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  • January 20, 2021 8:08 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Trying to be everything for everyone isn't realistic or achievable

    Not everyone likes me or what I do.

    This past week I was reminded of that after receiving a text from an individual that I hadn’t had any contact with since last summer. The text was both direct and to the point in stating that my Introspective Candor blog from last week with both “very unoriginal and unprofessional" and that this person will "personally use it as a reminder of what not to do." As you might expect, this unexpected missile caught me off guard, and I began to wonder what I could have written to cause such a visceral reaction. After quickly rereading the blog in question for anything that might be construed as offensive, I realized that I hadn’t written anything wrong at all: this person simply doesn’t like me or what I do – and that’s okay.

    For a good portion of my career – up until about ten years ago – I tried very hard to be everything for everyone. I was a pleaser, said yes to everything, and worked tirelessly to make everyone else happy. As you might predict, the results for me weren’t fabulous: I ended up making very few happy, and I lost sight of who I was in the process.

    I see people – and brands – do this often. In trying to be everything to everyone, they end up alienating their core audience, creating very little in the way of substance, and blending into the crowded competition instead of standing apart.

    Once I realized this, I had to rewire my brain and become comfortable with the fact that I’m not for everyone. Regardless of how hard I might try, there will be a segment of people who dislike the way I go about my business, how I present myself on social media, and, clearly, the manner in which I put digital pen to paper. However, by staying true to myself and embracing that I’m not for everyone, I have found a core group of people who appreciate me and what I do.

    What the person who texted me out of the blue to criticize me and my writing doesn’t understand is this: I don’t write for him; he’s not my audience and likely never will be. Candidly, I’m good with that as I know my writing style doesn’t ring everyone’s bell. Even so, he is just as entitled to his opinion as anyone else. However, based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback I did receive from that same blog, I know I delivered value to the audience I did target.

    Trying to please everyone extends to brands as well – including brandivate. We know we aren’t for everyone and won’t ever aspire to that unattainable goal. Instead, we know the specific things we do well and focus our efforts on the people and organizations that understand the value we provide and realize they can leverage that value to achieve their sales, marketing, and branding goals. Spending valuable time and energy on potential clients that will never understand the value we provide is time wasted.

    When you try to be everything for everyone, you end up being nothing and no one.

    So, who are YOU for?

    Used with permission from Brandivate Marketing

  • January 20, 2021 5:57 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)
    Happy New Year, Fellow SAAC members:
    WOW, what a year we just went through! For me, the word of the Year is Pivot.
    Under President Tara Villanueva's leadership, that is exactly what we did. She not only guided us through a very challenging year, but she has also set us up for a brighter future.
    Some of the ways we pivoted included the following activities:
    • SAAC Lunch and Learn: Thirty minutes meetings where some of the best Supplier members in the industries presented to SAAC Distributor members and others.
    • Wild Wednesday Webinar (WWW)* Industry professionals shared their knowledge about industry-specific issues and leadership.
    • Tuesday Learning Lab* (TLL) Industry and non-industry professionals spoke about various tools that we can all use to improve our business operations.
      * Both WWW & TLL are eligible for CAS/MAS points
    •  Virtual SAAC Gives Back: fundraiser for American Red Cross
    • SAAC Virtual Pop Up
    • SAAC Spooktacular Outdoor Table Top Show
    • Virtual Holiday Party and Bingo Event
    While these activities were made necessary by the pandemic, we learned that some aspects were useful tools to remain engaged and provide value to our members.  Where applicable, you will continue to see education and networking opportunities in a virtual or hybrid format.
    We look ahead with excitement to in-person events and none more than the SAAC Expo. We are thrilled to announce that we are moving forward with an in-person SAAC Expo in Anaheim on August 5th and 6th.  On Thursday, August 5th, the show floor will be open only to distributors. Then on Friday, August 6th, for the first time in SAAC history, distributors will be welcome to host your end-buyers at the show.  Stay tuned for more details.
    When it is safe to do so, we will again enjoy in-person happy hours, factory tours, and networking activities.
    Supporting me this year are the following members of the Board of Directors:
    Bob Levitt (D) RJ Hagel (S) Jeff Stevens (MLR) Tara Villanueva (D)
    Vice President Treasurer Secretary Past-President
    Staples  Goldstar WesCo Marketing Geiger
    Jim Ristuccia (S) Mike Szymczak (S) Ray Jimenez (S) Daniel Henderson (D)
    A+ Wine Designs OrigAudio The Magnet Group Proforma
    Amy Williams (D) Michele Wieckowski (D) Jennifer Bingham  
    AB Unlimited  Apex Advertising Executive Director  
    I would like to thank our outgoing board members Rhett Todd who served as President and Tonia Allen Gould, who served two years as a director.
    Lastly, please know the SAAC Board is here to serve our members and community. We would love to hear from you about how we can improve or simply to learn how you and your business are faring.
    Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 2021 SAAC Board President. I look forward to a wonderful year together.

