The Best Budget-Friendly Promotional Products and How to Use Them Effectively to Market Your Business

by , on The Best Budget Promotional Items that Don't Feel Cheap (2018) - Blueberry Ink

Whether you're a small business, a non-profit or a big enterprise, investing in promotional items doesn't need to have a huge impact on your budget. Great promotions are not about big budgets, but big ideas and how you use marketing materials effectively. Low cost does not mean low quality. Using high-quality promotional items ensures that people will keep them longer. However, it's not only an issue of what promotional items you should use, but also which products are more appropriate and effective depending on the occasion in which you use them. The key is finding the right affordable custom items and using them at the right time. Here's how you can save money when it comes to promotional items, but also get the most bang for your buck.

How Much Do Promotional Items Cost, on Average?

It's up to you to set your own budget for promotional items. There are no set rules, and the budget can vary greatly depending on your strategy. Do you want promotional items for your clients? For your employees and executives? For a trade show? It all depends on how you want to use those items and who you want to reach.
The good news is that these types of items have a greater return on investment than almost any other form of advertising, according to Delta Marketing Group. You can calculate the results through cost-per-impression (CPI), which is a way to show how much money each impression costs based on the average number of impressions.
To get a better idea, a promotional pen is worth approximately 1/10th of a cent per impression, making the classic pen one of the most successful promotional product.

The reality is that there are plenty of promotional items that will deliver a great cost per impression. For example, here are a few cheap promo items that are under $1:

  • A pair of retro sunglasses, that you can easily hand out at outdoor events, where anyone could use a bit of protection during those sunny days.
  • A sticky flag booklet, extremely useful at the office, when you just need a little reminder for a task now and then, or a bit of extra help in organizing your notes.
  • A cube memo holder is also a practical and low budget item that can help make office work more organized.
  • A cleaning cloth for screens, glasses or sunglasses. Just one of those things that will always come in handy.
  • A dual tip pen that serves as both a ballpoint pen and a chisel-tip highlighter, practical on a daily basis.

Classic promotional productsClassic promotional products under $1

Strategize Before Buying Any Promotional Items, No Matter How Cheap

Instead of simply handing out products with no goal in mind, focus on those occasions in which the context is just right: what you offer at trade shows will massively differ from how you promote yourself in a marketing campaign where you want to giveaway as many products as possible using the lowest budget possible.
Keep in mind that there's a difference between cheap and budget-friendly items:
Cheap promotional items that skimp on quality usually end up in the trash, with the rest of uninspired freebies and have zero impact. The goal is to get the lowest cost per impression, which means your products need to be attractive and useful and reach a certain standard of quality. Don't devalue your brand with cheap promotional marketing items.
A product does not have to be and feel cheap to be budget-friendly, which means you need to make your choices wisely. These items also create a first impression of your company.
No matter what you hand out, you want your potential customers to associate your brand with quality and longevity. Even when it comes to a simple pen, if it's elegant and writes impeccably it will send out the right message.
Here are some ideas to creatively make use of your budget and use inexpensive marketing products without looking cheap:

1. Affordable Promotional Products for Trade Shows

These events are the perfect chance to up the ante, otherwise, you risk blending in with the rest of the crowd and wasting an amazing opportunity.
The goal is to gain brand recognition, generate sales, and gain new customers. To do this, your giveaways need to capture people's attention, to impress them enough to stop when they walk past your corner, and to be conversation openers.
This is the recipe for making people remember and talk about you after the event. It might sound simple enough, but considering that other companies will come up with their own pens, notebooks or bags, the decision can be extremely challenging.
Here are a few trade show inexpensive promotional items meant to impress by combining the perfect blend of quality, creativity and budget friendliness:

Tech Promotional Items

We live in a technologically driven world, which makes tech gadgets the most practical giveaway. A classic power bank for your laptop, tablet, and phone will always come in handy without attacking your budget too much. It might even draw potential customers to your booth once their batteries are running low.
Another good strategy would be to install a few wireless chargers at your booth, designed especially to draw people to your corner and charge their phones for free. While they wait, they will have the chance to hear what your business is all about and will definitely remember the experience.

