Over the years, as I navigated the waters of the promotional products industry, I have discovered that if I want to survive, stay relevant and top-of-mind, I have to do things differently from my competition.
In looking at my deliverables, the products and services I sold to my clients, I realized something was missing. I had to change my thought process. I needed to churn the waters. I needed to become a disrupter. That term often causes a negative response, bringing to mind someone who is contrary and difficult, but not in this case. Becoming a disrupter was an internal process. I learned to disrupt my mindset, flip what I did on its head and differentiate it by taking it to the next level. One of the things I identified was that many of my competitors were doing the same thing and most of the things they were doing lacked creativity. So, I became a disrupter.
Over the ensuing years, I noticed the more I marketed myself in a creative and unique way, the more clients began to take notice. As I built certain campaigns that identified a challenge I was facing and created measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure my success, clients began to ask questions. Who created this campaign for you? What made you decide to have this created? Are they successful? What type of success rate have you had? Can I get the name of the company that created this?
With every question, the answer was the same: “My company created this and, yes, we have great statistics and measurable KPIs.” When they recognized that my team and I created these marketing tools, the next question was usually, “Can you create marketing tools like this for us?” or “Can we use this same campaign?” I answered in the affirmative and a whole new segment of my company was launched. Let me share a few examples of how creative marketing campaigns, introduced as self-promotions, can potentially translate into campaigns your customers will want you to run for them.
With a former client, I was responsible for designing creative marketing door-openers, such as one called “The Jury Is Out … Now You Be The Judge” (see image at top left). As you can expect just by the name, this piece was specifically targeted to law firms and legal-related companies and it garnered some amazing responses. One of the companies using the piece sent it to a large law firm and, on the follow-up call, my client was immediately put through to the marketing director who proceeded to smother him with accolades about this promotion. He said, “… I have never seen anything like this from your competition. Is it possible for our company to use it?” With some modifications to the verbiage, etc., the obvious answer was “Yes!” The craziest part of this whole story, as it related to me, is that the prospect told my client that the law firm had a $500,000 budget for this type of marketing. The main takeaway to remember is that clients and prospects want a promotion that sets them apart from others.
When I was working as a distributor salesperson, one of my first campaigns came from reading a book by the brilliant writer Roger VonOech, titled A Whack on the Side of the Head. It’s focused on helping the reader understand, more granularly, the creative process. One of the chapters speaks about unlocking mental blocks by comparing two unlike objects, such as a cat and a refrigerator. If you have ever been to one of my creative workshops, I discuss this in detail.
Armed with this idea, I created a self-promotion that compared me to a Swiss Army Knife. It explained the functions of the knife compared to the functions I performed as a salesperson. Here are two examples (see image at left):
- The Key Ring: Always “accessible” when you need me.
- File: We help “shape” your ideas for a well-groomed image.
This promotion produced an 84-percent successful engagement rate and was written about in an end-user marketing magazine where a marketer with a large national construction company saw it and called me to ask if I would design a similar campaign for his company. He had a $1 million marketing budget and it turned out to be an amazing case history.
As mentioned previously, one of the initial steps in building a successful campaign is to identify the challenge to be addressed. While working with one of my existing clients, we identified a large group of inactive clients whose business they wanted to rekindle. We created a box containing a puzzle with copy that read, “It’s Amazing How Time Flies … Let’s Reconnect.” The colorful graphics (see image below) and great copy that encouraged the recipient to put the puzzle together, created an engaging call to action with stellar results. With only 30 percent of the program initiated, the client had garnered a nearly 35-percent engagement rate with past clients to reactivate their business. These are the kind of metrics that get the attention of sales managers.
Again, being a disruptor, I always analyze my internal systems to determine what I can do differently that will set me apart. Over the years, one change I’ve made is to thank clients on their annual business anniversary instead of giving year-end holiday gifts. This spreads my program throughout the year instead of trying to fit it into the busiest time of the year, and it keeps me from competing with others who are giving year-end gifts. For these reasons, this program proved to be a homerun. Here’s how we did it.
We’ve always segmented our client lists, and for this promotion we further classified them as A-E, with A’s designating the best top-tier clients and E’s being profitable clients, but not ones that would generate significant sales. Every client gets something in this promotion, but the gift is predicated on the sales volume and profitability of the client. We also ran a report to find out the month and year we had first done business with each client and that was the catalyst for this promotion.
We implemented the program, and I sent the CEO at my best client company a day golf bag with his company logo embroidered on the bag and a luggage tag which read: “Happy Anniversary from your friends at PROmotivations.” When he received the gift, he immediately called me and said this must be a mistake. “Cliff, my anniversary is not for another three months.” I chuckled and said, “No, this is our anniversary. Four years ago, this month, you started working with us and we wanted to say, ‘happy anniversary’ and thank you for your loyalty to our relationship.”
As you can imagine, he was floored and asked me more about how I produced the idea. He was so impressed with the success and overall feel of the program that he decided to initiate it for his company as well, and we got all that business. Running this monthly self-promotion also gave us time to be proactive and to provide a meaningful, personalized gift that was valued and appreciated by our clients.
Doing things differently in ways that set you apart from your competition can be scary. Forget it, let go of the fear, plan a course of action and work through the details before you implement any program, but do it. Done is better than perfect.
I always recommend starting a new promotion by trying it out on your company first. If you try something new, if you become a positive disruptor, you may be surprised at what new doors may open and what new channels you may find for more profitable sales. And in this way, you will be leading by example, not just talking about it.
Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, president of Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been an active industry volunteer serving on various PPAI committees, as a speaker and facilitator at PPAI and ASI shows, and as a member of PPAI’s Ambassadors Speakers Bureau for more than 15 years. He has also served five terms as the education chairperson for Chesapeake Promotional Products Association and is currently board president.
Quicksell has also been a speaker, trainer and international consultant to companies, associations and international business groups for more than 34 years and is the recipient of numerous awards including 30 PPAI Pyramid Awards, and is a five-time winner of the Printing Industry PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity and the CPPA Creativity PEAKE Award. He was PPAI’s Ambassador Speaker of the Year for six consecutive years and, in 1997, was the inaugural recipient of PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award. Counselor magazine named Quicksell one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the promotional products Industry.
He writes two weekly blogs, “Jumpstart Monday” and “30 Seconds to Greatness.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.quicksellspeaks.com.
Used with permission from PPAI Media