    Stephen Ropfogel
    2021 SAAC President
  • January 20, 2021 5:33 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Since the first political buttons in the late 1700s to imprinted horse blankets in the 1800s, glass and plastic promo products in the mid-20th century and branded tech accessories in the early 21st century, the promotional marketing industry has continually evolved to meet the growing needs of marketers and their recipients. Over these many decades, three defined eras stand out: 

    Era 1: From the time the Bill of Rights was ratified through circa 1999, this was the golden age of printed catalogs with unconcealed but secret pricing codes. There was a time when distributors had to search by microfiche to source foam stress relievers in the shape of an "@" symbol. Production took three to four weeks and clients asked distributors to grab art from their business cards. 

    Era 2: Around the turn of the 21st century, the industry saw the rise of ecommerce. Access to the internet ballooned, giving buyers access to our industry’s pricing “secrets.” In 2019, 4imprint, the ecommerce juggernaut, sold more than $860 million in branded products. Some distributors went the ecommerce-only path while the majority did not bet solely on ecommerce.

    Era 3: Today, we are witnessing the rise of engagement commerce. Engagement commerce means “marrying the efficiency of ecommerce with strategic and creative direction to solve customers’ problems.” Solving their problems is the holy grail. It commands stronger margins and fortifies value. If you are not striving to be the next ecommerce giant, the most powerful thing you can do in a crowded digital space is to invest in what matters most—relationships. You must change your thinking from “customer acquisition” to “relationship acquisition.” And you must work to understand your clients’ problems. 

    We used to have intimate, in-person relationships with 40 customers; now, the industry is struggling to recreate those close relationships with 4,000 customers. Intimacy through technology is not easy. And while some buyers just want to make Google their first (and possibly only) contact without the help of a trusted source, there are a host of buyers who are craving institutional knowledge about products, edgy decoration techniques, logistics insights, best practices and they are willing to pay a premium for help addressing their problems.

    So, in order to help solve client problems, we must identify what those problems are. And then, we must deliver answers that motivate, not manipulate, them to purchase. Here are some of these problems—ergo opportunities:

    • According to the Society for Human Resource Management, an astonishing 19 percent of employees will work remotely in 2021. This is the new flexible workforce. How can the promotional products industry help unify employees when they cannot be together?
    • HR is updating policies at a blistering pace. How can we help HR departments communicate all the changes?
    • How can we create culture-keeper campaigns to help virtual employees feel connected and cared for? Note: caring is always a brilliant strategic plan.
    • How can we help our customers find new customers as well as reach existing customers now and in the future?
    • How can we help customers plan and execute programs to stay in touch with their clients and help them connect with high-value prospects throughout the year?
    • Marketing’s role is to help the sales team sell more, so how do we help marketers move in that direction?
    • How can we help reduce a client’s investment exposure and minimize inventory risk?
    • We must sell sustainable products that last. Anything less is a liability to our client’s brands.
    • Events have proven to be expensive and time-consuming. So, how do we help clients convert budget into something meaningful in an all-virtual or hybrid event model? If we cannot experience events in person, can we deliver event experiences in a box?

