Sunday, October 27, 2013

Watching Football Can Help Develop Business!

In a few weeks it will be my oldest son’s last week playing college football. What I have I learned after 18 years of watching my oldest play football? Perhaps some of these tips would apply to your business. 

1.      Team sports teach the value and importance of how to work as a team in tandem with shared goals.
2.      The team relies on each individual to add their contribution to creating a winning game.
3.      Teams with a winning season stay focused on long term goals with good coaching and a shared commitment.
4.      A team is only as strong as its weakest link.
5.      A team only moves forward when they believe in the mission from the top down.
6.      Consistency is demonstrated in cumulative performance not in random occurrences.
7.      Talent needs to be nurtured and directed. 
8.      Every coaching style is not a fit for every player.
9.      Great coaches find what motivates their players and how to best use the skill sets among the players given or recruited to shape the play into a form of teamwork that will generate results.
10.  A strong coach sets a tone and demonstrates consistent actions to reinforce their message; one where only teamwork with a united focus will be tolerated.
11.   When coaches build trust among the team for acknowledging each members contribution, that coach is in turn creating an environment of respect.
12.  A motivated player or coach can shake off the negativity of fans and move past set backs.
13.  Visualization on a desired goal keeps competitive players learning, developing, adapting and changing. 

As a business owner, I can relate to the position of the player or the coach on any given day. Staying focused on long term goals when faced with short term set backs can be a challenge; especially when it’s tied to income. However, like a bad game or a bad play the larger message learned is –“move on” and “don’t let that set back define you or own you”. 

Seeking ways to adapt ones business model to the strengths of their team and learning from the weakest moments is the secret weapon gained by the entrepreneur.  Whether a business is a small brand in the making or a large brand known nationally, shared ideas and goals are essential to a successful year. As companies look toward the last quarter, most likely they will be looking internally at their strengths and weaknesses for answers to help shape that last drive for 2013 towards profits. 

As I read business journals and publications related to sales, leadership, and client relationships, I’m always looking for the take away that resonated with me for reflection, focus and change; coaching tips that both fit my style and push my comfort zone. 

What’s the best take away you’ve had in recent weeks?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Can You Put A Whale Fit In A Goldfish Bowl?

Really you have to ask? The answer of course is no; but how many times does a client ask us to include too much information in an imprint area; all the time.
You’ve selected the pieces, but do they work with your imprint?
The imprint area is important to a promotional item, so it’s important not to crowd the space. The typical pen imprint size is 1 ½ w x 11/16 h, while the information wraps on the barrel, which example is easier to read?

A legible logo is critical to your branding, therefore understanding basic principles and elements of design you learned back in grade school are critical to success. Whether your logo is based on words, includes an image with the text or tells a story with the imagery behind the name; there are some basic guidelines for designing a logo initially or in considering a re-branding. 

Line– Consider the outcome you are seeking with font selections. The font selection helps to set a mood or tone for the design concept. For example, curving lines imply motion or energy while horizontal lines are restful and stable. When selecting a font, keep in mind that small thin lines can get lost or fill in smaller imprint areas. Ask your graphic designer to show you how your logo will look at small and large imprint area sizes. If you are not sure, ask your promotional consultant to send you some common imprint areas to help determine what will fit. Selecting a standard font helps if the vectored, EPS files are not easily accessible to all of your brand representatives to share for imprinting. 

Shape– Geometric shapes tend to represent order and balance while organic free flowing shapes invite play and creativity. Simple shapes are “clean” and straight forward; making the shape easier to reduce in smaller areas. Make sure that your logo will work in square imprint areas, allowing for stacking in longer names or dropping the tagline; many imprint areas have a square shape and will not allow for a wrap to stretch the imprint area to a larger horizontal. 

Color– The colors you select create impressions for your company. Selecting warm colors like red, orange and yellow are intense, bold statements while cool colors such as purple, blue and green provide calm, restful suggestions. Logos that have shading look great on paper printing, but can add more challenges, cost and time for imprinting on promotional pieces. Selecting PMS colors that are popular or standard imprint colors can save on imprint set up costs. Many promotional pieces come in standard PMS colors as well to allow for more imprinting options for your brand. 

Value– When selecting an imprint color, make sure your brand guide allows for a standard one color default such as black or white in one color for printing quickly on rush orders or to provide more contrast to the color of the item selected.  Logos with shading or gradients to simulate a 3 dimensional appearance look great on paper, but will not work for many types of standard imprinting, silkscreen or embroidery.

