colorful promotional items for small business called Mush

Small business promotional items to get your logo printed on

Reading time: 8 minutes

Small business promotional items are usually branded with a logo, name or slogan. Their purpose is to promote a business—and they do this in a variety of ways. While some promotional items with logo or brand name placements are giveaways, others are merchandise available to buy. Promotional items can be given away to loyal customers and contest winners, at trade shows and industry events, or to team members to promote brand identity in-house. 

Small business promotional items can be a valuable investment for an entrepreneur, even when they’re given away instead of sold. Measure the return on investment based on your goals, which might be to increase brand recognition, drive customer engagement and loyalty, promote unity among your team, reward hard-working employees, or build relationships or reputation within your industry.

Custom promotional items are generally quite affordable plus DIY options exist. Businesses can still see a noticeable ROI even if their marketing budget is small. The key to creating effective promotional items at your price point is understanding and resonating with your audience. 

Table of contents

How to choose promotional items for your business

You’ve undoubtedly encountered promotional items with logos, commemorative dates, slogans and other branded elements before. Think about promotional items you’ve seen and what made them memorable. These items probably:

  • Provided value to you in some way, like a branded daily planner or an ice scraper for your car
  • Fit the brand you got them from, like a reusable water bottle from a gym or a waste bag dispenser from a dog groomer

The latest trends for promotional items show that pens, t-shirts, mugs, tote bags and umbrellas are the top five products US customers want to receive. People prefer items they can use every day—more than half of the 2,000 consumers VistaPrint surveyed said they want promotional items to be useful.

Establish your goals: what do you want to achieve?

Before you start designing, identify your goals. Why do you want to make promotional items part of your marketing strategy? Consider whether they will provide:

  • Lead generation
  • Brand awareness
  • Customer retention
  • Direct profits

Your goals can determine which promotional items you invest in. For example, promotional t-shirts and hoodies might be something your audience will wear frequently. Or if your goal is to reach new clients, opt for an item that makes an introduction, like a beach towel you can give away at a coastal conference.

beach towel featuring an IT logo and slogan

Merchandise design by 2thumbs via 99designs by Vista

Think about which promotional items would suit your brand

Once you’ve established what you want to achieve, determine the items that best fit your brand. Don’t overthink this part—just consider what your customers want and expect from your brand. If your brand was a relative of theirs, what kind of gift would they assume you would give them for their birthday?

Going back to an earlier example, waste bag dispensers are a great promotional item for a groomer because their brand will hang from leads, being promoted wherever its customers walk their dog. Beach towels can be a great choice for a vacation rental company while flashlights are effective for a mechanic or auto parts shop.

branded flashlight

Branded flashlight. Source: VistaPrint

This thinking extends to the materials you use. If sustainability is one of your core values, communicate this by using reused, recycled or upcycled materials. This could be pouches made from recycled cotton or reusable water bottles made from recycled plastic. You can also promote sustainability by choosing items like countertop compost buckets.

In some cases, DIY is the best option because it can showcase what your brand does. Let’s say you’re a bakery looking to partner with local restaurants, branded pastries could be a tasty, creative way to promote your business.

What your audience really wants

For small business promotional items, the sky’s the limit! So how do you determine what will land best with your audience?

Look to your brand. Revisit your mission and vision statements, business plan, user personas and industry niche. You’ll find answers here, like whether a flashlight is a better promotional choice for your outdoor brand than a water bottle and how much your customers are willing to spend on branded merchandise.

The best promotional items for online brands

For online brands, tech accessories like power banks and mobile phone cases are ideal promotional items. After all, this is the tech your customers use to engage with your business. 

branded portable charger

Source: VistaPrint

Online brands can also design items that might not directly correlate to their product or service but still fit their brand persona. For example, a branded pen can be a fun, useful promo item: 


colorful branded pen

Caption: Source: VistaPrint

Promotional item ideas for online brands:

  • Backpacks so people see your brand out and about, driving them to your site
  • Laptop sleeves in your brand colors with your logo
  • Reusable stainless steel coffee cups so remote workers push your online brand
  • Yoga mats with your wellness company website URL
  • Branded lip balms for your online beauty brand
  • Phone cases with your brand slogan and Instagram handle
  • Hoodies with your logo and a QR code driving to your website
  • Caps that push people to your online fashion business
  • Refillable water bottles with your logo to drive people to your site
  • Branded pouches for your online accessories brand
  • Aprons with fun graphics to promote your online food shop

Include your website URL or social handles on promotional items, so potential customers know where to find your online business.

