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Last updated on August 22nd, 2022 at 03:04 pm

Are you in the construction and trade industry who is looking to grow sales, retain employees, and ways to thank you customer’s with branded products? Promotional products for contractors can help you achieve one or more of these goals.

I had the opportunity to be a guest on Brett Bauma’s Contractor Business Podcast, an construction and trades focus podcast.

Best promotional products practices for contractors

1. Dress for Success

polo workwear logoHave you got in person estimates from contractors or plumbers? What impression do you have of the companies which the employees dress in branded apparel such as polos or t-shirts with logos? This is actually a simple, low-cost and very effective way to present your company in a professional way in front of your potential customers. 

When a team of sales person dressed in logo uniforms to a client meeting, the unified clean look gives a wonderful first impression.

Dress your sales staff for success with a simple polo or soft shell jacket with embroidered logo. As for the crew, strong durable cotton shirts with logo imprint are the way to go. Pro Tip: give each crew member at least 3-5 shirts for change of shirts throughout the week. The last thing you want is for them to come to work smelly and dirty!

2. Referral Campaign

yard sign
Sample contractor yard sign

I’m sure you have noticed yard signs of a painter or roofer who is currently working around the neighborhood? Or large banners seen in your community schools, football fields or gymnasiums? How about custom wrapped trucks or magnetic signs on vehicles? These are all very efficient ways contractors can use to get referrals while working on various job sites. 

After finishing each job, a thank you gift can be presented to the client to show your appreciation and ask politely for referrals from friends and family. A custom corporate gift can be customized for any occasion, budget.  

3. Target Your Market

Before you spend any money on a marketing campaign, first define your market. Knowing your target audience will make you a smarter and more precise marketer. Get to know your target market by surveying your current clients. If you are creating a target marketing campaign with promotional products, try to find out what type of promotional items will appeal to them the most. Can the promotional product chosen help solve a problem?

4. Be Unique

Do you know why your customers chose you over other contractors? Is it because of your quality of work, friendliness of crew, price, efficiency, materials? Knowing your values over your competitors will give you significant advantage in creating an effective marketing campaign. How you can translate these unique values into powerful marketing materials?

Trending Promtional Products for Contractors

UV-C Light Phone Sanitizer
UV-C Light Phone Sanitizer
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Defender UV Sanitizer Box & Charger

Audio Transcript for “Best Promotional Products Ideas for Contractors”

Brett Bauma (00:00):

You have a pretty extensive background in the promo and marketing area. And why don’t you go ahead and just tell the guests a little bit about your history.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (00:09):

Thank you, Brad. Hello everyone. My name is Swire Ho. I’m also calling myself #thepromoguy. I’m in the promotional product industry. So when people think of our industry, they usually think about swag, which is stands for ” Stuff we All Get” . I actually don’t use that word for me. My job is to help my customer grow sales, retain employees, and thank their customer with customer branded product. Happy to explore all the three categories with you during your show.

Brett Bauma (00:37):

Well, absolutely. We appreciate you coming on. So one of the big things, when I used to be a contractor, it, it, it really caught what, what you just said now is thank your employees with custom gear and branded material. And one of the employers that I had provided us with great coats and all sorts of wonderful gifts throughout the year in apparel, we felt recognized. We felt thanked. Do you, with that a lot with a lot of your customers, is that one of the bigger sales that you

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (01:05):

Have? That’s a great question. And I actually do have that experience from actually a client. Normally we provide, you know, regular T-shirt or polo,ufor a client, but then this particular client, they wanted some very nice,uapparel for their employees. They’re in the trade business. I asked them, you know, why do you spend so much more,uthan, you know, a normal client on these things? Because they told me there are a lot of different things. First of all,uif you’re in the trade business, you know that when people get an estimate, when they see you in person, you’re probably not the only contractor that they see, probably your competitors, or maybe, you know, some people actually schedule five to 10,ucontractor to screen them, right? And they’re more, your,uworkers are presentable. And then when you, your estimator go out to the job site, it’s impressive.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (01:55):

You know, especially if you pride yourself being more professional, or if you always you know, pride yourself or being the cheapest in the industry you gotta have to stand it out. And also at the, at the same time, the client told me that by having their employees dressing nicer, they actually do compare themselves to the other company. So are they dressing better? Are they more confident walk walking in the, to the job site or they, they being wearing the same t-shirts for the past five years that could really tell and then emotionally that’s how they’re able to retain some of their employees because they, they give them better apparel item for their work.

