How to choose your promotional gifts supplier – the industry expert gives us his guidance

Welcome to the second of my blog posts in a series of three, in which I ask some pointed questions of the Director General of the British Promotional Merchandising Association (BPMA), Gordon Glenister.

With the UK’s second Promotional Products Week event under way (it commenced on Monday 15th September), I felt this was the perfect time to glean Gordon’s invaluable insights for buyers of promotional gifts, and how such gifts and give-aways might help you to grow your business and brand.

My first blog post in this series was all about what makes a good promotional gift, this one focuses on helping you to choose your promotional gifts supplier.

1: With the click of a mouse, buyers can find a plethora of promotional gift distributors offering the same kind of thing – pens, coffee mugs, coaters, etc, – how should they decide which company is most suitable?

1: I know buyers want maximum value with minimum risk when searching for promotional items. But with so much choice, they need to be able make an informed decision about what products are best suited to their needs. By talking to a BPMA member distributor, many of whom have years of experience and are trained to an industry standard, a buyer will feel reassured that they are working with an expert. If buyers clearly explain the type of activity they are planning, it’s likely there are a range of ideas and options available. Other signs of a potentially good gifts supplier are case studies. Look at what other companies they have worked with already and the results, feedback or testimonials they have achieved. The most capable suppliers have often won industry awards, too.

2: The promotional gifts industry used to be driven by mailing-out brochures but has seen a gradual move away to promotional tools like e-shots; where do you see this going?

2: It’s definitely true that catalogues have dropped in popularity but not by a staggering amount as there are still people who like to view ideas away from the computer. It’s sometimes easier, for example, to talk with colleagues while viewing a catalogue rather than on a screen or hard copy e-mail. In addition, e-mails are extremely cheap to deliver but I would also ask how many even get through to recipients in this day and age with so many spam filters. As a society we are overwhelmed with messages, receiving thousands every day. In some instances we’ve become oblivious to them. Furthermore, for me at least, one of the most effective methods for gifts suppliers to get their message over is through word of mouth and referral marketing – which are the kinds of signals buyers should be listening for as well. Tailored and focused direct mail is seeing a resurgence.

3: Gordon, you have worked alongside the biggest and the smallest in this industry – what tips would you give to a company seeking to source a UK distributor?

3: If a company wants to source a UK distributor, it all depends again on what they are trying to achieve and what they are looking for in a partner. Are they looking for a local company they can meet regularly and discuss ideas and options for campaigns? Are they looking for a company that can help them create a merchandise scheme or collection for a large brand with a sizeable budget? Are they looking for in-house design or a company that can cater for their tender requirements? Once they’ve decided upon what type of company they are looking for, they should then select from BPMA members, all of whom have been financially vetted and sign up to a code of conduct. What’s more, some BPMA members have taken steps to becoming  super compliant by gaining “Charter” status. All these companies have customer service procedures, proper complaint processes, ethical policies and many also have CSR polices. All of which are just some of the reasons why promotional gift buyers should also talk to BPMA members first!

That’s it for this blog post and our thanks to BPMA Director General, Gordon Glenister, for his detailed answers.

In the third post in this blog series, I’ll be asking Gordon to help me with three factors which have had an impact on the promotional gifts industry in recent years – EU legislation, environmental concerns and ever decreasing delivery deadlines.

Keep it here then for blog post three but if you’d like to know more about any of the matters Gordon has discussed, please feel free to give us a call.

Also, to discover more about Promotional Products Week you’ll find it here: www.promotionalproductsweek.co.uk

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