How To Start An Advertising Specialty Business
Advertising specialties are small items like book matches, pens
or key chains that can be imprinted with a company, logo or
They are deductible advertising and usually given away to promote
the business whose name is inscribed on them. There is almost no
limit to products that can be used as advertising specialties.
They can be anything the client company can afford, your
sponsoring company can imprint and the customer will use.
The ideal item is useful, costs comparatively little and keeps
your clients' business name in front of the customer as long as
Advertising Specialties is an ideal business to operate from
home. You can market them on a route, by mail, through
advertisements, by phone appointments or by personal contact.
There are two main objectives in establishing yourself in this
The first is to let people know who you are, what you handle and
where they can get hold of you.
Second, convince them that you can help them promote their
business. Your experience and advertising knowledge level will
increase constantly. In turn, your expanding capability will
equip you to offer even better advice and more timely
Your customers are busy business people who want to get the most
of their advertising dollar and are not particularly
knowledgeable in this area. As soon as your customers realize
they can rely on your advice your success will be assured!
Advertising specialties include place mats, school football and
baseball schedules, calendars and plastic windshield scrapers,
which lend themselves well to thee seasons. These give you a good
opportunity to make timely and realistic suggestions to your
Foe example, in August you can suggest an order of imprinted
scrapers for winter and in June you can recommend an order of
football schedules for fall.
These suggestions are not just a ruse to sell -- they indicate
you have given some though to your client's business interests!
These and thousands of other specialty items are available with
organization or company (logo and message) imprints at relatively
Advertising specialty costs to the customer are in line with and
frequently below other advertising methods. Although a thousand
imprinted pens costs more than a single newspaper or radio ad,
the message on the pen lasts as long as the pen,,, while the
newspaper ad is in the trash the next day and a radio commercial
is but a "fleeting word."
Industry specialty suppliers furnish salesmen or independent
dealers with instructions, catalogs, price lists and often, sales
Most advertising specialty salespersons represent several
companies to offer a variety of personalized or imprinted
products. They show the prospective customer samples, discuss the
merits of different products, promotional and advertising
objectives. They quote prices, write orders and sometimes deliver
and collect for the products when they come in.
In most cases, however, they just take the order and get a "down
payment" (the sales commission) from the client. The supplier
then ships the order direct to the customer, COD for the freight
and balance due.
This system is slightly more costly due to the piecemeal shipping
and COD fees, but it may be the best (especially if you have a
route). When you can handle these things personally, even if it
is only once in a while. You gain more trust when you can deliver
and collect in person; it shows a personal interest in your
As a specialty ad sales person, you are the only link between the
sponsoring company and your client. Your sponsoring company does
not deal directly with the public. If they tried, they would lose
their salesmen as well as many of their customers because they
could not deal on a person to person basis.
For beginners, it is advisable to start with one product (such as
book matches) so you can simplify your learning process and
accelerate building your confidence.
Try to form a business foundation without having to learn too
many products, prices and methods of presentation. There is no
need to go after a large clientele with your first product. Just
make enough calls to gain enough experience and self-confidence,
then start expanding your line.
The real secret is to knowing your customers, products and prices
well. This will enable you to visualize how your products can
best benefit your customers.
As the representative of your company you are the authority for
that product and company to your customers. If you seem unsure of
your products, prices or their application, the customer is not
likely to have confidence in you, the products or the company.
This means they probably won't deal with you until you can
Many retailers will try new salesperson or product to check on
their quality, service and reliability. If they like what they
get, they will probably increase their orders.
With just one product at first, you can learn not only the
pricing, but the sales pitches and various company suggested
applications faster, and your confidence will build fast. You
will learn what kind of questions customers ask and gain valuable
experience in handling them professionally.
When you feel you are ready, start adding products to your line.
As you become better acquainted with your customers, you will
soon have a good idea of what might sell in your area. Your
customers will tell you their needs and preferences and most will
be happy to advise you on your products and techniques.
When you add products, concentrate on those that complement what
you already offer (you already their application).
