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.

Time for a Shameless Plug! :)

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It’s been a bit since I’ve talked about promotional products here, so, instead of my usual marketing words of wisdom, or something about a product I just saw at a trade show, I thought I’d share a photo of one of my clients exhibit tables.

I’m proud to say that Lev Promotions was able to help Windward Life Care as they transitioned from another name and brand image. We produced their table drape, promotional products and name badges for this particular event educating seniors on some life choice options.

This was Windward Life Care’s first event under their new branding.

What do you think?

Being a Mentor

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I was recently asked to teach a class on how to handle a promotional products order from beginning to end to ensure the best possible outcome. Who was my audience? My “competitors.”

Yes, this class was held at a trade show for people in my very own industry of promotional products and I gave my “competitors” my method to tracking orders for successful outcomes.

Why would I give my competition one of the secrets to my success? After all, isn’t having a reputation for completing promotional product orders that are consistently of high quality with a great imprint and on-time delivery part of the reason that Lev Promotions is where it is today?

Well, yes. But that’s certainly not our only secret; nor do I believe that everyone in that room who got my handouts and actively participated in the class will implement their version of my system. Heck, a couple of people in there thought it was a complete waste of time – wonder what happens the first time they have a major snafu that costs them a client and the money for the job.

I wholly believe that there is plenty of business out there for everyone. There are people and companies that are better served by working with me, just as there are those that I will never be able to adequately help because I just don’t understand their business model or personalities don’t click. Even if I could work with everyone, where in the heck would I find the time?

Given that, I believe that it’s important to elevate my profession to the highest possible standard so that people see the intrinsic value in the marketing products and services that we provide. If my profession is more highly valued, then my expertise within that profession is worth even more.

If I can teach my competition to be more professional in the way they handle their business transactions; or, if I can mentor someone new to the industry to bring them up to speed faster, ultimately it reflects well on the industry as a whole and I will reap the benefits.

What have you done to make your industry more professional/respectable/trustworthy? Why not reach out to someone you know in the business who’s struggling or new and give them a hand? You don’t have to reveal all your secrets, jut give them the basics and let them run with them.

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!

 

Internal Marketing – Are You Doing It?

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Administrative Professionals week is April 24 – 30th this year. As I started getting requests for clients for gifts for their administrative staff to be delivered that week, it got me thinking once again about how many companies don’t bother with their internal marketing.

OK, so “What’s internal marketing?” you ask.

Simple, it’s the things we do for our employees to keep them engaged and motivated so that they believe in what they’re doing and are able to communicate that to our customers.

If you haven’t heard me say it before, here it is again: Your most important marketing tool is the delivery of good (and great is really the goal) customer service. Without that, don’t bother spending any money on any other marketing because you’re going to need that money when you declare bankruptcy.

While that may sound harsh, it’s true. Losing a customer because of poor customer service will not only deprive you of future business with that customer, but they will become influencers of whether other people do business with you.

If it’s less expensive to keep the customers you already have than to go out and find new ones, imagine how much more expensive it will be to try to find new ones if you have a reputation for delivering poor/bad/horrible customer service.

Good customer service starts at the top. It means, among other things, appreciating your employees – and not just the ones who have direct contact with customers. (What if your janitorial staff feels that you couldn’t care less about them and they don’t do a good job cleaning the restrooms, which your customers use?)

Appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of gifts. It can be a hand-written note from a manager in appreciation of a job well done. It can be calling that person out for an achievement at a staff meeting. It can be remembering employees’ birthdays with a card. And, yes, it can be a gift at holiday time, on their work anniversary, or on occasions such as Administrative Professionals Week.

Now, go – do some internal marketing!

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!

Say Goodbye to 2015

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It’s time to wind down the year and reflect on 2015.

Many of us take a personal inventory at the end of the year, then make resolutions based on the things we want to change.

If you aren’t doing that for your business, then you’re shortchanging your opportunity for growth.

