Buying promotional items should be an easy process, but all too often it can become complicated. Here are 10 tips to help you streamline the process and to build a long-term relationship with a supplier.
1. Stop for a second and think about it
What do I want? When do I want it? How many do I need? Before you click send, or make that call just stop for a second to think what the supplier will need to know. Racing to dump a vague brief onto a supplier is a massive false economy. It might feel like you’re saving time by rushing in with half the story, but in fact, you are going to make the whole process more long-winded as a result.
2. Have your artwork ready from the start
Do you have artwork? If you don’t have it, who does? What sort of artwork will the supplier need? Promotional merchandise is all about the artwork; the whole point is to print, engrave, embroider, emboss your logo or design onto things. So, not having artwork is a bit of a problem. We created this page to help our clients: Help With Artwork.
3. You get the quote you deserve
Why does buying promotional merchandise have to be so painful? All these quotes, all these questions and emails. All I wanted was some pens and a few mugs! Well, of course, it’s possible your supplier has made a meal of it, but its more likely that the original brief you gave was not great. Had you actually thought about the product colour versus the colour of the logo? Did you mention you needed shipment to Barcelona in time for that show? Was it clear to the supplier that when you said a 2 colour design you actually meant four versions of a 3 colour design?
4. Take the suppliers advice
Good suppliers occasionally say no. Bad suppliers say yes to everything. A good embroiderer will point out that part of your logo might not reproduce very well because it’s too small. A reliable printer will tell you that the image you sent is too low resolution to print well. A smart supplier will steer you away from potential pitfalls. A good supplier will keep you updated with the latest trends and product developments. There’s nothing wrong with pushing a supplier to innovate, but equally, you need to take the time to listen to their reasons for suggesting an alternative course.
5. Allow enough time
No time, no choice. The principle is simple. More time, yep you guessed it! All too often, promotional items are an after-thought. Couple this with the ‘Amazon’ mindset, which expects instantaneous delivery, and the whole thing becomes a series of compromises. Here’s the thing, Amazon gets stuff to you quickly because it’s all sitting on a shelf ready to go. In other words, Amazon doesn’t make the stuff especially for you. All promotional merchandise is bespoke. You wouldn’t want a product with somebody else’s logo on, would you! A quick tip: Even if you don’t really have a deadline, set one anyway. It’s better for all concerned that they have a date to work to. Think 10 working days and you won’t go far wrong.
6. How to get a quick decision from your boss or team
Oh just go and get some ideas! Great, thanks for that. So you’ve won the prize, with no brief and a whole load of opinions to second guess, you are now the promotional merchandise expert! Then, having spent ages trying to ‘please all the people all the time’ you’ve now discovered that you’re too late to place the order anyway. There is another way.
Firstly, filter the obvious stuff at the start; how much budget do I have, what is the deadline, do we have artwork ready? Then, once you’ve got options in from the supplier, go back and present a limited choice coupled with decision deadlines. For example, ‘you can have red or white but unless you make a decision by Monday we might be the only exhibitor without giveaways’. Don’t be shy, strip out the niceties and set out the facts.
7. Don’t delay proof approval
Ok, so you’ve placed an order. All systems go. The supplier has just sent the proof and needs it signed off so they can proceed with production. Here’s the thing, you need to understand that factories see ‘proof approval’ as the starting gun for lead time. The lead time is not calculated from when you placed the order. So if you delay approving the proof you are delaying delivery, it’s that simple. Sure, the proof may be wrong, in which case you need to feedback why as soon as possible. Either way, time is of the essence.
8. Check the goods when they are delivered
Is the stuff the right stuff? Is everything ok? don’t assume! If there’s a problem, make the supplier aware immediately. Good suppliers are responsive and will get to work to resolve the issue. A quick tip: take a photo of the problem and email it to the supplier, that will date stamp the issue and allow all concerned to understand exactly what’s wrong.
9. Make sure the supplier gets paid
Who cares if the supplier gets paid! Well, you should. Good suppliers don’t deal with just anyone. They especially don’t deal with people who make them wait for months to get paid. If the supplier needs a Purchase Order to get paid, make sure they get one. If they need to send their invoice to a specific email address, make sure they have the address. Otherwise, they and your accounts department are going to be on your case. Avoid hassle, clarify the payment process upfront.
10. Meet your supplier
Suppliers are people. Real people. Not avatars or bots. Not LinkedIn profiles or imaginary beings from your inbox. It’s amazing how much easier it is to work with people that you’ve actually met. You will probably change jobs many times in your career, and if you decide to stay in marketing, you will doubtless need the same type of supplier from time to time. Having someone you know, someone you’ve met, someone who understands how you like to work, forms part of your offer to potential employers. Everyone in business needs good suppliers, take yours with you.