How To Purchase Branded Merchandise

The best organizations create experiences “on purpose.”  As our parents might have said, they take the time to do it right “the first time.”  And in doing so, they seem different than other businesses we run into.  We can sense the difference right away.  The same is true with how they order branded merchandise.  So in this blog, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to purchase branded merchandise…the right away.

Let’s start with the wrong way.

The call or email we often get goes like this.  “Hey!  I have an event tomorrow!  Can we get some crap to give away?”  🙂

We have all been in that situation where we found out about an event at the last minute.  Or maybe you just forgot.  I get it.  We all do.  And we will happily help you when this happens.  But we all know this is not the best way to get premium results…right?

So let’s talk about the right way to purchase branded merchandise so you can get premium results.

Identify the Perfect Customer

Spending some time on the front end to identify who you are targeting is powerful.  The superpower of branded merchandise is that it can meet your perfect customer right where they are.  By investing a bit of mental energy at the beginning of the project, you can select an item that hits the target.  Once you have that perfect customer, here are 3 more questions to ask.  The deeper you dive on this, the more likely you will find a great piece of branded merch that will pop!

Give Yourself Time

This has always been true, but giving yourself cushion in the timeline has been doubly true over the past couple of years.  Supply chain challenges, shipping issues, and labor shortages have made rush orders incredibly challenging.  Even if you do make it work, you are going to stress yourself to the point of shortening your life.  Add extra time in the project.  Trust us.

Set a Budget (and be willing to communicate it)

You might think this goes without saying, but it often doesn’t.  Have an idea of what you want to spend.  This might mean per item…but I often think you should also include the total budget number.  Then be willing to communicate this to your trusted promotional supplier.  Why?  Because then they (and we) can help you work to stay in that budget.  One of the problems with purchasing branded merchandise is all of the “extra” charges.  This might mean the setup fees, proof charges or even shipping fees.  If you want you want to stay on budget, you need to share what the actual budget is with your partner.  When we know it, we can help!

Have Good (Vector) Art

One thing that can really slow down a project is the lack of good art.  Vector art translates to any size and allows for your branded merchandise partner to manipulate your logo to meet the project needs.  What is vector art?  We break that down here.  But suffice it to say, good art in…good art out.

Create A Plan A and B

Remember the supply chain thing we talked about earlier?  It’s still a thing.  So when you are selecting your branded merchandise, you might want to select a plan b as well.  The fact is, even suppliers that have inventory listed on their site, can’t control everything.  There are more than 25,000 distributors of branded merchandise, many with hundreds of salespeople.  Even though, that “perfect” item showed it’s in stock right now, it could be gone soon.  One of those other companies could swoop in with a big order and eat up that stock before our order is placed.

This is not a scare tactic.  It’s just “an is.” We have seen dozens of projects get derailed over the past couple of years because the item they wanted was out of stock.  So when a customer says, “So you are saying that there are not ANY XL black t-shirts in that style anywhere in the US?”  We have to say, “That is correct.  That is what I am saying.”

So have a plan B.  It will save you time and headaches.

Request a Proof (and actually look at it)

Maybe you are thinking, “You just told me to send good art!  If I send good art, then I should not need a proof.”  I get that line of thinking, but humans make mistakes.  Maybe you attached the wrong file.  What if we sent the wrong art to the supplier?  Maybe the supplier swapped the art for a totally different client.  Either way, we believe it’s incredibly important to get a proof.  As a matter of fact, we request one even if you don’t.  It just saves time and headaches.

Oh, and if you do get a proof, take the time to look at it.  Really study it and make sure it’s right.  Because once you approve that proof, the imprinted products are going to be yours.  I can’t tell you how often we get a frantic email or call saying that the client “didn’t really look at the proof” and now the product is wrong.

But…they approved the proof.  And now they don’t want the product.

The challenge, of course, is now the product has their information on it (albeit wrong information).  So someone is going to eat that cost.  Whether it’s the supplier, the distributor (that’s us) or the customer…someone owns that imprinted merchandise.

So request a proof.  Then actually proof it.

Think About Distribution

No branded merchandise campaign is going to be effective if it’s stuck in a closet.  I see plenty of cool merch ideas go to die because no one thought about how the items were going to be distributed.  Are you going to ship them out?  Maybe you want your sales team to go out and visit your customers (you can do that again)!  Are you going be at an event handing them out?  Either way, consider how you are going to engage your prospects or customers.  What are you going to say?  How will you get in front of them?

Make sure you think about how this amazing new merch will get in the hands of your target audience!

Have a Theme or Message

One bonus tip is to consider creating “merch with a message.”  While you may need to make sure your company logo is prominently displayed on an item (and we get that), consider what kind of merch you wear.  More and more, we are seeing companies creating branded merchandise with a message that aligns with their brand values.  Then they put their logo (somewhere less conspicuous) along with the message.  People are more likely to wear your merch for longer, if they identify with a message.

So there you have it!  There is how to purchase branded merchandise…the right way!  Let us know if we can help you create a branded merchandise campaign that pops!

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.