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You’ve Got Mail (or Do You?)!

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Remember that audio prompt from the early days of AOL? Boy, how things have changed…and how e-communications have inundated the marketing mix. And it’s not just email anymore. It’s Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of social media.

But for now, at least, email still seems to reign. Not fully great or remotely tangible, yet it remains a viable advertising option…uh, somewhat.

Email is fast, cheap, and easy. Heck, in per-addressee cost, you can blast out all sorts of messaging for 1/10th a penny on the dollar, compared with traditional direct mail promotion costs.

Does it work, though? And do its social media cousins work for your business?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on way too much to detail here (e.g., market, product, offer, audience, locations, et al.).

The thing is though, where’s the memorability? And more on that, where’s the “openability”?

Think about the latter.

How many emails do you get each day that if they don’t automatically go to your Junk or Spam folder you then delete without reading? If you’re like me, the answer is plenty.

Yet if you’re like too many advertisers, you don’t see the disconnect when you look at how to promote your product or business. You generally ignore all the unsolicited e-come-ons that try to cram your Inbox, but you often turn to using the same kind of uninvited emails to advertise your offerings. Do as I say, not as I do?

This then leads us to tangible advertising…and the programs that can and do make them work. And that raises the issue of “surprise” and, more importantly, “curiosity.”

Be honest here. Are you ever surprised to receive some e-pitch? And are you ever curious enough to open the email or, even worse, click on some embedded link (yep, the fear of being hacked cannot be downplayed)?

Now what if snail-mail (or FedEx or UPS) delivers an envelope or box that obviously contains something dimensional? Do you “delete” it into the circular file? Or do you open it, if only to see what the heck is inside?

And if you do open it – like the average person most certainly will – do you then toss the enclosed item in the trash bin? Or do you keep it, whether or not you care diddly about the offer, pitch, etc.?

Chances are that you keep it, even if the promo item is stupid-laughable. But you still keep it, and therein enters “memorability” for the advertiser…and memorability that derives from the openability of the mailing.

Direct marketing experts will tell you that the #1 challenge in any direct mail promotion is to get the target to open the mailer. A dimensional marketing program can get those mailings opened and, yes, remembered.

Every day 24/7, you’ve got email. Ditto for your customers and prospects, and ditto for the ease of hitting .

But an actual physical envelope that has something “lumpy” inside? Would you trash it without opening the package? Would your targets do likewise with this new-is-old-is-new-again version of “You’ve got mail”?

You Don’t Like It?

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Advertising is not an exact science. The industry loves to coin terms and phrases that make it appear to be such, but that’s just part of the ad biz’s perpetual hype and ongoing effort to make marketing seem like it’s not a crap shoot.

Sorry, ad folks, but that’s the truth. All the research and data and focus groups and theories and more can never guarantee a successful campaign. The best you can hope for is putting the best odds in your favor. But even so, the chances are that your initial roll-out may come up snake eyes.

That said, then, one huge gamble that too many ad campaigns risk is not “playing” from the target’s side of the desk. Concepts are approved or disapproved on the basis of personal proclivities and propensities and not on whether they would appeal to the intended audience.

Years ago, I was part of a creative team that was charged with developing a campaign to promote a new subsidiary of an international electronic products distributor. At one point during the project, a vice president criticized the colors we’d chosen, saying he wanted the main color to be purple.

Experience and preliminary talks with our target channel audience told us that purple would not work, but he was adamant. And why? Because purple was his wife’s favorite color. So purple it was.

When the first pieces of sales literature hit the channel, the reaction was a resounding “YUCK!” All the printed materials were quickly recalled, the project was killed, and the “purple” vice president took an early retirement.

So what does this have to do with the headline of this article?

Many decision makers will look at promotional products that are recommended for a program and say they don’t like them. And why? Just because THEY don’t.

They’re thinking from their side of the desk, not from the perspective of the target audience. Their decision comes from personal preference, not from marketing.

Have you ever been guilty of this? Odds are you have. You’re only human, after all, and your personal likes and dislikes are bound to have an influence.

The trick (and it isn’t always easy) is being able to separate your heart from your head. You may not like this or that trinket, but will your target audience?

And conversely, even though you like something, that doesn’t mean that your prospects will. Indeed, they may hate it.

With advertising in general and promos specifically, try to put yourself in your target’s chair. This tactic applies not only to your selection of tangible advertising products but to how you evaluate a proposed marketing campaign.

After all is said and done, you’ll still be rolling the dice. That’s just the name of the marketing game. However, the more you can think from the table and not your hand, the better the chance that your promotion won’t crap out.

Maybe you like purple. But will your R.O.I.?

All Work and No Play?

