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Tip of the Day – Make A Great First Impression

Filed under: Tip of the Day

First ImpressionExperts say first impressions are made in the first 20 seconds. Make a bad one, though, and you’re up the proverbial creek. It’ll be a long time coming before you can reverse it.

With that in mind, selling today requires your strongest, smartest efforts in person to get noticed among the crowd and earn the opportunity to interact with buyers on a transactional level. Read on to learn how longtime sales pros think and act so that they make a standout first impression.
In those instances where you actually interact with a prospect, the objective goes beyond mere credibility; this is the moment to develop trust and likeability. Bill Lampton, a former fundraising executive who is now president of Championship Communication in Gainesville, GA, notes that the first live impression is not about making a sale – it’s about proving to the prospect that he or she is the focus of attention instead of the rep or the products.

“In fundraising, I realized the one thing I absolutely had to demonstrate in the first meeting was that I was a good listener,” Lampton says. “It takes discipline to keep asking questions and making notes rather than jumping in and talking, so you have to practice it. But doing that makes other people so comfortable that they think, ‘If I go with this person, they’ll listen to my problems and challenges.’ You’ll be remembered even if they don’t have any immediate needs.”

For Deb Johnson, co-owner of On Target Promotions (asi/287578), the approach goes like this: She demonstrates a bit of knowledge about the prospect’s company and their industry, and then she frames her job in terms of the benefit it brings to clients. “I say that we use promotional products to keep their name and brand image in front of clients, to increase the effectiveness of direct mail and to motivate,” she says. Then, she asks questions about overall business objectives, who the targets of their programs are and what they’ve done in the past. Only after all this does she ask about immediate needs for which she could offer ideas.

Valerie Atkin, president of dkspecialties (asi/181469), points out that there’s a difference between showing confidence and showing arrogance. “Don’t go in and say, ‘I’ve done a lot of research and I know all about your business, and I know exactly what you need,’” she says.

Johnson adds, “Your initial knowledge shows respect, but your questions show humility in recognizing that you must learn more in order to do your best for them.”

An example: Sharon Schamehorn, co-owner of Elite Sportswear & Promotional Products (asi/186738), recently spoke on the phone with the head of a safety products company who wanted items for his trade-show booth. She began by asking him about pressing topics in that industry, as well as the present state of his business in particular. “He just lit up and went on and on – he actually wanted to spend more time talking to me than we had. At the end, I got three orders instead of one.”

With several generations coexisting in the business world these days, there might be a temptation for a rep to try to adapt his or her personality to match that of the prospect in order to make a connection. Big mistake. “Reps are taught to mirror the mannerisms and pacing of a prospect, but you still have to be yourself,” Lampton says. “Anything more is you trying to manipulate the situation. If the prospect senses that, you’re done.”

Atkin strives to finds common ground if the prospect is noticeably younger. For example, “I’ll try to find out which recent movies we might have both seen. I just want them to feel like, ‘This is a real person who I have something in common with, not just a salesperson interested in my money.’ Come at it as two people simply having a conversation about whatever is going on in the world, and then shift over to business.”

On the other side, Joanne Franklin, president of Joanne Franklin Packaging & Promotions (asi/198020) notes that companies are always looking for unique and fresh ideas from the promotional field, “so a prospect who is considerably older, while they understand the value of experience, is also probably quite open to hearing ideas from a younger person who has new perspectives.” Bring to the table one or two cool new ideas to show that you are plugged in, but also demonstrate that you can cater to their entire audience. “Don’t walk in and come across as overly cool or hip – it’s too limiting,” she says.

Tip of the Day – Make Money By Working for Free

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Make MoneyBev Middaugh does a lot of business with nonprofit organizations – but she got her foot in the door by working for free. “We donate to their events, and I encourage my people to volunteer,” says the CEO of Bright Ideas in Broad Ripple (asi/146060) in Indianapolis.

Middaugh put this into practice with a nonprofit called Indiana Women In Need (IWIN), which provides grants to women while they undergo breast cancer treatment. “They have a flower sale every year, so one year I offered my parking lot to them for the pickup of flowers,” she says. “On a Saturday, cars would come in, and my people would be there to load the flowers, so we actually physically helped them to raise money that day. That was the beginning of our relationship.”

