Promotional Products are the trojan horse of social sales prospecting

Do you remember the story of The Trojan Horse? In the story, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war.

Since that time, the “Trojan Horse” has become a metaphor for any trick or device that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. Today I’d like to extend that metaphor to include strategically developed promotional products as powerful sales prospecting tools, which like the Trojan Horse, are welcomed into our sales prospects’ protected bastions (offices/homes) even when our sales teams are not.

What Kinds of Promotional Products Make The Best Trojan Horses?

Why did the Greeks choose a horse vs a pig, or cow or pretty much any other animal? Simple. The horse was the emblem of Troy. Thus, when the horse was presented as a trophy dedicated to Athena, it was easy for the Trojans to accept the message.

This is the first key point. Far too often promotional products are thought of as mere tchotchkes — little more than a mobile vehicle capable of carrying a logo. While this is certainly true, and there is value in pure logo/name awareness, this is a very limited view of the potential power of promotional products as a sales nurturing tool.

Instead, evolve your promotional products to function at a more strategic messaging level by thinking of your potential customers’ use cases. What tools or items will they use in their everyday life? You can further segment it by home and office or third-place (camping, tailgating, etc).

Then map your product or service offering’s key benefits against the benefits of the items you just listed. Look for obvious overlaps.

What YOUtility Can You Provide To Your Sales Prospects?

For instance, on of my good friends, Jay Baer, has a metal business card that is a bottle opener. It’s a brilliant promotional product because it solves a number of user issues. Bottle openers are usually needed in mobile situations like tailgating. Bottle openers are usually kind of bulky and don’t easily fit in your pocket.

But Jay’s card fits right in your wallet. This makes it a creative, easy to use, always available and a memorable solution to a common problem — how to open a beer bottle at a tailgate.

These are all characteristics that many companies want in the agencies they hire for marketing consultation. Thus, Jay’s business card serves as his Trojan Horse that sales prospects willingly welcome into their homes, offices and cars. And each and every time they use it, they’re reminded of Jay and his agency.

See how that works?

Which brings us to my second point…

Sales Prospects Have To WANT Your Promotional Products

What would have happened if the Trojans hadn’t pulled the horse inside the city walls?


And that’s the risk you take when you just create a tchotchke. You risk giving it to a sales prospect and having it left outside the city walls where it has no chance of reminding anyone of anything, much less reinforcing key brand attributes.

This is probably the biggest mistake salespeople and marketers make when selecting and ordering promotional products. They make decisions based on quantity vs quality. They start with a per item budget and only consider products or items that fall within that very tight parameter. There is no thought given to messaging or the role of the promotional product in reinforcing key brand benefits.

This is why you see so many booths giving away pens at trade shows. They’re cheap, easy to ship to the show and who doesn’t want a free pen? But at the end of the day, what does a pen really say about a brand? Especially when every booth has a pen?

It’s not strategic. Heck, it’s not even tactical. It’s just lazy.

Develop Strategic Promotional Products

Which brings me to my third and final point. Don’t be lazy. Lazy costs you money and time that frankly, in today’s competitive environment, you don’t have to waste.

Just like the Trojan Horse, well executed promotional products act like tiny little billboards in the lives of our sales prospects. Think about that statement for a second.

Ask yourself, what is a 3” by 3” square of your desk worth to a prospective advertiser? What would a company pay to make sure that every single time you sat down at your desk you saw their brand strategically communicated to you?

Or framed another way, how much should they pay?

If that is the goal… to erect a little billboard on your desk, one that you’re going to drive by every single day, how much should they be willing to spend before they’ll reach a negative ROI?

When you reframe your per item budget this way and start to consider promotional products strategically vs tactically, it frees you up to completely reconsider how you leverage this often overlooked sales prospecting channel. Instead of seeing it as a cheap reminder tool, you are free to consider it as your Trojan Horse. You free yourself to create items that have eternal value that will help your brand secure that little 3” by 3” space on my desk and more importantly my mind.

So give yourself a chance to win your own sales prospecting war today by leveraging the undeniable power of promotional products to be invited inside your sales prospects’ walls.