3 Tips for a Successful Pen Promotion
When someone gets a hold of a pen that’s just right (or just write, if we feel like dropping a horrible pun), they don’t want to let go of it. Many of our favorite pens have been promotional pens that we either have received as an incentive or “accidentally” left in our pockets after a trip to the bank.
Now, there are more features of writing instruments than smooth writing, such as stylus tips, flashlights or laser pointers, so marketing the right pen to end-buyers isn’t as simple as asking if they want black or blue ink. To learn more about what distributors can do to keep their writing instrument game on point (ballpoint, even), we talked to Andy Arruda, MAS, national sales manager for Braintree, Massachusetts-based Hub Pen Company; and Bill Mahre, president of Hugo, Minnesota-based ADG Promotional Products.
1. Keep Special Features in Mind
Though a pen’s primary function is writing on paper, having a writing instrument that has numerous abilities is a key selling point. Arruda said that multi-functionality is important to selling writing instruments in today’s market. “New functionality would be the key there,” he said. “Whether it’s stylus pens, flashlights, laser pointers, [...] any kind of accessory [on] a writing instrument that can make it more functional.”
With the popularity of tablets and smartphones, Mahre suggested that distributors should look toward pens with stylus tips for touch screens. “Most people right now have an iPad, a tablet, a smartphone or things like that,” he said. “[A pen with a stylus is] an easy piece to carry and to use, and there’s all sorts of applications when you start talking about stylus pens. They’re relatively inexpensive, too.”
Arruda added that stylus pens fulfill a need without adding a lot to the cost. “Just about everybody has a use for a stylus pen,” he said. “A stylus, instead of a finger, is easier. It’s touch sensitive. It’s just an accessory for a few pennies more.”
Aside from stylus tips, distributors should keep other special features in mind when selling to certain industries. For example, Arruda noted that pens with flashlights are popular in the medical industry. “Flashlights are ideal for the healthcare industry,” he said. “For nurses and doctors working in a room late at night, they can use the flashlight.”
Mahre said that real estate companies and financial institutions more often than not will request blue ink. This is because they use blue ink on official documents to determine which is the original copy. Arruda added that financial institutions often want anti-fraud inks, which can’t be washed off a check because of a heavy pigmentation in the ink, and are resistant to UV rays, water, erasers, ethanol, bleach and hydrochloric acid.
2. Add a personal touch
When people receive a gift that feels like it was made just for them, they’re going to cherish it. Mahre said that the same thing goes for end-users who receive personalized writing instruments. “I think the biggest thing that we’re still seeing a lot of is application of personalization,” he said. “Rather than just putting a logo on a pen or a traditional marking approach, especially with laser engrave, people can get it down to a real personalized approach with names on [the pen], and that adds a lot of value, especially if its done economically.”
However, Mahre warned distributors to be mindful of setup costs and ancillary charges that could turn an otherwise cost-efficient promotion into an expensive ordeal.
“If you’re buying 500 pens that cost 20 cents, that’s a $100 order,” he said. “But if they cost $40 in setup charges, that’s a lot of the [end-buyer’s] investment. That’s something that a lot of distributors need to be aware of.”
He added that this is a problem that’s especially prevalent in the writing instrument category. “The per unit cost [of pens] tends to be a little lower,” he said. Take for instance those 20-cent pens in comparison to bags. “If you’re buying a couple hundred bags and they’re $20-a-piece, it’s not as much of an impact if you have a $40 setup fee,” he explained.
3. Think big
Because of their small size and relatively low price, writing instruments may seem like a small piece of the promotional products industry.
However, Arruda said they play an integral part of many corporate marketing programs. Because of this, distributors should look toward large deals rather than just small orders. “If [distributors] look for corporate programs, there’s a lot more to be had there,” he said. “A lot of bigger programs that they might overlook include a writing instrument. They’re going to include a wearable, glassware, a mug, but they’ll also include writing instruments.”