Middaugh also volunteered her staff to raise money for the organization twice a year at no cost. This gave her an in with IWIN. “They sell T-shirts for their fundraisers, so they naturally came to us and asked if we can make their T-shirts,” she says.

So many companies focus on building revenue that they often lose sight of how giving back to the community by building an awareness campaign or donating to a cause can be a means of revenue. “When making business decisions of how to thrive in a down or stalled economy, be sure to focus on giving back to the community and creating awareness of how your company supports causes,” says D.J. Heckes, CEO of EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts (asi/191105).

One thing that EXHIB-IT! has done locally is an annual business-to-business networking event, which started with the grand opening of its new location in June 2008. It included 400 attendees, such as members of the local chambers and organizations, plus political officials and business owners in the community. At the event, EXHIB-IT! gave away a free exhibit display valued at $1,200 to a selected nonprofit organization. These kinds of events demonstrate to local citizens and business owners that your company is really connected to the community, Heckes says. “This not only shows a true commitment, but it also demonstrates sustainability and that you can grow your business network,” she adds.

A key to winning business with nonprofits is to be a part of their events and follow up with them, Middaugh says. “What does do you good is to have some of your staff there asking if they can call on them, and getting back to them afterwards,” she says. “That’s how you get these things to pay off in a big way.”

Middaugh also has the advantage of having an employee that was a part of a nonprofit organization called Noble of Indiana, which serves Indianans with disabilities. “This gentleman worked 17 years with Noble,” she says. “He’s a part of our regular staff – he works in the warehouse and chips in whenever something needs to be done, including volunteering in events. So, when they buy thank-you gifts from their donors, they come to us.”

To Middaugh, this kind of volunteer work is essential – not only to her business, but to her community. “I feel like we have to support the people who are already supporting us,” she says.

Shane Dale is a contributing writer for Wearables.

From Wearables June 2010 issue.

Tip of the Day – Gain More New Business

Filed under: Tip of the Day

More RevenueRight now, savvy distributors are focusing their efforts on expanding revenues. They’re doing everything they can to find new business, and ultimately, grow their customers bases. If there’s anything distributors are craving these days it’s a greater volume of orders to help negate a lack of productivity last year.

But how to do it? How can you find new business when clients are still hesitant to break open their marketing banks? The simple answer could be to call new prospects, to expand your marketing efforts to include new target markets. But it takes a deeper and more strategic effort than that. It means focusing on referral programs, making new partnerships and becoming an expert in areas that may have previously been foreign to you. Here are three ways distributors can ramp up their new-business-generation efforts right now.

Get Referrals
Asking clients to suggest other clients is one of the surest ways of driving new business. But the key to drumming up those suggestions, says Adrian Miller, president of Adrian Miller Sales Training, is to ask for it the right way at the right time.

“Last year was the time for distributors to get proactive, maybe even the year before,” she says. “When business is really good” it’s easy to get complacent and ease up on new business development. Distributors who do that risk losing sales skills and ultimately becoming “order takers” – never a stable market position.

Instead, the time to ask for referrals is when you’re at your highest point with a client and that’s when they’re first doing business with you. “There’s a euphoria when a deal closes that distributors can use to their advantage to ask for business referrals,” says Drew Stevens, president of Stevens Consulting Group, and author of Split Second Selling.

After landing a referral, it’s vital to thank clients for that new business, says Daniel Murphy, president and founder of The Growth Coach, a coaching franchise system. “Most small businesses don’t send a periodic gift of value,” he says. A $25 gift card to Starbucks sent periodically, or after a referral results in an order, builds rapport for future referrals, Murphy says.

Cast The Net – Locally
“Even with referrals you have to network, network, network,” Miller says. But keep in mind, he adds, “not all places are best for you and not all events are where you should be.”

How to determine the best places to network? One point to remember is that bigger isn’t always better. Too often distributors attend large-scale trade shows or networking events, thinking volume is the key to more sales, only to find disappointment when leads don’t develop or pan out.

