Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: 11 ways to make promo items work harder (Part II)

promo items, marketing, ideas, imprintable
Part I of this two-part Little Hacks' article covered five of the 11… and by no means are any of them the #1. Numero Uno is what works best for your business, but I find the 11th tip, at the bottom of this article, to be among the can't-miss opportunities to use promotional items. So, picking up where we left off:

6. Being a Good Corporate Citizen
Active company involvement in your community is more than just good citizenship — it’s good business. In sponsoring charitable events or promoting worthy causes as mentioned elsewhere in Little Hacks, you also have a chance to spread your logo on a memorable item.

7. Repair Service Lapses
Promotional products are also invaluable in repairing the service shortcomings that sometimes occur in spite of our best efforts. Giving a valued customer a gift is a terrific way to build bridges, make amends and reassure the customer that they are always right — and always wanted.

8. Stay in Front of Your Customer
Out of sight, out of mind — it’s an old saying, but it’s especially true about customer relations. Even if your customers average only one transaction with you a quarter, it’s important that you keep your name in front of them on a regular basis. With over a million items on which we can imprint your logo, you can find new and innovative ways to remind your customers about the value you provide, encouraging repeat business and referrals. And who doesn’t like to get gifts?

9. Promote Employee Safety
Insurance premiums for companies with high accident and injury rates are soaring. Add to that lost time, increased inefficiency, attorney fees, and equipment repair/replacement expenses. Prevention is On Fleek: Remind staff of that with a lasting promo item or one that is everywhere in the office (pens, mugs, mousepads, etc.)

10. Promote Landmarks and Milestones
Don’t let opportunities for publicity and exposure pass you pay. Celebrate, commemorate and promote events like: Company anniversaries ('Our 50th year'); Your 1,000,000th product shipped; Being named to a local 'Best Of' list. Public relations pros are quick to dash out press releases for these milestones, but your promo can have more lasting impact than a single news article or headline.

11. Company Name or Product Change
Change can be confusing — even traumatic — for customers. Promotional products can help reassure them that while your company or product name may change, your commitment to their satisfaction remains the same. A promotional products campaign can also help you educate customers about the benefits of your new and improved product. Every business doing a name or address or logo change on the letterhead, should roll out the change with a promo item.

Photo by Inokentii Rybtsov , used with permission.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: 11 ways to make promo items work harder (Part I)

promo items, marketing, imprintable
For years Your Minuteman has been helping small business owners put their names and logos on items such as calendars, notepads, ballpoint pens and key tags for customers and prospects. Not intended simply as an act of business generosity, this is promotional products advertising to be exact.

The problem is that many small business owners don't know the fine points of the promo item form of advertising and don't maximize the advantages it offers. Here are the first five of the 11 ideas for using promos:

1. Establish Employee Incentive Programs
Salespeople like commissions, but thrive on recognition. Certificates and plaques are yesterday’s news, though my business still does plenty of them. Today you can affordably offer sales stars everything from customized apparel to display pieces (crystal is always popular). Incentive awards can backfire if they're cheaply done... a bigger investment almost always is paid back in loyalty, or more sales.

2. New Prospect Gifts
Combining marketing literature -- like a capabilities brochure -- with promotional products is one of the surest ways to make a good impression on prospective customers. It's difficult to get in front of a person even once, so make sure they remember your name/website/phone. Make a good impact with a useful item and your promo products can pave the way for productive follow-up contact and a better sales conversion rate.

3. Use Promotional Products to Launch New Products or Services
It’s important to make the launch of any new product or service memorable. In a good way. If possible choose an item or a graphic on the item to point out your new offering's unique features or demonstrate its benefits.

4. Promo Items Increase Expo/Trade Show Traffic
Trade shows are ideal venues for making a big impact. But don’t wait until the week before the show before thinking about what kind of trade show promotional items to distribute. Instead, count on the turnaround times mentioned earlier.

5. Reach Out to Inactive Accounts
If you have lost customers or there's been a lull between orders, promotional marketing products are an excellent way to re-establish contact, rekindle that relationship, and bring your company top-of-mind once again. They won't repair ill will, if there is any, but it might also be a door-opener for a conversation about how/why the client lost touch.

Look for Part II and the rest of the top 11.

