Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Four Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

Branded products are everywhere: featured in movies, professional sports, and even on your favorite jacket or thumb drive.


These products bring pleasure and familiarity while sending a message of brand support to friends and casual observers. And these ideas carry substantial weight.


Another Washington First


The first known example of distributing promotional products was in 1789.


Commemorative buttons, created to celebrate George Washington's inauguration, featured a crisp, stamped profile of Washington and the Latin phrase "Pater PatriƦ," meaning "Father of his Country."


Sported by patriotic Americans, the buttons celebrated American democracy and support for the first president. The passion behind this message continues to live on: in February of 2018, one of the inaugural buttons was auctioned for $225,000!


The Gift That Keeps On Giving


Washington's buttons fueled momentum, and your customers are wired to respond to promotional products too.


Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years! If those stats don't speak for themselves, here are four reasons that branded merchandise will work for businesses of any size:


1. Free Stuff Grabs Attention.


Like candy at a parade, free stuff draws people.


Promotional gifts catch their eye and make them wonder what the hype is about. When you give gifts, people are attracted to you. Whether its curiosity, playful interest, or eye-catching designs, giveaways generate interest and ignite conversation.


2. Product Giveaways Pave Pathways for Loyalty.


Once you have their attention, you open the door for further interaction.


This happens, in part, as new customers warm in their perception of your brand. According to Tourism Consumer Insights, 52% of those who receive your product are more likely to think highly of both you and your business. As affinity increases, so does their interest in your business, because it's human nature to want to give back to someone who has given to us.


In a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study, 85% of consumers who received a promo product said they ultimately did business with the advertiser.


3. Brand Recognition Peaks Through Repeat Exposure.


What is the ultimate goal of branded products? To engage and influence buyers.


Tangible, useful products offer your business endless opportunities to distinguish itself and to do it repeatedly! According to PPAI, 73 percent of those who receive a promo product said they used it at least once a week.


Offering free items to consumers is an incredible marketing tactic that will keep your company on their minds anytime your product is in use.


4. Giveaways Extend the Life of your Message.


How long does it take you to forget a text message or delete an e-mail? Seconds.


But tangible products (especially stylish or fun items) are much harder to toss aside. As you weigh your best product option, consider the interests and needs of your target customers and create the kind of products they'll actually want. If 75% of your prospects use public transportation, tasteful branded umbrellas might become a constant companion during their morning commute.


People love stuff. It's just a fact. And while only 28 percent of people are able to recall a TV ad, 57 percent are typically able to recall an advertiser on a mug.


While promotional pieces bring upfront expense, the longevity and brand recognition they create is an investment that keeps on giving.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

Replace Chaos with Focus


Lost productivity costs companies millions each year.


While it is hard to quantify exactly how much is lost, certainly distraction alone prevents daily peak performance. Besides hunger, sleepiness, bodily functions, and simple brain fatigue, productivity research shows that 48% of employees waste time surfing the web (including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), 33% lose work time socializing with co-workers, and 49% are managing personal calls, texts, and e-mails.


It's true: time is money. But time is more easily lost than dollars, so how can you push yourself or your team to be more focused? Maybe you want to spend your time wisely, but find yourself running in circles or falling short each day. How can you shift from being "busy" to being more effective?


By re-focusing on one thing: purpose.


Your purpose is more than what you do while you're checking e-mail. It's more than what you do while compiling reports or sitting in meetings. These activities may be part of your job, but they don't define your role or your unique identity. Every person is driven by something. Often, we are driven by deadline pressure, interruptions from co-workers, or by an unexpected project delay. But what would it look like to focus on a more purposeful vision?


Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership


Purposeful leadership requires we take a step back, focusing on our unique identity and skill set so these aren't drowned out by the frantic activity of the day.


Do you long to overcome chaos? Here are three steps to organizing your outlook in a way that maximizes your time, priorities, and productivity:


1. Develop goals around your purpose.


If you were to define your top work priority, what would it be? To give vision? To provide team leadership? To design or create?


Before you can effectively use your time, you need to clarify the most important role you play. Start with your unique purpose and draft at least three goals that would help you fulfill your primary purpose. If your job is to work with people but you spend most of your time answering e-mails, maybe a change is needed. Set goals that are specific, measurable, and that put feet to your purpose.


2. Sharpen focus around your goals.


How well do these goals match your weekly tasks? Many people have goals, but do these goals translate into functional realities?


