Here at Maker’s Row, we have been looking forward to making promotional goods for quite some time. When the opportunity came for us to represent ‘Made In USA’ at SOURCING at MAGIC, it also served as a good excuse to start creating our promotional goods. With a deadline set (August 15), it became a priority for us to brainstorm and draft a plan of action.
Before I jump into projects like this, I usually look at what experts have to say before devising a plan of my own. In my research, I found articles explaining why promotional materials are critical to a company’s branding and growth, but had trouble coming across a how-to guide or set of tips on making promotional materials. To fill that gap, I started tracking our progress and taking notes on our journey with promotional goods. In the next blog posts, I will share our experience acquiring promotional goods, with tips and photos along the way. To break it down even more, I will be detailing exactly how we got our promotional gear made in two blog posts:
Step 1: Planning and Outreach
Step 2: How To Get What You Want
Our first planning steps can be summarized with three thoughts:
Think Big: Promotional goods has an entire world of its own for a reason – there are so many options! Our first step was figuring out what goods are right for Maker’s Row right now. Stickers? Notebooks, maybe? One of the most important things to remember in this process is to think big. It’s too easy to narrow your list down very quickly, so remember that while figuring out exactly what you want, keep it big picture.
Set Your Limitations: As important as it is to stay open-minded, it is critical
for you to discern what you absolutely do or do not want in your promotional good. We made it a priority for our promotional goods to be 100% Made In USA, and to support local manufacturing. We also thought it was very important for the factories we used to be willing to take photos of their process (to share with all of you!). Knowing exactly what would qualify or disqualify a manufacturer from being YOUR manufacturer saves time and simplifies your search.
- Know Your Budget: It may seem obvious, but knowing how much you are willing to spend on these products is vital. I found that keeping a budget in mind helped me keep track of quantity, simplified my first few conversations with factories, and helped me determine product details.
Overall, the planning process can be challenging, but setting up guidelines of your own can be very helpful as you start the hunt for your promotional good manufacturer. While I, personally, love organizing, planning, and creating lists, the fun was only about to start.
As our team solidified a list of promotional products we were interested in, the qualifications for these items, and set a budget, it came time to begin search and outreach. Here are a few tips for when starting your outreach:
- Searching and Messaging: In the first message, it is important to BE SPECIFIC (which I’ll get into in the next blog post) and STAY ORGANIZED. Using the Maker’s Row Message tool helps keep your outreach information organized, and makes it easy to bounce back and forth between searching for a manufacturer, and reaching out to them with your needs. At this stage, keep in mind that many promotional good resources that offer more than just one product. For example, our friends at Amplifier offer calendars, t-shirts, posters, mugs, and the list goes on. Making sure you fully explore what a resource offers will save you time and can make your search easier. (Helpful Hint: You’re also more likely to get a better deal getting several products from a single source than using many resources to get single products)
- Phone calls: While messaging allows you to input details and deadlines, calling is a good way to speed up the process if you are in a rush to get your goods made. It can also help you narrow down your list of qualified manufacturers much more.
- While on your phone call, make sure to start off with who you are, what you want, and what your pre-qualifications are. Before figuring out details about quantity and getting quotes, it’s important to double check that they have everything you’re looking for
- Be friendly! This goes without saying, but it’s important to keep in mind. On the phone, it’s easy to get distracted or annoyed (if you’re put on hold for a while), and you can definitely hear that in your voice. The more kind and generous you are, the more you’ll get it in return :)
- Follow up consistently: Don’t be afraid to follow up! I found that follow-ups were one of the most important parts of outreach. I usually gave manufacturers 2-3 days to respond before reaching out again. It’s so easy to think you’re “bugging” someone, but e-mails get lost, things get hectic, and sometimes it’s just nice to have a reminder/update. So don’t be afraid to follow up (and make sure you do so often)!
The first few stages of outreach can be frustrating. There are a lot of dead ends, and it calls for consistent communication. I found it enjoyable, however to make Daily Updates detailing who I talked with, who needed to be followed up on, and what the progress was on an item. As mentioned in my last post, I love lists, so this could just be me, but I found that overall, our initial outreach process was a lot of fun.
Stay tuned to for my blog post tomorrow: “How To Get What You Want”