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Growth Opportunities in Promotional Products

(April 2014) posted on Mon Apr 07, 2014

Ad specialties could offer a simple way to expand your sales — especially if you’re a garment decorator or sign company.

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By Heather DiPrato

Other tips:
• Combine extensive product knowledge with a consultative selling approach.
• Explain to clients how different items can work together to capture measurable ROI.
• Understand your client and the intended audience, and find products that will be effective for them.
• Attend trade shows, meet with supplier reps, and track industry and retail trends to stay informed of emerging and established products that may appeal to different buyers and audiences.
• Set up an attractive showroom, modeled on a retail store setting if possible, in which you display a range of products you have provided for clients. When feasible, have prospects and clients visit the showroom.
• Be prepared for contingencies. As a promotional products distributor, you don’t have to manufacture anything. You don’t have to hire extra people to come in when you have a rush order. As a decorator, then you may not be in a position where this is someone else’s problem. Either way, you don’t want delays and mistakes to become your client’s problem.

The best part of promotional products for me is how easy it is to sell them to existing or new clients alike, since the investment is modest, more targeted, and more achievable for smaller businesses than other forms of advertising. And, with a CPI of about half a penny, promo products offer the best value when compared to more expensive forms of advertising like radio or TV.

They also create a different dynamic between the brand and the consumer. Other forms of advertising can prevent people from doing what they want to do. Take TV commercials. What viewers want is to watch last five minutes of the game, but first they have to endure the commercials. Promo products help people do something they want to do, like sign a greeting card, sip coffee, or wear a cool shirt. That’s why ASI studies show that, on average, 52% of recipients feel more favorably about the advertiser after receiving a promo product. Think they’ll have the same reaction after listening to an annoying radio commercial? Think again.

The natural overlap between ad specialties and printing—not to mention the record amount of ad-specialty items that were sold in 2013—make this an exciting time to look into this growth opportunity. If you’re thinking about entering the industry, talk to others in the business. Get educated. Most importantly, get started.

Heather DiPrato is senior vice-president of distributor services at the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), an industry association that produces five trade shows per year (in Orlando, Dallas, Long Beach, New York City, and Chicago) and offers a certified educational program. She can be reached at


Promotional Products at a Glance
• 2013 was a record-setting year for the industry with sales of $20.5 billion.
• The industry employs 400,000 in North America.
• Products are used by virtually every business and major brand in America and beyond.
• Shirts, bags, and writing instruments are the top three product categories, based on percentage of total industry revenue. Drinkware and caps round out the top five.
• The industry encompasses countless types of products. ASI’s online database features over 750,000, everything from T-shirts, caps, and hoodies to USBs, political yards signs, and M&Ms.
• Electronics—USB drives, gadgets, and accessories such as imprinted iPad cases and cell phone speakers—now comprise about 7% of the market.
• Health/medical/hospital is the single biggest market at 13.8% of industry sales in 2012. The education/schools/universities segment ranks second, accounting for over 11% of total ad-specialty revenues.
• The average distributor order size is $1058.

Source: ASI’s Counselor magazine’s annual 2013 State of the Industry report

New Signage + Decoration Pavilion
ASI’s Chicago trade show at McCormick Place (July 15-17, 2014) will feature the new Signage + Decoration Pavilion, hosted by The ASI Show and ST Media Group International. Inside, you’ll find equipment, consumables, software, and supplies along with decorating demonstrations. ASI will also offer special classes that will benefit anyone in need of advice on exploring new markets in promotional products. For more information, visit


Why Promo Products Work
• Impressive CPI. With a CPI of about half a penny, promo products offer the best value when compared to other, more expensive forms of advertising like radio or primetime TV.
• Strong ROI. Spending $500 yields 8300+ impressions, on average.
• Broad Appeal. On average, 52% of recipients feel more favorably about the advertiser after receiving a promo product.
• Consistent Recall. In the US, nearly nine in 10 consumers (87%) can identify the advertiser on promo items they own.

Source: ASI’s 2013 Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study



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