Branded merchandise is any product that is decorated with a logo, slogan, or other branding element to promote a business, product, or service. Executive assistants and office managers are often in charge of ordering various types of branded merchandise for their employer including branded office supplies, customized gifts for office staff, personalized executive and VIP gifts, and logo apparel for employees. High-level administrative staff might be tasked with ordering other types of branded merchandise for sales, marketing, and HR departments including promotional products, trade show displays and signage, and new employee welcome kits.
This process of ordering branded merchandise for the first time can be overwhelming. To make it easier, we put together a step-by-step guide to ordering branded merchandise from a new vendor.
Don’t know where to start? Skip to step 4 and set up a discovery call with your Account Manager so we can help you work through steps 1 – 3.
Step 1: Research Products
Before placing an order with a branded merchandise supplier, you’ll need a general idea of what type of products will best meet your company’s needs.
Start by learning about the different types of merchandise that can be branded with your company logo, colors, and other brand identity elements. Luckily, this step is quite fun. Companies can add their logo to everything from sticky notes and mini desktop vacuums to light up umbrellas and VR headsets.
Most branded merch companies have an online collection of the customizable items that they carry. You can search or browse an online collection or store by brand name, keyword, product category, and other limiters. You can also request a product catalog from a vendor you are interested in working with to get a better understanding of the types of items and variants (sizes, styles, colors, etc.) that they offer.
Step 2: Determine your Merch Needs & Budget
Now that you’ve figured out what type of merch is out there, it’s time to narrow down your search for brandable items that will best suit your company’s needs and objectives. Before you can do this, however, you’ll need to get a budget approved.
Setting a budget will help you avoid overspending on merchandise that may not achieve your goals and objectives.
Once you’ve set your budget, you’re ready to consider which specific items will work best for different occasions such as holidays and company retreats:
Note: if you get stuck on this step, don’t worry. The branded merchandise vendor that you choose to work with can help you select the best branded merchandise for your company’s needs and budget.
Step 3: Determine Order Quantity & Sizes
It’s important to determine how many items of a particular product you may want to order. You may need to research the number of people attending an event or the number of employees in a particular department or division.
To determine the quantity of branded items that you need for a trade show, find out the number of expected attendees. Then plan to have enough giveaways to cover 25-30% of that number.
When ordering branded apparel and outerwear, you’ll probably need to gather sizing information for your employees.
The easiest way to determine sizing for employee shirts is to ask employees to provide their size preferences and measurements. Many office managers send out a department or company-wide email survey to gather this information (make sure to link to the manufacturer’s size chart).
Note: if your company uses a branded merchandise management platform, employees can select their own sizes and styles of branded apparel within an allotted budget, if desired.
Step 4: Find a Reliable Supplier & Set Up a Consultation
It’s important to find a branded merchandise vendor that can deliver the type of products you need as well as additional services you might require such as custom kitting and bundling.
For example, if you are planning on ordering a lot of luxury gifts for VIP clients or executives and board members, you’ll want to find a supplier that carries a wide selection of high-end corporate gifts.
You may choose to use a branded merchandise vendor that your company has worked with in the past, you could use a search engine to locate a local supplier, or you could ask for referrals from your professional network. For best results, make sure a new supplier provides you with a dedicated account representative. Your branded merch account rep will ensure that each piece of custom merch sent out to an employee, executive, sales lead, or client meets your company’s branding rules and guidelines.
Once you choose a branded merchandise vendor, it’s important to set up a consultation and start the onboarding process as soon as possible to ensure that you receive your first order when you need it.
Step 5: Choose Customizations & Deliver Artwork
During the process of placing your first branded merchandise order with a new vendor, you’ll be asked to send your brand guidelines and company logo in vector format. Brand guidelines typically include brand colors in CMYK format. CMYK is the color model used for printing. It is important to have the CMYK values of your brand colors for accurate color reproduction on branded merchandise.
Most executive assistants and office managers will already have access to these files. If not, ask your company’s graphic design and marketing team. Your branded merchandise vendor will work with you to obtain all the design-related information needed to customize your company’s merch and packaging. This includes:
- any other artwork or designs you’d like to add to merchandise in a printer-friendly format
- preferred decoration methods for the items you’d like to order (screen printing, embroidery, etc.)
- logo placement instructions
- custom packaging design (such as gift bags or boxes printed with your company logo)
Step 6: Obtain Samples or Proofs
Make sure to obtain a sample or proof of a branded item before ordering in bulk. A proof is a digital image or physical sample of a final product that shows how the branding elements will appear on it. It is often used in the printing process to ensure that the final product will match the design and branding specifications.
A proof is reviewed and approved by a client or their branding team before production begins to ensure that the final product meets their expectations and brand guidelines. A proof illustrates logo placement, how brand colors appear when printed onto an item, and more.
Ask your branded merch account representative about this process. Most vendors will send you a digital proof with every order. However, if you have time, paying to have a physical proof or sample made up might be worth it.
Step 7: Place Your Order & Track Delivery
After you’ve worked closely with your branded merchandise supplier to select the best custom products for your company, it’s time to place your final order.
Your merch vendor will set up the best workflow for your company so you can quickly place orders via phone, email, or a branded merchandise management platform aka company store.
In general, you’ll need to place an order for branded merchandise at least 2-4 weeks before it needs to arrive at its destination, though this time frame will vary by vendor.
Packaged branded merch can be delivered to your office, the homes of remote employees and VIP clients, and other locations, whether domestic or international. Shipping costs will vary by destination and method, as well as product weight.
After you’ve placed your order, it’s time to think about future orders and reorders. And don’t forget to create a process document for the entire merch ordering process to save yourself time in the future!
Questions About Our Executive Assistant’s Guide to Merch Ordering? Set Up a Consultation Today!
For another introductory guide to ordering branded merchandise, check out HubSpot’s article on How to Ensure You Don’t Waste Money on Useless Company Swag.
Ready to get started? For a one-on-one branded merchandise consultation, contact Metron Branding by filling out this form today: