Your Vendors – Another Marketing Arm for Your Company


Most of us take our vendors for granted. We choose them based on some combination of price, quality and service. If one part of that equation falters, then we may look for a replacement, or we may evaluate the relationship for its overall value.

Your vendors can mean so much more to the success of your business. They can be an effective part of your marketing team.

Vendors are product experts. They can help you resell their wares more effectively by providing you with case histories or by educating you about the benefits of the product. They can help you get the most use out of a product you purchase from them.

Having a good relationship with a vendor can be the difference between your making or losing a sale. Need something faster than usual? Your buddy the vendor might be able to expedite an order. Need something not listed in a catalog? Your vendor’s rep might know how to find one – whether in their inventory or someone else’s.

In my industry, my vendors (we call them suppliers) are not supposed to sell to the general public. They are supposed to sell only through distributors. Every so often, an end-user (that’s the person who wants the product) contacts the vendor directly. Since most products are available through multiple vendors, that particular vendor wants to get that business when a distributor places the order. To that end, most vendors will refer a phone call or e-mail request that they won’t fulfill directly to one of their customers. How do you get to be the chosen one? Be nice to your vendor. Send thank you notes when they’ve helped you out, or just made running your business a bit easier. If they’ve gone above and beyond, send a thank you gift (candy or flowers are fine).

Treat them with respect, even if there’s a problem. Be loyal to them and they will reciprocate.

Getting Your Name out There


Getting your name out there can be a challenge, especially for the smaller business which may have the challenge of a big-name competitor whose name everyone recognizes.

One way to combat this is to take advantage of publicity.

Getting your name in the editorial section of any type of media (print, TV, radio, or online) is preferrable to paid advertising. It gives you added credibility because you haven’t paid for the spot. If  the wording is just right, it may even give the overt (or covert) impression of an endorsement by the writer of the article.

The trick is to make sure that you actually have something newsworthy to distribute to the media community; but what qualifies as newsworthy?

  • Can you tie what you do into something that’s already being talked about in your community or in the news? (Are you an expert on emergency preparedness in this time of tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis?)
  • Has your company made some sort of impact on the business or consumer community in your area? (Are you known for hiring the mentally or physically challenged?)
  • Are you setting records for positive growth in a down economy? (The McDonald’s hiring blitz.)
  • Are you involved in or sponsoring some sort of charitable event? (How about a matching donation campaign to your local children’s hospital.)

The list goes on and on.

Once you have the newsworthy event, the press release must be written and distributed. This can be done for free (usually somewhat effective) or you can hire a professional who has the experience to write an interest-catching article and the connections to get it published.

If you have the talent to write one, there are several templates available through Word or online that can help you. There are also many PR websites that will publish your release at no cost or at a nominal cost to you.

Of course, if you can afford it, hiring a PR firm, either on a one-off basis or on a retainer, is the preferrable way to go. They can help you define newsworthy events, craft the release and distribute it to their list of contacts to get you the best possible exposure.

Now go publicize!

Are You Marketing to Your Internal Customer?


So we all know the importance of marketing to our current customers and prospects. Without their support, we don’t have a successful business.

What about your internal customers? Are you marketing to them? If you are, is it effective?

Hold on a minute…what the heck is an “internal customer”? I hear you ask.

If you have not yet figured it out, your internal customers are your employees and co-workers. Are you scratching your head wondering how someone who gets paid to be there every day can be a “customer”? (No, it’s not because that person got a job with you for the great employee discount you offer!) The reasoning is that if the employees of the company can’t, or don’t, buy into what the company is about (not to mention the products and services offered for sale), how can they do an effective job?

Our first priority should be to make sure that the people representing our business (employees), whether they have direct contact with our paying customers (external customers) or not, know the company philosophy and understand the products/services available for sale, and the parameters we expect for making those all-important sales.

Back in the days when I was a front office manager, making sure that my new, and sometimes existing, staff members were fully trained was one of my responsibilities. Each employee had a formalized training period in each area of the front office (operator, reservations, bell desk and front office) and on all duty shifts so that he or she was familiar with the technical aspect of the job. Once an employee’s mentors signed off on the completion of training, I gave one last assignment: stay one night in the hotel as a guest (at the hotel’s expense) so that the employee could understand the property from the guests’ viewpoint.

From check-in to check-out, the employee was treated exactly as any guest would be. The consistent feedback I received from both seasoned hotel professionals and neophyte hospitality employees was that once they really understood the whole experience of staying at the property, they were better equipped to sell that experience effectively. I even got some constructive criticism on occasion on what we could be doing differently (from signage to noise reduction) to make it a better experience for our guests. These employees were now invested in their jobs and eager to give each guest the same pleasurable experience that they had personally enjoyed.

