Carol A. Wilcox
PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc.
Promotional products are a cost effective way to brand your healthcare practice. When used correctly, promotional products can make a significant positive impact on your business. A successful marketing campaign starts by using promotional products that have relevancy to what your healthcare business does. Recipients of the promotional products should be able to make a connection between the item and the type of services you provide.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS? – Promotional products are items that are generally imprinted with a business name, logo, website, or slogan. Promotional items can range from useful to decorative and are used in marketing and communication campaigns. Items that are imprinted and distributed free are categorized as promotional products as are awards, business gifts and commemorative items.
ARE THEY USEFUL OR JUST MORE JUNK? – Actually, promotional products are very useful when integrated into your healthcare practice marketing mix. According to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), healthcare is among the top 10 industries that purchase and use promotional products. According to a PPAI Study conducted by Georgia Southern University, recipients of promotional products have a more positive perception of the business they received the item from and are more likely to recommend the business to others.
In another study, PPAI reported that 58% of respondents keep a promotional product anywhere from one year to more than four years. So if the recipient uses that promotional item even just once a week for a year, that’s a minimum of 52 times your healthcare practice name is in front of that customer. Imprinted items are a reasonable advertising expense that helps keep your practice at top of mind for months or even years.
HEALTHCARE MARKETING AND PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS – Promotional products can be given to a patient after they have completed certain health and rehabilitative milestones, or as a thank you gift for their business. Other ways to distribute promotional products are health fairs, sports and athletic screenings, community events, conferences and trade shows.
It’s tempting to choose items that you may personally like, but that may not be the wisest decision. Select items that your target audience will like. So for example, if you work with the senior population, those recipients may make a better connection between a hot/cold pack and your business than if you gave them a set of ear buds.
HOW TO FIND A PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS DISTRIBUTOR – There are thousands of independently owned and operated promotional products distributors across the country and they are the lifeline of the promotional products industry. Distributors generally do not warehouse items but are connected to thousands of suppliers worldwide through online supplier networks not available to the public.
Distributors source the product you’re interested in and will provide a quote, item specifications and shipping and delivery timeframes. When you place an order with a distributor, they will handle the ordering and invoicing and arrange for production and delivery of your order.
An experienced promotional products distributor will provide product samples on request (be prepared to pay for samples), and will offer item suggestions and different price-points based on your requirements. Many businesses prefer to use promotional products distributors in their community because they want to support local businesses and establish a long-term business relationship with someone they trust. Other businesses prefer to use larger, corporate-owned promotional products distributors and conduct their transactions online and occasionally by telephone.
Word of mouth is always the best way to find a distributor. If you receive a promotional product that you like from another business, ask for the contact information for the company they used as a distributor. You can also use Google Search to find promotional products distributors in your state. Use the search bar on your computer and type the term, Promotional Products Distributor + [your state].
COMMON PROMOTIONAL PRODUCT TERMS – To avoid confusion and frustration, it’s recommended that you become familiar with some of the more common promotional product terms before you place an order.
Artwork – In order to imprint your promotional product, you will need to supply camera-ready artwork. Each product requires different specifications including file format and size. Make sure to ask about artwork file specifications. Most artwork is submitted electronically via email or uploaded online. Some but not all promotional product distributors will create your artwork for you for a fee if you don’t have the capabilities to do so. There are also freelancers who can create your artwork for you. Online freelance sites such as Upwork and Fiverr are good places to find qualified help.
Color – Most promotional product items come with standard colors for imprinting included in the price. That means that the colors may not exactly match your company colors. If you need an exact color to be matched, it is known as a color match. Expect to pay more for an exact color match.
Overruns and Underruns – Often, when imprinting begins on items there may be adjustments that have to be made to the machine. Because manufacturers have to account for potentially defective items during the production process it is possible that items may be over or under-produced by a small percentage. The goal is to make sure that production comes as close as possible to the amount you ordered. Most times you’ll receive the exact amount that you ordered but not always. The manufacturer will discard any defective items before packing your order but they will invoice you on the actual quantity shipped. This is an accepted industry practice.