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When you’re considering promotional products – either on your own or, I’d hope, per the direction of a properly developed program – are you drawn to practical stuff and away from just-for-fun items?

If so, you’re far from alone.

Over the years, I’ve encountered too many clients who look at possible promo products through the prism of “work” and with little to no regard for “play.” That is, they tend to think in terms of an office supply store instead of a toy store.

Now I don’t know about you, but I see no inherent fun in a pen, a pad of sticky notes, a ruler, or the like. Useful items? Sure. But playful products? Nope.

After all, the misguided reasoning goes, this is serious business. Toys and games are for kids, not top executives or business owners. Those people are focused on success. Whimsical non-business doodads that hit their desk get immediately dropped in the circular file…and along with that trashing is the dismissal of any interest in talking with the sender.

There’s a word for that kind of thinking: Wrong!

Business decision makers are people, and virtually all people like to have fun. O.K, yes, there are some who are hopelessly wrapped tight (you KNOW who you are!). But for the most part, a bit of unexpected fun in a business day is…well…fun.
Star Trek fans will recall an episode in which Mr. Stock observed, “The greater the intellect, the greater the need for play.” This came from the ultra-logical and rather humorless Vulcan!

Yet Spock was right. Top decision makers aren’t stupid. What’s more, their business days (and nights and weekends) are suffused with the stresses and demands of, yes, being business serious. They don’t have the time to toy around.

So when some fun and unexpected little non-business play item lands in their inbox, most will smile…and if you can get a prospect to smile, you’re already halfway to being allowed to make a pitch and quite possibly make a sale.

Even if you don’t get a quick “come on in” response, though, your target isn’t going to throw about that toy. It’ll stay on his or her desk or credenza for weeks, months, or years, or your target will give it to his or her son, daughter, or grandchild. Either way, the reminder of that surprise fun will linger, and so will the reminder of who sent it.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that you go for promo item toys for the sake of just going for toys. The products used in your promotion need to have some kind of relevance to your business, your message, your offer, and especially your program.

But they need to be fun.

All work and no play ain’t fun…and all “work” and no “play” in a tangible advertising program is typically no fun for your bottom line, R.O.I. and targets.

Trade Show Traffic Jam, Anyone?

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You’ve paid for space at a trade show, you’ve paid to create your booth, you’ve booked travel and lodging for your representatives, but now what? You need to draw traffic to your exhibit so you can one-on-one promote your business, your products, your services, ad nauseam, right?

Alas, if you build it, they may not come.

So maybe you buy ad space in the appropriate industry publications…or maybe you send out some “come see us!” flat mailer…or maybe you host an “invitation-only” hospitality suite…or maybe you have your sales reps place personal calls to your current and prospective customers.

Fine. But in all of those examples, you’re competing against the noise of your competitors. What’s more, where’s the tangible offer? Where’s the free gift? Where’s the enticement that promises more than just the opportunity to hear your sales pitch and, you hope, buy your stuff?

If you’re B2B, then you most probably have attended and even exhibited at shows. You also know how show attendees are. They’re looking for give-aways they can collect in their show bags, and the more unusual or higher-perceived-value of the gimmes, the better. In fact, great promo items often become the talk of show.

“Where’d you get that?!?” they are asked. “How cool!”

Sadly, though, too many exhibitors just hand out those freebies like candy. Even worse, they don’t exploit them with any substantive or memorable pre-show promotion.

And then there are exhibitors who go cheap cheap cheap and ho-hum.

A pen is a pen is a pen, for example. It’s a so-what. No big deal. No memorability. No sense of unique value. No real keepability. Ergo, no talk of the show.

But more to the point, too many trade show exhibitors don’t take advantage of the power of pre-show dimensional marketing to generate traffic at the show.

One dimensional marketing idea that’s worked time and time again is what we might call the 1-2 punch. You send your prime targets just part of a gift, and tell them to bring that part (and letter) to your booth to get the remaining part.

Let’s say your offer is a “perceived high-end” LED flashlight. You mail out the bulb enclosure top of the flashlight, telling the prospect that he/she can get the rest of the gift by coming to your exhibit.

That’s just one example of a trade show traffic builder. But it can be highly effective in pulling targets to your booth. Plus, it eliminates the cost of accommodating trade show give-aways collectors. No part and letter? Sorry, no gift. (Well, O.K., maybe. That’ll be up to your exhibit’s personnel, if you know what I mean).

Lots more to it, of course, and lots more options and alternatives and approaches.

But ask yourself: Which would most likely pull you to a trade show exhibitor’s booth – the chance to learn more about some new whizz-bang…or the offer of a valuable free gift?

And as an exhibitor, which would you prefer: a traffic jam or a nap?

How Fast Can I Get Imprinted Promotional Products?