Custom Chocolate, Sweets & Mints

Trade shows require people to get on their feet, pay attention and move from booth to booth. These events are energy draining. Using sweets as promotional items will definitely make people come back to your stand for an extra boost of energy.
And there's no better remedy for lack of energy than chocolate. No one can say no to a box of chocolates, especially when they make your mouth water just by looking at them. An assorted truffle gift box, with your logo imprinted on the elegant box, can do the trick.
Alternatively, a box of mini peppermint cups will also ease that sweet tooth and will make your company name stand out from the crowd. The trick is to make your brand name as visible as possible on the box and include some contact information.

Business Card Holders

Trade shows are all about networking, so a lot of business card exchanges are meant to happen. A business card holder, with 6 file pockets, will not only be useful for people's own business cards, but also for all of the new business cards they acquire from potential clients or investors, all the while keeping everything organized.Custom Aluminum Card CaseKeep all of your contacts organized with this 6 pocket business card holder

2. Fun Giveaways with Low Budget Custom Products

Promotional Items are not only useful in face to face cases.
By using giveaways in your marketing campaigns you will not only increase the results of that particular campaign, but you will also ensure that your company name will still be visible long after the campaign ends.
From social media campaigns to extra giveaways when taking certain steps online, talk to your marketing team and find out how to use these products best. The point is to keep your audience active and involved for as long as possible.
Since these custom products are mostly used as rewards or prizes, you need to make sure you pick valuable items that will be universally appreciated, but that won't leave a dent in your budget.
Luckily, you will find plenty of quality items that are appealing to the public, but are around $15 or less - take for instance:

  • A fun wireless speaker would be a great prize that anyone can enjoy either at home or at work. It has a nice and clean design that makes your company logo pop on any colors you choose.
  • Another item that is extremely popular, especially if you want to appeal to the younger generation, is the luxury Virtual Reality Headset, which allows you to experience 360-degree viewing and gaming.
  • When it comes to utility, there is no better choice than a backpack customized with your logo for maximum visibility. This utility backpack has two zippered main compartments including a media pocket and earbud port, making it perfect for both everyday use and small trips. Wireless Speaker, VR Set, and BackpackWho says luxury promotional items are expensive?

3. Promotional Inexpensive Items for Events

Every year there is a list of events where your company needs to be present, as well as some events organized internally.
Whether it's company-sponsored events, public relations events, or even other national events such as marathons or concerts, it's always a good idea to be prepared to make your brand visible and accessible.
These are the type of circumstances in which using promotional items could be the perfect strategy. Just remember that the promotional items you put forward need to be just right for each situation.
Here are a few examples of custom items for different types of events:


Are you planning on attending or sponsoring a conference? Then think about bringing some selfie sticks, to make sure there will be plenty of photos of the audience and the speakers. Promotional selfie stickMake sure you get all of your favorite speakers in the picture with the help of a selfie stick.

Sporting Events

Imagine what a sports water bottle filled with fresh cold water can do at a marathon, on a hot day. This goes for both the participants in the marathon, as well as the public. Pair it with a small bottle of sunscreen with SPF 30, and it will be the perfect giveaway.
Promotional water bottleHelp athletes keep hydrated while making your company logo known. It's a win-win.

Concerts and Festivals

When it comes to big events such as concerts, you need to take into account that a lot of people travel from all over the country to get there.
So something like an airplane sleeper might be perfect for those who come in by plane, while an auto adapter can come in handy for people who come by car. Promotional auto adapterMake sure they have a pleasant journey back from the concert by giving them a practical auto adapter.

4. Direct Sales: Use Promotional Items as Incentives for Your Sales Team

Your Sales Team is the one out there, representing your company and trying to gather as many customers as possible. Most of the time they are the mirror of your business and the enthusiasm they have for their workplace can be the difference between striving or struggling.
For this reason, you should take every chance you get to incentivize them and keep their morale up. Besides cash bonuses, offering them promotional items can make them feel appreciated and part of the team. Just pick up something a little bit more interesting, like an adjustable Bluetooth selfie stick or a light qi Wireless charger, which are also extremely helpful when there's field work involved. Both of these promotional options are under $10. Promotional phone accessoriesGive interesting incentives to your tech team

Give Unique Promotional Items for Your Sales Team to Pass Around

Now that your sales team is motivated, help them improve their pitches with some promotional items they can pass around to potential customers. There are two ways to go about this:

  • Choose a classic promotional item, but with a twist, to be more memorable. For example, this 5 in 1 work pen is a six-sided twist-action ballpoint that also works as a small reversible Phillips and flathead screwdriver, a ruler, and even a stylus.
  • Go for something a bit more uncommon, like a pair of earbuds that come in a plastic case where you can have your logo and contact information printed.

