Profile - How I Develop Self-Promos

Focusing On Ceativity, Packaging And Usability Leads To Success

Stanley ApplemanSelf-promotion campaigns have always been at the heart of Stanley Appleman's business. "One of my favorite self-promo campaigns was a messenger bag that had different tools for business use in each pocket," he says. "Everything related back to the TV show Get Smart, which is what inspired my company name. And yet each item was useful daily."

Making self-promos useful and creative, Appleman insists, is how to make them a powerful part of your marketing mix. Of course, follow-up is critical as well. "The freebie is not important," says Appleman, the owner of California-based distributor Get Smart Promotions. "The phone call is your opportunity to build a relationship. Now the self-promo has done its job."

Looking for ways to improve your self-promo campaigns? Keep reading to get Appleman's advice on everything from building and packaging self-promos to determining their effectiveness.

Q: What makes a good self-promo?
A: I think a self-promo is good when it satisfies some basic needs. It should arrive creatively packaged and it should be useful. The end-user should also find himself or herself reaching for the item daily. Its decoration should show off your logo enough that recipients mention your company to others, and the goal is that they call you asking for another one.

Q: What steps do you take to define a target audience?
A: You have to ask the right questions. Ask about age, gender, occupation, geography and lifestyle. I love when my grandfather got an ice scraper from a ski resort – he was 90 years old and he lived in Southern California and doesn't ski. Grandpa Charlie wasn't the right target and that promo wasn't seen much.

Q: What products lend themselves to self-promos and which ones don't?
A: I think it's more about which products lend themselves to your self-promotion at the time. An inexpensive pen under 50 cents will probably not have the impact of a $10 bag, but passing out 1,000 of those bags may not fit into your fiscal plan. Designing a smaller quantity of self-promotions that can be sent to fewer prospects and that can be followed up on will more likely yield stronger accounts.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes distributors make in executing self-promo campaigns?
A: My grandfather told me to never fly on a plane built by the lowest bidder. Too many distributors pass out items based only on finding the cheapest one. Concentrate instead on creativity in order to get a better response.

Q: What advice do you have about messaging and packaging?
A: We all know that first impressions are lasting. Make yours count. Packaging adds to the prospect's experience of your promotion and demonstrates what you might be able to offer them. Packaging will differentiate you from most others who won't go the extra mile. And, by the way, the margins on packaging are big.

Q: How can a distributor successfully measure the effectiveness of a self-promo campaign?
A: Again, it comes down to asking questions. That's how you can track results. Find out how customers heard about you. A few years ago, I took a phone call from a woman who wanted to get a bag embroidered, and I simply asked how she heard about my company. She said it was a funny story, and I told her that I love funny stories. She said that her brother played in a golf tournament years ago. He got a bag and gave it to a friend who gave it to another and another, and finally it made its way to her husband, who gave it to her. So I asked, "And you heard about me how?" She said, "Your name is in the bag."