Guide to effectively using promotional materials for start-ups

Making the leap into starting your own business takes a lot of bottle and brings a lot of new challenges.

Those early days, as you work to drum up business and generate new customers, will be among the hardest you face.

Making sure that your business stands out in your niche is crucial to your success. But how can you do that?

Everybody likes to get something for nothing so one way to get your product or service in front of the right audience is with the use of free promotional items.

To be effective, it’s important that your promotional materials are targeted and you’re not just giving stuff away for the sake of it.

So to help you get it right, here’s our guide to using promotional materials to get maximum exposure for your business.

Why do promotional materials matter?

So why do promotional goods matter? You’ve got a million and one other things to be thinking about as the head of a new startup, so is it worth it?

Brand Awareness

The most obvious benefit of promotional materials is that they increase your brand awareness, which is especially important in the early days of your startup.

Having a promotional item in their office or home means a lead is more likely to think of you when they need your product or service, it’s as simple as that. However, the benefits go a little further…


Unlike a normal radio or TV advertisement, promotional items have great longevity (as long as they’re done right!).

If you choose a product which is of genuine value to somebody, they could be using it for months or even years, all while unconsciously endorsing your startup and keeping it at the forefront of their minds.

Brand image

Good promotional materials don’t just make people think about your business, they make them think positively about it.

Again, this depends on choosing the right materials, which we’ll come on to, but receiving something for free, especially if it’s of genuine value to them, is always going to do good things for your brand image in the eyes of your prospects.

Choosing your promotional materials

You should have already identified what sort of demographic your business is trying to appeal to, so use this research to help you decide what promotional goods to send out.

Identify your audience and their needs

Different industries, ages, genders and locations will all have different needs and wants, so identify a product which would appeal to the types of people that you want coming to your business.

For example, if you’re a digital marketing agency, giving away something, such as a USB stick, would be far more relevant than a bottle opener.

Pick something useful

Gimmicks are all well and good, but what people really want is something useful; something that’s going to actually make their life a little bit easier.

Often, this can mean that things which, on the face of it, are a bit more boring, can actually work well.

Take pens for example. You might not be over the moon to receive a branded pen at a trade show or exhibition, but that pen will probably rattle around in the drawer of your desk and get used for months or even years to come, all while bearing the name and logo of the company that gave it to you.

Some companies, especially those in the food and drinks industries like to send out personalised, edible goods, especially around Christmas.

While this is a good idea in theory, and one which will surely go down a treat, it’s ultimately a very disposable, short-term item which will be forgotten about very quickly.

Encourage engagement

So you’ve picked the right product and given it to the right people, but don’t lose sight of why you’re giving it away.

The whole point is that you’re hoping to get some kind of engagement out of your audience, whether that be getting them to follow your social media profiles, visit your website or give you a call.

Make sure to include some kind of call-to-action to encourage engagement. For example, this could be something as simple as having your website or phone number printed onto the product.

You could also take things even further, adding a hashtag which people can use to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Most importantly though, your promotional materials really need to sell your business and be a reflection of what you do.

They should also be consistent with the rest of your branding efforts in terms of your logo and colours.

Distributing your promotions

Something it’s important not to overlook is how you’re actually going to get your promotional products in front of people.

Exhibitions/Trade Shows

Exhibitions, trade shows, conferences and such are probably the most popular places to give away promotional materials and get in front of as many people as possible.

Not only does this serve to attract people to come to your stall and spark up a conversation, but it keeps people thinking about your business long after the event too.

This is obviously a cheaper method of distribution, but it’s a much more scattered approach and the results will reflect this, with many people receiving products who will never even consider your business and are really just looking to get something for free.


If you’re going to ship products out to people, this can be expensive and time-consuming, but it means that you can really target prospects who will appreciate the gift and have a high chance of converting into sales and they’ll also appreciate that you’ve taken the time to send something directly to them.

It also gives your sales team a foot in the door, allowing them to follow up on the gift a few weeks down the line with a conversation.


You also shouldn’t overlook the benefits of distributing promotional materials internally, amongst your staff.

They can serve as a reward to staff for good performance or certain milestones, which is obviously a good way to boost morale, but it’s still effective in increasing brand awareness too, with employees much more likely to speak highly of the business if they’re being rewarded for their good work.


You’ve probably already set aside a marketing budget, but be wary of how much of this you put into promotional items.

It can be easy to get carried away and overestimate how much you actually need, meaning you wind up with a box full of branded goods sat in the corner of the office.

It’s also usually the case that the more expensive products, such as USB sticks, may be of more value to potential customers, but you really have to weigh up whether this extra outlay is going to be worth it.

Of course, this depends on your target audience and industry, but largely speaking people will take a cheap product and make a negative judgement about the company giving it away, rightly or wrongly!

A cheap, tacky product suggests that you haven’t really put much time or thought into your clients or prospects, but higher value products create a much better brand image and can help convince a prospect to convert.

Again, it does depend on the circumstances, but generally speaking, spending a little more on a smaller quantity of items could prove to be a canny strategy.

Promotional products are a great way to get your startup in front of more eyes, start conversations, and ensure that people are talking about your business for much longer than they would through more conventional advertising means.

Hopefully, we’ve been able to clarify for you just how promotional materials can be beneficial to your startup if you use them strategically.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Adam Bennett, Digital Marketing Manager at Digital ID, the UK’s leading supplier of Personalised Lanyards.

Last updated: 21st February, 2021

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