look at the entire marketing concept as a whole and not just the product itself, the vehicle to get the message across,” says Vytas, president of a distributorship, with a special focus on health care marketing and promotions.

He says, for example, that a health fair emphasizing blood pressure screening might be reinforced by a ruler giveaway emphasizing measuring one?s readings, or alternately an eraser with the message, “Erase high blood pressure.”

Vytas counsels hospitals conducting health fairs to stock two levels of products: the inexpensive variety, like rulers, pens or magnifying glasses, for all attendees, and nicer ones for prospective patients.

“At free blood-pressure booths, for example, some people test high and thus are legitimate customers of a heart center,” he says. “You’ll want to give them a heavy-duty reminder, such as a $4 kitchen timer or wallet card listing dietary tips. Any promotional product that has to do with the kitchen is appropriate for prospective heart patients.”

Inter-departmental marketing is essential in the health care realm, simply because each department is a profit center. The radiology department wants to send its patients to a rehab clinic, for example, or every department wants to woo particular physicians to send patients their way.

Another hot item: coffee mugs. But they’d better be special. “If you sent a $2 coffee mug to the doc, it might work,” Vytas says. “But if you send the absolutely best coffee mug they’ve ever seen, that could be a way to distinguish yourself.”

Vytas offered a particularly effective item to Critikon Co., a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of portable patient monitoring systems. Critikon’s goal at a trade show was to encourage physicians to visit its booth and assist in market research to design a new monitor. The company placed door hangers on the hotel room doors of the physicians, requesting they give minutes of their time and promising them a stopwatch at the booth. The stopwatch itself came in a package stating, “Thank you for taking the time to help plan a monitor whose time has arrived.”

Critikon secured 600 doctor interviews from among visitors drawn to the booth.

Manufacturing Memorability

What niche could be more interested in safety than auto fleets? Calm, controlled driving preserves the health and well-being of both equipment and drivers, while helping conserve energy costs and lessen wear and tear.

Gail Hallyburton, president and owner of Bruton Marketing, in Auburn Hills, MI, has carved out a special area in fleet safety programs keying on promotional products. The products are always geared toward reinforcing the safety programs that Hallyburton devises for her clients.

“We put together driver training programs, develop newsletters for drivers focusing on making safety number one, and help our clients write fleet policies aimed at cost-savings and reducing accidents,” she says. “We have one client who saved $1 million just in insurance premiums through this program.”

When Hallyburton sends out a driver newsletter – customized for each particular client – it’s paired with an appropriate promotional product. For example, if a newsletter topic is on tire wear and maintenance, she might include an air-pressure gauge or a tread-depth gauge along with it. If the newsletter is distributed electronically, the product is mailed separately.

‘A newsletter concerned with intersection safety might include a pen and yellow highlighter combination,” she adds. “The message might be, ‘Highlighting intersection safety,’ or ‘When you see yellow, watch out for the other fellow.'” For a winter campaign for northern clients, she has sent out ice scrapers; for roadside breakdown safety, the products include first-aid kits and reflectors, flares, booster cables, fire extinguishers, flashlights or gloves, all logoed.

“And we customize everything so every company can have its own kit with its own components. We then dropship them all over the country.”

Mailing and promotional products go hand in hand, and the marriage is nicely illustrated by a Vytas campaign on behalf of an industrial client, Polymer Coating Co., in promoting his best-selling product.

A six-month multi-staged mailing kicked off with a message describing the coating product, and promised a gift to come. A second mailing urged the reader to send any bothersome coating problems to the company, written with an enclosed imprinted pen. A third mailing reinforced the previous two, with the solution to the recipients’ worst coating problems. A fourth mailing announced a sweepstakes for creative applications of the product, and a fifth mailing contained a wristwatch bearing the the product’s logo.

The watch was in a cardboard sleeve that read, “This time, next time, it’s always time for – ” Polymer received many calls thanking it for the gifts, requesting extra ones, and asking for product information.

For construction firms reinforcing internal messages, a promotional distributor has used a mini carabiner belt-loop ring to hold a variety of tools and keys, and which is laser engravable. Also popular are full-color nail files, “like movable billboards,” the company says. (There’s also a round variety of nail file for even bigger display of a message.) Finally, a light-and-whistle combination provides safety options along with plenty of space for a message.

