Promotional products have long been used by nearly every business to create awareness of their brand. It’s not a fruitless exercise; it works! The 2020 Global Ad Impressions Study found that 85% of promo product recipients worldwide remember the advertiser giving them the item.
One of the appealing things about promo products is the number of options you have. You can choose from several product categories at a variety of price points to find the best possible items for your budget. Go big. Go small. Stick with a traditional favorite. Think outside the box with a unique or trendy option. Keep it simple with a one-color imprint. Go all out with a full-color imprint. The possibilities are endless!
In the promo product world, manufacturers rarely sell direct to consumer. Rather, there is a network of manufacturers that use online partners and/or local promo product suppliers to resell their products. In this network, manufacturers suggest resale prices, which are prices they believe to be fair to the end user that still allow the reseller to make a profit.
So, your first decision is whether to buy from an online or local promo product supplier. As with any comparison, there are pros and cons to each option.
This article is designed to help you determine which is better for your situation. It covers key things to consider for both online and local promotional product suppliers. It will equip you with knowledge that includes the positives and negatives of each option so that you can choose and know what to expect when you begin the buying process.
Online Promo Product Suppliers
Online promotional product suppliers include the big brands like 4imprint and VistaPrint, as well as many slightly smaller companies that aren’t household names.
- Customer Control – As with any eCommerce experience, the major appeal of utilizing an online promo product company is that it puts you in control. You can browse and order anywhere and anytime. All you need is your electronic device and credit card. Most of the process can be completed without needing to speak to or email an account rep. This is especially true if there are no inventory, artwork or shipping issues to deal with. It’s an efficient process that should get your order into production quickly.
- Faster Ordering Process – The all-online aspect means you can get your orders submitted more quickly than if you had to communicate with a sales or customer service rep, go through a quoting process, etc. This is especially appealing if you have multiple orders to place.
- Low Unit Prices – Typically, online promotional product suppliers have a network that enables them to sell items at low unit prices. This is enticing if you have a tight budget. However, it must be mentioned that the tradeoff of low prices is that it is likely to limit your product options. (Find out why in the next section.)
- Inconsistent Customer Service – It can’t be assumed that customer service from every online promotional product vendor will be poor. However, if you peruse the reviews of some of these companies, you’re likely to find several instances of customers being unhappy with the service they received. It’s not surprising when you consider the nature of the business transaction. When you’re dealing with a large company that doesn’t know you personally, the odds are decent that they won’t always go above and beyond to make your experience top-notch. You may fall victim to the “I’m just a number to them” phenomenon.
- Unknown Product Options & Quality – As mentioned in the previous section, low unit prices can come with a catch. That is, those prices come because of the online promo product company having pre-determined partnerships and negotiated pricing. They get this by partnering with a single vendor for an item. This means that you, the buyer, could get stuck with just one option for a product type instead of having multiple options. Also, like customer service, the product quality you get from an online source can be unpredictable. You might be happy with the quality of the finished product, but you might also be disappointed. It depends on the manufacturer. If your online promo product supplier doesn’t utilize highly rated manufacturers, it’s buyer beware. Are you willing to take that chance when considering the 2019 Consumer Study by PPAI Research found that 72% of people say that a brand’s reputation is reflected in the quality of its promo products?
- High Shipping Costs – While low unit prices are appealing, don’t be surprised if the online company you buy from offsets those prices with inflated shipping charges.
Local Promo Product Suppliers
Local promotional product suppliers include brick-and-mortars like office supply stores, marketing agencies and advertising agencies in your community or region.
- Assistance from Marketing Experts – When you utilize a local promo product supplier like a marketing agency, you work with a team of experts who will help ensure your purchase produces the best possible outcome, whether it’s making a positive impression at an event or showing a loyal customer how much their continued business means to you. Your sales rep/marketing strategist can help you pick a product from the showroom or website/online catalog if you aren’t sure exactly what you’re looking for or make suggestions to dial in your vision to make it as effective as possible. From there, you can trust a graphic design pro to take your provided logo/graphic and optimize it for production or create a custom graphic that will look great. Finally, a production manager will bring your project across the finish line while providing any necessary updates along the way.
- Commitment to Quality – Any good local supplier of promotional products will do their homework to ensure the product vendors they partner with have a proven track record of quality. By only working with A-rated vendors and actively seeking alternative suppliers if any red flags arise, the local entity you are buying from provides peace of mind that you are getting a high-quality product. And unlike many online suppliers, a local supplier likely has the flexibility to shop around using multiple vendors for a particular product type and often can provide better selection and competitive pricing.
- Accountability – Arguably the biggest advantage of purchasing from a local promo product supplier is the accountability that comes with it. From customer service to product options and product quality to timely delivery, you can expect a local source to provide that personal touch and display a more genuine, caring attitude toward you and your project than the more impersonal online suppliers.
- Longer Ordering Process – Ordering through a local promotional product company sales rep will take a little longer than the all-online alternative. You need to communicate to a sales rep what you want, and then they’ll generate a quote for you to review and approve before the design and proofing process can begin. The entire process isn’t extremely long, but it’s not as quick as ordering online.
- Smaller In-House Team – Most local promo product suppliers don’t have as many employees as the 4imprints of the world. Once again, this means getting orders into production — especially if multiple large orders are involved — will take a little time due to all the quoting, design setup and proofing required. And unless you pay extra to rush the order, it will be queued up after other companies’ orders that came in before yours.
- Higher Price Tags – Not all promo products from local suppliers will cost more than the same or comparable items from online sources. However, that may sometimes be the case depending on where the items are being sourced from.
So, what’s the verdict? Do you have the information necessary to decide if an online or local promo product supplier is better for you?
Taking all the pros and cons of each option into consideration, the comparison seems to boil down to speed vs. accountability. You can expect to get your order submitted more quickly with an online supplier, which should translate to your products getting into production faster. The tradeoff with this internet-based, largely automated process is the absence of a personal business relationship that could result in a lack of creative product solutions for your unique needs and create accountability issues related to quality and customer service.
The opposite is true when looking at a local promo product supplier. Accountability will be high when you purchase from a company that takes the time to get to know you and your company a bit and has a good idea of what you are trying to accomplish. It may not be as fast of a process, but you will have fewer worries about hiccups with your project. And when a local promo product provider can offer online shopping to pair with their accountability, it creates a best-of-both-worlds situation that’s hard to beat.
Have questions about promotional products or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us. You can also read Top 47 Tradeshow Giveaways or browse our online promotional products showroom.