If you’re in the market to buy promotional products to increase your company’s brand awareness at a trade show, event or conference, it’s important to know the most common mistakes people make – so you can avoid them like the plague.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the simplest jobs go wrong because of a mix up of facts, colors, formats and more.

Take a few minutes and read what the mistakes are so your order comes out exactly as you expect, at the price you want and on time!

Lack of purpose

With millions of promotional products to choose from it’s important to know the purpose of your promotional product campaign. Do you want to increase traffic to your website, landing page or promote a special offer? Based on your answer, you may be surprised that a different product, design or distribution plan may be a better idea. Without a clear goal and purpose, your marketing campaign could be doomed to fail before it really begins.

Not tailored to your audience

A custom beer koozie is a great premium for a bar or brewery, but not necessarily on target with a hospital’s image. I’ve seen buyers select premiums that are cool in their eyes, but just don’t fit. When this happens, marketers are appealing to their own taste rather than their audience’s. Take time to research the interest and hobbies of your target demographic and find a product that will appeal to them. Not sure?  Create an informal focus group!

Bland or generic design

Does your freebie or premium have visual interest? Whether it’s colorful, has a catchy slogan or pattern, you want to be sure your product gets attention and a positive reaction. If you create a giveaway that’s boring and uninteresting, chances are you’ve wasted a timely marketing opportunity. Remember, one of the goals of giving a promotional product is to create interest – in the product, service and the item itself!

What’s your distribution plan?

Before you even order promotional products, determine what you’re going to do with them. Will you give them out at a trade show or will reps hand them out to customers in the field? Are you trying to increase your customer’s loyalty by sending a product in the mail or attract a new prospect, in a totally new target market? No matter how you answer these questions, you can be select in your distribution. And, remember to keep at least a few samples in your file cabinet with important facts like where you gave them out, when and feedback. (You can use an excel spreadsheet too).

Ordering cheap items

Most promo products are fairly inexpensive and cost effective as compared to other types of marketing. I know it’s tempting to save as much money as possible and buy the cheapest products available, but sacrificing quality for quantity can actually cost you more in the long run. Be mindful that what you give out is a reflection of your brand, so going cheap isn’t always the way to go. I’m not asking you to break the bank or your budget, but here’s the deal: Your product needs to be effective, before it can be cost effective.

Printing ineffective information

This sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget to include your website and contact information on the promotional item. The best product at the best price will be wasted if people can’t reach you. Granted, you have limited printing space to work with, so make every word count to reach your goal. A call to action isn’t a marketing maybe, it’s a marketing must! Premiums and promotional items included.

Not proofing carefully

How carefully are you reviewing the proof your promotional company is sending you? Take it from me, you may want to enlist others in your company to take a look too. Triple check the ink and PMS colors as well the actual imprint position. Once you’ve signed off on a proof and the job is in progress, additional changes will mean tossing out the old, and beginning from scratch. And, you know you’ll have to pay extra unless it’s not your fault.

Being stingy on quantities

Don’t be afraid to order a few extra premiums to have on hand for future events and surprise trade shows or meetings. Most vendors offer quantity price breaks where the price per piece decreases as the quantity increases. A company can often save 10 to 15 percent on an order by just adding more product. Plan out your event calendar and product purchases ahead of time and you can save big time.

Pay rush charges

This is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make and one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think and plan ahead! A typical production facility schedules weeks in advance so when a rush order comes in changes must be made immediately at the plant. A standard rush order can result in charges of 25% or more. A next day change for your million-dollar client can be – well, you don’t want to know. I’ve done it and saved the day and you could too. When you’re not in panic mode, ship by ground to avoid high freight charges. If you’re going to fly premiums overnight, why not save the money and travel yourself?

The bottom line is this.  Don’t rush through the planning stages of your promotional products campaign. Effective event purchasing can give you the results you’re looking if you use these tips on your checklist before you buy.

About the Author

Rachel Leone is a client and President of Leone Marketing.  Her firm specializes in finding perfect promotional products for trade shows and events to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recognition.  Rachel works with Fortune 500 brands as well as small business owners to engage, without a diamond ring. Her brainstorming sessions are noteworthy and complimentary. Contact Rachel at Rachel@LeoneMarketing.com.

Secret #1: Thoughts from the Dressing Room  

Become “media ready” by looking, feeling, thinking and acting like a desirable multi-million-dollar brand — even on a shoestring budget.

