So you’re in charge of your organization’s promotional products and brand experiences. Congrats! You may not think so yet, but this is going to be fun. Before we get into curating the perfect set of products and experiences for your team, you have to learn how to set your swag budget.

Budgets for promo products and employee gifts are often overlooked or grouped in with other marketing efforts. Or worse: these budgets end up as last minute add-ons that you didn’t initially account for. Brand experiences and employee appreciation efforts are priceless investments in your team, but setting a budget from day one will help you be more strategic and save money throughout your journey. 

4 Tips to Consider When Budgeting for Branded Merchandise

You’ve probably put some thought into employee appreciation or promotional initiatives, and having a set budget will help you find the best attention-grabbing products and experiences to delight your prospects, clients, and employees. As brand experience experts, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you establish a budget.

1. Include Shipping and Fulfillment Fees

It’s 2024. Odds are, you have remote team members. Distributing brand merchandise or gifts in person is no longer the easier option. Plus, some experiences like holiday gifts or onboarding kits make a greater impact when dropshipped directly to the recipients’ homes. Factor in shipping, warehousing, and fulfillment costs so you’re less likely to go over budget in the eleventh hour. 

At Imprint Engine, we pride ourselves on our logistics expertise. By having a partner that can strategically optimize your shipping and fulfillment budget, you can completely delegate this aspect of your promotional marketing projects and probably sleep better at night.

2. Align Your Set Swag Budget With Other Marketing Channels

Your promo products and brand experiences should not be an afterthought, so make sure they’re aligned with your overall marketing strategy. We’ll get into building a gifting strategy later, but leave room in your swag budget to ensure gifts and promotional products are useful, high quality, relevant, and unique. 

3. Account for Hiring Projections

Accounting for hiring projections when establishing your budget can save you money through volume discounts or bulk pricing. For example, if you already know you plan to hire ten new people next quarter, increase your initial order quantity for branded merchandise to include those new hires. 

Almost every product on the market has price breaks as quantities increase, so ordering in bulk will always help maximize your budget. Additional one-off orders that are placed as new hires are onboarded come with rush shipping costs that could have easily been avoided. We know certain products like apparel can’t be ordered without knowing the recipient’s size. That’s where having a partner that can warehouse your inventory comes in handy. 

4. Create a Buffer for Side Projects

Some things we cannot plan for. Perhaps your team supersedes your sales goal or wins an award worthy of celebration. Leaving a buffer in your budget for these occasions allows you to surprise employees with recognition gifts that ultimately result in greater engagement among the team. Some wiggle room in your budget also creates space for fun giveaways or one-off appreciation gifts to reward smaller milestones or individual achievements. 

How to Maximize Your Set Swag Budget

Promotional merchandise and brand experiences are excellent tools to boost company engagement and leave positive, memorable impressions on your valued team members or clients. Once you set your budget, there are more considerations to make in order to get the most out of your investment. Here are 4 tips for maximizing your budget.

Partner With a Vendor That Does Warehousing, Shipping, & Fulfillment For You

Imprint Engine’s expertise and automation tools create a seamless process for producing, storing, and fulfilling your promotional products. Getting the right products packaged beautifully and shipped to hundreds of addresses is a complicated process, especially if there are international logistics involved. And in the event of damage or delays, customer service can be a nightmare. 

We not only manage the entire design and production process in-house, but our global logistics team uses their expertise to get the goods into the right hands on time and for less money than any other third-party manufacturer. Thanks to our warehouses set up all around the world, international shipping costs and global logistics are nothing you’ll need to worry about. Finally, if anything goes wrong on the back end of the project, you have a dedicated customer support team from Imprint Engine ready to jump in and alleviate any issues.

You’re busy, we get that. That’s why our infrastructure empowers you to let go of the reins once production is underway. Read more about how we work. 

Work With Your Vendor to Create Designs Within Your Set Swag Budget

Unfortunately there can be a lot of hidden fees when designing products through external vendors. Some companies charge their customers for every word or character in the design! Imprint Engine doesn’t do that. Our team of designers is happy to collaborate with your team or handle the creative stuff all on their own. The only goal is to create quality work that fits comfortably within your budget. 

We prioritize providing a fully custom product experience regardless of how elaborate your vision may be. We get to know your budget and design accordingly. The hardest part will be choosing from the wide selection of creative options in front of you. 

Plan Ahead to Avoid Stock Issues

Like we mentioned earlier, leave a buffer in your budget for last minute appreciation efforts, but plan ahead for everything else you intend to create. Account for any forecasted new hires and set a budget for each holiday or milestone you plan to recognize with gifts for employees, prospects, and clients. Once each occasion is set and quantities are estimated, you can order in bulk and prevent any potential stock issues. 

Tie Your Projections to Realistic Marketing & Sales Goals

Estimating quantities can be challenging, but your marketing and sales goals are a good starting point to help you. For example, if you are planning to invest in promotional products to commemorate a milestone, how many clients and employees will receive them? Will you be prioritizing top clients for this occasion or will you use your milestone as an opportunity for outreach? To how many prospective clients do you plan on sending gifts per quarter as part of your sales strategy? How many employees do you expect to have onboarded before the holiday gifting season?

Once you nail down an estimated quantity for each initiative, tack on an additional 10% just in case. You’d rather have extra products than not enough, plus a greater quantity order will likely come with a volume discount. 

There are countless opportunities to get creative with your promotional marketing. Whether your products are intended for internal or external recipients, investing in gifting goes a long way. Read more about how to build a corporate gifting strategy. (Link to blog once published) 

How Much Do Other Companies Spend on Promotional Products?

Still unsure about how much to budget for promotional products and experiences? 72% of people say that a brand’s reputation is reflected in the quality of the promo products they receive, so keep this in mind when deciding where (and where not) to cut corners.

Another great way to research budgeting is by analyzing companies similar to yours. The industry for promotional products in the US is worth $17 billion and on average, companies spend over $185k annually on brand merchandise inventory alone. 

Make Something That Employees Actually Want With Imprint Engine

Brand experiences make a big difference when done correctly. In fact, 79% of millennials said an increase in rewards would make them more loyal to their employer. The key to optimizing your promotional budget is creating something people actually want to keep. Imprint Engine has a pulse on what people around the world are excited to receive and experience. Let’s get started building your next meaningful brand experience