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When I answer the phone and hear a panicked voice ask, “How fast can I get an imprinted…?” I generally ask, “How much are you willing to pay?”

If you have unlimited funds, we may be able to perform a miracle. However, that would require finding a factory willing to stop production to run your job. Your package would need to be delivered to an airport with a flight leaving immediately for your city, then directly picked up at the destination airport and delivered to you. The final cost is something most companies could never justify or afford to pay.

Many people mistakenly think branded products are printed locally and therefore can be picked up the same day or following day. There are thousands of factories throughout the country, most of them specializing in certain product lines. A factory may or may not be located in your city. Additionally some imprinting processes take longer to cure and dry, such as ceramics, making a rush job impossible.

So getting back to that question, the normal scenario is a 24-hour rush. We could order your item by midnight EST and it will ship the next day, overnight priority AM delivery. Bottom line, if you order it Monday evening, you would get it Wednesday morning. If you are lucky enough to live in the same city as the factory, you possibly could get it on Tuesday evening, but don’t count on it. You may or may not incur a rush charge for the product but you will pay a pretty penny for overnight shipping.

Generally, our game plan is to locate the closest factory that can ship within 24 hours. If the factory is close enough, we can ship ground arriving to your office in one or two days. Our priority is to make your event without incurring any additional rush fees. The downside is that we will be limited to only the products produced by that particular factory.

I always say promotional products are not a priority until, well, Oh My God! They are. Someone suddenly realizes they forgot to order the “swag” needed for their upcoming event this weekend.

Bottom line, a rushed order may mean higher cost and less creativity. If you want solutions, not just stuff, give us time to research and select the right item that will resonate with your audience for the best price. It is best to start the process 3-4 weeks before your event. If you need a high quantity of 1000 or more, you probably should start 6-8 weeks prior to your event.

Can B2B Teach B2C?

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For the most part, business owners/operators see tangible advertising promotions as mainly applying to B2B companies (meaning business-to-business enterprises). When it comes to B2C (business-to-consumer), the perception changes.

Now yes, B2B businesses sell to businesses, and they often have sales reps who regularly contact their targets, those reps and/or their employers are smart, and those contacts involve more than just a phone call or a brochure or flyer leave-behind.

That’s classic B2B selling.

But if you’re running a consumer products store or business, why not sweeten the take-away deal for your customers like your B2B cousins do? Drop an imprinted pen or fridge magnet or coaster in the bag, for a few examples, along the lines of the B2B leave-behinds.

Again, and as I’ve said many times, people love free stuff. And also as I’ve said, dimensional marketing items hang around.

A printed promo insert might get read, but it’ll soon get tossed in the trash can with the bones from your KFC dinner. Tangible dimensional marketing products won’t so easily be garbaged…and once more, those imprinted and practical items are keepable.

Alright, sure. Even the cheapest plastic toothpick isn’t free. The cost comes off your pre-tax gross, yes. But a logo-imprinted toothpick goes home with your customer, while a newspaper ad or flyer just comes and goes with the coffee grounds.

That’s not to downplay or discredit the value of traditional print advertising. Yet in terms of lasting impressions for your store, which has the longer impression life?

And that comes back to the headline of this post.

B2B advertising accepts a longer gestation time for client cultivation. If you’re a retailer, though, you need and want now, not later. Such is the nature of the game. It is what it is.

But why not take a longer look at customer cultivation?

Lots of ways to do this, and they don’t always have to involve a major expenditure. But B2B knows that you have to spend to make. It also knows that you have to give to get.

Let’s say you run a convenience store. Your margins are slim, yes. But you count on repeat patronage…or at least repeat promotion of your store’s name, phone number, etc.

So why not give every customer an imprinted pen from your location? It’s called promotion, not couponing. You’re pushing your name and store, not some give-away. And your “push” goes far beyond the shopper’s experience…because that pen not just stays around but gets passed around again and again and again.

Most B2B advertisers know this. Shouldn’t B2C marketers?

The Perfect “Thank You” for Referring Partners!

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Objective: Thanking Referral Partners for referrals!

A company that provides comprehensive payroll services, needed a way to thank CPAs for referring payroll business to their company. In the height of tax season, they needed a reward that was simple and easy, yet valuable enough to show appreciation for their clients.

Strategy: A Branded eGift Card Reward Cards

They decided to thank CPAs by giving them branded $150 eGift Card Reward Cards. Each reward card allowed recipients to pick an online gift card to any retailer of their choice. Our extensive list of over one hundred online retailers includes everything from popular restaurants to high-end clothing stores. Each CPA now had $150 to spend at one of their favorite locations.
Branded reward cards are the easiest way to reward employees for their actions. Cards are small, lightweight, and easy to ship to multiple locations. Regardless of where the client lived, ADP was able to send them a valuable reward at a low-cost price, eliminating logistics issues. Additionally, because there are so many different online retailers to choose from, each recipient got to pick exactly what they wanted.