A strong logo is a practical graphic that is appealing, memorable, easy to recognize and conveys your intended message. Your logo represents your company’s name, while your brand is your company’s products, services and benefits identified by your chosen logo design. Make sure you do not crowd the space of your imprint area. The key is to provide your brand on a useful promotional piece that your target market will interact with on numerous occasions creating a lasting advertising space for your brand. Adding too much content will make it difficult to focus on the brand.

However just like the AT& T commercial with the kids responding to questions- you want more, more, more right? When can you add more content? Add content when you have a larger imprint area!
What types of items have a larger imprint area?

·         Drink ware that allows for a wrap
·         Bags
·         T-shirts
·         Stadium cushions
·         Coasters

When you have the space for a whale of an idea, consider adding some fun slogans to capture your message with the bag- add the cheese please. By using often trite plays on words, you’re able to reinforce your message related to service or benefits. For example a bag might imply themes such as:

  • Bag more…
  • Net more…..
  • Hold more….
  • Fulfill ….
  • Load up on….
  • Let us carry you to….

Now that you have some brand tips for guidance, just ask us for a whale of an idea the next time you want more content for your branding.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top Secret Way to Generate More Referrals

Are your employees promoting their employer, connecting with potential new hires and generating referrals? If you answered no, you may need to craft a referral program. By utilizing your staff as a brand builder you’ve empowered a top secret approach to generate growth! When a company or organization grows, so do the benefits for that employee. However, often non profits and small businesses are guilty of not promoting their brand because they are focused on maximizing dollars. Branding is critical for everyone in every organization, regardless of the size. 

Consider for a moment your perception of a company that displays print rich images and branding at the point of reception. Companies that layer brand colors and logos throughout the building as well as with the apparel of employees are promoting the brand. In your virtual moment, does the conference room contain branding on the walls, drink ware and meeting materials? Think about it, does a well dressed person usually wear designer shoes with a Target purse? In other words, perceived or real an organization or business is seeking to provide the feeling of a larger well thought out brand from head to toe.

Stay top of mind with employees by adding branding to their everyday routine

Select functional pieces for your industry and work environment. Are you on a budget? Who isn’t? However that does not mean you can not have some fun! 

·         Perhaps branded silicone wristbands might remind employees of referral rewards program.
·         New hires might receive a company branded welcome kit with a bag, pen, journal and travel mug.
·         Make goals and programs intriguing to employees. Include a hand written message from the owner or CEO at their desk on Monday morning.
·         Strengthen your message with strong visual images, a pyramid is seen as solid structure while a file box is seen as work; what do you think of when you see a metal briefcase? Security or top secret documents? What if you made the job of getting referrals part of a top secret mission just for employees?
·         Use chalkboard mugs strategically placed as a way to provide clues or incentives to the “next step” in the referral process.
·         Does your service fit your customers like a glove? Perhaps to kick off the campaign by providing each employee a pair of gloves to remind them about key ways your service fits your customers. Insert the key points inside the gloves for employees to absorb and post at their desk. They can then keep the gloves as a gift and reminder of the program.

Think head to toe…inside and out, what small changes can you make to add more revenue to your business by make intentional choices to build your referrals from the inside out. Have a strategy that has worked well for your company? Share it on our blog.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Are You Black Or Blue?

Teaching art at the elementary level requires quick change of grade levels in a matter of minutes, therefore I always kept a basket on the table with scissors, a sharpie, pencil and a crayon because usually one of those things would be needed for class. My K-1 kids were always asking “what I can use to write my name on the back of my paper? Labeling the paper with a specific “tool” was not a reason to impose a “rule” so I’d often reply “as long as I can read it, and it’s on the back of your paper-make yourself happy.”

Writing instruments top the list every year for the most kept and useful promotional piece. According to Advertising Specialty Institutes’ annual global research for 2012, 50% of consumers have a branded writing instrument. Women are more likely to own a branded piece at 52% edging out men. While writing instruments performed high across all age brackets, those 55 and older had the most regard for receiving a writing instrument coming in at 56%.

Given all of the choices for promotional writing instruments I have at my fingertips, I too have my favorites, but tend to rotate among several. What do I prefer? For me a pen just needs to write smoothly and be easy to hold. I prefer a wider body without a grip, sleek color combinations like the ones with a contrasting trim pop. My retractable sharpies are great, they are bold and the click to apply over removing the cap makes work easy. Dual functions such as highlighters, USB combo’s or the new stylus tips are very hot with our clients; also the wax highlighters because the ink does not dry out. Clearly choice is important.