Production Time – A word of caution: don’t wait until the last minute to order your items. Most people believe the day they place the order is the day production time starts, but that’s incorrect. Production time starts when the order has been placed, all artwork has been submitted correctly, payment arrangements have been made and a proof has been approved by the customer. If it is an exceptionally busy time of the year, your order could take longer to get on the manufacturer’s production schedule.
Production time is the amount of time the manufacturer needs to produce and ship your order after all approvals are complete. One-color imprinted products normally require a 10-15-day production window. Multi-color or custom imprinted products may require more lead time. Weekends and holidays are not considered “business days” and do not count as production time.
To avoid rush charges, always pad your “in-hands” date an extra few days ahead of your actual needed date in the event there’s a production problem or a weather-related delay.
Proof – A proof is a sample of what the item will look like imprinted with your artwork. Most proofs are sent online to the customer. Production does not begin until the customer has approved the proof.
Always request a proof and examine it carefully before approving. Make any changes necessary if you’re not satisfied with how the first proof looks. Once you have signed off on the proof, you cannot make any more changes and any errors or omissions become the customer’s responsibility. Most promotional product suppliers allow up to 3 customer changes to a proof. Any additional changes after the allotted proof changes may incur artwork charges. Always save a copy of your proof approval in the event of a dispute.
Quantities – Most promotional product manufacturers have a minimum quantity order. Many start at a quantity of 500 or 1000. The more quantity ordered, the cheaper the per-item-price will be. It is rare that you’ll find items with quantities of 250 or less.
Always ask for a quote for multiple quantities (example: 500/1000/2000) especially if you think you may have an ongoing need for the same item. And always ask if the manufacturer is running any specials on the item you’re interested in.
If you need smaller quantities than are offered, ask if small quantity pricing is available. However, expect to pay significantly more for your item per piece since it takes more time and labor to set up and produce less than minimum quantities.
Many distributors will sell low quantities of blank (un-imprinted) items. If you don’t need your smaller quantity items imprinted (or if you’re planning to add a label or an imprinted tag by hand to your items instead), inquire if this is an option.
Setup Charges – These are charges that cover the cost of preparing the machines for printing. Most items have set-up charges. Often, setup charges are waived on a re-order if you re-order within a certain timeframe such as 6 or 12 months.
For more comprehensive terminology lists, ePromos has promotional product glossary pages you can refer to.
PROMOTIONAL PRODUCT IDEAS FOR HEALTHCARE PRACTICES – There are countless promotional products with a healthcare theme. Take a little time to research what types of products will work for your practice. A Google Search using the terms, Promotional Product Ideas for Healthcare will yield several websites that have specific pages of healthcare-related items. Don’t forget to ask your promotional products distributor for some ideas as well.
Here are a few suggestions to get your creative thought processes working:
Antimicrobial fitness towel
Bicycle seat cover
Body tape measure
Business card magnet with your practice information
Cardio jump rope
Carpal tunnel information pocket slider
Dumbbell stress reliever
Exercise gym ball
Exercise resistance bands set
First aid quick reference bookmark
First aid travel pouch
Hand grip exerciser
Muscle relief cooling gel
Natural lip balm
Neck & shoulder aromatherapy pack
Outdoor first aid and sun screen
Reusable ice pack
Salad shaker set
Sports duffel bag
Traveler exercise kit
Work out stretch band
Promotional products for healthcare can stretch your advertising and marketing budget while making a significant impact on developing your practice brand and building name recognition. Take the time to thoughtfully implement a strategic promotional product plan and incorporate it into your practice marketing for positive and consistent results for many years to come.
About the Author:
Carol A. Wilcox is the staff writer and head of marketing communications at PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc. You can reach Carol here.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.