by Kristin Brighton on September 27, 2011

There’s nothing more exciting than an unexpected gift (at least for me…maybe I lead a boring life). Occasionally, I get unsolicited and amusing mailings from vendors or job seekers, so I love it when an unusual package is waiting for me at the office.

A few days ago, I received a mailer from a company that I won’t name, but they do credit card processing. I opened the mailer, and this came out:

Hand sanitizer!

A letter and a tube of antibacterial gel. Which, granted, is a promo item that has some purpose, but it isn’t candy or a fun thingamajig I can take home to my kids. Or, heaven forbid, something clever that will make me smile.

So, as I read the letter, I was waiting for a clue as to why I was receiving hand sanitizer from these people…some fancy metaphor to anti-germ warfare or something. Nothing. Nada. The letter didn’t even make me feel that I at least owed them the courtesy of reading the entire letter because they sent me a .69 tube of hand sanitizer that cost $1.90 to mail.

Turns out they sent me the letter not because we are a hot prospect (we don’t currently accept credit cards, so New Boston wouldn't be a potential client), but because we belong to a certain chamber of commerce they were targeting.

So, because they weren’t witty enough to make some sort of joke or connection to their promo item, the hand sanitizer will join my supply stash and the letter will join the recycle bin. The company wasted their $2.59, and if we are ever in the market for their services, I probably won’t remember their name.

The moral of the story: Choose promotional items that have something to do with your business and how your product or service will make my life better — or that at least go along with a story or theme you tell in promoting your company. Use your letter or brochure to build a relationship with me. And, while you’re at it, you’ll get bonus points if you can show us you’re clever or witty or caring in the process. And if YOU aren’t those things, then at least be smart enough to hire someone to help you market your business who is.

So, please don’t just send me hand sanitizer and ask me for my business. It’s like you think I’m too gross to shake my hand!