Volume is indeed important, Miller says, but in local, more intimate settings that offer better one-on-one pitch potential. Just make sure that one-on-one face time doesn’t keep you focused on one person for the entire meeting. “You don’t want to be stuck in a corner with someone,” Miller says. “If you find yourself talking with someone for too long, you have to disengage and move on.”

Cold-Call In Cyberspace
You’d be surprised by the amount of new business smart marketers are finding online. Shel Horowitz, a business consultant and author of the upcoming book Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet, gave a speech in Switzerland recently to a group of international business executives. He landed that high recognition gig through a post on the social and business networking site LinkedIn.

“Someone posted a note saying they were looking for speakers,” Horowitz says. “I had been wanting to go from being a national speaker to being an international speaker for years.”

He sent a proposal and was invited to Davos not too long after. On another occasion he landed a speaking engagement through Twitter.

Indeed, business opportunities abound almost anywhere, particularly online. Begin to create a presence online by signing up on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Then enhance your online following by sending regular e-newsletters to both clients and prospects. The key, though, to a successful newsletter is to not make it a hard-sell marketing piece – it should offer some value to recipients so that they remember you and your company as a trusted resource and marketing expert.

From Education Adviser, vol. 26

Tip of the Day – Internet Key to Capturing Teen and Tween Market

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Teens and TweensMedia Tree President Rob Watson gave a spirited presentation titled at the ASI Show San Diego, “Hot Niche Markets: Teens, Tweens and Twentysomethings.” Watson said teen spending is expected to grow to $151 billion by 2011. “You need to discover cool and hip products that engage this demographic,” he said. “This age bracket spends 164 minutes a day on the Internet, and more than 25% of this audience spends money online.”

Watson also said that the Internet is the primary source of entertainment for this age group. Because of the high usage of the Internet, he said using creative ways to engage this market is vital. “You can increase online response rates by giving a free gift instantly for participating in a sweepstakes,” he said. “Teens and tweens like to feel in control, and the number one premium with this age group is music.”

Philanthropy is another area that teens and tweens are big on. “People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves and they want to give back,” Watson said. “They have high disposable income, and they’re the future.”

From Stitches Embroidery Business Insights, vol. 113

Tip of the Day – Self-Promote With T-Shirts

Filed under: Tip of the Day

T-shirtTrying to come up with a fresh way to promote your business? Consider the branded T-shirt market, where novelty always sells. “The true definition of ‘novelty’ is something fresh, new and innovative,” says Michelle Swayze, marketing director for In Your Face Apparel (asi/62494). “Some may place the old-school mentality of novelty items being fad items that quickly pass away, but that’s just not true. A novelty item can stay fresh, new and innovative for some time.”

Novelty shirts are a great way to show clients who may have stopped spending that you’re still current, fun and capable of appealing to youthful clients who are driving much of the market today. “Customized T-shirts are a great way to get the foot in the door with your clients,” says Bayo Simmons, CEO of All Fashion Services (asi/37166).

Consider a self-promotion using novelty T-shirts with an innovative design that integrates your logo and brand colors. Novelty tees are big in summer, and with Labor Day and endless company picnics, outings and events, this is a great time to remind your clients about the quality and creativity of your products. It’s also just in time for back-to-school, and novelty tees are especially popular with the school-age crowd.

From WearableStyle, vol. 123

Tip of the Day – Attract More Clients to Your Website

Filed under: Tip of the Day

WebsiteToday, most successful businesses have an online presence, and depending on the industry, the website will draw in certain types of visitors. A few key details can help your site attract more clients.

