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How do you maximize your marketing budget today?

In today's economy, every business is asking the same question: "How do we maximize our marketing budget to stay top of mind with prospects as well as current and former clients?" This is a very big challenge for financial and professional service firms with whom the majority of clients don't interact on a daily basis. Ultimately, the goal of every company's promotional strategy is to have the organization be remembered when decision makers are ready to contact a solution provider.

In the past, it took an average of 7 to 10 exposures to your marketing message for your business to register in the mind of prospective clients. In today's noisy marketing environment where prospects are exposed to thousands of messages a day, the number is estimated to be 13 to 15 contacts. How can a firm use their limited dollars wisely to establish brand recognition and stay top of mind with clients amid so much marketing clutter? Although surveys and pundits report marketing budgets will increase slightly, the overall economy is expected to remain sluggish for the next several years.

Your clients have already tightened their belts significantly and will likely continue to do so. Reports predict the effects of the recent economic meltdown will be felt for decades as habits change and consumers adjust to the new reality. The result is a growing lack of loyalty as consumers shop for - and expect - more service at a lower cost in every aspect of their lives. Companies face stiffer competition in the marketplace from those who are willing to lower their prices in order to compete. Financial and professional service firms have traditionally embraced the use of custom imprinted promotional products as a tactic to extend their advertising budgets. But in today's budget conscious environment, making poor product choices damages the brand and does little more than create clutter for the recipient. Frankly, many companies waste money and squander an opportunity to accomplish their objectives because of ten fundamental mistakes made in the selection and distribution of advertising specialties.

Common mistakes made in the selection and distribution
of advertising specialties and recommended solutions to overcome each one.

Not using perceived value as a cornerstone for product selection.

When your firm gives a promotional item as a gift to a client, that person mentally compares the item to familiar, similar products. Perceived value is the retail price the end user believes he would pay for a promotional item. Materials, weight, construction, and feel all contribute to raising the perceived value in the individual's mind. A good example of this is a 16 oz stainless steel travel coffee mug and lid with an imprinted logo delivered in a gift box. This item can be purchased by companies for as little as $3.00 a piece. Walk into Starbucks® or any cafe and you'll find these items with retail price ranges from $10 to as high as $18. The end user, who regularly sees these items and their prices, perceives the corporate gift as more expensive than the actual cost to the company. Giving a gift with a high "perceived value" is an excellent way to maximize your budget.

Choosing items with short shelf life or little usefulness.

Each of us has hundreds of companies competing for our attention and we're bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every single day. Your clients are no different and the objective is to find the most cost effective manner to remain top of mind with them. Shelf life refers to the period of time a product has utility. The longer a product's useful life the better opportunity for repeat impressions to strengthen brand awareness. This requires consideration of the ideal client and their daily life. Then ask "What product can we provide that will be used on a frequent basis that will also put our logo and tag line in front of the target on a regular basis?" Desk organizers, letter openers, picture frames, chip clips, pot holders, jar openers, and seven day pill boxes are prime examples of useful items with long shelf life which are available in all price points.

Focusing on an individual product instead of integrating the item into a marketing plan.

Promotional items are a very common marketing tool. Integrating the product into a marketing plan for maximum effectiveness is very uncommon. Every year there are a few items that are introduced and considered "hot," or "must-have" and it seems as though, before you know it, every business is giving away the same thing. However, a truly successful marketing program integrates the personalized product into a call to action or reinforces the company's primary business objective or mission rather than creating simple brand awareness. For example, use of green-themed items reinforces the message that your firm is a good community citizen while at the same time promoting good will through the gift itself. Products in general are most effective when they're selected as part of an overall marketing strategy designed to build awareness, develop relationships, and convert past and current clients into brand advocates. That strategy uses your marketing budget wisely by getting the most value from your dollar.

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