Late Comedian Mitch Hedberg said that handing out flyers is like saying, “Here, YOU throw this away.” Often times, widespread paper mailings, flyers, mailbox drops, and neighborhood postings can be easily ignored by potential customers. Used properly, however, promotional gifts can have a lasting positive effect on customer service and keep the name of your business out in the community.

Pens, magnets, calendars, and other items are often shared, viewed by others, and are used consistently, giving your business viral exposure. A study by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) shows that the ability of customers to recall the name of an advertiser on a promotional product they received (76 percent) was much better than their ability to recall the name of an advertiser from a print publication they had read in the past week (53.5 percent). As opposed to a flyer or a mailing, potential customers are much less likely to throw away a useful item such as a mug, pen, mouse pad, or T-shirt. If they keep your item around, they are more likely to call you when the need arises.

According to PPAI, T-shirts are the most popular promotional items because they get high exposure. People wear them at the gym and on weekends. “Wearables,” as they are called in the promotional products industry, can cost a few dollars a piece, so you want to order a universal size, such as a men’s large, and tailor your order based on volume. Often, the price decreases as the quantity of items ordered goes up, so if you think your contact info will remain the same, it’s a good idea to order in bulk.

A much less expensive item is a pen, printed with your business name and contact information. Pens run as low as 15 cents, so they can be placed in envelopes for mass mailings or easily given out when customers are writing a check for your services. Statistics also show that a pen will have at least 8 owners in its lifetime of use, which can lead to increased business and name exposure.

Reusable shopping bags are also becoming an effective advertising and promotional option. Bags can be used for lunches, carryalls, and groceries. Indeed, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), bags deliver the most impressions per month (1.038 on average) and, because they are useful products, they will be unlikely to be discarded. And, in this era of eco-friendliness, promoting a reusable bag shows that your business is environmentally consciousness – something more and more consumers are looking out for.

Calendars, magnets, and mouse pads are also effective items because, in addition to being inexpensive, they are usually placed in highly accessible locations, such as the center of the home or at their place of work, so they are constantly visible to the customer. It is from these locations that customers will often make a call for a service provider, and your number will be the first that they see.

Another tactic is to distribute a promotional product that fits your niche of service. Battery testers, measuring tapes, multi-tool pocket knives, and flashlights can all be produced with your company’s logo and can reinforce your brand identity.

While promotional products have many benefits, it’s easy to get carried away and overspend. For example, if you are going to send out a product, mailing costs should be considered.—a magnet or small pen can fit into a standard envelope, but sending something larger may not be sensible or cost-effective. Larger gifts, such as t-shirts or mouse pads may need to be presented to customers in person.

Additionally, you want to make your spending proportionate to your expected return on investment. One effective option is to present a small item to potential customers who request an estimate. This way, your information will remain visible as the homeowner is making a decision. But if you have steady, solid client base that provides you with a significant amount of referrals, you may want to present these people with something more substantial, such as a wearable item or a coffee mug. Whatever item you decide to use should have your full contact information on it, especially your website and phone number.

So now that you realize the value of promotional items, where do you find them? The Internet is a great place to comparison shop for promotional items. A simple Google search can lead you to hundreds of distributors. A macro site, such as, will allow you to search by product and then set you up with a distributor in your area. This is especially helpful if you want a full-service promotional products campaign that incorporates different items and multiple distribution methods. Since distributors are specialists, they can also assist with logo design, wording, and placement.

An $18 billion dollar industry, promotional products have proven to be an effective way to get your message seen and attract potential customers by translating advertising into a tangible item. So take advantage of this long lasting, eye-catching marketing tool and keep your name out in front of your customer base.