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Calendar It…Again and Again and Again?

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Here comes December, and along with it come promotional calendars of all shapes, sizes, and styles.

I get ‘em each year, don’t you?

They arrive in the mail or are handed out by my insurance agent, my dentist, my doctor, my dry cleaner, my pet groomer, my barber, my auto mechanic, my CPA…I’ve even received a few from politicians.

Here’s a word for all of you calendar-ers: ho-hum.

As a business owner or corporate sales & marketing executive (don’t get me started on the “sales” vs. “marketing” title), you might think that an annual calendar is a nice and easy and cheap promo item.

O.K., a calendar is easy, and it’s certainly cheap. But nice? Considering how many other calendars your targets, prospects, and customers get, your promo dollars would be better spent on a roll of toilet paper or a box of facial tissue (we all call them Kl***ex, but copyright/trademark laws keep me from using that colloquialism).

With few exceptions, your annual calendar is for your target audience the pulp equivalent of one egg in a dozen. Same same, so what, what’s the dif, ho-hum.

It’s not that calendars aren’t appreciated. But if you’re going to invest in promoting your business with tangible advertising, why do what everyone else is doing? Why spend your precious marketing dollars on “Me too”?

Dimensional marketing — and that’s what we’re talking about here – works, in large part, on differentiating your company from your competitors. The annual calendar is merely an example.

And hey, if you like your yearly calendar, then why not make it stand out? You’ll pay more, sure. However, your audience will more value it….and thus keep it and use it…and thereby more appreciate you.

It’s about marketing solutions, not just quick & easy stuff.

It’s also about building customer loyalty and expectation.

Years ago, we ran an annual dealer trip promotion for a major copier machine company. We did it for 10 years, and each year we achieved at least 150% of sales goal.

Among the dimensional marketing items we used every year in the promotions was a recipe tile. That is, it was an 8” x 8” ceramic tile that featured a recipe for a dish common to the respective promo destination (e.g., London, Hong Kong, Hawaii).

The dealer network looked forward to those recipe tiles.

But one year, corporate management decided to not pay to produce and distribute the tiles. Dealers complained, and sales dropped by more than 50%.

Those recipe tiles were not just appreciated but unique. And yep, they were anticipated.

So what does this have to do with calendars?

Plenty.

If you’re going to invest in dimensional marketing products, follow the recipe for differentiation and audience interest, not merely bean-counter mentality. Seek solutions.

Cheap breeds cheap.

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”?

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.

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?

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!

Marketing odds

IT’S AS EASY – AND COMPLICATED – AS 1-2-3!

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Marketing odds

The true power in promotional products is not just in their keepability or getting the “envelope” opened, it’s equally (if not more so) in recognizing a concomitant dimension to dimensional marketing. That “dimension” is the all-important 1-2-3 punch of a properly developed and executed program.

During my career, I’ve seen far too many advertisers who send out one dimensional marketing mailer and…uh…that’s it. Then they wonder why their investment hasn’t paid off.

The inescapable truth is that, with few exceptions, a one-trick pony won’t win the race. A single dimensional marketing mailer might get some response, sure. But direct marketing statistics show that a follow-up piece typically produces twice the response of the first mailing…and a third in the “series” generally generates even  more.

It’s like the old adage of how to craft a speech: Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, then review. A similar 1-2-3 philosophy applies to dimensional marketing.

Consider the game of poker. You’re playing draw poker, and you pull a hand that holds a single ace. All the other cards are disconnected and unsuited. You keep the ace, depending on how you’re reading your components, and then ask for four cards.

Or do you just fold?

One ace holds small promise, buy maybe you feel lucky.

On the other hand, what if you’re dealt three aces? Odds are that you’re holding a winning hand, and so you bet…as you should.

Welcome to professional dimensional marketing. Why would you bet on a single ace when you know that three aces can win…and in that, why would bet on just one ace when, in terms of dimensional marketing, you can increase your odds by going for and, in this case, assuring a threesome?

And hey, even a pair of aces is trumped by three deuces, eh?

Alright, there’s no way you can assure that if you draw four cards to an ace, you’ll get three of a kind. But if you hold only one ace, why would you think you can luck out and get two more aces?

In a game of 5-card draw, no skilled poker player would ever hold an ace and ask for four cards. The odds of being dealt two more aces are about the same as those for winning a Power Ball lottery.

In that respect, then, why would think that a single dimensional mailer would fill out your sales opportunity hand?

We thus come back to 1-2-3…and the dimensional marketing concept.

One promo product mailer may seem good. Yet a second and then third dimensional marketing package will, statistically speaking, do so much better for your response rate, your R.O.I., and your leads/sales success.

A 1-2-3 repetition of messaging – and with relevant dimensional marketing products – will go far to produce profitable results from your investment. A one-hit-and-done won’t generate the results you seek.

No guarantees that a single promo product mailer will or won’t work. But wouldn’t you prefer to play your marketing hand with three aces from the initial deal?