Top promotional items for physically located brands

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can generate foot traffic through store-specific products. Think of unique ways you can promote your brand through promotional items, like this branded punching bag for a boxing gym:

branded red and black punching bag

Merchandise design by Valentin Koshutin via 99designs by Vista

Promotional items that make shopping in your store easier and more sustainable are a great way to go. For example, you can sell branded tote bags and incentivize sustainability further by offering a discount to shoppers who use them for future shopping trips.

canvas tote bag featuring a logo and colorful outlines of vegetables

Merchandise design by Gigi Castropino via 99designs by Vista

Promotional item ideas for brick-and-mortar businesses:

  • Tote bags in your brand colors with a fun graphic for shopping in-store
  • Branded luggage tags with your hotel or travel company address on
  • Refillable mugs that lead to more visits to your café
  • Customized notebooks featuring your shop’s logo and location
  • Custom glassware and branded can coolers for your bar or brewery
  • Branded coolers so customers can flaunt for your deli’s goods
  • Cocktail napkins featuring your catering company logo
  • Caps that include your business’ location
  • Travel dog bowl with your pet store socials 
  • Branded gardening kit featuring your logo and contact 
  • Flashlight with your hardware store’s address
  • Mints featuring your restaurant’s logo

Find ways to make promotional items personalized and fun while staying true to your brand. A gardening center or home decor store could offer a grow-your-own sunflower kit, for example:

customizable sunflower plant kit

Source: VistaPrint

How to design promotional items

Because your promotional items are an extension of your brand, they should display branding elements like your logo, color palette and other design choices that visually communicate your brand values and market position.

Your brand identity is the collection of these design choices while branding is how you apply them. Consistent branding is the key to recognizability. Take a look at this example of branded promotional items: 

stationery, hat and t-shirt featuring the brand’s logo

Promotional designs by Dileny via 99designs by Vista

For promotional items, more overt branding isn’t necessarily better. People enjoy supporting brands they like, but they don’t want to feel like walking billboards. Keep this in mind as you design promotional items. However, if being economical and accessible are key components of your brand, you can usually get away with bolder branding. Similarly, you can afford to be more overt with trade show giveaways and smaller items than you can with apparel and other big ticket items.

Before ordering promotional items, it’s best to get feedback from your team and, if possible, customers and clients. Two great ways to do this are social media polls and surveys. Mock up and post two design options on Instagram and ask followers to vote for the one they like best. Or simply ask point blank which types of merchandise they’d be most excited to see. You can even create a competition to win the chosen design, creating a full circle moment!

How much do promotional items cost?

Small business promotional items vary widely in cost. However, individual items cost $1 USD on average. The cost can also vary according to the order number and the materials you choose. A large quantity of stickers can cost as little as $0.06 per sticker, whereas branded coolers are priced much higher. 

DIY can also be more cost-effective option than having items professionally produced. However, with DIY promotional items, the costs aren’t usually as straightforward because you’re investing in materials as well as your time.

Are they worth it?

There are two types of payoff promotional items can net for your brand: direct and indirect. Direct payoff is a literal profit from the items. When you sell branded merchandise, this is the type of payment you receive. Similarly, promotional items tied to direct sales, like refillable mugs that lead to more visits to your cafe, can have a clear impact on your bottom line.

branded tumbler featuring a yellow and black logo

Tumbler design. Source: VistaPrint

Indirect payoff includes increased brand awareness, brand engagement and positive perception of your company. Promotional items that are given away typically lead to this type of payoff, which then leads to more sales. So in any case — directly or indirectly — you increase your revenue by investing in promotional items.

So, are they worth it? Here are a few statistics about promotional items’ ROI regarding U.S. consumers:

  • 83% would have strengthened loyalty to a brand they currently shop with if they gave them a promotional product.
  • 72% associate the quality of a promotional product with the reputation of the company.
  • 73% are more likely to do business with a brand that gave them a promotional product.
  • Outerwear/fleece apparel generates 7,856 impressions over its lifetime
  • Promotional drinkware such as custom cups and branded can coolers generate 3,162 impressions throughout their lifetime.

Market your small business with awesome promotional items

Promotional items are a key part of any effective marketing strategy. VistaPrint offers lots of customizable options for promotional items featuring your logo and other branding choices.