For example, if you sell printed book matches, add printed pens
and calendars, which involve similar applications. Later on you
can add silk screen labels and wallet size calendar or self-stick
football schedules for local high schools.
These are examples of items whose applications may be a little
more complicated than book matches.. You should be familiar with
their potential use before adding them to your line.
It is quite alright to change suppliers from time to time. When
you do and the customer asks why, just explain that you found a
better deal (that, they will understand).
Good specialty salespeople gradually build a full line of
products, learning all about each one in turn. That's how they
can intelligently recommend realistic alternatives and suggest
different promotional innovative specialty sales person can
mentally adapt to his customers. The result can literally be a
special plan for each individual client!
Most specialty suppliers provide their representatives with
excellent support. They employ staffs of experts who keep coming
up with new and better ways to market their products.
When you discover a new technique for one product, it will
usually also apply to other products as well! If book matches are
good for a graduate, then why not napkins or handkerchiefs? Also
be alert for profitable combinations.
For example, you might try to put together a promotion to print
bumper stickers supporting the school team. You might get the
bank to pay for 500, the supermarket, another 500 and perhaps a
few smaller orders to bring the total to 2500 (a price change).
Then, you sell the local drive-in the space on the protective
covering for free soda coupons (with purchase).
There are endless variations that an innovative salesperson can
devise, including combining orders to take advantage of volume
Those 500 bumper stickers cost nearly double per unit at the 500
rate than the 2500 rate. By paying a small copy change fee, you
can have 500 stickers with the bank name; 500 more with the
supermarket (etc.) as donors and still enjoy the 2500 rate. Since
the bank and supermarket both pay at the 500 rate, you can make
up to $200 extra profit.
An excellent advertising specialty business potential is coming
events such as business anniversaries, sales promotions,
birthdays, trade fairs, holidays, sports events and elections.
Keep your eye on the calendar and plan well ahead to take
advantage of these promising situations. Get local merchants to
finance publication of school sports schedules (with their
company name listed prominently).
Talk to the campaign chairman BOTH parties and political
candidates as soon as they file for office.. Find out who files
and when from the county, state or city clerks office.
Always be ready to help customers with ideas and techniques to
help achieve their goals. Sometimes little suggestions like
spraying inexpensive cardboard political signs with water
repellant will make you look great!
be sure to give yourself (and your customers) enough lead-time to
plan and fill orders in time for scheduled events.
Advise your customers how long it takes to get orders to be
filled, and suggest allowing a little extra time in case there
are any delays. If printed pens usually take three weeks, advise
your customer to order about five weeks in advance if they must
be available for a particular date.
Consider joining professional organizations that can alert you to
additional suppliers, product and IDEAS.
Advertising Specialties Institute 9ASI - see BUSINESS SOURCES)
offers distributor (salesmen) memberships for a one time fee of
$75. Membership entitles you to a wide range of trade information
and initial credit from member suppliers.
Most trade suppliers display their ASI number prominently in
their advertisements and catalogs. Membership is limited to
manufacturers and suppliers of specialty merchandise and active
independent specialty people.
Going into the advertising specialty sales business is very easy.
Just decide on a name for your business, get some business cards,
a sales kit from a good supplier and start calling on prospective
You also need reliable transportation unless you plan to operate
by mail (which is not recommended at this stage). ALWAYS keep a
record of where you go and who you talk to. This make each
succeeding visit continuation of the previous one.
When professional specialty salespeople drive up to a business,
they take a moment to refresh their memory from their route book.
This is an informal record of names, major discussion topic of
last time (if any), what they ordered and anything else of
The idea is to appear interested enough in the customer to
remember their name and the last visit! They have a separate
loose leaf page for each customer and update it each visit or
call. If you do this, you too will "remember" names and details
of the last meeting. This is IMPRESSIVE and helps MAKE SALES!
After you have gained enough experience with advertising
specialties, you might consider expanding or converting to an
advertising agency or service.
Here, you would size up the client's needs and help design and
implement promotions and advertisements for them. You would
charge a retainer plus a fee for each promotion and still get
your commission on any advertising specialties. Needless to say,
some of your specialty sales customers would be excellent
prospects for your agency.