Photo by Inokentii Rybtsov , used with permission.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Mail? Direct Mail? What's the difference?

What's the difference between mail and direct mail? Nothing. It's just a way the advertising world describes a promotional message that circumvents traditional media and appeals directly to an individual consumer. Usually through the United States mail, but other carriers also participate. Direct mail may be used more than you think.

Studies indicate that it is the third largest media expenditure behind television and newspaper. The United States Post Office upped the ante in the last decade by reinventing a revenue stream – one the internet was robbing from them – in rebranding Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). In 2017 as in 1917 as in 1817, USPS carriers still deliver to every single prospect you have.
Define your audience. Figure out who you want to reach before developing your direct mail program. This allows you to specifically target your message to fit common needs. It is the best advertising medium for "tailoring" your appeal.
Locate the right mailing list. You can either build a "house list" by doing the research yourself and compiling the information on a computer - or you can purchase an "outside list" from a list house or mailing organization already pre-prepared and ready to go. There are many ways to purchase lists. You can buy them demographically (by age, profession, habits or business), or geographically (by location, or zip code). Or you can buy a list with both qualities. More than likely, there is a mailing list company in your area that would be happy to consult with you on your needs. If not, there are a number of national mailing lists available. If you participate in the USPS EDDM, you select carrier routes from within a ZIP code.
For assembly, addressing and mailing your project, you also have the choice of doing it yourself or locating a mailing service company to do it for you. Not surprisingly, I know of a printer who does this service. As the numbers of your direct mail pieces increase, the more practical it is for you to enlist assistance. They also are very good at getting you the lowest postal rates. Consider using a self-addressed reply card or envelope to strengthen return. Use a Business Reply Postage Number on the envelope and you'll only pay for the cards which are sent back to you.
The blessing of direct mail is that there are no set rules for form or content. That's also the curse, by the way. The task of deciding what your mailing should have as content, its design and its message(s) is up to you. However, remember to attract the reader's attention with color and creativity. You're trying to stand out among anything else in the mailbox. Use clear, comfortable writing and make your appeal easy to respond. And of course, coordinate the mailing with other advertising media if you are also using them in the same campaign. It can significantly increase the potential return.
Photo by Andrey Bayda, used with permission.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Four ways signs still reign as most efficient advertising

On-premise signs are your most effective and efficient means of commercial communication because they are inexpensive, available, practical, easy to use, always on the job, and directly oriented to the trade area of your business. You're incorporating your logo (see Your Logo Is Your Brand) into the lowest-cost venue… which you own or rent anyway.

Your sign is an integral part of your ad program along with the other ad platforms such as TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, directories, sponsorships, and billboards. I measure four basic criteria to judge the effectiveness of any medium: (1) Coverage of the trade area; (2) Repetition of a message; (3) Readership of a message; and (4) Cost per thousand exposures of a message. Two other criteria important for the small business owner are (5) Availability; and (6) Ease of use. Let's see how signs measure to the above criteria. 
1.Signs are oriented to your trade area. Signs do not waste your resources by requiring your to pay for wasted advertising coverage. The people who see your sign are the people who live in your trade area.

2.Signs are always on the job repeating your message to potential customers. Your on-premise sign communicates to potential customers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, week after week, month after month, year after year. Every time people pass your business establishment they see your sign. The mere repetition of the message will help them remember your business. I put two iconic business signs at the top of the article, not because they each serve breakfast. (Who saw that trend coming?)Because of repetition, you know the logos and what they represent without having to be told in the lettering. That's the power of repeating your brand.
3.Nearly everyone reads signs. Signs are practical to use for nearly everyone is used to looking at signs and using signs, even small children. Studies have shown that people do read and remember what is on signs. When special items are displayed, sales increase for these particular items within the store.

4.Signs are inexpensive. When compared to the cost of advertising in some other media, the on-premise sign is very inexpensive. Unless your trade area encompasses an entire city or region, where you must rely upon broad based media coverage, there is no better advertising dollar value than your on-premise sign.

 As for the final two criteria, availability and ease of use… that's why you use Your Minuteman. A business with no sign is a sign of no business.


