Ask Mike: Do Promotional Items Really Work

A subscriber to this blog recently emailed me with this question:

I came across your site while trying to figure out the best value in marketing dollars.  I own a mortgage company and my loan officers keep asking me to buy promotional items with our logo; i.e. Frisbees, magnets, rulers, pens etc.  I do not understand how these items can increase my business.  Are there any reports to compare ROI for promotional items and why exactly people think these are a good marketing tool?  Your opinion would be appreciated.

There is no easy answer, but I wrote a blog post about this (click here) and the first paragraph has a link to an Advertising Specialties Impressions Study that may shed some light on this question.

My opinion is that maintaining “Top of the Mind Awareness” is important, but it depends on the frequency that your clients will use your service. I do question whether a novelty item like a frisbee has enough impact to get a Realtor to think about you over the other broker versus an item of value that helps them in their business. I think the money spent on promotional items could be redirected to a blog and providing information to your clients that will help them achieve more sales. A monthly case study about a difficult to finance situation or a newsletter with useful information can have more impact than a promotional item.

A phone call is even better and a personal visit outweighs everything else in my opinion. A

Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image

client of mine who is a Mortgage Broker adds extra value by providing what she calls Affordability Sheets and Community Amenity maps printed in color that Realtors can give out at their open houses. It makes the Realtor look more professional and the 10 color versions of each are free. This gesture keeps her at the top of mind right when it counts; at an open house. She also takes donuts in to the real estate office in a branded donut box ( that gets attention too.

Another semi-annual item that this client uses is a memo pad personalized with the recipient’s name with the minimal branding located on a perforated strip at the bottom so

Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image

the Realtor can have a clean Things To Do List of their own. They can just tear off the branding. Who throws that out? (

This is strong stuff, but often promotional items are used as a crutch to take the place of a phone call or visit and historically people always look for the easy route. Compared to looking through a catalog and emailing a logo, it takes time to create something that adds value to another person’s business, but over the long term I think it creates a deeper relationship.

So if you plan to use promotional items consider the following:

  1. the frequency clients purchase your product or service
  2. the season of the year
  3. will it be left at the office or taken home
  4. is it a novelty item or useful item of value
  5. what is the potential return on investment
  6. what are your competitors doing
  7. what have you received that made an impact on you
  8. what will the cost of distribution be
  9. how long will it last
  10. does it look like you are trying to buy their business

And the most important question for any marketing strategy –

can you measure the effectiveness?

If you enjoyed this article and don’t want to miss the next one click here to get my marketing posts by email as soon as they are published. You will be prompted for an email address and you are set to go.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sid Scheck says:


    Great posting. Promotional items can be very effective if you market yourself creatively. I have worked with a couple of Real Estate clients and came up with some very creative ideas. Don’t give a promotional item that everyone else does. Create your own identity.


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