How Promo Products Can Help Small Businesses: Case Study with California Tropicals

California Tropicals was struggling to differentiate itself from other local nurseries. When we came together they wanted a promotional item that would elevate their brand and demonstrate their values. We helped them choose a reusable eco-friendly tote bag which was given out with every sale, this helped deliver a more premium shopping experience to their customers and served as a walking billboard for their store. They loved the customer’s response to the bags and the increase in foot traffic to their pop-up stores. 

California Tropicals is a small local business specializing in the tropical houseplant market. We connected with them when one of our team members was visiting the Malcolm Open Air Market (aka, the local Ontario swap meet)  and met the charismatic owner and salesperson, Angel. Angel started California Tropicals LLC in 2019 but he and his family have been in the houseplant business for over 30 years, working initially in wholesale distribution and more recently entering the direct-to-consumer industry. Today, his daughters help him keep the business going. On Esty, they have made over 130,00 sales! Additionally, they are creating helpful content on Tiktok and Instagram to increase exposure and sales. His daughter Jenette, was our main point of contact when it came to coming up with a promotional product strategy. Below is an outline of our journey from start to finish of working with California Tropicals to create their first promotional merchandise. If you are making your own merch for the first time, we have laid out good points and questions your business should keep in mind when picking and imprinting your first promotional products.

Picking the Perfect Promo Product

Once we decided to partner with California Tropicals, we assessed their current promotional strategy and business goals. For any small business looking to invest in promotional items, this step is critical. Here are a couple of questions to keep in mind when choosing an item:

What is your budget for promotional marketing material?

Promotional items don’t need to be expensive, but item quality printing and material preferences may stretch your budget and make you think twice about investing in certain items. Have a clear idea of your budget and how many items you will need and prioritize your promotional items accordingly. 

What kind of event or campaign will these items be given away at? 

Even heard of “reading the room?” This concept applies when picking your promotional products too. You want to be mindful of your setting and how people are interacting with each other and other businesses. For example, an audience at a trade show is distinct from the one at a weekend farmers’ market. Observe and take notice of what people need in whatever setting you will be in.

What are your business values?

If your business is predicated on a certain set of values, for example, affordability and inclusivity, you will need to consider how your items will reflect those values. You might opt for seed paper instead of regular paper if your business values the environment or organic eating. It’s the little things that make a difference and set you apart from other establishments. 

After some back and forth between our team and Jenette discussing ideas and options like seed paper business cards, custom shipping bags, and stickers, we settled on custom reusable totes for California Tropicals. Knowing that this business was inherently more environmentally focused, we wanted something that could be easily reused, recycled, or composted. The seed paper business card was a good option but wouldn’t be very impressive to potential customers at their upcoming pop-up shop in Long Beach and Pasadena. Stickers are nice and are often added to water bottles and laptops but usually for more of a younger demographic. Tote bags checked all the boxes. They were reusable, suitable for a diverse crowd, affordable and, they could enhance the shopping experience. 

Best Printing Practices for Custom Promotional 

When you first print your logo on an item, you will find out that there are a lot of little steps that go into creating a great final product. Since this was the first piece of merch that California Tropica had created, there were a couple of things we had to share with them before they finalized their order. Here are some best practices for other businesses printing merch for the first time:

Size and Sample

Check the measurements of your item and make sure that the size of your logo is proportional. One of the most common mistakes we see is that customers approve proofs without looking at the dimensions. When in doubt, ask us for a sample proof of your item before you print the entire batch of items. This will help you see and feel the qualities of the material and the printing style you choose. Nothing brings assurance like a sample of your order will!

Consider your logo options

There are some beautiful and intricate logos out there. Unfortunately, when it comes time to print, the intricacies of these logos can get lost. This is especially true if you are on a tight budget and need to print your logo with only one or two colors. If you have a graphic designer in-house, we recommend that you ask them for a simplified version of your logo just to provide you with more options. This is especially important for pens and items with smaller printing areas. At AnyPromo we have an art department that is dedicated to helping our clients modify their logos for the product and printing style they have selected.

Place your order early

Not all printing processes are created equal! For that reason, it is very important to place your order early. This is especially true if the printing method you’ve selected takes more time to dry or create. A screen print with multiple colors, for example, would take more time because each new color requires a separate screen and setup. A digital print can be faster and captures more colors while giving a different style to your product. For more information on our printing options, check out our FAQ page where we cover common questions about our imprinting options. 

California Tropicals decided on a digital printing method because they wanted their tote bags to show off their beautiful and detailed logo. Although in some cases digital printing can be pricier, in this instance it was the better and more affordable option. A screen printing method would have eliminated most of the details and more would have ultimately resulted in a pricier item due to the different screens needed for each color. Dry time would have added to the processing time for the totes if they would have decided to screen print them.

 Fortunately, time was not an issue for this client but, we started with enough time for the totes to be ready for their summer pop-up shop events.

Promo Pops Off at the Pop-Up Event

For those starting a business, creating your own promotional products can be a memorable milestone for your business. During the event, people carried the totes with the California Tropicals logo around like free walking billboards for the small business. After checking in with Jeanette, she told us that people responded very well to the bags and that it was great to be able to leave these new customers with something extra to remember their business by. Jeanette was genuinely surprised about the impact that such a small thing could have on her customers. 

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Watch more of our content on our Tiktok! We share tons of helpful (and funny) content for brands and businesses.

We were happy to help California Tropicals create their first promotional merchandise! They were in a good place to start investing in marketing materials that would help them increase their reach on social media and get more online and in-person sales to keep their family business growing. We can’t wait to see California Tropicals continue to blossom as a business. If you are a business, looking to invest in your first promotional product, let us help!  Visit us at Anypromo.com and take advantage of this special offer! Use code CALTROPICALS12Z to get 12% off your order.