Action Items: You are your brand, wherever you go. Do you give off an energy of certainty and impression of increase so people will want to know you? Make someone’s life better in some small way, every day. Live life fully. Step into your greatness and your brand.

Secret #2:   Get Your Brand On    

Cultivate and position a winning brand image that includes bio, photos, signatures, media kits and more.

Look professional, branded, together and ready for business. The press will feel more confident that you’re a player. You are your brand, so act like one that’s in a successful business.

Action Items: Look at your photo – does it look like you now or your high school picture? Can a prospect recognize you in a crowded room? Do you have a signature on your email? Does it give a description of who you are and what you do?  Do you have a bio that includes some fun facts, or a cause you really believe in?  Look at your website with fresh eyes. Is there a headline on your home page with a call to action? Are all the links working? Are there misspellings? What does your branding say about you as an expert? What does it say to the media?

Secret #3: Learn the Lessons Momma Never Taught You About Being Social 

Leverage the power of social media to reach and impress media partners.

The thought of social media can be daunting if you don’t understand it. You don’t have to be everywhere, and do everything.  Which social media tools do you like? Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram (or the platform of your choice) pick what you’ll use and start engaging with your audience. Stop worrying about being perfect. Make an effort every day to promote your business. You can make an impact with 15 minutes, twice a day.

Action Items: Every day in some small way take an active role in being an expert, or noted in your field. Need content? Set up a Google alert on your ‘topic’ or ‘expertise’ and collect articles to share.  Comment on what’s going on in the news.  It’s OK to be a contrarian and have a voice.

Use social media to share your expert opinion so the press, as well as your prospects and clients, can notice you. Share content. Compliment others. Be a part of a caring community. Consistency and frequency count.

Secret #4: Get On the Inside Track

Take advantage of free publicity opportunities from HARO – Help a Reporter Out www.HelpAReporterOut.com.  Help A Reporter Out offers quality leads for people in all kinds of industries to get noticed in the media – radio, TV, blogs and articles.  It’s published 3 times a day, and it’s easy and free to sign up and get emails in your inbox.  Journalists, editors, reporters and producers will post their queries on HARO and you can respond to them and get recognized as an expert.

Take the initiative and put yourself out there.

Action Items:  Sign up for a free Help A Reporter Out account and take the time to respond to their emails.  Create a one-page template to answer press requests.  Don’t be annoyed by the press inquiries, think of them as your assistant sending you opportunities to build your business and your brand.

Secret #5: Be a Media Magnet, First. Darling Next.

Tell your story often and clearly to gain media attention. Practice makes perfect.

Create and launch media releases that tell a powerful, memorable story that demands attention and generates results.  Look at what you’re doing in your business. What’s press worthy? Are you speaking? Have a new product or service? Create a media release and send to industry publications, local media, and established contacts. It’s the who, what, when and why of what you’re doing – and can be as simple as a new office location, workshop, product or service, or being featured as a guest expert. Be clear and brief in all interviews and press opportunities and offer ‘soundbite’ quotes. Reporters have limited time – so make sure you grab their attention.

Make it easy for the press to find you and keep your PR engine going.  When journalists and bloggers begin to see you showing up in the news, they’ll be more apt to follow you.

Action Items:  Make a list of 5 things that you or your company could write a media release about.  Have video footage?  Even better!  You don’t have to win the Nobel Peace Prize to be recognized.

Secret # 6:  Pitch Don’t Bitch  

Stop complaining about the lack of press and do something about it.

Pitch your story idea to newspapers, radio and TV stations, industry magazines, niche newsletters and blogs. They’re always in need of material. It can be an idea you have tied to a holiday or special event, tips on how a new product or service is helping customers, a community service project you’re involved with or a local event.

When pitching the media, be brief, concise and to the point.  Make your headline interesting.  You never know who’ll pick up your story and where it may go.  Even if it’s controversial, it’s still news! And news fades fast, so keep the momentum going.  Be mindfully persistent, not a pest.

Action Items: Create a bucket of ideas to pitch. Make them short and sweet. Are you a newly published author? (Hint, an e-book counts). Are you a guest panelist at a prestigious event? Do you have a new way of doing XYZ that will make a difference to more than just you? Learn to pitch with perfection.

Secret #7: The Press Are Friends You Haven’t Met Yet

Relationships that matter take time. Identify key press contacts and build mutually rewarding relationships that last.

