The 5 W's of Promotional Products


There’s a difference between knowing who your customers are and understanding why they behave the way they do. Whether you’re a veteran or a novice in the promotional products industry, it’s always worth taking a moment to review the reasons behind your customers’ actions, so you can anticipate their needs and remain a step ahead of the competition. But before you dive into the puzzling web of consumer behavior, you need to identify the five critical questions that shine a light on the customer buying cycle:

Who buys promotional products?

 What kinds of products do they buy?

Where do they find the products they want?

When are they more likely to buy these products?

Why did they decide to buy them in the first place?

Who and What?

The first rule of successful sales is quite elementary – you have to know who you are selling to. You don’t have to go into the personal details of your clients’ lives, but having a broad overview of the industry they operate in, as well as knowing their investment preferences can weigh in on the probability of repeat sales potential and customer retention. According to the PPAI 2017 Buyer Study, out of 400 U.S. professionals in a media buying role, 96% of them actively buy promotional products, with 60% of them representing the B2B market, and 30% of them catering to the B2C market.

This data gives us perspective on the specific audience-based purchasing habits of promotional products buyers. For instance, B2B professionals are generally motivated by logic and reason, with their branding strategy expanding on areas of relationship building. Therefore, they will be more inclined to purchase corporate gifts and practical items that can appeal to their business market. On the other hand, B2C professionals are motivated by emotional investments and opt for a more transactional branding approach. Their buying habits may include more giveaways and incentive-oriented product options that will appeal to a larger audience.

Where and When?

A typical promotional products business is not what it was a mere 20 years ago. The mediums of advertising alone have gone from print catalogs, to broadcast channels and now have firmly landed in the hands of digital media. Modern-day consumers have access to advanced technology that gives them the option of scouting competition and exhausting all options before making an informed decision. On average, more than half of buyers (59%) will use between two and three sources to purchase promotional products (PPAI, 2017).

A detailed analysis of brands’ promotional products purchasing habits shows that:

  • 50% use distributors as their main source of promotional products.
  • 54% use full-service companies with a promotional products division.
  • 59% go directly online to purchase their promotional products.

Now is more important than ever before to have a strong and reputable web presence. Before your customers will pick up the phone to inquire about your offering, they will search your company name and judge your branding potential based on the quality of your website. If you don’t yet have an established online presence or want to revamp your site to bring in more customers, take a look at SAGE Websites. With plentiful customization options, and modern, full-width layouts, you will have no trouble finding a virtual headquarters that fits your audience.

Even though our industry has been growing exponentially over the past few years, promotional products are still considered a niche marketing tool for many businesses. Nearly 43% of agencies involved with promotional products advertising report their work as project-based, demonstrating a need-based buying process (PPAI, 2017).  Media buyers in this category are driven by a specific need and usually have a locked in a relationship with their distributor of choice.


There are many reasons why media buying professionals bring promotional products into their marketing mix, most of them attributing their power of advocating brand recall and reputation resonance. An impressive 96% of buyers believe promotional products are an effective form of advertising, and their use of promotional products  falls under the top 5 most useful marketing strategies (PPAI, 2017):

  • Generate reviews (91%)
  • Generate referrals (90%)
  • Spark word of mouth (90%)
  • Customer acquisition (89%)
  • Motivate behaviors (87%)

As you can see, most of these strategies don’t yield same-day ROI, and rather point to the long-term success of the buyers’ businesses. Companies these days are busy mapping customer experience programs that can increase their satisfaction, and ultimately generate more reviews, referrals, brand awareness, and customer retention.

What Next?

We are living in the age of the consumer, no longer the age of the seller. When you don’t just know your customer but are able to understand their goals and concerns, you can tailor your messaging to adhere to their goals and provide them with products that are a perfect fit for their business. Consider the following questions a quick entrance exam to each prospect customer:

  1. How did you hear about my business?
  2. Have you worked with promotional products in the past?
  3. What does your immediate audience look like?
  4. Who else are you comparing my business to?
  5. What is your acquisition timeline?
  6. What is your budget?
  7. What will it take to win your business?
  8. Do you have concerns (if any) about this transaction?

Your customers want to achieve a certain outcome with their purchase and focus mainly on their business priorities. When you’re aware of their concerns, you can easily connect the dots by outlining advantage outcomes to them doing business with your distributorship. As the B2B industry gets further saturated with more vendors offering similar products, being able to clearly articulate your value to the customer will be the key factor that separates you from the rest.


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