Brett Bauma (02:38):

I agree with that a hundred percent. And when you walk into these customers’ doors, I mean, regardless of what many people wanna think, they’re making a judgment from you. The second you walk in, if you’re dressed in a bunch of random clothes, or maybe some torn up clothes, they’re not gonna have the best first impression about your company. Whereas if your crew members show up and they’re all wearing the same branded apparel that really presents a professional image of your company coming first, right there in that first meeting with this promotion materials that you’re giving your employee employees, and you’re building your brand image and your growing, what are some of the other ways that companies can use promo material, branded material to help grow their business, grow brand and build awareness about themselves?

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (03:22):

Well, let’s first touch on prospecting, right? Growing yourself. And then we can also touch on after you finish your job. How do you actually thank your customer, ask for referral using promotional product. But then first thing I want to address is you cannot have a promo product and expect that you close a sales. I wish I have something like that, but then it’s, it’s unlikely what you’re doing is you actually building a brand, imagine our own buying experience. You know, we touch touch on seven touch points until you actually will consider doing business with a company. You know, for example like my reason experience for changing my roof at my house. So my neighbor actually changing their roof about two years ago. So I saw the contractor there. They what they have done, correct. And let me remember them is all their uniform app branded, you know, has their company logo their phone number, what they do, and also all the trucks are wrap.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (04:21):

So I can clearly see their contact information. What they also done, I think is very useful for all of us to consider is they actually put up the sign, the banner while they’re working there and they actually left it there in front of the house for, I think for about three weeks. So a lot of exposure for them. And then afterwards, I talked to their customer, which is my neighbor and they actually told me their experience. And then they actually receive a gift from the, the company, thank for them and fast forward, you know, and, and a year later probably I actually saw their company sponsor one of the event at my daughter’s elementary school. So they’re actually targeting all the homeowners within my general area. So after at least 45 touchpoint, I decided to call the company. And they’re probably the only one that I’m considered because for people who are not in the trade industry, I could guarantee that cannot name five contractors anywhere in any industry. But how do, how as a company, are you able to stand out and be top of mind within your target audience?

Brett Bauma (05:33):

One of the companies that I worked for, one of the contractors he’s experienced tremendous growth, and one of the best things he did when I started with him, it was the company was smaller. And I’ve said this before in previous podcast, he’s on the Inc 5,000 fastest growing companies list. And he’s all over our town here. And one of the things he did amazing was he started building the brand with apparel and the apparel. It was nice apparel. It was comfortable. Everybody loved it, everybody wore it, it, the work day was over and you would wear a, the same apparel throughout the day. I mean, you’re like a walking billboard because you’re presented with so much of this nice apparel. Even to this day, I haven’t been working for ’em for five or six years. I still wear those sweatshirts all the time.

Brett Bauma (06:15):

There’s some of my favorite sweatshirts. So I’m a walking advertisement for this company, you know, on weekends and everything. And there’s people in the community that were, you know, getting hand, he was handing him out to people as well. So it’s just phenomenal the way he built this brand, his trucks are wrapped, like you said, and this brand awareness, I mean, you start seeing it everywhere. And as they, you see it even more and more and more, and it’s just kind of this exponential growth of brand, and it’s just been pretty phenomenal to see it happen. To that extent.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (06:46):

Yeah, I would suggest to the listener, think of marketing as an expense that you have to do in other grow business. According to the small business administration, a company should spend anywhere from 10% to 17% of the annual revenue on marketing. So depending on the industry that you’re in, you know, some are more aggressive. So when we say marketing, it could account for, let’s say, Yuma marketing, you know, your cost for printing postcard. Maybe you want to do some digital marketing, Google ads, or maybe you want to consider you know, what, we just talk about the branded apparel or promotional product. This should be in your annual budget. So when I talk to client, I could probably tell if they have planned it, or if it just like an impulse, a lot of time, people come to us want to buy as an impulse right now.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (07:36):