However, what mystifies me is debate over black versus blue ink. We have some clients in professions like law that prefer blue ink because it’s easier to identify the original document over the copy signed in blue ink. However many of my clients worry about the color of the ink on 1,000 pens that they plan to give away! We’ve had to start searching again based on ink color for a low cost mass distribution.  I’ve asked before, “What if 900 of the folks you are giving this pen to prefer the black ink, when you really want the ink to be blue? In response I usually hear “but I prefer blue and I think other people do too.” I recently asked some of our face book friends to weigh on this issue; here are some of their replies:

Jim says: “Black for everything except... Blue for letter (hand written notes) writing... Red for correcting...”

Bekki said: “Business - blue - so I know what is original. Personally- anything color for fun, not black.”

Who won? No one…for every black ink preference there was a vote for blue to counter.

Whether you like black or blue ink, rest assured there are choices in gels, roller balls and ball point tips. Some suppliers offer options for re-fill cartridges even on their most economical pens. Do you have a favorite name brand? We probably carry it; just ask. While there are many suppliers that offer pens, we have selected a few core groups that focus on just writing instruments or offer well known name brand pieces associated with quality. Why? Think about it if all you focus on is a writing instrument one would tend to think that supplier has identified the most requested and appreciated aspects for quality, construction, color, design and price at every price point.

As we move into the holidays, pens will be given as signature executive pieces by some of our clients. Given the statistics provided by ASI, a pen will continue to be a smart choice for branded gifts. However, keep in mind that while I will collaborate with you to align with your goals and objectives for writing instruments, may never understand why the ink color matters. Keep the debates going by replying to this blog post! I am enjoying your responses and collecting your data for client feedback; but beware my raw notes might be in crayon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Volunteering: What’s In It for Your Business?

Volunteering might be the best or the worst thing you’ve ever done for your business because it might be building or destroying your brand simultaneously.

Have you ever heard the saying “give a busy person something to do and it will get done”? I’ve been volunteering as long as I can remember; in my youth and now in my professional life. Volunteering as an adult has a different set of challenges and expectations that are not always simple or “neat”. Depending on who you ask, you’d find differing opinions on whether volunteering is an asset or a distraction; for me it depends on what you hope to gain.

Perhaps carving out time away from work when hits ones pocketbook or one’s perceived ability to get ahead at work is what keeps some individuals from volunteering? However, as a “career volunteer” I’ve learned that the benefits long out way the sacrifices volunteers make when creatively sharing their most valued asset; time.

Still a non-believer, how about some examples?

  1. Have you ever hired or recommended an individual for employment based on your knowledge of how engaged they were as a volunteer?

I’ve recommended or hired folks based on my perceptions of their engagement as a volunteer. When we started the business, I reached out to a variety of contacts, many of which were folks I’d known only as a volunteer.  My response was often, “O, I know how hard you will work for free, so I have no problem recommending you to someone that might need your services”.

  1. Has there been a time when you could connect a client to an organization, agency or business that would benefit their goals and objectives as a result of someone you’d met via a civic group or other type of non profit organization?

‘Ya know… that’s called NETWORKING- when you can connect dots, you add value to your contacts. How often do you hear the phrase, “call Jane, she knows everyone.” Networking is still alive and thriving in organizations like local chambers of commerce and civic clubs because those are groups that share an interest in relationships and seek ways to cultivate strong roots within their community.

  1. What about “sneaky learning”?

As a teacher I deemed sneaky learning as the process of acquiring knowledge when you did not even plan to “learn”. Over the years I’ve heard rotary speakers on a variety of topics. By listening to these speakers, I’ve unintentionally left meetings a little smarter about my local and global community. Gathering different and relevant perspectives helps to focus ones vision and direction; it might even make them a more creative problem solver. Recently I was tasked with a project at work that initially seemed overwhelming, but when I thought the message this organization was seeking to define in a product I realized their message had been conveyed by several speakers I’d heard in the past year. My creativity kicked in, easily finding products that conveyed their message.

  1. Brand Ambassadors- for all of those that engage or do not engage as a volunteer they are unintentionally defining the brand of the business they represent. Consider that volunteering might be the best or the worst thing you’ve ever done for your business because it might be building or destroying your company brand simultaneously.

Thursday was the annual Savor Apex event, a member benefit that showcases some of the fine choices we have for culinary delights within the Apex Chamber. I’d been asked to share my perspective about the chamber board responsibilities with a prospective new board member. Beyond the expected discussion about the investment of time away from business, I found myself providing a compelling example of business branding.

