Table calendars as an effective marketing tool for your business

Creative Advertising, Marketing Tool

I believe that your business would benefit tremendously if you consider giving out free calendars to your customers. Especially well designed and useful table calendars. However, I am not advocating that you eat into your already limited budget by giving it out totally free….. you can use this as a strategy to improve your sales ūüėČ

Why giving out table calendars are still an effective marketing tool for your business in this digital age:

1. Your calendar would be in their face all the time
Even in the digital age, table calendars are still very useful. Both the business and customers can refer to dates and public holidays at a glance. If you walk into any business establishment or stores, you would usually see a table calendar- which the staff would always refer to when it comes to setting appointments or public holidays. It would not look professional for the staff to whip out their mobile phone to refer to electronic calendar on their phones.

One of my biggest pet peeve is the fact that two of the past companies I’ve worked in never saw the benefit of printing and giving out free table calendars when most of our competitors would give out free table calendars. And both my former companies are public listed large corporations with extensive and good staff benefits. They could afford to give out lots of benefits but could not even spend a fraction of the budget to print calendars. I was told by my colleague is because the Management could not see the ROI (return on investment) on this.

Well friend, ROI sometimes cannot be directly measured.

Because of this, most of our counter staff serving customers nationwide have to source for their own table calendars. Sometimes, I see a competitor’s table calendar on the counter when visiting some of the branches which….. I really don’t know what to say.

Whereas in the back office where they are not facing customers…. it is usually our competitor’s calendars that are on their table. No wonder staff turnover is high….

2. The more user friendly your design is, the more it would be used
Calendars are useful- especially well designed ones that give people space to write down important appointments. When designing your calendar, take into account from the user experience- give them enough space to write down important appointments. For example, refer to a simple design by Bangkok Bank:

There is ample white space for one to jot down important dates. And usually people will use it if it is easy to write on the calendar.

Avoid using the glossy surface or those designs with limited space that makes it difficult to write. If they write down important appointments, they would surely refer to the calendar often.

3. Much cheaper than having to spend on advertising

If it is your calendar that they are choosing to display, then think about it…. the entire year they are staring at your brand name the entire day. You have the entire year…. all 12 months of it where you put up different theme centered around promoting your brand name on the other side of the calendar.

Now if you want to put your brand out there, in their face the whole day, how much would you need to spend on targeted advertising for example in Google adwords or Facebook advertising? The budget would be hundreds of thousands or by the millions (for large corporation).

The cost price of you making a customised calendar would be just a few dollars (if you are making in bulk). You are only going to spend a fraction of the cost on a calendar. And I will discuss further in the article below the options…. you don’t really need to give the calendar away completely free…

4. Build a more personalized relationship with your customers
Many mom and pops business, at least during the time that I was growing up was well aware of this fact. These businesses always print and give out free calendars… and they have a sort of range to it. To their high spending customers, they would give out the daily calendars like below:

And the lower spending ones they would give the inexpensive race horse calendar which is useful to check on Chinese lunar and observation dates. And many households with older folks would have the race horse calendars.

All these calendars are personalized with their full business name, address and telephone numbers.

Customers would tend to make some purchase before asking for a calendar. Of course there are some who would just request one upfront…. then it is up to the staff or business owners to evaluate if the business from the customer the entire year or the potential business justifies the giving away of the calendar. If they feel it is not justified, they would usually say it is out of stock or that they have ordered but the new stock have not arrived.

I’ve noticed that because of these trivial little gifts like calendars, it tends to make customers go back to the same shop again and again. Even though the customer know that there are other shops selling the items they want for a cheaper price…. but many shop because they have build up a good rapport with the company.

It is the same with insurance and mutual funds agents as well. Each year, the companies that they are under would send out an email to ask if they wish to order calendars, planners and diaries. These agents would need to pay for these items out of their own pocket but the company would sell to them at a low price. If their order exceed a certain number, then there is free customization where the agent’s details can be printed on these items.

After receiving the order, the agents would take these calendars to distribute… they would set up appointment with the clients. On normal days the client may avoid your call or claim they are busy but many would not be able to refuse a freebie. While passing the calendar would probably use the time as an opportunity to build rapport or do some upselling.

How to offset the printing cost of your calendar

You may not need to totally give out the calendars for free. There are some strategies you can implement that can actually help to increase the sales… and I have seen companies adopting this approach.

1. Provide as a free gift upon meeting some minimal purchase

Retail outlets have long adopted this approach where the calendar would be given free upon meeting a certain purchase amount in a single receipt.

Set a target that is higher than the average spending amount of the customer. And invest in a good quality and high usability calendar that people are willing to spend in order to get the calendar. The first year you may not see much results but subsequent years when the word gets around, customers would come for these calendars.

An example is MPH bookstores where they MPH Sassy Calendar is extremely popular. You can’t even buy the calendar with money. In order to get the calendar, the customer is required to meet a certain amount for members and for non members, minimum spending amount is higher:

Their promotion usually starts on 1st November and even though the stock of the calendar has not arrived, customers already started the spending because there are only specific amount of stocks allocated. The particular bookstore outlet would then need to take down the details and then contact the customers to collect when the stock arrive.

2. Tie up with suppliers to cut down the cost of printing the calendar

An example is the Caring Pharmacy calendar which is given free upon meeting a minimum amount. The company is able to offset its printing cost through tie up with brands:

The calendar is very popular because it has a special feature- the racehorse calendar on it. Now racehorse calendars are popular with Chinese and Indian communities as there are cultural observance dates such as new moon and full moon.

Usually the traditional racehorse calendars, although is very useful is so last century…. the design never changed like the past 50 years or so. Caring changed the look and included the racehorse calendar at the back portion (where photos of scenery are placed).

And on the usual English calendar, despite placing advertisements, there are also clear white space to write down important appointments. The calendars are usually all snapped up before the year ends.

Another industry is wholesale and retail stores like hypermarkets or departmental stores that can team up with their main suppliers or brand names to be featured in certain months in order to offset the printing cost.

3. Include discount coupons for each month

Industry such as  pharmacies would tend to come out with calendars that either carry coupon or they work with pharmaceutical companies to be featured in specific month. It is very likely that these companies would need to pay a certain premium or offer some kind of discount in kind in order to be featured in the calendar.

Cafes can include discount inserts on each month of the calendar to have repeated customers returning to enjoy the discount. The insert should be in an easily detachable sheet of paper. I remember Subway uses this approach- their calendar have a different discount or offer each month.


In marketing and promotion, often we need not reinvent the wheel. All we need to do is to follow what others have done and do it a little better.

Today, companies are spending a lot of money to engage media agencies to come out with the best ads and then to place them on billboards, websites, Facebook and YouTube. But they would not consider continuing something so basic such as designing and printing table calendars each year which what traditional business have done with a lot of success. The cost is very much lowered and can potentially increase sales if they adopt some of the strategies described above.

For small business with a budget, what you can do is to contact a printing company that already offer preset designs which you can choose from. You can then personalize it by adding your company contact information… name, address, telephone number, fax, email, website, Facebook and other social media accounts.

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