It’s a perfect example. It’s the, year end people want give, you know, their clients, some gifts. I have a lot of clients haven’t thought about why they want to give gifts to their client and they just wanna buy something. You know, I would suggest, you know, have a plan. So if you are saying, you know, depending on what trade industry that, that you’re in, maybe you are in the drywall or painting,utray. So the frequency that you need to update your t-shirt will be higher than if you do with other trade business that might not get so,uyou know, dirty by work. So think about that as a expense and plan it out because the more plan that you have in your marketing, the better you can execute them

Brett Bauma (08:19):

With your experience. Do you see a lot of return on investment for companies who buy maybe some of the apparel, apparel, promotional products and give it to the end users or other people as well to kind of have this stuff being used out in the, the public eye, or do you recommend more towards the employees for the promotional apparel and stuff like that? It,

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (08:41):

I think it should be a balance, but what I like to ask my client to do, you know, when we had our initial conversation is I ask them, who are your target audience? You know, who would you like to target? And a lot of people, not only in a trade business in let’s say restaurant industry, and in a lot of industry, they would say everybody, right? If you’re a plumber, everyone has a toilet at home. So it’s everyone. But then think about deeper. If you’re targeting everyone, you’re actually targeting nobody. So I would dig deeper into our conversation to tell me more about your ideal client. I wish type of client. Do you like to work with the most, or are you proud yourself to be luxury, right? If you say you’re luxury, if you’re a special, or if you’re eco-friendly, whatever that your mission statement will be, then there, you gotta accept that there are some client that you might not be able to surf.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (09:32):

You know, maybe there are you say I’m not the cheapest, but we, we do the best job. You know, we are professional. We show up on time, we do the job, right. Then don’t focus on, you know, sometimes client will tell you that we just want the cheapest way to, you know, do this job, you know, can you help us? You know, sometimes you gotta tell yourself and separate your client. And once you find out what your target audience will be, then if you, if they like to share with me who they are, you know, if they’re a male, female you know, where do they show up? Then we have different items for them, for example going for the school example, if you let’s say you are sponsoring a football team at the high school, for example, then you know that mostly those will be parents that are participating at their kids’ school. So mostly you want to be focusing on more football related item. Versus if you say, I am servicing a facility manager who owns an operate 10 different warehouse space, then you know, that those operating manager probably sitting behind a desk. So, and more you can tell us about who the target audience will be and how they like to you know, go on the daily life, the better we can pick out our product, you know, for that specific reason,

Brett Bauma (10:49):

Once you go through this process and you come up with a product, if they don’t have, I mean, do you companies like yourself, do you help them, the graphic design or any of the design implementation as well? Or is that something they need to kind of find with a graphic designer or an artist on the outside and bring to you?

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (11:08):

Well, sometime we step into help, you know, we we are not designer per portray, but then a lot of time we do give advice, you know, based on how their logo looks like. And then what kind of item I suggest, because I’ve seen a lot of times. And when people say they work with a designer, a designer may be good on building a website, but then when I see the logo that they have, I know that it’s never going to print well on the pan. You know, they design a 3d logo, you know, elaborate color then, but you know, that information cannot fit on a pan or they can even fit it on a certain item because sometimes depending on what item it is, it charge per color. So you have nine colors on your logo. How does that, how, how is that gonna translate to your bottom line on

Brett Bauma (11:57):

The promo materials? What are some of the best ones to start out with? I mean, is it, I guess it really just depends on, like you said, the, the situation, but are there any recommendations that you see that work really well right now for a general audience that businesses could start maybe taking a look at or thinking about doing here soon?

