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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?