Jeff Toister, President of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. comments, “We often don’t treat our co-workers/employees with the same level of care as our customers, but we should. Providing outstanding internal customer service can improve productivity in the short run and lead to a highly engaged workforce over the long term. My most forward-thinking clients invest just as much in improving internal customer service as they do in upgrading external service. They know that harmony in the ‘back of the house’ can translate into more efficient operations and ultimately highly satisfied customers.”

So how do we get those all-important internal customers to buy into the system? Provide them with the necessary training, tools, support, encouragement, and recognition that allows them to do their job in an environment that treats them like human beings who are of value to the business – not cogs in a machine. If possible, give them the opportunity to experience the process of being a customer. Make sure that they fully understand the nature of the business and what is expected from them.

Remember, too, that an employee who may never interact with a paying customer is still there to support the customer “touch point” employees. He or she needs to be given the same status of internal customers as those who work directly with your clientele every day.

Using Videos for Marketing


Using video can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. Since I understand this, but concede that this is not my area of expertise, I defer to my friend and client, Shawn Dennison, owner of D-PRO Inc and Lev Promotions’ preferred referral source for marketing videos, to share his expertise on the subject. The following was written by Shawn:

As business owners, we are always looking for new ways to market our companies. When a potential customer searches the Internet looking for a service, what is going to make your company stand out from the rest? You need to articulate your brand and make an impression — quickly. One of the best ways of accomplishing this is by developing a high quality video to introduce yourself and your product — produced by a professional video production company. A video can be used to market your business in multiple ways: embedded within your website, in a video news release, posted on social media sites and YouTube, email marketing, interactive displays and commercials.

According to PR Newswire, multimedia content is more broadly distributed – because each element of a multimedia release is distributed separately, and can attract its own audience – in social networks, and on search engines. Videos, for example, are distributed to more than 70 video-specific portals. Social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, allow people to share information quickly and enthusiastically with others. Consumers can “like” your video and your business – and distribute this information to their friends and followers.

These days, anyone with a flip cam or camcorder can call them self a professional videographer. From my perspective, the finished product that is produced in these cases often lacks a polish and can reflect poorly on your brand. Will potential customers that view your website take you seriously after seeing a poor quality video? Will they want to do business with you? In most cases, the answer is no.

You need to hire a reputable video production company with proven experience, has the demos to prove it, and has demonstrated ROI for their customers. You will notice when using a high quality company that it has a demonstrated professional shooting style, including the use of a tripod for steady video; crisp, clear audio; and enhanced lighting of interviews and scenery.

Would you make a positive impression interviewing for a job in shorts and sandals, or in a suit? The same can be said for video in marketing your business. A professional video will effectively tell your story, build your brand and get positive results.

About the Shawn Dennison:
An experienced and innovative photojournalist, D-PRO Inc. owner and president Shawn Dennison has more than 23 years of broadcast, commercial and corporate video expertise. Shawn has won numerous regional news Emmy ® Awards and Telly ® Awards, as well as being honored by the National Press Photographers Association and the Associated Press for excellence in videography and editing. For more information, visit

Do Your Clients Know What You Do?


This may seem like a strange question. After all, if we’ve already defined them as “your clients,” doesn’t that mean that they’ve already done business with you? And, if that is the case, did the client not know or understand what they were purchasing?

Of course your clients know what you’ve done for them. The question is, do they fully understand all that you have to offer? My bet is: not!

The fact is that most people will pigeonhole you into the category that their personal experience with you has determined you to be a fit. For example, although I know that one of the cashiers at my supermarket uses Mary Kay products, I never thought that she might also sell Mary Kay products. Since so many dedicated Mary Kay users are also Mary Kay consultants, this should not have been a surprise.

If you belong to a networking group, it is rare to have fellow members have full comprehension of all that you offer. For instance, I’ve been a member of one networking group for almost five years. I’ve spoken often about the three sides of Lev Promotions: promotional products, marketing consultant and marketing/customer service presentations & workshops. Nevertheless, most of the other people in the group remember me as the promotional products person and forget that I can also help them with all their marketing needs.

Even more so, I have a client who has purchased imprinted mugs and pens from me for years. The other day, they called me to see if I could refer them to a company who could provide them with imprinted calendars and tote bags. I was disappointed that they truly believed all I do is mugs and pens, even though I have presented them with ideas for and samples of many other types of products over out time working together. In the end, I was thrilled to refer them to myself and they were happy to be able to work with someone who understood their needs without having to break in someone new!

It’s all a question of education. Even if your focus is on one area, make sure that you mention (verbally and in your written and electronic communications) the other aspects of your business that people may have forgotten about or never consciously took note of. It’s all about capturing as much of your current clients’ business as possible.