Make it a point to do your homework and keep your eyes and ears open to top reporters in your region or area of expertise. Press contacts move around a bit, so try to stay connected via social media and keep email addresses current. A savvy admin can help with this task, but ultimately, you’ll be the one to decide who you’d like to watch and follow.

Action Items: A stranger is a stranger till the first hello. Make friends with reporters you find interesting. Follow them on Twitter, and learn the fine art of retweeting. Introduce yourself at industry functions. Send a note that you liked their article and you’re a fan, even if you disagreed with their view point. Send a lead their way. Start the process of ‘getting yourself known’.

Getting noticed by the press is a journey not a destination, and every step and mention gets your name out there. You’ll get recognized as an expert if you promote your brand often enough, everywhere you’ll go. It all starts with a decision to confidently stand out from the crowd.

Do you ever mess up? I mean, REALLY mess up?

If you’re human, you have. And, not just once!

As business owners and professionals, we feel the need to be perfect, all the time.  But it’s impossible to strive for perfection and stressful at that.

So, what should we do when we mess up?

John C. Maxwell once said, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

In this article by John Caddell, author of The Mistake Bank, we learn that to bounce back and grow stronger, we have to do several things — and not a single one includes hiding our mistake or passing if off as someone else’s.

So, the first thing to do is admit a mistake was made, not just to yourself, but to those you’ve affected.

Next, you should apologize.

But, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that was well.

In The “Just Right” Reaction When You Mess Up at Work, Ashley Cobert talks about how to apologize, ‘just right’. That includes apologizing just once and then offering solutions; nothing more, nothing less.

Lastly, from Entrepreneur Magazine, there’s 3 Steps for Fixing Big Business Blunders and the one last step of how to save face.

You need to walk the talk!

That means if you apologize and offer solutions, you will actually have to follow through and not only fix those mistakes, but also lay out a plan to never have this blunder happen again!

With these three tips you should be able to turn a potentially disastrous situation into a learning experience.

Secret #1: Thoughts from the Dressing Room

Become  “media  ready”  by  looking,  feeling,  thinking  and  acting  like  a desirable multi-million dollar brand — even on a shoestring budget

Action Items:   You are your brand, wherever you go. Do you give off an energy of certainty and impression of increase so people will want to know you? Make someone’s life better in some small way, every day. Live life fully. Step into your greatness and your brand.

Secret #2:  Get Your Brand On

Cultivate and position a winning brand image that includes bio, photos, signatures, media kits and more.

Look professional, branded, together and ready for business. The press will feel more confident that you’re a player. You are your brand, so act like one that’s in a successful business.

Action Items: Look at your photo – does it look like you now or your high school picture? Can a prospect recognize you in a crowded room? Do you have a signature on your email? Does it give a description of who you are and what you do? Do you have a bio that includes some fun facts, or a cause you really believe in?  Look at your website with fresh eyes. Is there a headline on your home page with a call to action? Are all the links working?

Secret #3 –  Learn the Lessons Momma never taught you about being social

Are there misspellings? What does your branding say about you as an expert? What does it say to the media?

Leverage the power of social media to reach and impress media partners.

The thought of social media can be daunting if you don’t understand it. You don’t have to be everywhere, and do everything. Which social media tools do you like? Whether it’s Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn (or others), pick what you’ll use and start engaging your audience. Stop worrying about being perfect. Make an effort every day to promote your business. You can make an impact with 15 minutes twice a day.

Action Item: Every day in some small way take an active role in being an expert, or noted in your field. Need content? Set up a Google alert on your ‘topic’ or ‘expertise’ and collect articles to share. Comment on what’s going on in the news. It’s OK to be a contrarian and have a voice.

Use social media to share your expert opinion so the press, as well as your prospects and clients, can notice you. Share content. Compliment others. Be a part of a caring community. Consistency and frequency count.

Secret #4 – Get on the Inside Track

Be a Publicity Insider — Take advantage of free publicity opportunities from HARO – Help a Reporter Out  www.HelpAReporterOut.com. Help A Reporter out offers quality leads for people in all kinds of industries to get noticed in the media – radio, TV , blogs and articles. It’s published 3 times a day, and it’s easy and free to sign up and get emails in your inbox. Journalists, editors, reporters and producers will post their queries on HARO and you can respond to them and get recognized as an expert.

Take the initiative and put yourself out there.

Action Item: Sign up for a free HelpAReporter account and take the time to respond to their emails. Create a one page template to answer press requests. Don’t be annoyed by the press inquiries, think of them as your assistant sending you opportunities to build your business and your brand.

