Spread the Wealth or Stay True?

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During a conversation about a client’s marketing needs – including signage, website content, collateral material and more – my contact told me that, while she appreciates my the fact that Lev Promotions can help her with all the needs we discussed, she prefers to “support the community by spreading the business around.”

Now, while I can’t refute that supporting multiple businesses is a nice thought, let’s look at what that means to a company’s marketing efforts when it’s providers are treated as vendors rather than partners:

A vendor wants to sell you stuff.

A partner wants to find the best solutions to meet your needs and resources.

A vendor will take whatever you provide and run with it – even if your brand standards haven’t been respected.

 A partner will protect your brand image, checking that each component meets brand standards and does not deviate from them.

A vendor doesn’t guarantee that the product you choose will be the best possible quality for that product type.

A partner will find the best possible quality that your budget will allow. Moreover, a partner will also make sure that imprint quality is up to or exceeds industry standards and that delivery will happen as expected.

A vendor will sell you their products or services they have, even if they’re not the right fit.

A partner will evaluate your needs and refer you to another resource if they can’t provide the appropriate product or service for your specific needs. Moreover, they will know that whoever they refer you to will uphold the same levels of quality and ethics that the original partner has.

Taking all that into consideration, would you rather entrust your business’ brand image to a vendor or a partner? Yes, it’s nice to “spread the business around,” but you need to decide when a vendor relationship is the way to go and when a partner relationship is worth investing in.

A Different Take on Generational Marketing

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I truly don’t see that much difference between all these “generations.” I believe that people are basically people and they’re not that different from one generation to the next in their basic behaviors. It’s the tools they have to manifest their behaviors that make things seem different.

OK, so here are some examples I use (Keep in mind that I am the mother of a millennial and I see her and her friends in action. I also have clients who are millennials and I know how I interact with them.)

Example 1: I keep reading about how millennials want to set their own hours, be more self-driven at work and not feel like a job is their life. OK, how many of you pretty much felt that way when you were in your 20’s. How many of you felt that way about work when you were that age? Generally, no mortgage, no family to support, maybe not even a car payment thanks to that college graduation gift of a car and you’re more likely to be more lackadaisical in your approach to a work ethic. When you add a few years, maybe a spouse and/or kids, a mortgage and a car payment and things begin to change – yes, even for those millennials according to an infographic I once saw about attitudes within the millennial generation. How much more important did keeping your job, keeping your boss happy and getting a regular paycheck become once you had adult responsibilities? I know it changed my mindset even back 25 years ago!

Example 2: OK, so technology has changed the way these folks do their research. Heck, it’s changed the way all but the most tech-resistant do their research. I contend that it’s the tools that have changed, not the attitudes. Most people like to remain anonymous when considering our options. We don’t want to feel like we’re obligated to buy or commit to anything until we feel comfortable with our decision. So, the internet works very well for that – we can go online and research out options and no one needs to know it was us. (Yes, there are tools that will tell the site owner details about visitors, but really, how many salespeople will follow up with someone who just visited a website, but didn’t initiate contact?) Anyone here ever go to a store where a CSR asked if you need help? Ever say, “No, thanks. I’m just looking.” That’s the in-person equivalent of going to a website to do research. We don’t want to be helped and feel committed to buying something we don’t really want/need/like just because someone helped us. Heck, my dad isn’t an internet kind of guy, but he gets at least as much information from researching stuff at the library! (And a lot of times, his information is more accurate!)

Example 3: See example 2 and then realize that people still want/need/crave human contact. Once they feel comfortable, they tend to make a commitment to you; kinda like dating. I have clients that are in their 60’s and older and clients in their early 20’s – they work with me because they know I have their backs and they don’t want to go anywhere else. Of course, if I mess up big time and don’t make it right, they’ll probably leave me. Again, there are price shoppers and relationship buyers out there – no matter what the age, price shoppers will never be loyal and relationship buyers won’t jump ship if the relationship is solid.

Lumping any generation’s worth of people together and expecting them to react the same is, in my never-to-be-humble opinion is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, to make generalizations about millennials who are about 80 million people strong across many religions, ethnicities, family backgrounds and economic levels is ridiculous. Heck, I can’t even make generalizations about my parents and my in-laws who are all the pre-Baby Boom generation. People are people –  some are lazy, some are hard-working; some are self-centered; some are selfless; some are sport fanatics, some don’t know a football from a basketball; some are wise (no matter how smart they are), some are just plain dumb (no matter how smart they are).

I truly believe that it’s not about generational marketing, because any given generation’s beliefs, affiliations, and attitudes will change as they age and their life priorities change. My priorities and attitudes from when I was young and single have certainly changed to today when I’m a wife, mother of 2 and getting worried about retirement (at least 15 years away).

I think we just need to learn to market ourselves appropriately in a wide variety of ways to appeal to a broad spectrum of personality types. (Hey, did you know that millennials don’t like to be marketed to online, but love “giveaways.” Saw that in an article a few months ago. I wish I could remember where.) Human beings really don’t change that much from one generation to the next – it’s the reason we have the saying “history repeats itself.”

For an interesting blog on this subject, check out http://www.lindseypollak.com/what-is-a-millennial-everything-youve-always-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

OK. I’ve jumped off my soap box and am off to cause trouble elsewhere!

 

It’s Trade Show Season Again!