To strategize your time, make a master list of tasks that need accomplishing, then group together tasks in specific categories and rank these categories by importance. Low-level categories could be delegated, dropped, or restructured. As you brainstorm, involve your spouse, mentor, or co-workers. Sometimes it's hard to see life through an honest, critical lens without encouragement from others.


3. Build your schedule around these priorities.


Intentional scheduling is like budgeting: it means telling your time where you want it to go (instead of asking your time where it went!).


Now that you've ranked your categories, assign the top activities to your most productive, interrupted blocks of time. Use your less productive times (late day, "filler" slots between meetings) to address lower priority categories.


Scheduling is where the rubber meets the road – where you close doors and ask for zero interruptions, where you stop doing one task and go on to another (even when it hurts), and where you refuse to let other people determine what is important every day. Your schedule is ground zero for living up to your purpose, so take it seriously and you'll experience greater satisfaction in the way you spend time each week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Start Mouth-Watering Conversations Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Karen Weber-Mendham was a part-time librarian and mother of three when she turned her family's propensity for garlic cheesy bread into a cool million.


This northern Wisconsin family often ordered cheesy bread while waiting on pizza. Weber-Mendham said the kids' appetizer passion was so strong "they would arm-wrestle each other for a piece!"  


Cheesy fever inspired the family to enter the 2013 Lay's potato chip competition, "Do Us a Flavor," challenging customers to create a new chip flavor to hit store shelves that year. Lays was swamped with 3.8 million submissions as the contest winner was given the better of two options: $1 million or 1% of the flavor's net sales over a year. Beyond fame and fortune, Weber-Mendham was given the opportunity to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was flown to Los Angeles for the big reveal with Lay's endorsement celebrity Eva Longoria.


"Eva was so genuine and happy for me when I won," Weber-Mendham said. And yes, "She's as beautiful in person as she looks on TV."


Catalysts for a Great Conversation


What was Lays up to in this fun-loving campaign?


Were they desperate for creative ideas? Hungry for the inspiration only average citizens could bring? Or did they strike gold by tapping into a conversation with everyday Americans?


Word-of-mouth promotion has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing, tagged "the original social media." According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, and trusted referrals are most likely to drive sales for your company. But in an American Marketing Association survey, 64% of marketing executives say that, though they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, only 6% have mastered it.


As you seek to generate good gossip about your company, here are three action points to keep in mind:


Engage


Make a commitment to listen.


What would that truly look like in your context? Allow your customers' space to be heard and to contribute to the company as a whole. Engage with clients through e-mail surveys, online question and answer boards, social media service options, or by highlighting customer success in your printed newsletters. When customers are heard, they feel connected and valued.


Encourage  


Allow people reasons or avenues to talk to each other or to talk about you.


Like a common chalkboard with a fun question in your favorite coffee shop, invite clients into the conversation and give them tools to chat. Encourage people to talk about your services and products with you and with others by creating helpful, shareable content, including icons to your favorite apps that will make it easy for your fans to spread your name around!


Equip


Give your fan base tools to become brand advocates.


Let them know their opinions are important and look for fun ways to spread the word. To create buzz around the Ford Fiesta, Ford gave away a number of cars and asked ambassador "influencers" to test drive and share their experiences.


During "Do Us a Flavor," Lays received over 1.4 million Facebook and Twitter votes, one of its biggest marketing campaigns ever. While you may not give away a car, give away tools to get your fans advocating: ask clients to pass coupons to five of their friends, to give you an online review, or be part of a fun selfie or Snapchat contest to boost your reputation.


Get the conversation started and pave the way for new growth!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact (Part 2)

Connor's Collision Center of Richmond, Virginia, was looking for a way to build a charitable culture in their business, so they launched the "Recycled Rides" program and began donating rehabbed vehicles to individuals nominated by the community.


In part 1 of this series, we explored the story of one changed life (Georgette Carter) and the way businesses are strengthened through innovative corporate giving.


What about your business?


Maybe you can't rehab cars, but every company can give back in some way! That starts with a desire to grow in generosity and a plan to carry that out. Unfortunately, some business owners pull back from giving because they find themselves strained by the number of needs or a plethora of last-minute requests. To grow in giving, they need a narrowed support focus to help them move ahead.


Identify Brand-Extending Areas of Support


Smaller companies may find it helpful to develop target giving priorities that relate to their mission or their brand.


These funding priorities can be publicized through an application process which sifts out casual candidates and allows employees managing requests to process them in a scheduled, thoughtful manner. As you narrow your giving focus (i.e. schools, sustainable community solutions), key in on priorities that are close at heart and well-suited for both your brand and your community.


