Doing Good—On The Cheap
Nonprofits. There are the giant ones, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that have marketing budgets so big even most for-profit companies drool over them, and then … there's everybody else. Sadly, while doing wonderful work, your average veteran's outreach group or animal rescue isn't exactly going to have the budget for 16 full-time marketing coordinators and a sponsored awareness walk in every major city. Does that mean that they're not in the market for promotional products? Not by a longshot.
Just like in the for-profit world, there are many small and mid-sized nonprofits that would make great use of promotional products if given the chance. It's just that their budgets might be a little tighter than you're used to, but really, is that any reason for objection?
Part of any salesperson's skill set is the ability to deliver the most value for the least money. With nonprofits, you just have to crank that bang-for-buck ability of yours up to the highest setting and really make every dollar count. And if you need a little help, here are five pointers to get you started.
1. Don't Go Too Low
When working with a tight budget, the temptation may be to suggest the cheapest product you can find. It's often better however, to structure your pitch around "most effective" rather than "most affordable." Nonprofits, like any other organization, need promotional products for a reason, and it's usually not "saving money." Find the item(s) that will best fulfill that reason, then work on getting it within their budget afterward. When money is tight, companies will be much more willing to spend on something they know will work, rather than something that's just "affordable enough."
"Whenever customers are on a tight budget, we usually suggest they stick with a better product in a lower price point category than buying something of inferior quality," said Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J. "With most nonprofits, getting their message out is the most important goal so you wouldn't want to go with something so inexpensive that recipients will not wear it," she explained.
2. Seek Supplier Comparison Guides
If you're struggling to find the best product at the right price, Barreca suggested using a "product comparison guide" as a helpful way to narrow down choices. Some suppliers, such as Vantage Apparel, offer feature-versus-price comparison guides on their products, providing an easy-to-follow visual way to differentiate products by cost vs. attributes offered. It makes explaining the "flow of value" a little easier to clients, and also makes picking items like "the most affordable fashion tee" or "most durable basic crew neck" simpler.
3. Consider Digital Printing
"For smaller quantity orders, consider digital printing," said Barreca. Digital printing favors smaller orders since there's no setup cost. The machinery is always ready to go and doesn't require the creation of physical templates or plates, as is the case with many forms of non-digital printing.
4. Keep Decoration Simple (and Affordable)
If digital printing is out, have a plan to reduce decoration costs in other ways. Cost-reduction can be as simple as keeping it small and to a standard location, or it can be more complex. Redesigning a logo to be a one-color silhouette for example, can reduce decoration cost, but also may involve a little more work and time.
5. Think Mobile and Multifaceted
Products that offer a solid and versatile marketing reach can be an appealing choice for a nonprofit, as it can let them market in several different directions at once. A tote bag, for instance, can be used as a fundraising item, mailed as a reward to current supports, or packed with goodies at a charity event. "But best of all, they're mobile so the message has greater reach (unlike other products like calendars or drinkware which tend to be more stationary)," said Christopher Duffy, MAS, senior vice president of marketing for Bag Makers, Union, Ill.