Outside the factory, promotional products for manufacturing firms are just as important, especially at trade shows. In launching a construction framing product at one expo, Clark Western used compressed T-shirts that were shaped like a cross section of a steel stud.

“The promotional items brought immediate attention to the new product, because they are tangibles the recipient could see, touch and feel,” says Trent, president of a promotional products distributor which advised the company on its product choices. “They showed the recipients immediately the two biggest selling features: a new knurling pattern that strengthens the steel – the pattern was on the T-shirt wrap – and that the product is tougher than nails.”

Cashing in on Effective Promos

In the financial industry, promotional items that stay close to a customer’s wallet or pocketbook are essential. Such was the thinking beyond a Bank of America promotion last fall at the home opener for the Carolina Panthers’ NFL season. It gave out 75,000 Panthers-branded checkbook covers to fans as a way to introduce them to Panthers-branded checks. “The promotion was a way of helping our customers to express their passion for their favorite football team and to make that passion a key part of their everyday banking experience,” says Joseph L. Goode III, corporate spokesperson. The goal, of course, is to get fans interested in opening accounts and ordering Panthers checks, but Bank of America hopes to expand on the concept. “Potentially, in addition to branded checks, ‘affinity banking’ will afford us the opportunity to develop detailed agreements with partners from many different sectors – not just sports but things like retailers, professional organizations, cause-related institutions – and provide things like branded statements, debit cards, maybe even some additional consumer-oriented products.” Bank of America later gave out checkbook covers for three other NFL teams last season: the Cowboys, the Patriots and the Redskins. “We have done this similarly in the past and have been pleased by the response,” Goode says, “not only with the number of existing customers, but also new customers who are signing up for checking accounts.”

For banks, an advertising specialties distributorship frequently suggests customized mugs and tumblers. One bank client chose a unicorn-shaped mug to promote its marketing concept of “strength and purity,” with eight-inch and 14-inch unicorns given away, depending on the level of new IRA deposit. The goal was to raise $2.5 million in new accounts, but the promotion actually raised about $6 million.

Not surprisingly, mortgage companies often zero in on house-related promotional products. For example, last year Countrywide Home Loans staged a Monopoly-type game in its booth at several trade shows and used three-dimensional, house-sized game pieces. Over the course of the year, Countrywide used the game at all of the trade shows it attended, according to Julie, senior account manager for a promotional products distributor. Winning players received a photo frame with a magnetic house icon. The game was so popular that “during the course of the year, the house game pieces began to disappear,” Alrich says, “as the realtors who played the game loved them.”

Professionally Theirs

Businesses that offer professional services are just as active in using promotional products as are other industry niches, because anywhere you look there’s a seemingly limitless array of lawyers, doctors, CPAs and consultants. The competition is fierce, and memorability is essential.

“I’m always looking for what people think is valuable, something that they like to have on their desks,” says business coach Henry Barbey, director of The New York Center for Coaching, in Manhattan. Barbey is a believer in trade shows for spreading his message, and at a recent event he gave out notepads that proclaimed some of what he does: Each page was headed with the question, “What are your important priorities today?” followed by a blank list.

“This was just a way of connecting booth visitors to what we do,” Barbey explains.

Since Barbey counsels clients on efficient use of time and stress control, he’s also used the thumb stress indicators. On the back, he listed “tips to relax yourself.”

“It was a fun thing, but quite effective,” he says. “And it ties in with what we provide, helping people manage the things they need to do, with less stress and more ease, greater clarity and better effectiveness.”

Besides the traditional calendar for real estate companies, a promotional distributor suggests a combination notepad and calculator or a letter opener and knife combo as “a functional way to keep a message in front of your customers.”

Since professionals, and especially salespeople, travel a lot, Dale says she’s seeing a lot of appreciation for wallets made to hold passports, boarding passes and other important documents. They come in simulated leather for mass distribution, or quality hide for special gifts.

“Folks reentering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean as of this past January 23 need to show a passport,” Dale says. “Companies with large sales forces all over the country are tapping into this giveaway.”

Dale says her luggage spotters, which come in 12 colors and identify one’s suitcase on luggage carousels, “are inexpensive, which translates to great trade show giveaways, and lightweight, which means it is a fantastic mailer. And it’s a functional promotional item that will be reused.”

Dale notes that call centers also are avid users of imprinted journals and notepads.

“You can put the company’s principles and mission statements on them, to remind the sales force to ask certain questions about customer service when they’re on the phone,” he says.

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2007

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