Your Craft Business: Create Freebies and Promo Merchandise that Pack a Punch

Purple tassel by Lizbeth's Garden
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If you’ve ever shopped at a craft show, trade show, or even from an online indie shop, you’ve probably received a fair share of promo merchandise. If you’re like me and you’re a sucker for freebies and promos then you’ll know that some are better than others. And some are more memorable than others. Some make your eyes get bigger and make you feel a bit giddy, as if you’ve just received a present for no reason. Some sit in the back of your mind until the next time you’re looking for that one great craft business, and some end up in a pile of unused and unwanted freebies that you feel too guilty to throw away. Or maybe you don’t feel guilty at all.

As a craft business owner or artist, it’s important to use your “customer brain” when planning your promotional scheme because no one wants their promo merchandise ending up in a junk drawer or, worse, the trash.

What makes a good promo merchandise item? It should be something inexpensive to reproduce in bulk, it should have your information included and clearly stated, it should be a fantastic representation of your brand, and, most importantly, it should wow your audience. In other words, it should be something that your target customers will hold on to and refer back to when they want to find you again.

What makes a bad promotional item? The worst promo package I’ve ever received was a big handful of stickers, buttons, and postcards for stuff that had nothing to do with the product I had purchased. They didn’t refer to the seller’s aesthetic or point to her directly in any way. It felt like I had just paid for junk mail. Please don’t ever do this to your customers. Your job is to promote your craft business and maybe an event where you’ll be selling. Or maybe, just maybe a single group you belong to that might interest the customer. A single group.

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Other bad promo merchandise items are pins, badges, or stickers with nothing but your craft business logo on them. Unless you’re a musician or are famous, no one wants to decorate their refrigerator or backpack with your logo.

But back to the brighter side. You are a creative person with a lot to share with the world. Think of your promo merchandise items as their own product. Oftentimes you just need a good brainstorming session to come up with something that’s been right under your nose the whole time. Great ideas include samples of your work, use of photographs of fabrics or materials frequently used, or items your customers can use, like calendars or guides.

What is your specialty? What are your best sellers? Can you give potential customers a tiny taste for free? For food and soap sellers,this is an integral part of building a customer base, but it can also be true of any entrepreneur. Consider creating a product that you offer only as a gift with purchase. When done right, these are collectible bits than can be reason enough to shop from you!

If offering your product, even in small amounts, for free is not an option, there are plenty of other ways to put your own mark on promo merchandise. Pins, magnets, and postcards can just as easily be collectible as they can become junk. What makes the difference is how they’re designed. Remember when I said that no one wants to decorate with your logo? They might, however, want to decorate with a pattern you frequently use, a great photograph of your product, or a miniature version of your artwork. Keep your logo small and out of the way. Consider turning your contact information and logo into a small sticker that can attach to the back of the magnet or badge. This way your customers will remember your great product when they see your promo item and easily have access to your contact information when they want it.

The effort you spend on your promo merchandise is an investment in future sales and should be taken seriously. Give yourself the time to plan out and produce a great promotional item that makes sense to your craft business. Use your talent and the most artistic bits of yourself to create an item that will make your customers eyes get big, make them a little giddy, and make them feel like they’ve just received a present for no reason. They’ll remember you every time they see it!

Photo courtesy of Lizbeth's Garden

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