I never met a promo item I didn’t like.

Pens, USBs, umbrellas, chargers, pop sockets – you name it. Always the belle of the ball at your exhibit trade show booth, charity function or business networking event.

The right item in the right hands will leave your recipient with both a good feeling toward your company and a gift they will hang onto, keeping your brand top of mind.

But, how do you ensure you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to purchasing promo products? The key is to think of your target audience first. Who is your desired customer? What item would they want? Remember, the more useful the item, the longer the recipient will keep it around – maximizing your logo’s visibility and brand impressions.

If you can match that criteria to the time of year, the event or the situation in which your target audience finds themselves when they receive the promo product (think water bottle at a charity race), even better!

In short, here are the best ways to maximize promo product ROI.

  1. Calculate your CPM
  2. Buy Early
  3. Go for Quality
  4. Choose a Practical Item
  5. Use an Expert

Let’s go into each promo product ROI best practice more deeply.

Related: The Power of Promo – Tangible Marketing in a Virtual World

1. Calculate Promo Product CPM

Promotional materials are a marketing investment. You’re getting your name out there in the hopes that recipients will see your brand consistently, and keep you top of mind. This usually contributes to current customers continuing to do business with you, as well as new prospects remembering your brand  when they’re ready for your services or products.

And as with any marketing effort, let’s consider your cost per impression (CPM), which is usually calculated per thousand impressions.

To do this, you will need the expected impressions your item can generate.

  • Below are the top five types of promotional products that generate the most impressions, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute.
  • Bags generate the most, then hats, followed by writing instruments, hoodies and t-shirts.

Maximize Promo Product ROI | Ironmark - Annapolis Junction, MD

Next, you’ll need to consider how many items you need. If you only need 50-100 of an item, you can afford to spend more per item. If you need 500-1,000+, your budget will be very different.

How to Calculate ROI for Promo Products

  • Multiply your expected impressions by the amount you order, and divide by your total budget to see your cost per impression.
  • Example: Company orders 200 sports bags at $8 per item, for an event. Total investment is $1,600.
5772 impressions x 200 items = 1,154,400 impressions
$1600 total investment / 1,154,400
= $1.39 CPM

That’s half of the average CPM for digital marketing! Not a bad ROI, considering the sports bag will live on way past a Google Display Network or programmatic digital advertisement at $2.80 (source).

2. Buy Early

One of the easiest ways to cut down the “I” in “ROI” is to avoid any kind of rush fees. When you purchase promotional items, be prepared to wait at least 6-8 weeks for manufacturing and delivery. Some items may even take longer, depending on product availability or customization.

If you’re hosting an event or you have a hard deadline, make sure to consider promo items early. Preparing in advance and allowing plenty of time for your items to arrive will help you to avoid unnecessary stress and rush fees.

Related: 10 Promo Items That People Keep in Their Cars Forever

3. Go for Quality

It may be tempting to cut corners, but don’t! If you are sacrificing quality, this is when you need to draw the line. People can tell when a promo item is cheap or poorly made, and that’s not the impression you want to give off. It just makes your company look bad!

Low quality items are also likely to break sooner, leading to them being thrown away. And that’s not the way to get continuous impressions from prospective clients. People keep high-quality items longer, so that should be your goal. Getting a deal is on a product is great, but make sure your items are up to your company’s standards.

4. Choose a Practical Item

No one wants a gift they can’t use. When choosing a promotional item, think about the needs of your customers, then decide on an item they will actually use. Tech items like USBs, phone chargers, ear buds, pop sockets, screen cleaners and phone stands will appeal to the millennial generation. Have an restaurant or bar business? Glassware and coasters are great gift ideas. T-shirts and tote bags can be fun for almost anyone, especially if they are attractive and offer a good fit for a variety of body types. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something your target audience will find useful.

Related: 6 Reasons Why to Use a Promo Expert

5. Use a Promo Expert

After hearing how effective promotional items can be, you may be excited begin incorporating them into your marketing strategy. However, with so many websites and items to choose from, this can be a rough terrain to navigate, and it may be necessary to call in a promo expert.

A promo expert can help you find the best promo items for your company’s next event or marketing campaign. They can help you identify the right gift for the right price, and they may even be able to get you discounts based on their connections with certain promo providers.

The best part? It’s no extra charge. Starting your search with a promo expert can be a great way to ensure your campaign runs smoothly and you get the most for your money.


Promotional products can be a great way to raise brand awareness. Be sure to do all you can to stick to your budget while getting a terrific product your customers will love to use and wear. If you want to start integrating promotional items into your marketing strategy, contact the promo experts at Ironmark today!

Written by Lynne Kingsley

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