All businesses promote their products and services, and promotional products allow them to get their brand in front of their customers in a unique way.
More importantly, you can create potentially lucrative home business by learning how to sell promotional products to these businesses.
But there are some thing you should know about becoming a promotional products distributor, and some worthwhile alternatives to consider as I explain.
What Are Promotional Products?
Simply put, promotional products are products businesses use for promotional purposes.
This can theoretically include any type of product. But the most commonly used promo products are wearables such as clothing and hats, followed by calendars and power banks.
Here’s an overview of the most popular promo products courtesy of Statista:
These products are typically given away in an effort to build brand awareness and drive sales for the company, but companies can also sell promo products which is where the line can become blurred when defining this.
The key element that defines a promotional product is both the branding element, and the purpose for which they are used.
For example, say an accountancy firm buys a bunch of generic pens, incorporates their branding on the pens, and gives them away to customers to increase brand recall. This is a clear cut promotional product.
In any case, this is a $21 billion per year industry and it is a very successful form of marketing for businesses. Since pretty much every offline business can benefit from this form of marketing, and money is being made, there is potential.
Read on to learn how to tap into this potential with a home based business.
How To Sell Promotional Products From Home
There are many ways you can go about selling promotional products from home, but I’ll focus on the most traditional option in this section.
After that, I’ll discuss some viable alternatives to this model.
Step 1) Research The Industry and Develop a Plan
The very first thing you need to do, is start researching the state of the industry and the potential within your local area.
Here’s a couple of basic starting points for your research…
One of the simplest ways to learn about your competitors and uncover hidden opportunities is to find out which companies are already selling promo products successfully in your area.
The more you know about what is working, and what isn’t working, and the more you know about your competitors, the better. Figure out what prices they charge, what services do they offer, and what marketing methods they use among other things.
Try to identify who your prospective customers are, what their needs are and how you can solve these problems in the best way. Better than your competitors.
This is logically going to include the vast majority of local businesses, but it’s important to think outside the box and look for ‘niche opportunities’ also. More on this shortly.
Developing a Business Plan
Once you’ve done some research and taken down notes, it’s time to develop a plan.
You don’t need to create a 50 page business plan or anything. But a simple plan of attack that includes your mission, marketing and sales strategies, costs and other important aspects will help you.
Even if you want to keep things SUPER simple, noting this stuff down in a simple word document can help you stay focussed and on track.
Step 2) Find a Wholesaler and Branding Company
Since you will be selling promotional products, you need the following two elements:
- Generic products at wholesale prices
- Someone to incorporate your customers brand onto these products
Depending on what products you decide to specialize in, you may source this locally or you may source these products from China using sites like Alibaba.
They make the process of ordering and shipping directly from manufacturers dead simple, and it can save you a LOT of money.
The cheaper you can source quality products, the better your profit margin will be.
All you need to do is stock common products and find a local company to brand these once an order comes through.
Optionally, rather than buy a bunch of products in the ‘hope’ someone will buy, you could potentially purchase your stock once you receive an order from a customer. This could significantly reduce your startup costs, but you will need to carefully consider the lead time your customers expect.
You may also find a company that can do both of these things for you, at once on a per order basis. Once you know which products you want to sell, it’s a matter of doing your research to find the best solution for your home business.
Step 3) Start Generating Leads
Lead generation is a key component in any successful business, and this is no different.
This is also the part where most people will struggle, but it’s not difficult if you follow a process. There are many ways you can go about getting leads, some better than others.
Here’s a few basic ideas to get you started:
- Visit local businesses during the quite part of the day, and see if they need your services
- Phone local businesses and request a meeting or email address to send information
- List your services in free local directory websites
The first two methods will require a lot of hustling, patience, and direct sales skills. But it can be done. The last method will also work, but it’s easy to get drowned out by the competition this way.
What most people do these days, is ‘Google it’.
Which is exactly why you
want need a simple website to generate leads for your business. This is the perfect way to showcase your business, what it offers and get new customers.
One way this can work almost immediately is by claiming your free ‘Google My Business’ listing. This allows local businesses to get their services listed on page one for “(service name)+ (location)” and it can work very well.
The other way is to optimize your website with SEO to get rankings on specific search terms, under the above listing.
Either way, this works and it’s not expensive if you learn how to do it yourself.
Step 4) Close The Sale And Follow Up
Once you have a steady supply of leads coming in through your chosen strategy, and through word of mouth, you need to close these sales and follow up.
As far as closing sales, this is a skill you can only learn through practice.