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (12:18):

Right. First obviously we have to identify the target audience. So if we can find a promotional product that kind of solve the target audience problem, that’s gonna be a product, or it reminds them from the day to day life that reminds of a company right now is at year end. So I think one general gift that works for a lot of people and you can have them for a year is a calendar. So right now, myself looking for a calendar, usually my supplier will send me a calendar. And by maybe end of December, if I don’t have a calendar I’m in trouble, right? So, but you gotta do it in a timely manner. So you don’t give people calendar in June, but right now season, season wise is, is a good time for calendar and think about how they would remind of your services.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (13:07):

You know popular thing will be magnet items too. If you go into a people’s home to service their facility, or if you extract vendor then the season will be considered now is to your, your heating system, right? And before summer, maybe a couple months before the season of summer, you remind them to, to clean up the future things that you do for maintenance, just to make sure that, you know, your AC is cool enough for the summer. So, you know, your industry well, and if it’s a seasonal or if they have to do a certain maintenance throughout the year then make a habit. And how, how do you remind them is by having the right product? So they know that, oh, I, maybe I have to do that. So this is a company that, that always come to mind, I’m gonna call them.

Brett Bauma (13:58):

That’s perfect. I, one of the things you mentioned about the magnets, I know at my house every time I go to change my furnace filter, there’s a magnet there from the company that did the install and the service before I bought the house. And so every time I’m down there every three months, I’m seeing their business right in front of my face. So, you know, logic would tell you if, if something goes wrong with that, I’m gonna think, oh, you know, first off that company right there, and they did a smart job by creating that magnet. Another thing that you brought up, I like the target audience, because in the past, anytime I’ve dealt with promo products, I’ve never really thought of the target audience per se. It’s been more like like this coffee cup here, for a example, you know, you think I personally like ’em, I enjoy ’em. So I think everybody else is gonna join ’em, but it may not work correctly for my customers because maybe my true target audience doesn’t like coffee as much, or they’re not out on the road, or they’re not gonna use a Tumblr, like I would. So trying to detach from your own personal belief system and actually get more into the research and the the target market as well. So that’s great advice.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (15:02):

I think, Brad, you, you touch on a very good point because, you know, when I deal with owner or the management from trade business, they, a lot of time they want to buy something that they like, but in the end, it’s just things that we like. It’s what the target audience will like. If, if you, like, I could share with you a recent success example. So we are working with a cleaning company. They they do all his maintenance for buildings. So their account will pay them a thousand to 1500 per month. So that means it’ll be close to $20,000 if they sign on a new new client. And when they call me, they said, we have about $3,000 that want, we wanna spend, you know, how many pens can I buy? So that, that was the initial question they asked me.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (15:53):

So once we discover what they’re trying to do, and when they told me their target audience is actually the facility manager. So I said, why don’t you find out who your top 10 clients are? And instead of buying all the pens that you can get with $3,000, we break it down just to 10, a specific boxes that you can spend $300 on, which is a lot, right? And then you send it to your new clients that you are onboarding, or some of your nicest client that give you the most business. So what we decided on since, you know, it was during COVID, our, our theme was how to clean, well, how to maintain the safety for everyone be because it’s clean. We provide a custom print box with all their mission statement their you know, differentiator on the box itself.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (16:43):

So it’s branded with their color. And then when you open the box, we actually do have a tr you just show me with branded, because we know that the facility manager they’re always working behind it desk. And we also pick specifically you know, just as related to your industry, a desktop vacuum. So they’re in the cleaning business. So they, they do get what they’re trying to do, and they act they can actually use it to clean the desk. And the, the item that we are most proud of to find is we actually found them UV C C cell phone cleaner because our cell phones is 30. I’m sure that no one has done it except me to bring our cell phone to our, to the toilet. So the UVCC charger actually is branded. It could clean your phone when you put it in there.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (17:28):

And it also charges your phone while you are sitting behind your desk. So they have actually been receiving well review from their client, especially when sending our onboarding gift, which we can touch on to get referral. So if you’re a big enough facility imagine that you manage more than one property. So you can now actually their management company have multiple facility manager. So now they’re using that box to open up the conversation, post sell. So if they know that one facility manager can use them then they follow up because people are so happy to receive that box. They actually call them back and Def thank them for the gift. And then it’s a, they found out it’s a good time to ask them for the additional referral. Do you know a colleague or do you know another facility manager in your company that might be able to use a service? You know, the, the number of calls and referral they, they receive with, with the same in budget that they have, have sky rock 200% compared to if they just send, you know, 6,000 pens, for example, and send it to all the facility manager around the country. So it’s more focus it’s, you know, you only get 10 boxes, but then, you know, like you said, the return on investment is a lot, a lot higher.