Records keeping in this business is very important. In addition
to your customer notebook, you should have accurate records of
all sales and commissions.
As an independent business person, the government requires you to
make your own social security payments and (probably after the
first year) pay your taxes quarterly. If you have someone do your
taxes, they will let you know how much you need to pay each
quarter and provide you with the forms to send in (they are
actually short and simple).
The general rule in quarterly payments is to pay one fourth of
whatever you owed at the end of last year over what your
employers withheld. For business records, keep all your receipts
by the month. Consider a single entry ledger, such as that
described in Chapter 16 of The ULTIMATE HOME BUSINESS Manual
(available for $25.00).
This type of record will let you know how you are doing, and the
receipts envelopes will enable your tax person to prepare your
There are two important potential problem area to watch out for
is the imprinted specialty sales field. The first is getting the
Sometimes, you must THINK you have accurate copy, only to
discover there is a misspelled word, incorrect address or wrong
date. One sure error can wipe out profits from several sales if
it is your fault.
To avoid this problem, write out the copy clearly, completely and
accurately on the ticket. Then ask the customer to review and
sign or initial it -- signifying that they have checked and
approved it. When you forward the order to the company, always
keep a copy of the ticket with the desired copy (never send them
your only copy).
This way, if there is a problem you can easily show who was at
fault. The other potential headache is getting hooked up with a
bad supplier. This could be one that overcharges, doesn't deliver
on time or gets your orders mixed up. When this happens, charge
suppliers -- fast! Of course, we all make mistakes, so if your
supplier makes an occasional error and takes immediate corrective
action,,, they are probably worth keeping.
To be successful in the advertising specialty business, you must
be knowledgeable and reliable.
This means that you know your customers as well as your products.
This is the only way you can know how your customers can use your
products to their advantage.
Being reliable is essentially keeping your word, showing up when
you are expected and giving your customers honest advice.
When your customers expect you each month or week, you have
passed a major milestone -- because they will hold orders for
you! They could not afford to do that if they weren't sure when
you might come around again.
Treat your customers right and they will appreciate it enough to
be reluctant to deal with your competitors -- which is your
ADVERTISING SPECIALTY INSTITUTE (ASI) Bucks County Business
center, 1120 Wheeler Way, Langhorn, PA 19004. Organization for
specialty advertising manufacturers, distributors and sales.
KLING ADVERTISING SPECIALTIES, P.O. Box 338, Barrington, Il.
Sales kits and instructions for ad salesmen.
ALEXANDER, P.O. Box 6, Lexington, KY 61753. High quality
imprinted pens, marble coasters, key chains, emblems, etc.
WILKINSON-ACRES, INC.,844 Central Ave.,Kansas City, KS 66101.
LINCOLN SPECIALTY JOBBERS, 117 Virginia Ave.,Reading, PA 19606.
Wholesale specialty advertising products.
NATIONWIDE ADVERTISING SPECIALTIES CO., P.O. Box 928, Arlington,
TX 76010, 817/275-2678. Advertising specialties; free sales kit;
AAA1 D7B Rating; old company.
NEWTON MANUFACTURING CO.,Newton, IA 50208. Ad Specialties; free
sales kit; old company.
PARKTONE PRESS, P.O. Box 539, Spring Valley, NY 10977. Wholesale
calendars, ethnic selection; free sales kit.
TASCO INDUSTRIES, P.O. Box 29376, Dallas, TX 75229. Wholesale
imprinted merchandise, such as baseball caps.
ALLSTATE SPECIALTIES, INC., 2895 Biscayne Blvd.,Miami, FL 33137.
Wholesale calendars, pens, etc; 40% commission to specialty
SPECIALTY ADVERTISING NATIONAL ASSOCIATION (SANA), 1145 19th
St.,Washington, DC 20036. Association of specialty advertising
producers. Free information.
QUILL CORPORATION,, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700.
WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short
run business cards, stationery (no choice of format or colors).
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