Secret #5 – Be a media magnet, first. Darling next.

Tell your story often and clearly to gain media attention. Practice makes perfect.

Create and launch media releases that tell a powerful, memorable story that demands attention and generates results. Look at what you’re doing in your business. What’s press worthy? Are you speaking? Have a new product or service? Create a media release and send to industry publications, local media, and established contacts. It’s the who, what, when and why of what you’re doing – and can be as simple as a new office location, workshop, product or service, or being featured as a guest expert. Be clear and brief in all interviews and press opportunities and offer ‘soundbite’ quotes. Reporters have limited time – so make sure you grab their attention.

Make it easy for the press to find you and keep your PR engine going. When journalists and bloggers begin to see you showing up in the news, they’ll be more apt to follow you.

Action Items: Make a list of 5 things that you or your company could write a media release about. Have video footage? Even better! You don’t have to win the Nobel Peace prize to be recognized.

Secret # 6 –  Pitch Don’t Bitch

Stop complaining about the lack of press and do something about it. Pitch your story idea to newspapers, radio and TV stations, industry magazines, niche newsletters and blogs. They’re always in need of material. It can be an idea you have tied to a holiday or special event, tips on how a new product or service is helping customers, a community service project you’re involved with or a local event.

When pitching the media, be brief, concise and to the point. Make your headline interesting. You never know who’ll pick up your story and where it may go. Even if it’s controversial, it’s still news! And news fades fast, so keep the momentum going. Be mindfully persistent, not a pest.

Action Items: Create a bucket of ideas to pitch. Make them short and sweet. Are you a newly published author? (Hint, an e-book counts). Are you a guest panelist at a prestigious event? Do you have a new way of doing XYZ that will make a difference to more than just you? Learn to pitch with perfection.

Secret #7 –  The Press are friends you haven’ t  met  yet

Relationships that matter take time. Identify key press contacts and build mutually rewarding relationships that last.

Make it a point to do your homework and keep your eyes and ears open to top reporters in your region or area of expertise. Press contacts move around a bit, so try to stay connected via social media and keep email addresses current. A savvy admin can help with this task, but ultimately, you’ll be the one to decide who you’d like to watch and follow.

Action Items: A stranger is a stranger till the first hello. Make friends with reporters you find interesting. Follow them on Twitter, and learn the fine art of retweeting. Introduce yourself at industry functions. Send a note that you liked their article and you’re a fan, even if you disagreed with their view point. Send a lead their way. Start the process of ‘getting yourself known’.

Getting noticed by the press is a journey not a destination, and every step and mention gets your name out there. You’ll get recognized as an expert if you promote your brand often enough, everywhere you’ll go. It all starts with a decision to confidently stand out from the crowd.

 

This week, I was fortunate to interview Sarah Shaw from www.Entreprenette.com. I loved what she had to share with us, her tips for taking products to market, insights on being an entrepreneur, and the free PR distribution list she shared here. But, I didn’t love something else.

Me.

I was sick as a dog, wobbly, even got the name of her website wrong. (Forgive me, Sarah). I was doing all that I could to hold on and make it through, letting Sarah carry the ball. In all honesty, I lost my voice the week before, canceled the interview already once, and wanted to be respectful of her time, and honor my commitment. I prayed to have a voice, and be clear enough to ask the questions I had prepared weeks before the interview. It didn’t happen.

My body was stronger than my will, and the results were less than perfect.

Wabi-sabi. A Japanese term noting the art of imperfection.

I love to garden and know that a flower doesn’t bloom 365 days a year. Nor do we. I know that sometimes my favorite Greek meatballs don’t come out as good as usual because I forgot to buy scallions, or I didn’t use the cast iron frying pan and finish the batch off with a sprinkling of oregano. Sometimes things turn out differently than you plan. And, that’s ok. We have to give ourselves permission to have an off day, or week, or undefined time — and let it be, without beating ourselves up. That “ourselves”, includes me.

Leonard Cohen, the author, writes this:

Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, modest and humble.

For me, an imperfect interview was part of letting go of my own perfection. Accepting an off day, and, being ok with it not just for me, but for my community.

Imperfection is perfection for where we need to be, and perhaps, what we need to learn.

It was such an important lesson for me — to lessen the load with grace.

It IS all good. It’s our minds that may not be in sync, at the time.