Sourcing promotional products the right way

Published April 2018

Promotional products, ranging from a key ring, a diary, custom coins to a pen and mug, are items used to promote a product, service or company program. including advertising specialties, premiums, incentives, business gifts, awards, prizes, commemorative and other imprinted or decorated items. Promotional merchandise is a valuable marketing tool that can help to establish brand awareness of a company among consumers. Promotional products are also a great way for companies to communicate their message in a memorable way.

However, it is important for companies to manage the process of sourcing promotional goods effectively. In many companies’ problems can arise when promotional goods are purchased by employees throughout the organisation or just “passed through” by overworked buyers who have no time to deal with the suppliers.

This can result in products and services being purchased across the company with no consistency of supply or quality. Plus, the risks to a brand of sourcing from unethical sources is an increasing problem for organisations.

A lot of time and energy can be spent, across an organisation, in inefficiently sourcing these goods and services. Which can be bought from a huge variety of suppliers at vastly differing prices, quality and approaches to corporate social responsibility. Many of the product related suppliers are based in the Far East, so there is also a need to understand local pricing, laws, duties, testing and shipping to be fully informed of the potential impact to supply over time.

So, what is the right way for companies to source promotional goods effectively in order to maximise on the considerable benefits that promotional products offer?

The benefits of purchasing promotional products

Promotional products are a large and growing market. According to PPAI approximately $24.7 billion was spent on promotional products in 2018, and the rate of spend is growing at around 5% a year.

PPAI studies have also shown that 90% of consumers recall the brand from a promotion and 80% recalled the messaging. Promotional goods were also found to be effective at encouraging engagement and action from consumers, as 8 out of 10 consumers researched the brand after receiving promotional goods.

With Marketing looking for good return on investment, promotional goods make an ideal strategy, as long as the return on investment isn’t lost through poor buying strategies or the image of the company impacted by poor choice of supplier.

“Promotional products are powerful, both as effective forms of communication and as useable, necessary tools. The following results reveal just how seamlessly promotional products integrate into life, impacting the daily routines of the recipients.

Promotional Products Visibility

  • 91% had at least one promotional item in their kitchen
  • 74% had at least one promotional product in their work area
  • 55% had at least one promotional product in their bedroom closet /storage space

Source: PPAI Research

Ranked #

most effective form of advertising for targeting across generations

Source: PPAI Research

With marketers looking for good return on investment, promotional goods make an ideal strategy, as long as the return on investment isn't lost through poor buying strategies.

Problems with current sourcing methodologies

Some of the problems companies face when buying promotional goods include:

  • Manual processes
    Manual processes are time consuming because they often involve long drawn out processes involving online searches, completing paper based or email requests and manually communicating with multiple suppliers. When data is input manually mistakes occur more frequently, resulting in errors and inefficiencies. Measuring ROI of a campaign is also difficult. Often meaningful data is hard to gather and is kept in individual spreadsheets and email folders scattered across the organisation. If information about purchases is hard to gather and incomplete, this means there is no spend visibility or control over the promotional goods expenditure.
  • Sourcing off catalogue
    Promotional goods are often sourced ‘off-catalogue’. Even if a company has good processes in place, for most of its purchasing, promotional goods and services can be a category of spend where there is no effective control of suppliers or spend.
  • Single source
    Often promotional goods and services are single sourced from web searches, online catalogues or catalogues received through the post. Buying in this way means that companies are offered no price leverages and end up paying higher prices. Plus, with this approach to purchases there is no supply chain visibility. Resulting in the risk of reputational damage and supply delays associated with shipping across borders.
  • Sourcing complex projects
    Complex promotional projects, involving many items, have a greater risk associated with them. As the project becomes more complex, the risks of making poor purchasing decisions, not achieving good value for money and not receiving high quality promotional goods and services are all increased.

Developing the right sourcing strategy

So, let’s look at the approach companies can take for sourcing promotional goods and services efficiently.

Essential is to get the right specialist procurement technology in place. That is a specialist procure to pay solution built specifically to address this domain. A solution that is capable of capturing requirements from non-expert users. The platform needs to be quick and very easy to use. Allowing the users flexibility to specify what they want or order from a curated catalogue of products.

Claritum's dashboard gives a clear overview of suppliers orders

Remote access is needed for ordering promotional products. Whether this is for regional offices or for Marketing employees who need to order or track goods at remote events. Typically, these solutions are cloud based for this reason.

The platform should be catalogue based (even for RFx activity), intuitive to use and easy to adopt. It should enable purchasers to see images of all the products. This will ensure that the platform is adopted internally in a positive way.

It should also be robust enough to handle a huge volume and wide variety of transactions including:

  • small transactions,
  • management of projects (purchasing multiple products as part of a single project),
  • cross border trading,
  • commodity purchasing from a catalogue,
  • and support for custom sourcing (ie RFx).
  • different currencies and languages

In addition to being easy for employees to use, the procurement technology should also allow Procurement to establish and control suppliers and spending related to these suppliers. The platform should be vendor neutral and should be capable of controlling costs at all the levels of the process from sourcing to procurement through to invoicing.


At Claritum, we help clients procure a wide range of print, packaging, gifts & premiums, uniforms & apparel and a wide range of frequently ordered products and services. Our cloud spend management platform streamlines thousands of catalogue-based orders, so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

Users, suppliers and procurement experts collaborate in the cloud to improve spend visibility and control, achieve cost savings and efficiencies and to reduce risk and waste. See how you could improve the efficiency of your promotional products purchasing.

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Read more about the Claritum spend management solution

Take a look at some Case Studies involving promotional product spend automation