If this isn’t something you are comfortable with, it may be worth investing in a direct selling course of some kind to increase your skills in this area. Alternatively, you could hire people to do this for you and work out a pay structure that suites you, and the sales person.
The reason it’s worth following up after the sale is made, is because it will build on your existing business relationships, increase repeat purchases and potentially turn your customers into raving fans. Fans who tell other business owners about your awesome service which will increase new customer sales as well.
It is a known fact, it is WAY easier to make repeat sales from existing customers, and win sales from prospects that have been referred by people they already know, like and trust. Put simply, it’s just smart business.
Useful Selling Tips
The following are a few simple ways you can start a successful business in this space, and increase your revenue.
Know Your Niche
Rather than trying to sell ‘everything to everyone’ it may be very worthwhile looking for opportunities that you can specialize in.
For example, some promotional product sellers focus on the ‘food’ niche for example, while others focus on businesses within the health care sector. They offer very specific products in a way that suites their type of business, they speak their language and they know how to reach them better and close sales at a higher rate.
The benefits of specializing are many, and you can even scale out once you nail the formula for each type of business.
Create An Offer They Can’t Refuse
When it comes to making your first sales as a new startup, your goal is building a customer base. To do this, you want to get an offer in front of people that is very hard to say no to.
As in, they’d be crazy not to buy from you. This could be a ‘first time customer’ discount or ‘buy 1oo widgets, get 100 free’ type thing. Be careful not to price your products too low in general though, as this can backfire.
Your goal is simply to generate new business as a starting point. Even if you break even on the first sale, don’t sweat it, because your customers may be worth a lot more money to you in the long run.
Join An Industry Association
There are various industry associations in this space that are dedicated to helping promotional product business owners succeed and keep up with the latest trends.
Two well known industry associations are PPAI and ASI which offer many benefits such as education, tools, support and access to member only trade shows. These can be joined for varying costs depending on the association, what you are looking to get out of the membership.
If you are in this for the longterm, it’s worth considering.
3 Alternative Ways To Start a Promotional Product Business
The following are three unique ways you can start a promotional product selling business in a different way, yet potentially just as lucrative way.
1) Buy a Franchise
If setting everything up from scratch isn’t your thing, then buying into an existing franchise might be the way to go.
The cost of doing this can be quite high and nothing is guaranteed, but the cool thing about this is that all the heavy lifting has been done for you. A proven business system is already in place, so all you need to do is follow it closely.
2) Join a Direct Selling Company
There are also business opportunities that allow you to work from home as a distributor of an existing promo product selling company. The idea is to sign up, and start promoting the companies promo product solutions to businesses. When you bring on new businesses, you earn a commission once a sale is made.
The great part about this is the low costs involved, and the simplicity of it. You don’t need to worry about shipping, billing, dealing with customers and so on. You just promote.
The drawback is your income potential is limited to what the company specifies, there is little room for creativity and it’s not your business. In other words, you’re a company cheerleader.
It can work, but there are pros and cons to consider like any business model.
One company offering this kind of opportunity is called Kaeser and Blair which costs between $85-$299 to get started. They do appear to be legit, and they do offer free trial and refund options which is good.
There is a network marketing element to this company, meaning you can recruit others o do the same and earn a 20% commission in doing so. But their focus does appear to be on retail sales and there’s no sales quotas of any kind which does make it a lot more legitimate when it comes to direct selling/ network marketing companies.
Worth noting though, while they do give you a replicated website, this is only good for making sales. You need a unique website, with unique content in order to get visitors and leverage the free Google traffic I mentioned above.
Sell Promotional Products Without Leaving Home
This is where you can promote companies promo products for free, without stocking anything, selling anything, or dealing with the majority of traditional business headaches.
You simply promote products that business are already looking to buy online, and earn commissions when they buy through your link.
This is called affiliate marketing and it’s a great alternative to the previously discussed strategies. The startup costs are very low, anyone can do it, and the profit potential is high once you get into the swing of things.
One company offering such an affiliate program is Vista Print which pays you up to 25% on sales when people buy through your affiliate link, and up to $3 per sale on free products. One of the great things about this program is you can literally promote free products and earn commissions doing so. They sell all kinds of popular promo products to businesses, and their prices are very competitive meaning it won’t be difficult to earn commissions with this company.
That being said, you do have to learn how to do affiliate marketing and learn how to get people to click on your link. It’s not difficult, but it does take time and effort to see results.
I learned how to do affiliate marketing through a program called Wealthy Affiliate which gives you a free website and training to help you get started.