Immediately I referenced a board member from EMC standing next to me, stating that when I think of large business interest in Apex I think of businesses like EMC. Why? I’ve served on the chamber board, Apex HS AOIT board, and the education committee for years with individuals from this company. The engagement of these individuals has left me with a positive view of EMC as a business supporting their community. Each of these employees has gone to bat for community projects and support for business development; EMC in turn has created time in their schedule to be flexible and accommodate time away from work. Additionally EMC has valued the perspective gained by their employees for the allocation of resources in their business community; such as increasing donations to our annual Book Bag Bonanza.

Many large, mid size and small businesses in Apex have a corporate culture that is supportive of a variety of community projects. By adding a personal story to the face of a business, those businesses that are engaged in their community with a strong base of volunteers will stay top of mind thus creating a strong brand identity for their business. In turn, those individual volunteers will build trust within the community. So, before you pass on an opportunity to volunteer, think about the trust and value another individual sees for your time and talents when asking you to become an active voice within the business community; say YES! You might be surprised what you learn in the process.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is "America’s Team" A Very Large Promotional Product?

Our family is a lover of America’s team, the Cowboys. Jerry Jones has worked out a deal to rename Dallas Stadium, the AT& T stadium, which at a recent dinner table discussion prompted me to point out that the stadium was a really large promotional piece with prime real estate for AT& T’s brand. Events in this venue will carry their title sponsor name; sports casters will use their name repeatedly during broadcasts. At 49 I can remember the local hometown stadium was only referred to by the school name or perhaps a beloved coach that died and the community wanted to honor their memory. Like drinking from garden hoses, we also attended many events with blank products! Shame on us! Think about the events you attend now, branding opportunities thrive to offset costs or for fundraising dollars.

However, the concept of branding products is hardly a new idea. When I first started my journey to become a Certified Advertising Specialist (CAS) I was introduced to a story describing how creativity and opportunity created invention. The story goes that a printer in the late 1800's, took a break from the press to watch some school kids on their way to school. He noticed that the kids books would fall in the dust or mud. In the corner of his print shop he saw a burlap sac and thought, if the student had a sack for his books they would not get dirty. He printed the name of the business next to him, Smith’s Shoes and took it over to suggest that Mr. Smith buy bags to give to the students to help the students books stay in good condition. In turn he suggested that when they needed shoes, their family would think of him! There were also early examples of how commemorative coins and collectibles were used as brand advertising. If you’re not really sure how effective those branding efforts were for early companies, watch a Pawn Stars episode or consider what you know about the brand Coca Cola.

Did you also know that when Coca Cola started branding their new recipe to the public in the late 1800’s they were one of the first companies to use promotional product branding, creating an experience by serving products on shiny serving trays? Coca Cola’s relationship to promotional products has created a major brand. The brand alone that is worth over 68 billion dollars.   Now that is ROI!

Is promotional marketing cost effective?

According to survey data from ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute) In the US the average cost per impression of a production product is half a cent! $0.005!

I’m sure number crunchers have projected the number of impressions viewers at Dallas Stadium/AT& T stadium will average per month or year; crossing that information with print advertising bearing their name or the amount of times the name will be used in broadcasting. Most certainly part of AT&T’s strategy will include how promotional pieces using their logo will work with visitors to the various events in their venue space.

Are you skeptical about results?

Keep in mind from that from the ASI survey it was determined that 60% of respondents indicated that they have done business with an advertiser AFTER receiving an item; creating a change in behavior! Shaping consumer behavior requires that an advertising campaign affects the recipient. Promotional pieces have a long term exposure to the recipient when placed in functional spaces of the recipient’s daily routine whether that is personal, travel, office or home.

The studies year after year show that recipients like free products and those products are changing opinions. In fact,
41% of respondents have a MORE favorable opinion of an advertiser after receiving a promotional product. 

Most recipients keep promotional items longer than 7 months a year.

What’s on your desk, in your kitchen or in your bathroom drawer right now? Last time we surveyed our own clients about their office space, most partners replied that they owned an average of 20-35 items within their easy reach of their desk. The “winner” had 43 products, most kept over 2 years.

Like it or not, the holidays are coming and preparing your brand to hold prime real estate is important. Ask yourself, what do you do to acquire and retain your most loyal clients, employees and referral partners?  When was the last time they got a card, a call, a visit or a gift from you? Would you turn away someone bearing gifts? Right now is the right time to take a look at branding your “stadium space” to retain and grow your brand. If your currently one of our clients make sure to RSVP for our annual holiday showcase, or if you’re not…ask us to share the details for this opportunity to learn more about securing you’re “top venue space”.