Best Marketing Practices in the Promo Industry

Maple Ridge Farms Team

You’re proud of the products (and services) you offer, so you want other people to love them too. In today’s competitive marketplace, quality products aren’t enough. You need to connect with clients and potential customers on an emotional level through your marketing efforts, so they understand how they’ll benefit from your products.

Here’s how we approach marketing on the Farm (and how you can too):  

Show, don’t tell. Show your products in use or in the wild as much as possible. Lifestyle images and field testing demonstrations are popular as they allow potential buyers to see themselves using the product. Words are important (as we’ll get to in a minute), but visuals are powerful. Remember, promotional products are the only advertising medium to touch all five senses (including taste and smell!), so showcase the tangible benefits in your marketing efforts.

Most of our product images show our products in an environment, such as desk accessories (filled with tasty gourmet treats) in an office or library. We also set up photo shoots from time to time, including a tailgating scene featuring award-winning Wisconsin cheese or an office party where attendees are grazing on a delicious spread. Our marketing videos show our products in use—during company celebrations, parties, at home by employees, etc. And yes, those are our employees! Ridgers make terrific actors and models in our marketing materials.

Choose your words wisely. While visuals are powerful, the accompanying copy is crucial. How are you describing your products to potential buyers? Focus on the benefits that recipients will receive from your products instead of simply listing features. Use action verbs and powerful adjectives, so buyers can imagine themselves using your product. It’s like substituting yourself as a favorite character in a novel. Buyers will insert themselves into your marketing copy to see if they want a product or not.

It’s helpful to brainstorm words or phrases to use in your copy. Think back to conversations you’ve had with customers or recipients of your products. What words do they use to describe your products? Have you noticed that particular words tend to resonate more with your target audiences? While researching product trends, note copy or descriptions that others use when describing the products you sell. Share your list with everyone in your company who contributes to your copywriting, marketing efforts and sales activities, so you’re consistent when describing your products and services in person, online or in print.  

Learn the Lingo: 10 Words that Sell Food Gifts  (Download as PDF)

Celebrate others’ success, and invite them to be a part of your story. On the Farm, we love to surprise and delight our customers and industry friends! It’s such a memorable experience to receive an unexpected package or handwritten note in the mail today. Whether celebrating with a customer who placed a large order or recognizing industry achievements, people love being recognized for their accomplishments and will often post pictures of their gift on social media to say thank you. While we don’t expect a response on social, it thrills us to see people so excited about receiving our gourmet food gifts.

Plus, it’s fun to see others telling your story for you. User generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool, and we’re excited to see or hear it—and share it. Word of mouth advertising is even more powerful in the digital age, because it’s easier (and faster) to communicate with people outside of your immediate geographic area or circle of friends. Today, you can seek feedback about companies, products and services on social media platforms and communicate with brands directly.

Get social on social. While it doesn’t replace face-to-face communication, we love chatting with industry friends, getting to know our customers better and connecting with new people on social media. It has given us a new avenue to ask for feedback, research trends and talk to our industry peers. We enjoy sharing a variety of industry information, food gift trends/best practices and packaging news in addition to our marketing tools, special offers and delicious, gourmet gifts. Thanks to everyone who has participated in our polls or responded to requests for feedback!

We have presences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, commonsku, Vimeo and YouTube and would love to connect with you. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the platforms we’ve chosen work best for us to date. Which platforms work best for you?

Twitter is a convenient place to chat and connect with new distributor partners and industry friends. Some of our favorite hashtags to use and search are #promotionalproducts, #foodgifts, #packaging, #entrepreneur and #corporategifts, depending on the tweet or what we’re searching. The best part about Twitter is the conversation, so we enjoy joining our industry peers every Wednesday at 2 PM CT for #Promochat to discuss a specific topic. It’s fast-paced, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Jump in and introduce yourself! Keep in mind that we may share pictures of decadent food gifts on occasion, so don’t come hungry.

Facebook and Instagram are wonderful platforms to interact with your communities. Focus on connecting with targeted followers who are interested in what you do. Thousands of fans or followers won’t help, if they never engage with you or want to do business with you. We enjoy sharing updates about our adventures on the Farm and posting pictures of mouthwatering food gifts. While the pics are fantastic, keep an eye out for product applications, top uses outside of the holidays and selling ideas.

Instagram is such an interactive platform! We love sharing polls and asking questions, especially in Stories, and engaging with others’ content. Hashtags are a gateway to meeting new people and finding new ideas on Instagram, so don’t forget to include appropriate ones on your posts and follow your favorites as well.

Pinterest is a fun platform to curate collections and find ideas for your next marketing program or event. We share a variety of content on our boards, from packaging inspiration to food ideas at a variety of holidays and more. You can use hashtags here too, and Pinterest is rolling out the ability to post native video files.

LinkedIn has continued adding new features, so it’s much more than a place to post your resume and move on now. A company page is a great place to share product ideas, spotlight your employees and highlight your efforts to give back to your community. We’re happy to be able to post native video files, use relevant hashtags and even follow (and engage with posts) under three community hashtags now. Most importantly, our LinkedIn page is a gateway to our amazing employees!

commonsku is our industry’s home on social, and we enjoy sharing ideas for distributors’ projects, marketing tools, product applications and more. Collaborate is a helpful tool that brings distributors and suppliers together on specific projects, and it’s so handy to be able to suggest products right on a post. With one click, distributors can pull up additional info on the product or add it to their presentation. It’s nice to be able to connect with our customers and friends on an industry-exclusive platform.  

Samples sell. While social media has spurred conversation and connection online, it hasn’t replaced face-to-face communication for us. Why? Promotional products have a tremendous advantage in our digital world: they’re tangible. You can see, touch, hear, taste and smell them. Try to get samples of your products into your customers’ (and potential customers’) hands, so they can experience them in person.

Sampling is crucial for us. As we like to say, the best way to sell food gifts is with food. Let your customers taste the quality for themselves! We practice what we preach, which is why we have advantageous sample policies and programs, frequently surprise and delight people with our gifts and bring plenty of samples to shows and meetings. We love creating an experience for our customers and helping them create one to remember for their customers.

This year, we’re celebrating our 40th year in business, and we’ve been a proud member of the promotional products industry for the past 39. We enjoy working with our distributor partners and collaborating with fellow suppliers, so we’re sharing our best marketing practices with you. What advice would you add? Share your best marketing practices for the promo industry with us on social!

Enjoy the pictures of our mouthwatering food gifts, and remember, they taste even better than they look.