Buying Promotional Products for an Event is Harder Than I Thought

May 15, 2016 | Branded Products, On Line company stores, Online Company Stores, Proforma Si Blog, Promotional Products | 0 comments

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Your company is having an important event and you need to arrange for some promotional products with a few days’ notice.  No sweat, right?

Buying Promotional Products

There are a surprising number of decisions that you will need to make quickly in order to ensure smooth and successful delivery.  Not to mention, ON TIME.

Let’s examine a typical ‘events list’ and walk through some of the steps and timelines.  Your list may not be identical to this one but you get the idea.

A handy checklist, like the one we’ve compiled is a good first step to getting organized and helping you streamline the process, maybe even shave off some planning time.

  • Branded apparel and name tags for the team
  • Printed materials
  • Retractable banners
  • Tabletop displays and signage
  • Promotional giveaways or ‘swag’

But you’re a little rushed.  That’s okay, “all’s well that ends well”.  Maybe not.  Shakespeare’s suggestion that problems don’t mean anything, as long as the outcome is good, might not be the approach you want to follow for event-planning, and certainly not for organizing promotional products.

The aim is not simply to have just anything for the event.  You want quality promotional products that deliver a strong, consistent picture of your brand and image, increasing awareness and enhancing the perception of your company.  These items become your brand ambassadors, with a long after-life beyond the event where they debut.

What can go wrong?  How about that missing delivery, or the artwork that didn’t meet printing requirements?  What about a logo in the wrong location and that size XXL that wasn’t available (and your team member wearing last year’s conference shirt)?  Then there’s the 200% budget over-run.  There are a number of questions and decisions you will need to make quickly and in advance to avoid these calamaties. Having it all fall into place on time would be nice too.

Your questions may look something like these:

  • How many vendors will I need?
  • How do I find a reliable partner?
  • Who are they?
  • Is it possible to find a one-stop-shop for everything on my list?
  • Which vendor should I select and how?

Typically, you’ll race to your desk and Google promotional products distributors in your area.  Depending on the purchasing policies of your company, you may even reach out to a few providers.  Or, better still, you already have a partner that you’ve used in the past with success, so you go directly to them.  Whatever leads you to the first contact, the process begins.

It is common for promotional providers to receive an email that goes something like this: “We have an event on the 10th and we need some stuff – could you please send over some options?  That will start the fire-hose feeding of questions from your vendor.  There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to promotional products for any company.  You want to reflect your company image accurately, but the breadth of decisions required can be overwhelming.

Have a look at some typical questions you can expect to be asked when buying promotional products for an event.  We are going to examine only one of those product categories, branded apparel and name tags for the team.

Branded apparel for the team:

  • What kind of garment: Polo shirts, button down dress shirts, jackets, vests, t-shirts,
  • What is the duration of the event? If multiple days – you may want to provide a 2nd or 3rd set
  • What style: You may want to consider the personality of your brand or the functionality required at the event.
  • Does any team member have unique challenges regarding apparel?
  • What colour palette will work well with your logo?
  • Will a combination of ladies/mens styles be required?
  • Will samples be required for sizing purposes?
  • Decoration:  Embroidery or heat seal
  • Full true logo colors or a one color version? If so what are the logo guidelines and pantone colours?
  • Or do you prefer a more tonal look? A shade lighter/darker than  the garment color
  • Position and sizing. Where will the logo go – they don’t have to be left chest anymore. How large should it be?
  • Do you have the proper art files to produce the decoration chosen? For example embroidery will require a file called DST, which instructs the embroidery machines what to produce. Heat seal and screen prints will require a vector file.  If you have vector – you are half way there.  DST files can be produced from Vector.
  • What is the desired quantity?
  • What is the budget?
  • While we’re on the topic would you consider a name brand? After all, your brand is high quality.


What if you knew the answers in advance, and didn’t have to guess your way through the process under pressure? Consider reviewing with your team now, before the event date is even booked. This creates standards so the process becomes more streamlined going forward.

“Lessons learned” are a good thing. But here’s the problem, learning is expensive. You’ve sunk the money, time and energy into your event and the payoff is a list of shoulds and should-nots. Asking yourself a few important questions before you dive headfirst into promotional product ordering can save a lot of angst and hand-wringing after the fact.

We have created a handy checklist that you can use.  PROMOTIONAL BUYERS BRANDING TEMPLATE

Checklist Image



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