Pump Up Your Shop Profits With Promo Products

To stay competitive, it makes sense to be as much of a one-stop print shop as possible. In this way, you can provide the convenience of supplying all the logoed items an organization might want while ensuring that you’ll be making a profit on these items. 

“Today’s consumers wantand expecta single source for their branded merchandise and promotional marketing needs,” says JP Hunt, co-founder and president of InkSoft.

“This need creates an important monetization opportunity for print shops. By adding promo products to your product offerings, print shops can position themselves as full service, be far more competitive, and reach a larger market and customer base. Upselling and cross-selling promotional products is a powerful way to drive more revenue, profit and customer satisfaction into your business.” 

Let’s break down how to add promo products to your shop today, with advice from the experts.

Why Your Shop Should Offer Promotional Products

Let’s talk about the most obvious reason to add promotional products to your existing line of SKUs. There’s profit to be made for your print shop. “Here’s the basic strategy: Would you like fries with that hamburger?” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Shirt Lab Tribe and Atkinson Consulting. “If you can sell them a t-shirt, you can sell them the tote bag, stickers, water bottle, pens and other hard goods for the event. If you don’t sell those additional products, someone else will.”

Promotional products bring in an average 40% profit margin. If you add promo items to your existing decorated-apparel business, you can quickly increase your bottom line. If your customers are already happy with your printed t-shirts, they’ll love that you’re now a one-stop shopfulfilling all of their logoed products. 

Most businesses understand the value of investing marketing dollars in logoed promotional products. That’s in part because 72% of consumers “believe that the quality of a promotional product is directly related to the reputation of the company.” Plus, while internet advertising is important, surveys show that customers “are 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products over internet advertising,”

Here are more industry stats that show the power and longevity of logoed t-shirts and promo products, which you can also share with your clients:

  • Most households own an average of 30 promotional products, and 53% of people use a logoed product at least once a week.
  • 81% of consumers keep custom promo products for more than one year, and 40% keep promo items for a decade or longer. 
  • The most popular promotional products today are apparel (28%) drinkware (8.4%), writing utensils (6.6%), bags and wallets (6.3%) and technology (5.6%).
  • 83% of people are more likely to do business with a brand that gave them a promotional product.
  • Nine in 10 people recall the company’s name or logo on the promotional item they received.
  • 89% of the population owns a logoed pen, pencil or another type of writing instrument; 73% of consumers own custom bags; 64% of consumers own customized desk or office accessories; 45% of consumers own personalized umbrellas; and 33% of consumers own customized power banks.



Be More Than a ‘Shop That Sells T-Shirts’

We’ve talked before about becoming more than a print shop that sells t-shirts. To increase your profit while expanding your business, you must be an authority in the logoed products business. If your customers can trust you to select the right mix of high-quality logoed items for them, you relieve them of a huge burden and help them achieve their marketing goals.

You already know there are certain key elements needed to create decorated apparel, like great artwork and lasting imprints, and the same is true for promotional products. “The good news is that you’ll outsource the decoration of these products to your suppliers,” Atkinson says. “Take upfront payment from your customers, and the process is easy.”

Unlike a promotional products distributor who might take more time to peruse industry databases of thousands of promo products, it makes more sense for a printer starting out to have a shorter go-to list of the products the industries they serve most often want. “Just like with apparel though, there are many options when it comes to hard goods,” Hunt says. “Rely on your promotional product suppliers to understand and recommend what products are popular and trending as you begin building your catalog. Carefully curating the array of promotional items you’ll offer will help you sell these items more effectively.”

You’ll need to meet supplier salespeople to create those initial relationships. Ensuring you get high-quality products and partnering with a promotional vendor who understands what you’re doing for your clients is crucial to get the superior result your clients expect. “Develop relationships, because like any industry, there are people who are really good and you want to find them,” Atkinson says. “Choose suppliers you want to work with. Talk among your network to see what suppliers people recommend. A good first step is to order samples and experience working with that supplier.” 

Pro tip: With current supply chain issues, consider in-stock and high-availability items when you’re selling promotional products to avoid disappointing customers.



Here’s How to Select the Right Products to Sell

Atkinson recommends looking at what industries your current clients fit in. The top 10 industries that purchase promo products are business services, education, financial, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, insurance, technology, nonprofits and agriculture. 

Let’s say you serve a lot of gyms and yoga studios. What promo items can a gym, trainers and members use? Water bottles, towels, bags, t-shirts, yoga mats, magnets, pens, car decals and achievement awards for different milestones, to name a few. “Within each product type, find good, better and best options,” Atkinson says. “You should have a plastic water bottle, but also a stainless steel version, for example.”