Brett Bauma (18:50):

And you kind of, from what I can tell from those gift boxes, that’s a lot of stuff that’s gonna be used and stay on top of the desk, as opposed to end up in a drawer sliding towards the back. You know, a lot of people have so many pens, the pen may disappear or something, but I mean, you’ve got these tangible items that these people could be using on a regular basis as well. That’s great.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (19:09):

Yeah. It, it’s some additional thinking, obviously, you know, I really love working with them because they gimme a lot of feedback because the more you can tell us as a promotional product distributor about your target audience, because mind you, we have access to over 10,000 different items. I I’m sure that no matter what industry that you’re in, how difficult that you, you think the, the end user will be, we’re able to find, you know, with your input, the, the right gift that create the conversation. The goal for a promotional product campaign is to create that conversation is to have people share your item when they receive, imagine when you receive something that’s so cool. We are photo journalists. We are of a cell phone. We take pictures, right. Of something that we think is really cool and we share and post it on social media. Then our friends, our colleagues will see that item itself. And then, like you said, you becomes the walking billboard, a brand ambassador for the company who sends you that gift. It might be, you know, maybe just a $2 gift, but if it’s <affirmative> fits you, if it’s you think, oh, this is so me, then you share everyone. And you tell everyone about that brand without them even paying you, you know, however many the cost might be to hire a brand ambassador.

Brett Bauma (20:23):

That’s fantastic. Now you’re what is the, we’re kind of run up on our time already. This is crazy. What are some of the best way for people to get a hold of you to learn more from you to communicate with you, if they have more questions or they’re interested in getting some products branded by you as well.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (20:42):

Thank you. I’m on LinkedIn. So if you find Swire ho I’m on LinkedIn all the time, and then I’m also you know, just Google my name, SW ho hashtag the promo guy, you know, so I branded myself because a lot of people do promotional product. And then I think a way that I want to preach what I you know, tell people to do. How do you separate yourself? When we, when we think about promotional part of company, again, you probably can’t name five company. So how do I separate myself from other company out there is to give myself a hashtag. So when people search SWI or hashtag the promo guy, everything will come up. It is what I do. And then and the best way is to visit our website It’s G a R UDA

Brett Bauma (21:36):

Perfect. And I’ll put the links to your stuff in the show notes as well. And I’ll maybe be posting the, the info for the show on LinkedIn once, soon as it publishes. So everybody will be able to find you there and I’ll copy you on it as well. So I really appreciate you coming on. Hopefully we can do another one sometime. There’s a lot of information that goes into marketing, and we could probably go on for hours talking about marketing. What is, is there a specific resource that you really recommend that maybe somebody could look at for marketing information if they’re just starting a business and trying to learn a little bit more?

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (22:12):

I think if you’re starting out and even you don’t have you’re zero customer. So what I would suggest people in that way to do is think about the I ideal client and write down as much information as you can think of, you know, people who can afford and pay full price. The think about don’t compete on price. I, I never suggest my client to compete on price. So someone who could pay you food price is easy to work with and then will buy from you all the time. Who are those people? Can you write down as many details as possible for that ideal client? And once you have at least 10 points that and write about the ideal client, think about how, how do you find them? Where do they hang out? Is it online, offline? Do they belong to let’s say a association, are they the chamber of commerce? How, how do you find those people? So that will give you a lot of good way to start. And you don’t just, you know, shoot out like a shotgun approach to hit everyone. Then you don’t be afraid to focus more narrowly. If you can find all your ideal clients there, maybe you just hang out there. You don’t really need to look elsewhere until you reach to the point that you think I’m ready to expand. And maybe have another category that I wanna focus on.

About the Author

Shirley Ho

Shirley is the co-founder of Garuda Promo and Branding Solutions. With a background in print production and graphic design, she specializes in promotional products marketing, creating end-products that aligns with her client's marketing goals and brand strategy.

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