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Choosing the Right Promotional Items to Build Your Brand and Business

Jun 8, 2010

Posted by

Jerry McLaughlin

Jerry McLaughlin is CEO of Branders, one of the world’s largest online promotional items companies.  For more tips on promotional ideas, visit or call 877-272-6337. Read more

In this economic climate, real estate agents have to make tough decisions and allocate each and every dollar of limited budgets with precision and for the very best return. Promotional give-aways and gifts continue to be one of the best marketing strategies an agent can use to quickly and inexpensively gain exposure. According to an Advertising Specialties Impressions Study, 84% of promotional products recipients remember the advertiser on the product they receive.  

Here are six tips on how to use promotional items to make an impact for your business:

1.)  Think Form and Function: One of the biggest challenges in using promotional items is in choosing a gift that will end up in a home or on someone’s desktop and not in the waste basket beneath it. The good news for real estate agents is that there are literally thousands of useful items that home buyers and sellers will not only appreciate but will use repeatedly.

When choosing a gift for your clients and prospects, think about things that will stay with them, long after your initial work together. While candy is always nice, as are coffee mugs, what people are really going to remember you for is something useful.

Some great items to use in your direct mail pieces, for example, are refrigerator magnets that have a specific use, such as one with emergency numbers or a calendar with key days highlighted. Indeed, although calendars may sound like old news in this digital age, people still really appreciate receiving a nice calendar. And a calendar is about the most powerful branding platform you can ever use—just think, you can start it on whatever month you want, have separate brand messages on every single month, and you can have your logo on every single page. Other great desktop items include sticky notes and calculators.

Other items that people really appreciate and use include home emergency kits, crank flashlights, and car clips to help people hang sunglasses and house keys. Hide-a-key is also very popular with new home owners. And people love kitchen items, from chef aprons to barbeque tools.

Another really unique and memorable gift that you can give your clients, both buyers and sellers, are branded seed packets that they can use to spruce up their yard with beautiful, season-appropriate flowers. And to keep that relationship blooming over the years, you can keep sending them new flowers to help their gardens grow. Seed packets can be bought in bulk for prices as low as 17 cents a packet, so it is a great investment.

2.)  Size Matters: One of the keys to promotional items’ success is being subtle about your brand. While no one wants to use a picnic blanket, for example, that has a loud logo on it, they will use a blanket with a subtle, embroidered logo. And they will tell their friends from whom they got it when they ask. Using tone-on-tone logo work is always a great choice. In fact, a pretty crystal vase with a subtly engraved brand is often a winner, especially with commercial clients.

3.)  Open Doors at Open Houses: Rather than leaving your business cards on the table, brand your contact information on items that even the most casual "stopper-by" will pick up and use again. Popular items range from key rings to sticky notes to coasters to notepads and pens. While these items may seem simple enough, they are small enough to fit in pockets and tend to get used rather than quickly

discarded or, worse yet, never even taken from the table.

Likewise, when you are baking those cookies to make the open house inviting to buyers, put on a pot of hot water and put out some branded tea bags. It’s a nice, subtle way to get your name on the tips of everyone’s tongues. And don’t forget the branded napkins!

4.)  Act Locally, Sell Locally: One of the most powerful marketing tools that you can use is to build your brand within your larger community as you never know where your next customer might come from and, of course, when looking for a Realtor®, word of mouth is key.

Realtor's® have done well building brand with advertisements in shopping carts, but now, with the growing popularity of non-woven, reusable totes, real estate pros have an outstanding opportunity to get their brand everywhere from the supermarket to the beach and back again.

Non-woven totes come in a variety of colors, sizes and textures, and are a very cost-effective way to get your name everywhere. Given these bags can cost only a dollar or so, a smart marketing blitz could be to team with your local food store and send home groceries in your bags rather than plastic ones they normally use. Local farmers markets are also a great place to hand out these bags.

On the higher end, why not build a relationship with your local mortgage companies? You could supply the document holders for the reams of paper that come with home ownership. And mortgage calculators are very helpful, especially for those buyers who are just starting their home-ownership journey by visiting a broker to see how much house they can afford. As they play with the numbers, your telephone number will be staring back up at them.

5.)  Go Gender Neutral: This may sound obvious but it is easy to forget that your gift needs to play to all audiences. Even seemingly gender neutral gifts like  T-shirts can be unsuccessful as men and women look for different types of fit. Fleece blankets, frisbees and cooler bags are all great gifts that everyone enjoys. Lip balm and hand sanitizer are also extremely popular and affordable items to put out at open houses.

6.)  Qualify Your Leads, Qualify Your Gifts: One of the biggest obstacles to buying impact promotional items is the impulse to buy one gift that will serve all people. Be as selective with your gifts as you are with your showings.

For non-qualified leads, the small items that we suggested for open houses, as well as the magnets that are perfect in direct mail pieces, are great gifts. For qualified leads, invest in something that people deem worth keeping. A perfect example of this is the aluminum water bottles that are all the rage right now. Not only will prospects take these bottles with them everywhere, they will be reminded every time they see your logo that you invested in something of quality that can be used over and over again.

And don’t hesitate to really step it up for repeat customers and, even more importantly, for people that send you referrals. Reversible fleece/nylon blankets are always popular as well as full home emergency kits, personalized ice buckets and kitchen cutlery sets.

And for those business partners in the industry or for prospective clients who are shopping the high end of the market, a great gift is laser measuring tapes, which are absolutely perfect for getting room measurements on the fly. Although this gift will run you anywhere from $5 to $25, if put in the right hands, the returns can be phenomenal.

In sum:  As you can see, there is no shortage of useful items that you can use to make your brand pop in this very competitive world. One final thought: when you make your order, don’t just buy for a specific event. Remember that you want your item to last forever, not just for a season or a passing fad.  You are better off buying a quality gift, like those water bottles, that people will keep and enjoy. Just remember, to think about practicality and longevity and you will surely find items that not only build your brand but build your business profits.