Image by Scott Stevens, used with permission

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Sponsor your way into view

Spring, unlike any other season, brings on a whole slew of marketing opportunities because that’s when summer leagues and fall sports programs solicit sponsors. We have a steady flow of requests from March through June: Everything from youth softball to county fair events to football programs for the local high school seasons five months away.
Much of advertising and promotion requires a ‘buy-in’ from the audience. What that means is the reader has to open the letter, or turn on the TV. When you market yourself and your logo (see the archives) via a sponsorship, you are reaching an audience that’s both captive and involuntary at the same time. For example, when someone opens a direct mail piece from your business, they know they’re getting a marketing piece from you. However, when they show up for a sports event, your logo on the uniform or in the program isn’t what they set out to see. Nor can they turn off the ad because they’d have to walk away from the event or game. Every onlooker gets to see your brand.

Sponsorship isn’t an instant payoff. There’s a thesaurus full of ten-cent words to explain the subliminal effects of advertising in this fashion. To put it concisely: Your logo is a message-less message that aids unaided recall. People might not need your service that day at the football game. Because they’ve seen your brand, however, they’re likely to consider you when they do need your service or product.

Here are four more ways sponsorship pays off:

1)      Your brand becomes part of the environment. On-field advertising sticks around all season.

2)      Your brand lives on for years after. Photos taken at a game or event have your logo in them permanently. If you’re sponsoring a team’s jersey, those things are like luggage: People keep them forever. Bonus: Your logo could show up in the paper or newscast or social media accounts of the event.

3)      Your brand is associated with good fun or winning. Even if the team you sponsor is a perennial stinker, people still have fun attending or they wouldn’t attend.

4)      Your brand also becomes associated with good will in the community.

My business sponsors a local waterski team via their show program. Little spend, lots of eyes. We sponsored a pre-teen girls softball team, shown above, with our name on jerseys worn in two consecutive championships. An ad here. A logo there. Minimal investment adds up to exposure to new customers. The one thing I’ve stayed back from (so far) is race cars: Nobody wants to see their logo hit a wall at 100+ mph.
Photo by Scott Stevens, used with permission.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Your logo IS your brand

The act of marking livestock with fire-heated marks to identify ownership has origins in ancient times, with use dating back before there were pyramids in Egypt. In the Roman Empire, the symbols used for brands were sometimes chosen as part of a magic spell aimed at protecting animals from harm.
By the European Middle Ages, it commonly identified the process of burning a mark into stock animals with thick hides in order to identify them. The practice became particularly widespread in nations with large cattle grazing regions, like Spain. The unique brand meant that cattle owned by multiple ranches could then graze freely together on the open range. But you'd still know from where they came.
Your logo is the brand.

There is an identification advantage in developing a logo design exclusive to your firm. Using a logo also helps give your advertising continuity. Use the logo consistently on all printed pieces, including stationery. Use it in Yellow Page advertising, on the side of your truck or company car, on bags or boxes and anything else your customers or prospects may see.
The typeface you use in logos and all marketing plays an important role in how the message comes across. Printers are very knowledgeable about typefaces and happy to help you make choices. (Not-subtle, I know.)

Color is also an important consideration, as is making sure your logo can be rendered a few different ways. Sometimes your budget will prevent you from using your full-color logo. Invoices you print on your own color printer might turn out ok, but when you want a professionally-printed invoice or other office form, you might have to put your logo in black-and-white (aka grayscale) or choose an accent color. Sometimes when you embroider a logo onto apparel, some colors might get ‘lost’ in the background fabric. That’s going to be a consideration in the next A Little on Business Marketing article on sponsorships as well.
Photo by Juan Aunion, used with permission

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Five tips for making mailers

When you're campaigning for new customers, the written word is almost always less expensive than other forms of advertising.  I'm taking about brochures, letters, direct mail – yes, even blog posts. How often do you say, 'Put it in writing,' when dealing with a vendor's sales pitch? That's because we inherently trust the permanency of print.  Here are five quick tips for making sure your giving the best effort to any written campaign.
1) Test everything. See how a brochure folds and what that does to your message visually. Sending an Every Door Direct Mailer or a newsletter? Send one to yourself first to see how and when it gets delivered.
2) Respect your reader. We all think every single word we utter or print is valuable. However, readers have a notoriously short attention span. Give them short bursts of text, intriguing images, and plenty of white space. (White space is the part of the letter where you see nothing but the white paper.) Too busy is bad business.
3) Always get a second set of eyes. Even newspaper editors have editors. When you write something, often you've written and rewritten it so many times your mind inserts thoughts/words/transitions you cut in your own editing.

