ROI? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ ROI
When making any marketing purchase, you want to know what it will bring you. Too many business owners forget that step, and buy blindly, wasting a ton of money.
This morning, I got a call from a promotional products salesman that illustrates this all-too-well. This a real conversation, as best as I can transcribe it from memory:
Me: I don’t do advertising specialties, because I don’t even meet most of my clients. I get them from my books, from online networking, from my speeches…
Salesman: Would you like more traffic to your website? We do these beautiful laser-engraved pens with your website URL.
Me: I already get about 50,000 visits a month to my site.
Salesman: Well, imagine hundreds of thousands more visitors.
Me: You think I’m going to get hundreds of thousands of visitors by giving out pens? Let me ask you—when was the last time you visited a website because someone gave you a pen with the URL?
Salesman: Most of the pens I’ve seen don’t have URLs.
Me: Well, I’ve seen plenty that do. I read every printed pen I get. And I can’t think of a single one that got me to type in the URL.
First of all, the guy is out of touch. URLs have been appearing on pens for years. I did a quick survey of ten random custom pens in my stash; half had a URL, and some of the others, like a pen from Hyatt hotels, didn’t really need one because the URL is obvious. If you’re going to do any kind of promotional product, you want your URL nice and prominent on it. And second, he was so completely clueless about the ROI for me. The ROI for him is obvious: a commission. But what’s the benefit to me? Zero.
Mind you, I’m not dissing the category of promotional items. I’ve seen examples that work well: an auto sunshade with huge block letters on both sides, promoting a mayoral candidate (she won)…a mug that stays on your desk as a reminder, month after month, a solar calculator promoting a solar energy consultant…lawn signs with the silhouette of the mountain a local environmental group was trying to save, along with both phone and URL (they won).
In fact, I’m actually planning to experiment with a small run of imprinted seed packages; I believe they will harmonize with my message of business growth through green principles. I’ll hand these out when I speak at green business conferences, and maybe throw a few out to the audience for answering questions correctly in general business conferences.
Promotional products make sense when there’s not only a good fit between the marketing vehicle and the brand, but also a good fit between the utility of the product and the visibility of the marketing message. On that last, it’s the difference between items like pens or worse, sunglasses, where the marketing message is hard to read and too small to do much branding anyway—and something that actually might be useful for marketing, say, a t-shirt or tote bag, where the message can easily attract attention.
What are some of the best and worst marketing purchases you’ve made (or seen), from an ROI perspective? Comment below.