    Value of Time. If we can better understand the value of our client’s client, we can make a strong case for ROI. Example: imagine the lifetime value of a client’s customer is $150,000. If that’s the case, then why are we suggesting 99-cent C-handle mugs with our client’s big, obnoxious logo on them as the gift that is exchanged for spending time with a client whose value is worth $150,000? We must convince our clients that their customer’s time is valuable—and that they must invest in the relationship with the gift of high-quality branded merchandise, perhaps with subtle logo treatment. A handmade $70 sustainable Cotopaxi backpack is likely a better answer than the ceramic mug that will end up in the back of a cabinet or in Aunt Sally’s garage sale. 

    Zoom. We must map the new customer journey. What are the customer’s touchpoints before the Zoom, during the Zoom and after the Zoom? We must help clients meet their customers along the way in an appreciative, memorable and perhaps a fun, gamifying manner. Otherwise, they will be not be paying attention to the message our client is trying to deliver.

    Direct Mail. As you are reading this, the meteoric rebirth of direct mail is happening. It’s proof that what’s old is new again. In an Epsilon survey, 60 percent said going to the mailbox and receiving a piece of mail provides an emotional boost. Mail is personal, tangible, interactive, relevant and, if done right, can be highly targeted to individuals’ specific interests. Like promotional products, direct mail stimulates all five senses. Digital channels only affect three. In the future, direct mail will deliver better targeting, automation, more personalization, right-timing and scale, and more analytics and ROI resulting in less junk mail and lower environmental impact. 

    Marketing In-Person. It’s tough but how about merging digital activation with in-person brand experiences? Create memorable brand experiences associated with social media. Marketing is about participation, not promotion. 

     Design Beyond the Logo. Put yourselves in your client’s shoes. Do they really want a mug with a massive logo of a brand they have never engaged with? Or, do they want a beautiful design or message with a more subtle logo treatment on what will become their favorite mug? The future will include more designers, artisans and creatives in our space. Creativity and impactful design are what clients crave. In the future, it’s likely more executives will wear t-shirts and flip flops as well as sport tattoos, colored hair and nose rings at work. Creative entrants in our space will evolve the entire industry.  

    Ungettable Gets. I think customers are craving what I call “ungettable gets.” For example, an artist friend reached out and asked me how we could work together. She crafts in mosaics and I work in plastic things from China. Why can’t we create designs connected to brands in mosaic patterns as gifts? We can! Let’s partner with artisans. Getting—or making—original art versus producing the same thing for everyone is not only extra special, but it allows us to do what I call “kidulting”—to bring out the kid in each of us. That is memorable.

    Choice. The future is going to be driven by giving customers a choice of what they want versus what you think they want. Giving every customer the same thing in the future will be a fail.  

     Hyper-Customization. Love the brand or hate it, Nike gets it. Check out the “Nike For You” online store at nike.com/nike-by-you, where the customer can choose from many of the shoe styles, upload their own design on the shoe panels and get the order delivered in two to five weeks. I believe the promotional products industry is well positioned for this type of brand experience. 

    Trends Analysis. We must get out ahead of trends. Ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Imagine if you were the company that bought a web address such as "WorkFromHomeKits.com" in early March 2020? Other trends today include exercise, wellness, on-demand, smart offices and workspaces, remote work, social media influencing fashion, home as the new domain, learning and crowd-pleasing, and a focus on employee happiness.

