Ask LH: What Promotional Merchandise Should My Company Buy?

Dear Lifehacker, Would you be able to suggest some merchandise to put my small business logo on? (Aside from the obvious calendar and business card options.) I want something useful like a mug, but that's cool/quirky enough to stand out and be noticed. The aim is to get people talking about our brand without having to spend a fortune. Any ideas? Thanks, Evan

Dear Evan,

There is no shortage of online services that will happily print your logo on almost anything imaginable. (The "insert logo" g-string pictured above comes from the online gift shop CafePress; one example of thousands.) While many of these services are aimed at consumers, they do provide significant discounts to businesses who order in bulk.

When it comes to printing your logo on stuff, the only limit is your imagination. You can employ these sites to craft everything from personalised drinkware to car stickers and phone cases. Some even have 3D printing options which allow you to design plastic knickknacks like logo-shaped keychains and figurines of your mascot. (If you have one.)

However, before you go nuts with the merchandise, you need to ask yourself a question: will any of this pap actually help you to build your business? The answer is probably no.

While brand awareness is obviously important, merchandise is best left for when you hit the big leagues. Nobody wants to own something that's emblazoned with a logo they have no connection with - even if it's free. While they might begrudgingly accept something useful like a mug, they certainly won't use it in public where other potential customers will see.

Personally, I think you'd be better off using these funds to develop a stronger social media presence. Start with LinkedIn and Facebook and take the time to update both regularly. You can find some management tips for the latter here. You should also check out these five mistakes to avoid.

If appropriate to your business, you could run a few promotional offers on your Facebook page and boost the post so it reaches the maximum number of eyeballs. Provided the deals you're offering are worthwhile, you should amass more followers who can then be converted into regular customers.

For more tips on building your business -- without relying on mugs and silly hats -- be sure to read our complete guide.

Cheers Lifehacker

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