Greg O'Neill, co-owner of four Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine shops in Chicago, said this strategic giving shift was key for their company:


"Small businesses get inundated [with requests] and it's really hard to say no. We're a bulls-eye for anyone and everyone looking for donation, sponsorship, philanthropy and giving of any kind. A lot of businesses say yes, yes, yes and give until it hurts."


O'Neill's team implemented an application process, identified sustainable agriculture and feeding programs as a funding priority, and scheduled key deadlines for recipients. As a result, the number of requests declined and the number of meaningful partnerships increased.


"We tend to do fewer one-off donations now," O'Neill says, "and instead we create more relationships."


If your company chooses to donate to causes outside key funding priorities, there are additional strategies to make your contribution stretch farther than the gift itself:



  • Offer coupons for high-dollar products or services that don't cost much to your company
  • Consider in-kind gifts and allow employees to use workday hours to participate
  • Rather than just giving cash, reach out to your best sales rep. Buy a case of one good item from them and donate it to the event or cause
  • Host a yearly contest where your community or employees can submit nominations for someone needing a hand. Document the results and include them in your newsletter or company Christmas card to spread the holiday cheer!

As you seek to give strategically, here are four questions to consider:


1. What brand extending areas will you support?


2. How can you publicize your giving priorities in a way that structures the giving process and streamlines requests?


3. How can you affirm employees who go the extra mile to give beyond the walls of your office?


4. How can your compassion be print-recognized (i.e. banners or photo murals) to make it a more mutually beneficial partnership?


Your charitable efforts may be humble, but they are unique to you and they make a tangible difference in your community. While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative community support begins with your business!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact (Part 1)

The winter of 2013 was a hard one for Georgette Carter.


As a single mom raising two young boys while she cared for a father with dementia, money was very tight. Then, she totaled her car and found her resources – and her hope – were nearly gone. That is, until a 1996 blue Ford Contour arrived from the Connor Brother Collisions "Recycled Rides" program.


Conner Brothers of Richmond, VA, overhauls donated cars and awards them to people who have been nominated by community members. Carter said her heart was rehabilitated almost more than the car she received:


"It turned my life around. I can get to my job on time, and I don't have to maneuver to get my child out of daycare. I'll never take that for granted again."


Getting Others Involved


Small businesses like Conner Brothers are creating innovative giving models that not only impact people but strengthen the business and the character of the companies themselves.


Kevin Conner said his company donated its first car and was looking to extend the "Recycled Rides" program to three other locations, but they had some pushback in the process. Some objected to giving away freebies when they were working so hard to earn a living themselves. But Conner says this mentality changed when employees got physically involved because compassion comes from being part of an experience instead of merely giving a donation:


"I got them involved in actually giving the cars away, handing over the keys," Conner says. "Now the guys at the shop call me and ask, 'When is our next car?' It would be easy to give money or a service here or there, but it's the teamwork behind the program that creates an amazing atmosphere for a successful company."


The car giveaways have become such a cornerstone for Conner Brothers that the program helps define the type of employees the company wants.


"Giving back is a huge part of our company," Conner says. "I challenge the guys every day to give back in some way, to give customers more than they expect. People remember that."  


Giving That "Changes" Lives


Another giving strategy comes from literal pocket change, as givers round up or down for charity.


For example, the ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for military appreciation and human rights campaigns. More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in the first two months!


Grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and retailers have also invited customers to donate change to worthy causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, small businesses have challenged staff members to round down their net pay to the nearest dollar (or tenth dollar) and give the difference to charity. While painless or even unnoticed, these small donations add up to a collective impact with heartfelt results.


Whether your employees give financially, volunteer together, or embrace a community partnership project, innovative giving helps your business to:



  • Stand out from competitors or set itself apart in the community
  • Make matching donations alongside employee giving to multiply impact
  • Use positive feedback from supported causes to provide content for print and digital marketing
  • Increase team unity as employees give toward a common cause

While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative giving strategies begin with small business. Join us for part two of this series to gain more inspiration for a culture of charity that will strengthen your business.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Color Combinations that Tax the Brain

Easy on the Eye


Humans are creative beings, and one of our favorite ways to express ourselves is through words.


Words can bring sweetness to the soul, arouse dormant hunger, or give voice to beauty in the world.