      Artificial Intelligence. With access to AI, we will know exactly what products a certain demographic will favorably respond to. Once we have that data, could suppliers, distributors, clients and search engines work together to cull it down into meaningful information? Imagine a new search revolution where we search beyond product and price. What if we could conceivably search for products that 30- to 35-year-olds who work in accounting in California would really appreciate to the degree that they will give you their time, information and possibly business? AI can help the industry tackle the challenges that come with gifting. In the future, there will be personal experience and gifting platforms in our space. This is quality at scale versus quantity at scale. Again, the same thing for everyone will go the way of the dodo bird

     Product Life Expectancy. Imagine a future where products have a “life expectancy” statistic associated with them. Envision a time when distributors could tell clients that one mug is $9 and lasts for a year and another mug is $35 but lasts for 10 years. I know where I would invest my budget. 

    Sustainability. Long-lasting quality matters to our customers, their employees and it better matter to you. Sustainability is the future of our industry because it equals less landfill and a higher regard for our products. 

    Fresh Terminology. The words “specialties” and “promotional” are already becoming outdated and will be replaced in the future. Maybe our medium will be called “tangible media” or “product media.” 

    Bài bài la (bye bye) China. Most everything we have learned about our industry’s relationship with China may be wrong for the evolution of our industry. The reliance. The quality (or lack thereof). The knockoffs that drive us to focus on price. The tariff wars. We will source smarter and differently in the future.

    The Maker Revolution. Crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter are where we can pull in more exciting entrants and products into the industry. Etsy, a marketplace of 2.5 million makers, artisans and creators, is another answer. New products have always reinforced our industry’s security. But how are distributors going to source or create in the future? In coming years, the lines will blur as distributors bring products to life and create alliances with suppliers or spin off ideas into retail. I believe the magic is on the edges of the industry, with niche suppliers like HHPLIFT, Redwood Classics Apparel, Love Bottle and others.

    Location Marketing. Parents are giving permission for apps to access and track their children’s information—their location, for example. That is scary. In the future, businesses will get even more locational visibility for commerce. Why not let a restaurant know where you are so they can reach out with a drink or dessert special? Buyers will agree to give up very personal data and receive advertising if they get something in exchange. Is this insane? This is already happening. Hello Facebook and Snapchat/Snapmaps are examples. In a way, this is permission-based marketing. How does that translate in our space? Just consider the possibilities within future events, for example. 

    User Feedback. Imagine an app called “PromoTinder” that distributors and end buyers would use when shopping or creating their own versions of products. It would operate like the hook-up app, Tinder. But instead of swiping potential partner profiles left or right to indicate interest, distributors and end buyers would actually swipe images of products to get a sense of what they might buy so suppliers could make better inventory purchasing decisions. 

    Corporate Social Responsibility. We must show clients how to take care of employees during a crisis, how to look out for the environment, how to take care of community and how to help them tell their brand’s story with honesty. Buyers are watching and commenting through peer-to-peer reviews. And they care and will vote with their dollars. So, know this: PR stunts often don’t last. Instead, bake corporate social responsibility into your strategic plan and invite your team and customers along for the ride. (For more insight, check out www.promocares.org.) 

    What is our industry’s role in the world view? How can we better address diversity, equity and inclusion, unifying voices, pride and activism? Purpose is the fifth "P" of marketing. Companies must embrace a values-based approach in their marketing strategies. Today’s young, socially progressive customers have shown little hesitation in boycotting brands that they perceive to be ethically questionable. Authenticity and trust, in particular, are proving harder to come by—so we must invest in meaningful relationships. We must reassess our industry’s value if we are to remain relevant.

    Continuing Education. We need to invest in a deep understanding of our clients and our client’s customers. We need to invest in our curiosity through educational courses offered by PPAI, PromoKitchen and others. 

    Human Connection. We must invest in personal relationships—especially in the face of rising digital competition and disruption—in order to not only survive, but to thrive. 

    Now is the time to be a part of paving a pathway to a fruitful future. To create. To source smarter. To open the industry’s doors to exciting new entrants. To focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. To offer choice and reduce risk. To get ahead of trends and offer brilliant design beyond the boring logo. To double-down on direct mail. To marry digital marketing with physical marketing, aka “phygital marketing.” To better show that we value a person’s data, time and their business. To embrace tech but balance it with a human focus and intimacy. 

