Picking a Perfect Promo: Advice from a Printed Product Professional

Promotional products business websites give you all sorts of guidance on choosing the “right” logo items. Our consultants are well-versed in what’s hot in the industry. But sometimes, you’d love to get some advice from someone who makes no money based on your promotional pick.

Wish granted!

Here’s some promotional product selection advice from Debbie Mahler, marketing specialist at BigMachines and long-time satisfied Quality Logo Products customer.

Big Machines Blog Header

The Big Machines blog keeps customers engaged with the latest information about the company and the entire industry.

Tell me about your company and what you do.

BigMachines develops software to help companies to sell their products and services faster, easier, and more accurately.

As a marketing specialist at BigMachines, I am responsible for creating and updating our marketing collateral, managing our PR efforts as well as our incoming leads, and ordering branded promo products for our marketing events.

Who is your target audience?

BigMachines software is valuable to any company that wants to sell more and sell faster. Our customers come from many different industries including high-tech, software, industrial, media, healthcare, and telco.

Big Machines Website

Sell More? Sell Faster? The dream of every business!

How have you used promotional products to help you reach your audience?

Even in this age of technology and social media, face to face interaction is still one of the best ways to connect with potential customers. Our team attends many different conferences and trade shows throughout the year – large events where we usually have a limited time to drive BigMachines awareness and leave a lasting impression with attendees. It’s great to have a giveaway with our company name and logo that an attendee can take with them. We try to choose items that will be reused after an event such as pens, stress balls, or travel mugs. Having our logo on these items leaves a lasting reminder of BigMachines long after an event has passed.

We also use promo products to enhance fun events for our customers and partners and promote a sense of community. We host our own annual customer conference called BigIdeas. Last year, we reserved the House of Blues in Chicago and hired a Blues Brothers tribute band. In order to complete the experience, we purchased Blues Brothers-esque sunglasses with our logo imprinted on them to help attendees get into character for the show. The event turned out amazing, and having these accessories helped people get into the spirit of the evening.

Promotional Sunglasses in Action at the House of Blues

Promotional Sunglasses in action at the House of Blues in Chicago

What are the most important factors you take into consideration when choosing promotional products?

Our marketing team usually brainstorms ideas before upcoming events. When we choose a giveaway, we first decide on what would be appropriate for a particular event. If our target audience is traveling to a conference, we would want to choose something that is smaller and easy for them to bring back in their suitcase without breaking – something like a pen or stress ball. If our sales team is traveling to a customer’s office, we don’t necessarily have the same limitations and can bring larger items like branded travel mugs or portfolios.

We also look for something that is classy but practical. It goes back to trying to leave a lasting impression of BigMachines long after an event is over. I’ve been to events where people hand out very cool, but single use items like branded plastic water bottles (the non-reusable kind). I love them at the time, but forget about them once I’ve finished the bottle and disposed of it. We choose items that have staying power, something that you would want to bring back. One of my favorite items to give away at events are Sobe pens. They are elegant, definitely something that you’ll want to keep and use!

How does having a promotional product consultant like Leo make your job easier than just ordering through an online form?

Leo is just amazing and also fun to work with. I appreciate having one person to go to who’s familiar with my ordering history, who’s extremely helpful, and who can help me find anything.

I know that I can go to Leo with either a specific item I’m interested in or a vague idea and that no matter what, the end result is always great.

I also appreciate not only having someone to answer all of my questions (and sometimes there are a lot), but also someone to recommend items that I might not have thought of or to offer alternatives if my first choice is not available for any reason.

Big Machines Twitter

Big Machines engages with customers through the latest and greatest social media platform: MySpace. I kid. It’s Twitter.

What other marketing strategies have you used to draw attention to your brand?

At BigMachines, we work to drive awareness and foster our community through our annual BigIdeas Chicago customer conferences and through our regional customer success forums. We also promote our company and speak to industry trends on our blog and work to build BigMachines awareness through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets.

Debbie’s Tips:

  • Location, location, location! If you’re attending an out-of-town conference or trade show, be mindful of size and durability when it comes to hauling your giveaways to the show and expecting the recipients to bring them home.
  • Lasting power. Water bottle labels make for great brand impressions on a hot day, but how many of those make it home with the recipient? You’re better off imprinting directly onto a personalized water bottle for a long-lasting keepsake.
  • Pick a theme. Tie the gift to the experience, as Debbie did with her House of Blues/Blues Brothers event. Both the event and the logo will forever be imprinted!

What do you think of Debbie’s tips? Any ideas on how she can enhance her marketing potential with a different approach to promotional products? How can you use her tips in your own marketing plans? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Joseph Giorgi

    That Blues Brothers-themed event was pretty clever! It’s that type of outside-the-box effort that’ll impress potential customers and clients (not to mention keep customer loyalty at a maximum).

    Your “Lasting Power” takeaway is important. If a promo item can’t be reused, then it can’t make nearly as many impressions. Simple as that.

    Excellent interview, Jana!

  2. Amy Swanson

    What a great interview, Jana! Debbie’s tip about a brand’s lasting power is one I bet is often overlooked. Sure, the water bottle labels are cheaper but if they don’t even make it out of the exhibit hall, what have you gained? People may be so overloaded with information that they won’t remember which booth they visited first or last. So, give them something they’ll hang on to after the event.

    Great stuff for sure!

  3. Jill Tooley

    Debbie is one smart marketer! She knows how to find her audience and give them the ideal giveaway items for any event. This is where many businesses/organizations struggle, because sometimes it’s tough to find a product that matches customers’ needs and wants (especially if it’s a diverse bunch). Sounds like she’s doing an exemplary job, and it’s so exciting that we’re able to partner with her on these events.

    I LOVE the Blues Brothers promo with the sunglasses! That’s beyond cool, and I’ll bet every single person in the room kept those sunglasses after the concert ended. Those shades grabbed people’s attention, kept it, and encouraged them to participate all at the same time. Now that’s something to be proud of!

    Awesome interview, Jana. I really enjoyed reading what Debbie had to say! 🙂

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Debbie’s top about location is so important! You can hand out big items at trade shows, but if your recipients have to check another bag to get them home, I’m willing to bet your item is getting left behind before they shell out another $50 to American Airlines.

    Thanks to Debbie for such a great interview! And I love the picture – it’s so great to see our products in action!

    P.S. I’m so glad that she mentioned the Sobe pens! They’re one of my favorite classic, elegant-looking pens on our site.

  5. Jen

    This is a great interview Jana! Debbie has a lot of good ideas when it comes to marketing her business. The sunglasses look like they were a huge hit with her clients, what a cool idea. Who doesn’t like the Blues Brothers? She couldn’t go wrong.

    She also has a great point about the disposable plastic water bottles. Nobody really takes them with after the event, they just get thrown in the trash. Having reusable water bottles would give a longer lasting impression after the event is over.

    Nice post!

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