Top 10 Tips for Budgeting Your Promotional Program

The base rate for promotional talent is only the starting point when budgeting for your experiential program.

While labor may be the largest expense when establishing a budget for your program, it is certainly only one factor to consider. Whether it’s purchasing supplies or compensating for parking, make sure to consider all of these potential costs when you set your budget, otherwise you may be in for some very costly expense overruns.

1. Base Hourly Rate The base hourly rate is what you’ll pay the brand ambassadors, models and other promotional team to work your activation. This will, most likely, be the most expensive aspect of your program, unless you plan on giving out very expensive product samples or branded merch. Read the fine print of your agency contract to catch any surprises, such as cancellation fees and additional charges for last-minute bookings.

2. Uniforms Quality, branded shirts and hats will give your team a clean-cut image that aligns with your brand. When placing your uniform order, add a few more items of each size as your team members’ sizes may not always match up to their apparel. Also, decide early if you wish for your team to keep their leftover attire when the activation ends or if they should return for washing and reuse. A rush order of last-minute uniform items may wind up costing you more than what you paid in the first place.

3. Expense Reimbursement If in-store tastings are part of your promotional program, you should determine early on whether you’ll need to drop off supplies or if your brand ambassadors should purchase and submit receipts for reimbursement. Also, determine a policy if the brand ambassador should need to purchase product on-site due to missing supplies or miscommunications between sales reps and the account.

4. Branded Supplies While the product itself and the interaction with the brand ambassador are the two most critical factors in a consumer purchasing your product, it goes without saying that branded merchandise, print collateral and fabricated displays do confer a positive brand image to consumers. As with any large purchases, shop around for the highest quality at the best price. Also, add a little more into your budget in case you need to reorder sooner than anticipated.

5. Supply Shipping Demo supplies, product samples and other promotional materials aren’t going to get themselves to your activation site. Create a plan early on to have supplies dropped off, shipped to the account, or either sent directly to the brand ambassador or to the agency for redistribution. Regardless of how supplies are shipped there will always be a cost, so calculate all options before committing to a shipment method.

6. Training Costs 
As most brand ambassadors are independent contractors and are paid by the hour, don’t expect your team to attend a training session – either in-person or remote – unless they are being offered compensation or a substantial number of shifts. You can possibly offer your product as compensation for some type of training, so long as the product is something that will be useful and has perceived value to your promo staff.

7. On-Site Supervisors You can’t expect a team of ten to twenty promotional professionals to arrive on-site and manage themselves. Unless you’re going to be on-site to direct your staff, it is often economical and practical to hire a team lead to supervise the brand ambassador team. The supervisor can either be a part of the team themselves or be separate to handle any emergencies and issues that could arise.

8. Parking and Travel Reimbursement If your activation is either in a faraway location or has paid parking, such as a sports stadium on game day or during a concert, chances are your brand ambassador team members are going to want to be covered for the additional time and expense it takes them to execute the activation. After all, very few brand ambassadors are going to want to spend an hour’s wages just to park somewhere or spend four hours driving round trip for a three-hour activation. Consider making the activation longer and offering parking vouchers to reduce or remove some of these issues.

9. Supply Reimbursement Disposable demo supplies – such as sampling cups – aren’t free and, even with a high hourly wage, you can’t expect your promo team to always cover these expenses, which can quickly add up. Either the brand or the agency should cover these costs. Shop around as well, as you may be able to obtain substantial discounts by ordering demo supplies in bulk.

10. Budgeting for Emergencies According to Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” No truer of a statement could be made for the world of live events, where even the best laid plans can fall apart due to misplaced supplies, one person not showing for their shift or miscommunication. Add a few extra dollars into your budget to cover any unexpected surprises or emergencies, and also make sure that your on-site team can access these funds, either through electronic payment or a debit or credit card. After all, an emergency purchase of $100 could save an activation where thousands of dollars were invested.

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