    The future is a verb; giddy up.  


    Danny Rosin, CAS, is co-president of distributor Brand Fuel, Inc. in Morrisville, North Carolina. He is also co-founder of Band Together NC, board member for the Triangle Area American Marketing Association and The Table Raleigh, co-founder of PromoKitchen and PromoCares, and this month is wrapping up a four-year term on the PPAI Board of Directors. 

  • January 20, 2021 5:32 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    The best sales professionals know their long-term success depends not just on their sales ability, but on their ability to network and expand their professional circle. Sales requires making connections and establishing relationships. The more people you meet and get to know, the more opportunities you will create.

    Eric Porat, an entrepreneur and digital marketer, says that if you are not actively making new connections and widening your reach, you are selling yourself short. If you could use some quick pointers on how to upgrade your networking prowess, read on. We share Porat’s top tips on how to improve your networking skills this year in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

    1. Network across multiple platforms. Remember that not everyone uses the same social media platforms and not everyone likes to communicate in the same way. To network effectively, become an expert at all forms of communications, from collaborating on Zoom to sending emails and texts to chatting on Instagram.

    2. Listen actively. Another way to improve your networking skills is to learn to listen actively. This means not just thinking of what you want to say next but responding to other people in a way that shows you understand what they are saying. This shows that you are thoughtful, empathetic and invested in others, which is crucial to successful networking, says Porat.

    3. Exude optimism. When you are upbeat and friendly, you help make yourself more likeable and memorable. This, in turn, makes others more confident in your business endeavors. Porat says one way you can boost your optimism is by learning how to respond to negative circumstances with an upbeat outlook.

    4. Use humor. You don’t have to be the funniest person in the office to use humor to your advantage. Anyone can work on developing their sense of humor in order to improve their networking. Porat says having a good sense of humor goes hand in hand with showing optimism. Humor makes you more human and helps you unite with others on a common ground. Just be sure to keep your humor clean and relatable, he adds.

    5. Attend networking events. To improve your networking skills, attend networking events, including virtual ones. Online trade shows, conferences and workshops allow you to practice your skills in a non-stress setting, says Porat. Remember to keep your focus on building genuine connections with people and keep things as organic as possible.

    6. Interview people. If you contribute to your company blog or you are conducting industry research, you can make new connections through interviews. Almost everyone is open to an interview if you pitch it well, says Porat. By interviewing someone, you get a chance to get to know them better and demonstrate your optimism and humor. If you do it well, your subjects will remember you.

    Networking is a vital skill in sales. You can practice and refine your networking skills in several ways, from incorporating humor into your conversations to attending virtual networking events and asking to interview interesting people. Just like with anything else, the more you practice networking, the better you will get at it. Use the tips above to polish your networking skills in the year ahead.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers and used with permission from PPAI

    Source: Eric Porat is a successful online entrepreneur, investor and digital marketer with over 15 years of experience in buying and selling websites.

  • January 20, 2021 5:31 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Modern Approach to Living Your Dream Life
    Do you really want what you are chasing?
    1/12/2021 | Sam Kabert, Success with Swag(ger)

    I love goals and it’s been a passion of mine ever since I got past my childhood trauma of goal-setting.

    All jokes aside, I actually really do love goal-setting and I do have some memories from elementary school that set the stage for me to dislike goal-setting from a young age. Here’s the thing… I grew up with “S.M.A.R.T.” goals and if you’re not familiar with this acronym, here’s what it stands for…

    S: Specific

    M: Measurable

    A: Attainable

    R: Relatable

    T: Time-Bound

    Back to my days in elementary school and my PTSD around goal-setting. I remember the classroom setting quite clearly and I also remember most of us in the class getting goals “wrong” (or so we were led to believe).

