Promo Products: A Profitable Business for Your In-plant
In-plants, by and large, are missing out on a very big, mostly untapped market: promotional product sales. Departments all over your parent organization are ordering scores of these personalized pens, coffee cups, hats, tote bags and other trinkets to give away as promotions. Yet IPG data shows that only 17.1% of in-plants are involved in selling promotional products.
“Every campus buys promotional products somewhere,” points out Theresa Hatcher, promotional product specialist at The University of Texas at Austin. “So if you’re already printing their brochure and their letterhead, why don’t you ‘print’ their pen as well? It’s kind of a natural extension.”
Hatcher moved to Austin from her native Arkansas in January to expand UT Document Services’ fledgling promo products program. Director Richard Beto saw the success that other in-plants like the University of North Texas and the University of Oklahoma have been having in this business, and hired Hatcher, who worked for years in the promotional products business. She has since gotten the in-plant certified as a distributor, so it can now sell direct to university customers. This has lowered prices for the school and increased profit for the in-plant, which adds a 30-40% markup for its services.
“We think that the market over all of UT is probably in excess of $1 million,” Hatcher maintains — and customers are still paying less than what they would pay to an outside distributor.
In addition to pens, mugs and hats, other popular products include shirts, name badges, USB drives, hand sanitizer and lip balm. The in-plant provides the added service of ensuring that the UT brand and colors are used correctly on each item.
To promote the promotional products, Hatcher spends time visiting offices on campus and handing out catalogs. Six times a year she displays samples at a showcase that Document Solutions holds to tout its services. So far her efforts are paying off and profits are up.
“I just really think it’s a great way to make money,” she says. “It’s another way to get your face out there in front of people.”
Related story: UT Austin Named ‘Print Center of the Year’