4) Do not borrow.  Imitation is the best form of flattery, but cutting and pasting from a website or someone's mailer is plagiarism. This often isn't prosecuted in court, but it plays out at your empty customer counter when they know you've stolen.  So just don't steel.

5) Be correct. You know your brain went bonkers when you just read steel instead of steal. Spellcheck programs don't catch the error: It's spelled correctly. Using incorrect words or dysfunctional grammar will do three things: It WILL cost you business, It WILL make you a star of someone's typo Hall of Fame on the web… and you just might have to redo an entire print job or campaign.

Photo by Luca Bertolli, used with permission.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Get your next set of clients from your current set

The top three ways to grow a business are referrals, referrals, and referrals. That is and always will be the best, most cost-effective way to grow a book of business. I can break down the investment in referrals in three pieces…

1) Take care of the customer. Paraphrasing Abe Lincoln, you can make some of the customers happy all the time, all the customers happy some of the time, but not all the customers happy all the time. Investing in good people with good people skills in positions of sales and customer-service roles ensures a good customer experience. People will pay a higher cost for goods for a better customer experience. 

To that end, it's important to keep great notes on every customer or prospect. Note their preferences. Note what they order and when they order.  Note the phone number that comes up on caller ID. Heck, even note the car that pulls into the parking lot. There is no excuse for not knowing your customer. One of the great parts of being a business printer is that we have plenty of paper in our office and plenty of pens from our promotional item store. 

2) Spoil your customer. I'm not buying anyone a Mercedes. But I do make sure walk-in customers walk out with something. The same goes for the clients on which we make delivery or prospecting calls. A bag or box for their purchase. A notepad. A pen. These are all elements of branding, which is the subject of the next segment.

Identify your best customers. The 80/20 rule – also known as the Pareto Principle – is that 80 percent of your business will come from 20 percent of your clients. Invest in a holiday gift – again a branded item – you send each of your top 20 clients with a handwritten note. When they know you care, they'll care to send you the business about which they care.
3) ASK for the referral. There isn't anyone in business who doesn't know another person in business. But you won't reach that next sale if you don't ask for it. How did the biggest burger chain in the world get to be the largest seller of potatoes? By ASKING if you wanted fries with that. You won't get your next set of satisfied, high-yield clients from your current set of satisfied, high-yield clients if you fail to ASK. This is free prospecting.

Photo by Gilles Paire, used with permission.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Little on Business Marketing: Crush the can't-afford-to-market myth

Every month, the National Federation of Independent Business checks the pulse of small business owners like us. When you ask the question, 'How are things?' I'm going to tell you, 'I could always use more customers.' We all answer that way. But, the NFIB says with more specificity that we're really worried about recruiting talent, paying taxes, and managing insurance more than we're worried about marketing ourselves.

In light of all the other business ownership challenges and costs, we're faced with the decision to advertise. Or not to advertise. Instead, every business owner should ask, 'Can I afford NOT to advertise?'

If you're in the enviable position that you have so many clients you have to shut the door to new business, you're alone. Even Amazon needs more customers.

Since we conclude you can't afford not to advertise, the challenge is to find advertising value. The first part of any discussion of value is to determine budget. Take 10 percent of your projected gross sales times the markup percentage on your average sale. (Markup isn't margin, it's your gross profit above cost. Margin is gross profit as a percentage of selling price.) Subtract your business rent. This is your minimum marketing budget.  Do the same calculation on 12 percent of your gross sales. That's your maximum marketing budget. Plug in an extra 20 percent more of the min and max if you have not marketed yourself, your business or products before.

In the next five A Little on Business Marketing segments we'll touch on affordable ways you can reach customers, like Referrals, Mailings, Branding, Sponsorship, and Traditional Advertising.
John Wanamaker, an entrepreneur at the beginning of the last century, famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don't know which half.” Wanamaker's is the store he founded. A building bears his name to this day in Philadelphia. More importantly, his trouble of knowing 'which half was wasted' lead him to pioneer marketing concepts like referrals and branding as the Father of Marketing. He made sure he wasn’t wasting half any longer… are you?
Photo: SergeyNevins, used with permission.