Take a cold hard look at how your business performed in 2015.

  • Did you meet expectations? If so, what was done right?
  • Were some/all goals not quite met? If so, what could have been done differently or better?
  • Are your employees at all levels (you should be looking from the top down) and in all jobs (not just customer contact) providing the kind of customer service to each other and to your customers that you are proud of? If not, it’s time to make a change.

Once that’s done, you’ll have a more realistic view of what needs to be done to meet your objectives and achieve success in 2016.

From Lev Promotions and me, personally, to each one of you – Have a healthy, happy and successful 2016.

It’s an Honor Being Asked Not to Attend!

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Lev Promotions has had a display table at the SD Regional Chamber’s quarterly morning mixers for over 2 years now. I find the event to be a good networking opportunity and have gotten good exposure from them.

The last one for 2015 was held this morning at a big box office supply store’s downtown location. Knowing that this chain sells promotional products as an adjunct revenue stream, I asked the Chamber to make sure that it would be ok for me to attend, since our display focuses on the physically tangible aspect of our business – the promotional products.

Well, the rep from this national chain told the Chamber’s rep that they “would be uncomfortable” with Lev Promotions having a display table! OK, I get it, we both share the promotional product aspect of our respective business.

I’ve certainly displayed at other tabletop events where one or more of my competitors also had a display table. I never saw it as a threat – after all, there’s enough business to go around and different businesses will work better together than others.

To be viewed as a threat by a major national chain, however, is quite the coup – after all, Lev Promotions is a small, locally based company without anywhere near the clout of this major big box store. Even so, they weren’t “comfortable” enough in their promotional products offerings and/or staff to allow me to go head-to-head with them in that area in their own store.

I say, woo-hoo for the little guy! They know we’re out there and we make them “uncomfortable”!

Networking within Your Industry

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I regularly attend trade shows, professional development sessions and networking opportunities that are provided by one of my industry associations. There I am, in a group of people who all (at its most basic) do what I do and we’re sharing ideas, tips, and resources.

People ask me if I’m worried that I’m giving my business away to the competition by participating in such events. I say, “Heck, no.”

First of all, it’s not as if I give away all my knowledge and trade secrets. I share those tidbits that I think will be helpful to whomever I’m speaking with. And, yes, I do keep in mind where there business is in relation to mine.

Secondly, I know how much I was able to grow as a professional in the marketing arena because others with more experience took the time to help me out. Now, after 13.5 years, it’s time for me to give back.

So, I participate in trade events; I engage in conversations with my “competition”; I even teach classes geared for my “competition” at my trade associations’ conventions.

There’s enough business to go around. I know my clients are loyal to me – if they’re not, that’s no one’s fault but my own, so my competition should be taking them.

Are you ready to grow as a professional by participating more actively (or at all) with your trade association?

Respect the Vendor

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From time to time, I get asked by clients what they should do on a trade show floor to make connections with prospects without actually having a display booth. I tell them they shouldn’t even attempt it.

Believe it or not, this happens often enough that there’s a name for it in the trade: “suitcasing.” It comes from people walking around the floor with a suitcase full of their sales materials and trying to make sales. Every major show, and most smaller ones have a policy against suitcasing that can, at the very minimum, get you thrown out of the show for the duration.

If you want to go check out a show to see if it’s a good fit, but all means, do so. Many of these shows management companies will issue a visitor pass just for that reason – after all, they’d like to have your exhibit dollars next year.

If you want to make sales, but can’t afford to have a display booth, don’t cheapen the show by suitcasing. It’s disrespectful to the people who paid to exhibit and it doesn’t put forth an ethical and successful business image to the attendees.

Finally, if you attend a show with the intention of trying to sell to the vendors who are there – please don’t. They are there to connect with prospects and clients. They paid good money to have a booth and have spent additional time, money and energy to put together the materials to make the show successful for them. The last thing they want to do is hear your sales pitch while their prospects and clients are walking by because you’re taking up their time and space.