Affordable Promotional Items

Close-up.
Our dear readers might know that we think it's very important to keep marketing and advertising costs low for small businesses. Many small businesses fail because they can't control their expenses, particularly on the advertising and promotions side, so we don't want any T&I businesses to fall into this trap. Luckily, most of our advertising is done on the web, which is largely free except for the cost of our time. 

However, since Judy is a master-level court-certified Spanish interpreter in the state of Nevada, she wanted a small item she could give to lawyers, social workers, clerks, etc. as an effective promotional tool. We didn't want another tchotchke that no one uses, so we went for the one thing that people are constantly looking for and are usually grateful for: a pen. We shopped around, and even though the prices were slightly higher than elsewhere, we found a charming, locally-owned store in suburban L.A., where Judy's hubby grew up. They focus on trophies for sporting events, but also make a wide range of pens. We visited them, chose a pen, and were all ready to give them the Twin Translations credit card. The problem? We never heard back from them and they never sent us the proof we requested, even after several e-mails and phone calls. We know what it's like to be a customer, so we make sure to never leave our clients hanging, but that's a topic for another blog post.

Lots of Twin Translations pens
We ended up ordering from one of our favorite stores, U.S.-based Costco, a membership-only warehouse store. While there is a big carbon footprint because the pens ship from the East Coast, the price was right: roughly $0.35/pen if you purchase 300 (which we did). For a very small fee, Costco did the lay-out for us. It was a bit painful to make all the info fit, but the Costco designers were really patient and worked with us until we were happy -- talk about great customer service! Now every time someone digs for a pen during a deposition or meeting, Judy pulls out her cloth bag full of Twin Translations pen and hands them out. People love them -- and at $150 or so, the investment was quite small. 

Dear readers: do you have a favorite promotional item for your business? We'd love to hear about it.


12 comments:

Jennifer Bikkál Horne on October 8, 2011 at 7:39 AM said...

As I was making my business cards on vistaprint, I decided to go for the tote. I think it was about $10 and I love parading it around when I'm shopping and even more when I'm at the airport! I do not know yet if anyone has looked me up but for $10 I figure at least I'm having a good time, and as they say: you never know! http://twitpic.com/6orisf

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 8, 2011 at 9:42 AM said...

Love the tote, Jen; great idea! The more exposure it gets, the better. Plus, it's so eco-friendly; which we love. :)

Emily Ortiz Alfonso on October 12, 2011 at 4:19 PM said...

We actually sought a more expensive (at least to me), classy item, and purchased limited-edition for our very good clients. The leather journal has our company logo on the front, a loop for a pen, and a refillable book. All our clients love it. It's important to know in what to invest and choose according to your budget.

Barbara Inge Karsch on October 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM said...

I keep thinking about it, but it's not been high on my list, as my business is not even 1.5 years old. But I have to say that I really liked a little notebook that Rina N. distributed at LocWorld a year ago. I am sure she designed much of it herself. While I like it, it looks like it was not a cheap item. Another item that struck me was the socks Kilgray gave away at memoQ fest in spring. I love stuff that is useful to THAT level, even if it has nothing to do with translation.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 16, 2011 at 10:15 AM said...

@Emily: a bound leather journal is a fabulous idea for those very special clients -- love it! We usually come up with one special item for our top clients at the end of the year as well, and a journal is a great idea!

@Barbara: true, you have some time to think about promotional items, but sounds like you are already putting some thought into it -- great! Rina Ne'man has the best tchotchkes ever; she's been handing out these cool eco-bags at the ATA conference. We are the proud owner of several of these very handy bags. The memoQ socks sound awesome, too!

Svetlana on October 20, 2011 at 5:56 AM said...

I used a web-site www.morningprint.com to print my business card and paid about $29 for a box of 500 cards. Even though I think I rushed it a little because I need to change my e-mail address and add a web-site to cards, I like the service and the quality of product. As for the pens, I think it's a great idea, you just have to find a pen which is not boring or generic. I have a few ideas of my own, too.

May on October 21, 2011 at 11:55 AM said...

I'm curious, what kinds of end-of-the-year gifts do you give to your best clients? This would be the first year I would do it, and I am looking for some good ideas. I was thinking of a language-related item, maybe a fun (but educational) English phrases book...

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 23, 2011 at 7:44 PM said...

@Svetlana: you got a great deal on business cards; even better than the deal we get on Vistaprint! Agreed: some pens can look generic/boring. We've seen some super-cool ones, but they range in the $2/piece range, which might be a bit too high if you are ordering a lot of them.

@May: thanks for commenting and great point. We might post about end-of-year gifts soon and love your idea about the English phrase book. We actually created something similar for German a few years ago and all our customers loved it. :)

Stubby Holders on October 26, 2011 at 3:05 AM said...

Choosing affordable items to promote your business is good but you should also put in mind to always make your item functional so consumers will be able to appreciate it. :)

Tim Windhof on January 11, 2013 at 8:54 AM said...

I got vistaprint's large car door magnets with my company logo on it. It draws quite a bit of attention, but I don't think it got me a customer yet;-(

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 11, 2013 at 3:12 PM said...

@Tim: Yes, those VistaPrint magnets are great! I would not be disappointed if you don't hear of any direct business that resulted from it. People don't always tell you how they heard about you, and you are spreading the word by driving around. :) Best of luck!

Nancy on January 26, 2015 at 12:05 AM said...

@Judy, This is one of the reason why I love reading your blogs. You also post promotional items which very helpful to me :) Thanks

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