Promotional items can be a great way to sell books. First of all, they can increase your book’s exposure, which is a critical part of marketing. They can also help you at the point of sale. Finally, they last longer than just about any other advertising medium. For all these reasons, promotional items should be part of your marketing package.
Take a moment to think about a highly recognizable logo—say the Starbucks logo. How often have you seen that image? Obviously, you see it in Starbucks stores, but you’ve almost certainly seen it just as often in other settings. Every day, I see people walking around with cups that carry the Starbucks logo. Everywhere those customers go, they’re promoting the company. Anyone who watches David Letterman sees a Starbucks cup on his desk every night on television. Or think about the millions of silicon bracelets out there promoting the Lance Armstrong Live Strong Foundation. I see those bracelets everywhere from board meetings to restaurants. These are promotional products. The promotional products industry is huge. The Promotional Products Association estimates that fifteen billion dollars were spent on promotional products in 2009 alone. Marketers clearly believe in the efficacy of promotional products, or they wouldn’t be buying them in this kind of volume.
A promotional product can be almost anything—a candle, a pen, a t-shirt—and promotional products have a number of advantages over other forms of advertising. First of all, they’re flexible. People carry them everywhere; the advertisement isn’t tied to a specific billboard or even a television screen. Second, they’re tangible. People can hold promotional items in their hands and understand that they have value on a visceral level. Third, it’s easy to measure success. If you hand out coffee cups or t-shirts that promote your book, and then you start to see people using or wearing those items, you know your message is getting out there. Finally, if you put your logo on a cool product, you’re going to impress people. The product is cool in and of itself, and people are going to respond to that.
Promotional products can be extremely effective at trade shows and book fairs. According to LJ Market Research, 71.6 percent of attendees who receive a promotional product remember the name of the company that gave it to them. In addition, 73.6 percent of attendees have a favorable attitude toward companies that gave them promotional products. That should give you some idea of why promotional products are so effective. A study at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport showed that 71 percent of randomly surveyed business travelers had received at least one promotional product within the past twelve months. Of those, 33.7 percent were carrying at least one promotional item on their persons. That means that as many as a third of the people you give promotional items to will still be out there promoting you months from now. You can’t say that about a television or print advertisement.
So why do people keep promotional products? Well, 75.4 percent of those who keep promotional products state that they find the item useful. So a good promotional item is one that people can use in their daily lives—like a stainless steel coffee cup that they’ll use in the car on the way to work every morning. Another 20.2 percent of the people who keep a promotional product do so because they find the item attractive. Obviously, if you’re going to put your book cover on a promotional product, you want to make sure it looks good.
You’ve invested time and money in your book. You want to share your ideas, your wisdom, and your passion with other people. You want to shape other people’s lives for the better. Well, if you aren’t willing to promote your book, that’s not going to happen, because people simply won’t know that your book exists. No matter how good a book might be, people won’t buy it unless they know about it. Clearly, if it’s worth spending the time, effort, and money required to publish a book, then it’s also worth spending the time, effort, and money to promote it.
As I hope I’ve demonstrated, promotional products are one of the things you should invest in as you work to promote your book. Set your budget, define your marketing objectives, and then think about how promotional products can fit into your marketing plan. People will use those products and will see your book’s cover on a regular basis, and that’s a powerful thing. And your family and friends can wear your promotional products and become ambassadors for your book. Only a promotional product can give you that type of exposure. Promotional products outperform any other advertising medium in recall and staying power, and if you’re not using them to promote your book, you should be.
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