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As I’m about to head off to my big industry trade show to find out what’s new and exciting in the world of promotional products, I’m also inundated with clients needs for trade show displays, handouts, and pre/post-show marketing.

It’s a good time to remind you that, if you’re exhibiting at any type of trade show, from an international one to a regional one to a local tabletop show, you should be looking at your display aids (table drapes, signage, marketing collateral, etc…) to see what needs some sprucing and what needs replacing.

Your display is the first thing attendees will notice and, if it looks outdated, dirty, or raggedy, it will be a prime factor in whether they want to even stop to talk to you; let alone do business with you.

Take the time to do a mock-up of your display and see what needs cleaning, replacing or tweaking.

If you need help, Lev Promotions can work with you on every aspect of your trade show exhibit – from your display to your promotional products to staff training to pre/post-show marketing.

Now go have a great trade show season!

Is Your Website a Good Marketing Tool?

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I’ve recently been approached by a few contacts asking about creating or revamping a website for their business. Although it’s not my forte, if the website is simple with no shopping cart and only about 5 – 7 pages, it’s definitely something I can handle.

The hardest part of building a website for a business is making it a good marketing piece. Too many times, I see websites that are like works of art, or filled with music and videos, or seem to have all the newest bells and whistles that are technologically available.

Many times, what I don’t see is the actual marketing message, so here are three tips for making sure that you marketing is well represented by your website:

1) Make sure that your online branding is consistent with your offline branding. If you’ve got a new logo, double-check that it’s on your website. Are the colors of the site consistent with your branded image?

2) Is the messaging appropriate for your audience? I once reviewed a website for a client in the tech industry that had terms on there I’d never seen before. Now, I’m not a techie, but, I was a potential buyer of their product and had no clue what all the jargon they were using meant. I asked my husband, a software engineer if those terms were real and relevant. He told me that yes, they are real tech industry terms, but using them the way they were was their way of showing off what they know rather than actually speaking to their intended audience. Are you speaking to your audience, or showing off what you know?

3) Don’t use music that can’t be turned off. I personally won’t stay on a website that plays music from the second it’s loaded and doesn’t give me the option to turn that music off. If I can’t easily find a way to turn it off, I close the window and move along. Of course, if your business is music-oriented, have the music available, just be sure the viewer can turn it off or turn it down if they want to.

Finally, don’t be afraid of content. Graphics are fine, but if they don’t add to you message, then they’re useless.

Are You Marketing for You or for Your Prospects

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One of the challenges I face on a regular basis is getting my clients to understand that their marketing should be a reflection of them without being all about them. It’s a difficult concept to explain and, perhaps, even more difficult to understand.

In a nutshell, what it means is that our messaging should always represent who we are as a brand. Whether that means a representation of the owner in a micro-business, or a conglomerate of the slick image created for a big business by a marketing agency – the messaging should be true to the company image.

That being said, we need to make sure that the message we’re putting out there is done in a way that is appealing to our target market.

One example I face on an almost daily basis is the business owner or manager who is choosing a promotional product because they like it and think it’s cool. If that item is not appropriate to their target market, then is the marketing message going to even get noticed? Want a specific? I had a business owner client who loved Zippo lighters and found out that we can brand them for him. His mission in life became to get those Zippos for his next promotional campaign.  Now his target market was high school kids. How many parents would even allow their kid to own a Zippo lighter, let alone use one? They’d be confiscated if taken to school and probably taken away from the kid at home, too.  Not the right media for his marketing message, but it took a lot of effort, and a visit I arranged with a school principal explaining the ramifications of a kid being caught on campus with a Zippo (suspension and, possibly expulsion) to convince him this was not a “cool” promotion.

Don’t get me wrong, Zippo lighters can be a great promotional product – when given to the right audience in the right venue at the right time.

Next time you put together a marketing campaign (promotional product, online, print ad, or other), think about whether the messaging will really speak to your target.

People Are Always Watching!

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So I’m on the freeway today when I see a van with signage for a company that I know. Traffic is moving a bit slowly, so I’m able to peek in the window to see if the driver is someone I know. Well, it wasn’t, but I wasn’t happy to see the driver talking on his cellphone. Not only was he doing something illegal, he was doing it in a company van, which puts that company in legal jeopardy if he gets into an accident and giving people a poor impression of that company as well.

Marketing is about the impressions we make and people are always watching. Whether a salesperson is chatting on the phone to her boyfriend, or a driver is on his cellphone while behind the wheel of a company vehicle, or someone wearing a name badge pitches a fit while in line at the grocery store, people not only take away an impression of that person, but of the company they’re representing.

Make sure you and your staff are keep that in mind whenever they’re in a position to be recognized as an employee of your company.

Why gmail is not a good professional e-mail address.

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I work with so many start-up companies that use a Gmail e-mail address and I have to wonder why.

First of all, most of these companies do have a website, so why wouldn’t they want the brand consistency of using it in their e-mail address? You get up to five free e-mail address free with many domain registrations and, even if you have to pay for it, it can be as low as $5.00/year for five e-mail addresses.

Secondly, with spam e-mails coming from free e-mail providers (take a look, most spam e-mails are sent on a Gmail account), why would you want your e-mails potentially identified as spam either by the receiving server or by the intended recipients themselves?

Thirdly, by not taking the time and making the tiny bit of extra effort it takes to put your e-mail on your domain name, it gives a psychological signal of your level of professionalism and commitment.

Given those three reasons, why would you want to print a Gmail e-mail address on your business cards?