    Papers bleeding with red marker for all the mistakes of how we wrote out our goals because the goals didn’t carry every letter of the acronym. While, I get this in theory; I don’t believe this is the way to educate our youth. This aside though, in this post my intention is to teach you a thing or two about goal-setting…


    No need to stress about if your goal is a “SMART” goal or not, there’s no test. The only objective is to act on your goals and I’ve talked with far too many professionals that are resistant to goal-setting so they simply don’t write out their goals.

    The reason I bring up the story of my days in elementary school goal-setting is because when I talk with other professionals about goal-setting and get to the root of their resistance it’s often because the “SMART” strategy doesn’t align with them. Why does it not align with them? Because they were “scarred” from their youth.

    The most important thing about goal-setting is to write down your goal. If you understand your goal, then that’s all that matters. No one other than you needs to know what to do to achieve your goal.


    According to a Harvard MBA Business School Study… only 3% of people write down their goals. Furthermore, the 3% that actually write down their goals (with a plan) make 10 times as much as the other 97%.

    So, I ask you why would you not write down your goals?


    Did you know that I wrote a book a couple years ago called “The Written Goal”?

    As you might have guessed from the title the book is about the importance of writing down your goals and the mindset that follows by reading your goals daily.

    The book is in truth more of a workbook than your classical narrative and if you would like to check it out, it’s on sale for just $8.88 (I make next to nothing on this book. I wrote this book because I’m truly passionate about helping others). Click here to read more about “The Written Goal”.

    Here’s another, much easier route to take… I recently went through all the worksheets in my book, “The Written Goal'' and condensed them to an actionable (and editable) Goal-Setting Guide. You can snag this guide for FREE by clicking here :)


    The key to any successful venture is to just get started. I have suffered from impostor syndrome, procrastination and lack of motivation. I truly understand the hurdles to even get started. But, take it from me… someone who was named to Silicon Valley’s 40 Under 40 List and PPB’s Rising Stars… the key to success is to get started. You can tweak and repeat as needed, but you’ll never get to where you want to go if you don’t get started.


    The final thing I’ll leave you with is that you had better be sure you want what you’re chasing. There’s no worse feeling than accomplishing your goal and feeling empty. Trust me, this is a common experience for many high achievers. The more I’ve explored my own spirituality and what truly drives me, the more I’ve realized that most of what I’ve been chasing in the professional world was what I thought I was supposed to strive for; rather than going down the path that truly calls to me.

    If you can relate to any questioning of your motives, then be sure to check out the pilot podcast episode of SOUL SEEKR (a podcast I started last fall) - click here to listen.

    To Getting Started,


    Sam Kabert is the creative director of SwagWorx and the creator and co-host of the podcast “WhatUp Silicon Valley!” A risk taker who embraces permanent beta, Sam is leading the transformation of his family-run office supplies business into a promotional products powerhouse. Sam can be reached at Sam@SwagWorx.com.

    Used with permission from PromoCorner

  • January 20, 2021 5:30 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Planning is essential to growth in your personal and professional life. Without creating a roadmap of where you want to go and how you will get there, you will end up getting sidetracked or just meandering through life. Whatever you want to achieve this year, now is the time to plan for it.

    Best-selling author Scott Young says that most people aren’t great planners. Psychologists call it the planning fallacy. According to the planning fallacy, people are typically overly optimistic planners, and their projects take much longer and more effort than anticipated.

    When you learn to plan better, you can create a better future for yourself. Young points out that being able to think long-term and restrain your impulses leads to success in several areas, including health, wealth and education.

    If you want to learn how to become a better planner in 2021, read on. We share Young’s guidance in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

    Take it seriously. The best way to become a better planner is to create time for it, says Young. He follows the 10-percent rule, which means he allots about 10 percent of the total time anticipated for a project to plan for the project. If you expect to need 20 hours to work on a new project, for example, you should spend about two hours planning it. Planning time is especially valuable for projects that are new to you, he adds.