Here are some of Atkinson’s best suggestions for immersing yourself in the world of promo products to find the right items to sell based on your clients: 


  1. Join a promotional products organization, like PPAI or ASI. You’ll be able to browse product databases to see the most popular items and how much they cost. You can visit in-person and virtual trade shows to connect with suppliers and see what’s new. You can learn more about how the products are decorated as well. Nonprofit organizations like PromoKitchen can link you up with a free mentorship with an industry veteran. “Will you DIY it and struggle, or take advantage of the resources available to you?” Atkinson says. “It’s your choice.”
  2. Order samples, so you get to know the products and suppliers. “When you place a sample order, you get to try out the water bottle to see if you like it,” Atkinson says. “You also build a relationship with your supplier rep, and then learn how the supplier works and if they produce a good product. How long does it take? How does the logo look? Does it stand the test of use and time?”
  3. Charge for the real value you offer. Atkinson has talked to shop owners who spend three hours trying to find a great pen for their customer, and then the customer turns around and orders it from a site like 4imprint. “Develop a relationship with your customer,” he says. “Your value starts with your recommendations. Charge $200 to create that curated products list, and then deduct that fee from whatever the customer orders from you. Putting the time into your recommendations can turn the $2,000 order into a $10,000 order.”
  4. Get your feet wet with smaller, easier orders. “The more you do it, the more experience you get,” Atkinson says. “Some promo orders are very complicated, like developing a fully custom product in a China-based factory. Don’t start there. Work your way up to those orders.”
  5. Focus on a marketing push to let existing and new customers know about your new offering. “When you add promo products to your apparel line, you’re able to design the whole product suite for your client,” Atkinson says. “You can also custom box all the products in your shop and fulfill the orders. The value to your customer isn’t just that you’re sourcing the products. It’s that you’re solving a branding and exposure problem for them. When other people see those logoed water bottles or car decals, they say, ‘Hey, you’re part of my tribe.’”



Becoming a One-Stop-Shop Is Convenient for Your Client & High Profit for You

Companies, organizations, schools and teams: These are just a few of the many clients you can help by being a one-stop-shop for their promotional needs. In fact, most groups are candidates for logoed promo products for customer thank-yous, event swag, tradeshow giveaways, marketing collateral and even higher-end merch for sale. What does a company use when they want to extend their brand recognition efforts while also building a great fan base? Logoed products. And who do they go to for those logoed products? You and your print shop, of course.

The first step is to include promo products as part of every sales call. “Always present promotional products in the initial product discovery process,” Hunt says. “The biggest mistake is only using promotional products as an upsell too late in the process, which can seem like an afterthought to your client.”

Remember, the marketing executives in charge of handling orders for branded products are rarely knowledgeable about artwork requirements, timelines and other specifics needed to accurately order shirts, bags, water bottles, and the like. That’s where it makes so much sense for you, as the designer and creative director, to take charge of all the promotional items a client could ask for, becoming their partner for life.

Starting today, follow these tips from Hunt and Atkinson to hook clients on purchasing logoed promo products from your shop:

  1. Curate promotional products carefully to avoid overwhelming buyers with choices. “Think in terms of offering good, better, and best quality products in the most popular categories,” Hunt says.
  2. Get samples and use samples in your sales process. “At the very least, use product mockups to showcase your customers’ brand identity on recommended products,” Hunt says. 

Atkinson suggests when you think about the lifetime value of a client, say $50,000 over the time you work together, investing $100 to create logoed product samples with their logo on it isn’t an unreasonable investment. “You want to get that client excited about working with you,” he says. “While there are never any guarantees they’ll sign on, I can guarantee you’ll stand out when you try this strategy.”

  1. Use complete branded merchandise in all of your marketing efforts. For example, your shop’s Instagram images should showcase all types of logoed products, not just apparel. 
  2. Focus on merchandising and product relatedness. “Your product mix should seem holistic and related to each other,” Hunt says. “Avoid the notion of a hodgepodge of products. Ask yourself the question: Do these products logically go together? What story and feeling are created for the recipient with the bundle I’m creating?” 
  3. Bundling promotional items is another great strategy for managing and fulfilling online stores for clients like schools and corporations. With this, you can stock t-shirts and hoodies, but also water bottles, key chains, and whatever promo products make the most sense for that audience.


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