No matter which one fits your company image best, both of these options are extremely effective and are under $2. Multifunction Pen and Earbuds Help your sales team seal the deal with these giveaways.

Just Closed a Deal? Give Away a Custom Promotional Item to Transform Them into a Brand Ambassador

Getting the customer to say "yes" to your business deal doesn't mean the job is finished. Small tokens of appreciation will always create a better relationship with your clients. The bigger the clients, the harder you will need to work to impress them and have the upper hand over the competition.
You don't always need to add the logo and slogan to your promotional items. When it comes to special clients, a good strategy would be to make your products more personal by adding a fun and interesting message to the product. You can write something connected to their interests, hobbies, preoccupations. Anything from a sincere "Welcome aboard!" to an exciting "See you on the golf course!" to the classic "Best boss in the world" could be a hit, depending on the client.
But if you feel like that kind of message is not appropriate, just go with the basic client identification information. A simple name or name and job title will work. This kind of gestures will make working with you a pleasure and will give you the edge over your competitors.
A padfolio that doubles as an iPad case gives you an elegant gift due to its ultrahyde cover, but it also offers plenty of space for a personalized message. Padfolio that Doubles as an iPad CaseThis practical padfolio and iPad case is perfect for your new clients.

Another option would be a classic leather travel wallet, which will come in handy to every busy businessman. Although they look impressive, these gifts are actually quite budget-friendly.
Classic leather travel walletConducting business sometimes means lots of trips abroad. That's why a leather wallet

5. Promote Your Brand Inside the Company or to Your Clients

Retention is one of the most important aspects of business when it comes to both your clients and your employees. Although it's easy to fall into the trap of focusing on new clients, you need to make sure your existing clients and employees are not neglected.
This is why you need to make sure that you reserve some marketing efforts for them.

Use Promotional Items at Work as Corporate Gifts

Show your team you appreciate them with something special, custom-made, to make them feel proud of their work.
Whether your company has had a great year or you've just signed an important client, recognition gifts can significantly improve employee's motivation and productivity, effectively paying for themselves in the long run.
There are several types of gifts that you can offer your employees, but if you had to choose something more general, go for the items that are truly useful at work. For instance, a padfolio with a writing pad can help them be more organized and perform better at work and is also of great help during meeting and conferences. The good news is that you can find quality padfolios under $10, which makes it the perfect budget-friendly gift. padfolio and writing pad A padfolio and writing pad you can always carry with you

Of course, some corporate gifts are more appropriate than others depending on the occasion. Get some inspiration and find out what corporate gifts are better suited for all of your employees from our list of 20 corporate gifts that will make your employees smile.

Give Promotional Items with Your Logo to Your Customers as a Way to Thank Them for Their Business

Everyone likes to be appreciated, and so do your clients. Giving promotional items or sending the occasional gift to your most important customers is a sure way to show them you appreciate doing business with them.
Take advantage of their next visit to your office to offer them a custom promotional item. It doesn't have to be anything big: an interesting and elegant pen might do the job.
If you want to stand out from the other companies, you might want to consider the comfort stylus pen, compatible with any capacitive touchscreen device including iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android OS Tablets or Smartphones. Who says you can't buy something quality for $1? Comfort stylus pen Replace the classic pen with an elegant comfort stylus pen

Moving away from tech-inspired items, another direction might be going for something eco-friendly. This natural pencil set made out of recycled paper that includes two great pens and pencils and a wooden sharpener goes for less than $3. Recyclable pencil set A natural pencil set made out of recycled paper shows you care about the environment.

