What if there was a way to pay for marketing once and continue to reap the benefits for months or years afterwards?

The concept of marketing is simple: put your product, idea or service in front of enough people and wait for the right ones to see it. The problem is how. Big budget marketing campaigns come with no guarantees, but allow you to reach customers through radio, print, television and the internet instantly. The downside to them is, as soon as you stop pouring money into them, your exposure drops to zero. If you didn’t break even after all of your expenses then too bad.

We started off thinking traditional and big.

Obviously we’re in the promotional product business. But like the old saying about cobblers with barefoot kids, we had a hard time applying our trade to ourselves. We did the basics: business cards and pens. But it was as if a mental wall surrounded the biggest assets sitting in our production facility. Instead of producing and distributing T-shirts, we first turned to online marketing. For a small business we’ve still been around the block. Some of our more memorable endeavors include; $8000 on a single campaign package, $5 a click to Google for our main keywords,¬† and (as of this writing) $1832 on Facebook advertisements in various forms. Of those some failed miserably. Here’s looking at you $8k sucker punch. And others worked beyond expectation. What we found was when it came to online marketing starting small and growing what worked was better than jumping in head first – even with “expert” advise. The learning experience cost somewhere between a technical certification and a bachelors, however much of our ongoing online advertising and marketing plays an integral role in growing our business. That said, our greatest success was sitting quite literally under our noses, waiting for us to discover it.

Promotional Products turned our expectations upside down.

I wrote an article before about using pens as effective marketing tools. All of the discovery there came from trial an error. What we learned from pens and business cards was their limitations and best use scenarios. A few hundred pens are like dipping a toe into the idea of promotional product marketing. We tried it, liked it, and went back to the well. Now, several thousands of pens later, we’ve generated two types of sales; sales of pens to customers (which doubles down on the benefit for us, and the sting of not doing it sooner), and unrelated product and service sales as a result of those pens. Lets talk about those unrelated product and service sales. Depending on the average sale in your business, just one typical sale pays for the entire box of pens. I can recall 3 clients in particular that came to us soon after we became proactive in how we used them. One of those clients continues to order all kinds of products on a quarterly basis. All because of a simple pen. When I sat down and looked at the ROI from pens, I realized that these little marketing silver bullets were producing thousands of percent. In our case we wouldn’t benefit from buying 10 times as many pens, because we already give them out as often as we can. That’s where promotional products differ from TV/Internet/Radio ad’s those formats will take every dollar you’ll spend with them, in this case we found our upper limit to “pens” and the ongoing expense generates a steady stream of new and residual business.

Building on the success

When you start to see something work, you really want to chase after it for all you can. That was our journey with pens. Once we started seeing results from pens, we looked for ways to grow that success. Considering that we’re in the Screen Printing and Embroidery business our next step was either hats or T-Shirts. I’m personally not a hat person. With my beard I think they make me look like a special forces operator that goes on clandestine missions to all you can eat buffets. So when considering whether to distribute embroidered or printed hats vs T-Shirts, my first choice was clear. In the meeting my argument was that it’s socially acceptable to go hat-less. On the other hand everyone, that you’ll want to do business with, wears a shirt.

T-Shirts are the secret weapon for ongoing marketing impressions.

So T-Shirts it was! Now custom screen printed T-shirts have value. Most of us are used to paying anywhere from $5-$30 for a shirt at retail. So when you give a T-Shirt, it makes an impression, and generally people will not only accept, but will clamor for a free shirt. If you’ve ever been to a football game, people are literally willing to get shot in the face with a cannon if that cannon is shooting a free shirt. In fact some of the most successful T-Shirt campaigns we’ve seen come from distributing them during events or when they generate hype. My first eureka moment came from a gentleman in the printing industry. He would print a business card sized logo and contact info on the center chest of white T-shirts and throw them out during parades. At his first parade he threw out 100 shirts, generated 12 sales and 7 long term clients. Apparently he threw a shirt to the head of a multi-doctor clinic and landed all of their ongoing work. Tens of thousands of dollars from a single event, and $4-500.You’ll be seeing an article about standing out at trade shows, events and parades using T-shirts to generate hype in the future. For now, rather than digging into old numbers, I want to announce a little experiment.

T-Shirt Marketing Works Campaign

We’ve printed up just under 100 shirts in Medium, Large and Extra Large. They’re simple grey shirts with a black left chest logo and full back print. The message is clear, T-Shirt Marketing works. We’re going to start giving these shirts away and track the results. Once we run through the first 100, we’ll tally up the sales and numbers and repeat the process. If the past is any indicator, we’ll see a few immediate sales from the initial impression of giving it out to the right person at the right time, those will cover the cost of the entire project and then some. The residual will begin to pay out like interest on an annuity as these shirts make their way into the wild or our initial clients return.¬†Along the way, we’ll demonstrate different ways and places to distribute shirts for maximum impact. We’ll even shoot some videos to put on YouTube and make some memories. Our goal is to provide you with the tools to share your message with the world. As we document the campaign, it’s my hope that we can build confidence in you to try it for yourself. T-Shirt Marketing Works, and it might be the piece of the puzzle your business is missing.