That's why names are such serious business. How much thought do we give to naming a pet? Or a child? Beautiful names can bring a charming nostalgia or an air of sophistication to the bearer.


But while some names are sweet on the ear, they don't translate well for the eye, causing potentially years of frustration for your grade-schooler (or your veterinarian!).


Here are five names that are fun for the ear but a nightmare for the eye:


    Eulalia (Yu-LAY-Lia), like the mayor's wife in The Music Man


    Azaiah (Az-EYE-ah), which has rocketed in popularity since 2000


    Grigoriy (Grig-OR-y), a Russian variant of Gregory, meaning "vigilant or watchful"


    Bludeuwedd (Bloo-da-e-wedd), referenced in Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, a Welsh name meaning "face of flowers"


    Aelwen (Eisel-wen), originating in England, with versions of the name in J.R.R. Tolkien's literature


Color Combinations that Tax the Brain


Some things are beautiful in concept but difficult in reality.


Similarly, certain images or color combinations are challenging for your eyes as well!


Have you ever seen a website that seems to chafe your eyeballs? A fabric pattern that makes you intrinsically recoil? This is actually not just a "tacky" color combination, it is a brain hijack: your brain gets misled into viewing these colors in 3D. Some colors appear to recede, while others float forward.  


For example, the combination of blue and red can be very difficult for the eye to process. One color may jump out while the other appears buried or muted. This effect, referred to as chromostereopsis, was first noted by Goethe in his Farbenlehre (Theory of Colours).


Goethe recognized blue as a receding color and yellow/red as a protruding or dominant force, arguing that, "like we see the high sky, the faraway mountains, as blue, in the same way, a blue field (also) seems to recede." This phenomenon explains the visual science behind how we perceive colors and objects and is extremely important when you consider layouts and color combinations for print.


Some Important Color Takeaways


As you choose color combinations, here are some chromostereopsis design takeaways to consider:


  • Avoid putting blue and red (or green and red) near each other on a page or screen.
  • Avoid putting blue or green text on a red background (or red/green text on a blue background).
  • If the color combinations you're using seem obnoxious, adjust the hue or filters to mute more jarring pure tones. 
  • Separate contrasting colors, either spatially or semantically (like using lines or charts to divide them). This will prevent viewers from having to pay attention to items of both colors at the same time. 
  • If you want to use chromostereopsis to your advantage, try using a jarring color combination in the background with a contrasting color on top (like white text on a black and red background, as we see here).

When the dynamics of good design are utilized, viewers will look at your images longer and perceive your ideas more clearly. So, stretch your designs but don't strain their brains!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Customize Printed Mailings to Maximize Your Impact

One of the best ways that brands can engage their customers is by making people feel valued and unique.


Brands that are able to provide their customers with this feeling of connection are going to be one step closer to creating true advocates for their brand. Perhaps one of the best ways that modern organizations can offer a customized experience is through meaningful personalization -- far beyond the "Dear Friend" found in some mass mailings.


See how businesses are using personalization in their printed materials to create an experience that customers will appreciate and remember. 


Tailored Offers Drive Traffic


Grocery stores are able to effectively track a massive number of items and customers, including when and where they purchased specific products.


While your business may not be quite that complex, you can certainly track in a more simplistic way in order to offer timely and meaningful coupons to your customers. For instance, offering a discount card tied to someone's phone number allows you to discover which days of the week they are coming to see you and how often. Upsell your services by providing discounts on off-days when they may not visit or to shorten the time between services. This strategy works especially well for service-based businesses such as hair and nail salons. 


Treating People Like Family


If you are able to capture additional information about your customers such as the age of children, this allows you a greater opportunity to customize your message.


Knowing the general age of your customers or whether they're empty-nesters, young parents, or an older retired couple provides you with the information that you need to create offers that are more compelling. One example would be a restaurant whose tables are nearly empty on a Wednesday night. Sending information to young families that Kids Eat Free on Wednesdays is likely to bring in a wealth of new business on that evening and keep your tables full. 


Move-In Special


There are many businesses that thrive on new families moving into the area -- from retail establishments to grocery stores and everything in between.


Consider working with a few complimentary businesses in your region to create a move-in special: a package of offerings that can be mailed to families just as they move into the area. These hot new potential customers have not yet formed an opinion of the area and will need to create new shopping patterns. If your offer comes at the perfect time as they're moving in and purchasing new products for their home, they are likely to continue visiting your establishment over the years. 


There are many different ways that your business can take advantage of a compelling, personalized offer in print.