Sourcing promotional products the right way

Published June 2022

Promotional products, ranging from a key ring, a diary and custom coins to a pen and mug, are items used to promote a product, service or company marketing program. including advertising specialities, 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 memorably.

However, companies need 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, cost or quality. Plus, the significant risk to a brand of sourcing from unethical sources is an increasing issue 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 to maximise on the considerable benefits that promotional products offer?

The benefits of purchasing promotional product

According to Beroe Inc, Globally, the market size for the promotional items industry breaks down as:

North America – $26.3 billion

Europe – $23 billion

Asia Pacific – $17.2 billion

Latin America – $16.2 billion

With Marketing looking for a 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 a 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.

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 the 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 spending.
  • 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, damaging the brand image 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 has specific features and functions to address promotional spend categories. 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 user flexibility to specify what they want or order directly from a curated catalogue of standard promotional products.

Complex spend infographic

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 support multiple catalogues and RFx activity. Be intuitive to use and easy to adopt (a true B2B e-commerce platform). It should enable purchasers to see images of all the products.

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,
  • 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 and Marketing 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 suite of software streamlines thousands of catalogue-basedand RFx orders for each customer, so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

Marketing 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 cloud solution

Take a look at some Case Studies involving promotional product spend