Tips to Keep Your Marketing Products Cost as Low as Possible

Simply showing your logo on some of the most expensive items is not a guarantee of success, but neither will picking some random cheap promotional items just for the sake of advertising.

There are a few things to consider in order to make sure your marketing campaign is effective without breaking the bank.
We recommend you go through this checklist:

How Many Items Should You Order?

Start off your campaign with specific goals in mind.
Consider all of the occasions in which you want to give away promotional items and make a list of all of the items you want to get. Having a clear view of your marketing schedule, you can have a better understanding of what type of items you need to order. How many trade shows do you have planned? How about internal company events?
Plan everything thoroughly and order everything in one sitting. The more items you buy the lower the cost per item because buying in bulk is always the best strategy and can even cut the cost in half.
To have a clear idea of the amount, consider past event data such as turnout, sign-in lists, registrations, participation reports for similar past events or brand activations. This will give you a good lead on how to create this year's strategy.

Know What Your Audience Likes or Finds Practical

No marketing effort will be effective if you don't have your target audience in mind. Think about your main public.
If you're targeting a younger audience, tech items are all the range.
A colorful set of bass headphones, with a classic appealing design, would be a great option for this type of audience. Whether you're using them as part of a bigger integrated campaign, or simple giveaways during brand launch efforts, these $5 headphones are definitely classy for their price tag. Promotional headphones A good looking set of headphones are perfect for both work and leisure.

On the other hand, when it comes to a slightly more mature audience, something a bit on the sophisticated side like a wine set could be a great hit. A four-piece wine gift set is both elegant and useful when they're trying to unwind after work and enjoy a glass of wine. Promotional wine set Have a relaxing evening after a tough day at work and enjoy a soothing glass of wine.

Use Products Proven to Get the Most Impressions

We already know that tote bags are extremely successful when it comes to cost per impressions, but there are other products that have similar results. According to, products like USB ports, calendars, umbrellas, mugs, pens, also yield great results, surpassing the results of other traditional media. CPI per Media Type Using these types of products guarantees great results for your marketing campaign.

Although all of the above mentioned are perfectly fine options, there is one particular item that has proven to steal the lead on the numbers. Promotional bags get more impressions than any type of promotional item, with an average of almost 6,000 brand impressions, shows another study by ASI.
Of course, the more stylish and high-quality the bag, the bigger the chances of getting noticed, especially since women are 50% more likely to own a promotional bag. Not to mention the fact that you can use tote bags in any type of situation, from convention giveaways to corporate gifts for employees.
From a simple exhibition bag that is under $1 to a stylish mini tote for $3.51,or even an interesting and spacious pocket convention tote for $1.61, you have plenty of low budget, good quality tote bags from which to choose. Custom tote bags Tote bags have the biggest impact among promotional items

Consider the Less Obvious Products Other Companies Might Not

It's always a good idea to take a risk once in a while, to be able to set yourself apart from your competition.
This is why you should also include other products for your marketing campaign, products that are less obvious and that other companies might not use.
For example, if you're planning on attending a NASCAR or Formula 1 event, a tire gauge keychain is the perfect giveaway: it costs a little over $1 and it's useful for those auto fans attending this type of event. If you feel like splurging a bit more, a 6-piece precision screwdriver set for just under $3 will work like a charm. It's a must-have for all drivers. Promotional items for auto Make those auto enthusiasts happy by giving away practical products for their cars.

If you're thinking of a company camping retreat or even preparing for a festival under the clear sky, prepare some useful giveaways. You can include a rectangular reflector light, to make sure people won't trip in the pitch-dark, an inflatable beach ball that can be passed around for fun, or even a convenient portable cutlery set, to make it easier to enjoy your dinner. Camping promotional items Find the best promotional items for camping outings or outdoor festivals.

Wrapping Up

Using the right promotional item at just the right time can have a huge impact on raising your brand awareness and can enhance your marketing results significantly.
Stats already prove that using promotional products is effective and it lasts longer than any other forms of advertising. With a solid strategy on how to use them to maximize results, your business ROI will most likely increase.

Ready to kick off your low budget promotional shopping?
Send us an email or get in touch with us at 800-837-0337.

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