Results: Happy Referral Partners!

This company’s choice of using branded cards brought high value to their clients, and gave them the ability to choose a universally appealing reward of their choice. Being rewarded with $150 eGift Cards made tax season a little more bearable!

Are You Ignoring Your Fan Base?

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O.K., so when you think of your business’s fans, you think of your customers, right?

But really, who’s more interested in your company’s success: those who buy from you or those who work for you?

Your customers may rely on you for quality service, quality product, and quality customer care. Yet all of that quality comes – or doesn’t – from your people…and those “assets” constitute your primary 24/7 fan base.

So just what have you been doing to recognize them?

Alright, sure, having a job and getting a paycheck and accompanying benefits are neato-deluxe. However, it takes more than regular income to make your “family” feel like family, and it’s the members of that family who present the day-to-day face for your business.

Furthermore, it’s not just your employees. It’s also their own families. Spouses and kids need to know that your people are appreciated. Bonuses and annual BBQ’s or picnics only go so far. They don’t enter or stay in your employees’ homes, and they often require “attendance” that interferes with the respective family’s plans….and/or present a kind of “political” obligation that should not be ignored.

Why not, then, occasionally send your people some dimensional marketing gift as a “Thank You”…and mail it to their home address? Nice surprise for the employee, but an even nicer atta-boy for the employee’s family or cohabitant.
Plus, it puts your name and identity and image directly into the employee’s home.

The surprise doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be a coffee mug or a fridge magnet or thermal cup or whatever on the low end of the cost scale. But it ain’t about the value of the item. It’s about the direct and appreciative contact with the employee and his/her family.

Most business people view promotional products as items to help promote and generate sales. Yet dimensional marketing products are equally effective in generating esprit de corps among employees, and in that they can accentuate such esprit among the employees’ families, cohorts, consorts, et al.

And on that, don’t just look at sales & management staff. Go companywide – from the ivory tower down to the shipping dock! Let every employee be acknowledged…and again, with something that’s mailed to the home address, not just “couponed” in the paycheck envelope.

The mailed gift item itself isn’t as important as the fact that the employer chose to honor and respect and appreciate the employee’s contribution to the company…and in that, that the employee’s family got to see that said employee isn’t ignored.

Joe may be a lowly warehouse worker making minimum wage. But lo and behold, here he gets a personally addressed package from his employer! Talk about making Joe feel better about his employer!

Yes, there is an expense involved. But it’s a marketing expense. And employee turnover is immensely costly. If you can keep Joe from leaving….well….?

And more, if Joe feels appreciated and noticed………………..

Getting in Front of C-Level Executives

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Objective: Getting in front of C-Level Executives

 

A financial software package company wanted to build company and product awareness among CFOs of large, multi-national organizations in North America and to secure appointments.

Strategy:  Unusual Gifts with the “smile factor” to a Top Executives

The company targeted a group of 70 top level executives with objective of encouraging the use of its financial software.  To accomplish their objective they sent out two very unusual gifts.

First, strait jackets were hand-delivered or couriered to prospects in custom packaging with the theme “Most CFOs Don’t Realize How Constraining Their Financial Software Can Be Until It’s Too Late.”  Other selected prospects received a large box containing the full-size hammock and attached pillow accompanied by the message “When Making Changes To Accommodate Your Growing Business Needs, Does Your Financial Software Leave You Hanging?”  Each mailing also included a full-color brochure explaining the advertiser’s software packages.

Results:  Incredible ROI!:

The company landed one large firm that gave them an incredible ROI of $2 million dollars!

Strategic Trade Show Campaign Resulting in a Measurable Sales Increase!

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Objective: To Reinforce Logo Identity and be a Regional Leader

The objective was to to reinforce logo identity and to position their company as a knowledgeable, regional leader in the their industry.

Strategy:  A Strategic Trade Show Campaign before and during the show

Taking advantage of the Business and Industry Expo, they used an extensive array of promotional products before and during the trade show.  Before the expo, post cards served as invitations to the booth, and expo “To Do Lists” with Bic pens were distributed to other exhibitors.

A live costumed elephant character representing their brand waved outside on the main road, generating curiosity and eventually drawing attendees to the booth. Booth visitors received a wide variety of gifts: temporary tattoos, Post-it Note dispensers, T-shirts, candy jars, tote bags, and pewter elephants, to name a few.

Results:  252% Increase in Sales from Previous Year

For the two months following the trade show, sales for the client increased 252 percent over the same period for the previous year.