  1. Create an engaging and unique design.
    Your website is often the first impression a prospective client gets, so you need to make the most of it. There are plenty of templates available for website design, but if you cater to a creativity-based industry, consider adding some flair and unique touches to show that creativity right away. Black Duck Inc. (asi/140730) sports a comic book superhero theme on its website. “If you’re in a creative business and you’re trying to sell yourself on the Internet,” says Doug Bird, president of Black Duck, “it doesn’t make sense to have a template-based cookie-cutter website.”
  2. Choose a memorable and appropriate domain name. 
    Darin Andersen, president of Embroidery.com, pushed hard to acquire the company’s domain name in the late 1990s because he saw the exploding popularity of the Internet. “We just kept offering money for it till we bought it,” he says. A memorable name is a good way to draw and keep customers, because they always know how to easily find you. Whether it’s catchy or just easy to remember, a good domain name can do wonders for your business.
  3. Embrace the Internet community. 
    At its base, the Internet is simply a means of communication and information flow. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook may seem trivial or foreign at first, but if your customers are using them to communicate, you should consider it, too. Ed Levy, head of Digitize4U, created EmbForum.com as a means to help embroiderers and digitizers help each other. In the process, he increased his company’s visibility and credibility. “It’s all about visibility,” he says. “That has really helped us over the years.”

From WearableStyle vol. 126

Top 10 Made In the USA Products

Filed under: General

Ice Cream Cone HatJust in time for the Fourth of July, ASI has released it’s inaugural Top 10 list of Made in America products, including an ice cream cone hat, picnic backpack, an igloo cooler and more! Check out the list here, which includes emails of all suppliers in case you’re interested in ordering some of these patriotic products!

For more, read yesterday’s press release.  

And if you’re interested in more seasonally themed product lists, choose from the following:



Tip of the Day – Blog For Business

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Blogging for BusinessA well-constructed and maintained blog can be a great tool for driving sales. Many salespeople today are turning to blogs and Twitter in an effort to expand their traditional sales and marketing efforts.

One of the keys to driving sales is developing and keeping a robust network of readers, according to the bloggers we spoke to. And they agree that there is a fine line between keeping and overwhelming readers.

The strategies for selling through a blog are more indirect than in cold-calling. Our bloggers told us that they often blog about topics that will entice their clients, thereby quietly closing the deal. Their number-one piece of advice: Provide your clients with information. By being the expert and dispensing knowledge, you’re giving clients a sense of security that you’re the right choice for their needs.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a blog or looking to revamp yours, this hot blogger will show you how to get the most out of your experience.

Behind the Scenes
What started as an exercise in curiosity has developed into a successful Web strategy, and the birth of “Kenny Blog.” Ken Block, director of business development with MCM Productions (asi/257932), started blogging a little over a year ago. He had been studying website development and social media and decided to give it a try.

Block entered into blogging from the technical world, focusing on analytics and search engine optimization (SEO). “Traditional Web pages are not that flexible,” he says. “We have more day-to-day relevant content that we wanted to share with our clients. What better way to do it than jump on this new blogging phenomenon?” So he introduced the blog with a promotion to his client base by giving away a pen to visitors who signed up to read the blog. After about six weeks, the blog was starting to get more hits than the website.

Block has been able to turn his blog into a sales force by showing what he knows. “We believe that if you are open with knowledge and the knowledge is greater than your competition, it’s a slam dunk,” he says. The blog helps book orders on a weekly basis. Block looks at which search phrases drive traffic, like his blog post about recycled PVC banner bags.

On the sales front, Block put out an optimized post about dishwasher-safe water bottles which quickly produced business. He also produced a series of blogs about new items he is seeing. “It shows clients that we’re out there researching new products for them,” he says.

Block says that what sets his blog apart is the focus on SEO. “We get more activity as we write the optimized blog posts, along with the lightness of our content,” he says. The language of the blog is very important. “We have to be cognizant and respectful of the demographics of all the different buyers of promotional products. If you write in a language that is specific to just Gen X, you lose the baby boomer,” he says.

For new bloggers in the industry, Block recommends taking the time to understand how search engines work. “You have to determine what you strategically want to accomplish with your blog before you write your first post,” he says. One piece of advice he offers is finding niche and sub-niche phrases that are popular in the industry, which will in turn put your blog on the first few pages of a Google search.

From Education Adviser, vol. 27

Tip of the Day – Craft a Creative Sales Approach

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Creative SalesOn some level, most salespeople are the same. They call clients, pitch their products and services, cold-call prospects and, ultimately, try to close deals. Some do it better than others. And some simply live for the deal – doing everything they possibly can to get a client to agree to sign on the dotted line.

But what sets good salespeople apart from the rest? In a word, creativity. It’s the salesperson who calls with an original proposal, who offers a unique promotional idea, who creates an out-of-this-world brand for themselves that truly succeeds in the ad specialty and decorated apparel market.

Indeed, in today’s market, exceptional creativity may be the best way to do that. But does that mean you have to spend a fortune on outlandish exhibits or extravagant thank-you gifts for clients? Hardly. Here are two great case studies about companies that are using inexpensive, creative ways to grab client attention. 

Superhero Sales
Call The P.O.P Shop (asi/202900), a Geiger-owned company in Alpharetta, GA, and you’ll be greeted with this message: “Hello! Your signal has been reached by the marketing superheroes at The P.O.P. Shop. Do not leave your marketing needs to mere mortals.”

A soothing, Southern-accented voice on the company’s phone system prompts callers to dial the appropriate extension for departments like superhero sales or superhero customer service.Visitors to The P.O.P. Shop’s Web site are greeted by the company’s superhero family – El Deflecto, Creative Inferno, Flythang and others. Each one has a bio detailing his or her superpowers – a lead pencil for a fingertip in the case of Creative Inferno, for example. The seamlessness of how The P.O.P. Shop is branded – from the phone system to its superhero-based sales presentations – is a crucial selling technique, says Brian Beam, one of the company’s marketing superheroes. “We believe in the fact that if you can’t brand yourself, then how is the client going to trust you with their brand?” Beam asks. 
Rather than a standard voicemail system, Beam and his wife Sonya, another company superhero, who work mostly out of their home, thought a voicemail system could seriously elevate the degree to which they engage clients and prospects. “It almost makes talking to voicemail fun,” says Beam, rather than simply passing a caller to an extension through routine voice prompts.

The Beams create regular promotions for their own firm, in part to give clients a sense of how creative they are. In February, for example, they launched the “What Do You Love?” sweepstakes in which clients were asked to type in what they love – about anything – on the company’s Web site. One winner received a $200 iTunes gift certificate.

Responses include, “I love a slice of pizza in the morning” and, “I love Starbucks.” The first two days of the promotion brought in 39 new registrants to the company’s Web site and 28 new P.O.P. Shop followers on Facebook, which is linked to the What Do You Love? promotion.

Consistency in branding is crucial to creativity and sales success, says Steve Carroll, CEO of Lee DuBois Technologies, a sales consultancy in Ft. Myers, FL. The P.O.P. Shop’s heroes are professionally illustrated throughout an organized Web site and clever phone system, as well as in communication pieces. It’s gimmicky, but it works. Other decorators, Carroll cautions, may want to make sure that any theme they incorporate so pervasively throughout their business model doesn’t confuse prospects. The key to this kind of creative branding and sales strategy is to stick with it – make it a part of everything you do, and clients will come to expect it.

The Ultimate Drop-By
When Mike Beckman cold-calls, he doesn’t bother to phone ahead. He simply drops by with his “warm-call intro.” That amounts to an unusual direct-mail piece that Beckman, marketing strategist for Proforma-BPM (asi/491193) in Cumming, GA, hand-delivers to a select group of prospects.

A recent attention-grabber was a small cage built by Beckman with change inside. “This was in a box that had a question on the outside asking if the recipient was ‘Afraid of Change?’ ” he says. Inside was a card letting the recipient know that Proforma-BPM could help them find a new distributor – namely, Proforma-BPM.

On another occasion, Beckman dropped off a decorated gift box with a small clock inside and a card explaining that his company was giving prospects the “gift of time,” since the prospects, Proforma-BPM promised, would “save time by working with us,” he says.

Taking direct mail one step further, Beckman says it’s crucial sometimes to deliver mail himself rather than waiting for the post office to do it. “If you mail something, you have no idea when they’ll open it,” he says. “If you drop it off, they get a phone call from the front desk and they have to open it.”

This is a tactic Beckman relies on monthly, usually delivering original pieces to somewhere between five and 10 prospects. “These are people I’ve never met before,” he says, but they’re ones he’s targeting based upon a demographic he’s interested in working with or a type of company he’d like to do more business with.

After dropping off the cages of change to five prospects, Beckman landed two meetings, as well as a request to call back the following month. Two others never responded. But a response rate of more than 50% isn’t bad, he says – much better than a massive direct-mail campaign that would be far costlier.

When doing a drop off a mailer, Carroll suggests that decorators think carefully about how the package will be received by the prospect – not just physically, but also psychologically. “How do you want them to feel when they open up the box?” he asks.

The beauty of such drop-offs, if done right, is that they “avoid the ‘breathing brochure’ syndrome,” Carroll says. If what a decorator presents through direct mail or in person is essentially the same information found in a company brochure, marketing materials or a catalog, the prospect or client is likely to think, “I can read the brochure and I don’t need you,” he says. “That’s a breathing brochure” – a problem that makes a decorator obsolete. “You’ve got to go beyond that and do something special.”

From Stitches Embroidery Business Insights

Tip of the Day – Motivate Your Employees the Smart Way

Filed under: Uncategorized

Employee MotivationFirst, some bad news. Your top performers may be getting ready to jump ship. At least that’s what the results of a recent survey indicate. Right Management, a career consultancy, asked more than 900 workers in North America if they planned to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010. Sixty percent said “yes.” Another 20% indicated they would be updating their resumes and attending networking events “just in case” a better opportunity comes along.

Those numbers don’t surprise Michelle Smith, vice president of business development for O.C. Tanner, an incentive management company. “Many workers are feeling underappreciated with their leadership right now,” Smith says. “As the job market thaws, they’re going to go somewhere they feel more valued.”

One of the main source of workers’ discontent these days, Smith contends, is the fact that their companies didn’t spend as much time – or resources – focusing on employee recognition last year. “Unfortunately, too many businesses pulled back on incentivizing employees last year, and now businesses are going to feel the effect of that,” she says.

Now, some good news: If you make the effort now to connect with your salespeople and motivate them to succeed, you can gain their loyalty. The key is in retooling your recognition and rewards programs – immediately. You need to give them a reason to feel connected with your company other than a paycheck. That may have worked last year, but not now.

And, don’t fall into the trap of continuing to use the same motivation and rewards programs that you’ve always used, Smith warns. “Your business has changed in the last 18 months,” she says. “Make sure you update your recognition plan accordingly.”

Engage Employees Sooner Rather Than Later
Traditional incentives are long term, in the form of annual achievement awards or year-long sales incentives. But companies that aren’t finding ways to reward employees the moment they join the company are at risk of losing those employees, Smith warns.
“The first 90 days of a new employee’s job are the most vulnerable,” she says. “That’s an awkward time when the person is going to constantly ask himself, ‘Do I really enjoy this work? Does this company really care about me?’ If the answers are, ‘no,’ you’re dead in the water.”

For this reason, Smith says, many of her clients are focusing on on-boarding programs, where new hires are recognized early on for their achievements. Indeed, Margaret Dickinson, founder of a graphic design firm, gives new hires a welcome basket stocked with promo items featuring the company’s logo, including a pen set, a company mug and a notepad. Every month for the new hire’s first year (assuming good performance), she adds additional items to the employee’s desk. “It’s kind of a game to see what I’ll give next,” she says.

One recent month, Dickinson rewarded a new hire with a desk clock. The month before, it was a colorful mouse pad. “I also use this gift-giving sessions as a chance to check-in with the person,” she says. “I’ll say, ‘What are you working on?’ and ‘Are you doing the kind of work you expected?’ and ‘How can I help?’ Often, what results is a great conversation, which will help me learn more about what makes this person tick.”

Wells Fargo & Company recently completed a merger with Wachovia and is in the midst of developing a new recognition program for the 26,000 members of its technology and operations group. According to Lisa Massiello, group recognition manager, Wells Fargo also makes a point to check in with new hires several times within the first year. After their first year with the company, employees are acknowledged with a Wells Fargo pin or other token of appreciation.

Such programs are crucial, Smith says, especially at companies that are planning on ramping up their staffs this year. “It’s critical to make sure that everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction, right from the start,” she says.

From Stitches Embroider Business Insights

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