    Break everything down. Now it’s time to get into details. Think through every step you must take to keep moving the project forward. Write it down. Get granular. Young gives an example of writing a novel. Instead of saying, “I want to write 500 words a day,” which is a habit, not a plan, you should ask specific questions. Will you self-publish or get an agent? Will you need reviewers or an editor? What is the main plot? What are the character backgrounds? According to Young, many complex projects fail because they are not fully mapped out. Aim to plan more than feels comfortable or necessary.

    Create an itinerary. The next part of better planning is entering steps into your calendar. Young notes that this helps with logistics since you can see what other deadlines or conflicts you have. It also helps make the plan real. When you can see that you only have six months to accomplish something instead of a loose plan, it brings clarity to a vague goal.

    Do the work every day. Whatever goal or achievement you are going after, you have to put in the effort to make it happen. That means making meaningful progress today—not tomorrow or next week. Immediate action is the only kind that gets anything done, says Young.

    Planning requires intention. It’s not enough to merely contemplate what you want to achieve—you must take time to plan for it. Set aside ample planning time and break down the details of all the steps in the process. You can then add these steps to your calendar so you have action steps and deadlines. Then, hold yourself accountable to doing what you set out to do. When you take time to carefully plan and chart your course, you can move confidently toward accomplishing your goals.

    Source: Scott Young is the author of the national bestseller, Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career. Young writes about learning, productivity, career, habits and living well on his blog.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers Used with permission from PPAI

  • January 20, 2021 5:28 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Just the Way You Are

    What could possibly need improvement?

    1/5/2021 | Mike Schenker, MAS, Uncommon Threads

    I admit: I never really understood the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions. What is the arbitrary reason for suddenly changing or improving the way you act, just because the calendar has metaphorically turned the page? I’m reminded of the iconic Calvin and Hobbes panel, where Calvin is berating Hobbes for suggesting that he make resolutions, as he thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. What could possibly need improvement?

    Further to the point of stumbling into 2021: just because 2020 has been gate-checked doesn’t mean that circumstances will improve. The pandemic will continue, politicians will still finger-point, our favorite sports stars and/or celebrities will die, I will continue to whine…

    Yes friends…it’s another upbeat Mike Schenker column.

    All of the things I just mentioned are out of our control (especially the one about me whining). There’s nothing we can do about them, aside from accepting them as part of our lives and moving ahead with or despite them. We can’t fix them, but we can fix us.

    And so, keeping with the “no resolution” theme, here are simply some ideas to consider:

    Accept and adapt to the new normal. As I mentioned above, this ain’t going away anytime soon, so embrace the technology. If my parents can get into virtual meetings with the entire family, so can you. Maybe not with my family, but we’re a very inviting lot so you never know.

    To that end, I saw something earlier today about how, if you’re working from home, you should wear different pajamas than those you wear for sleeping. I am not making this up. Different pajamas??? In the first place, you’re still working. Be a professional. Additionally, let’s call them what they are: “work pajamas” are little more than sweat pants and sweat shirts (insert “t-shirts” if your climate allows for that). Let’s save those for special occasions…like when we’re braving the crowds at Walmart.

    Focus. Harder. Do as I’m doing as I write this: email is turned off, my phone is upside down, and I’m laser-focused on finishing this column. It’s easy to get distracted when working from home, especially with kids or parents or partners or dogs distracting us and demanding our attention. This is why doors have locks.

    Boss-people: empower your staff. You’ve hired the best people for all the right reasons, now let them do their jobs. With respect and appreciation. I shouldn’t have to mention that, but will anyway.

    This next idea is subjective, I admit. If you’re satisfied with your lot in life, stay the course. Do your absolute best and be irreplaceable. If, however, you’ve got greater dreams and aspirations, plan a course as to how to achieve them.

    To that end, continue to network. Just because you can’t physically attend professional events doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to grow your network. That new connection just might have the answers you need.

    I just read this one and it makes perfect sense: make your goals public. ”JFK challenged NASA to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s by announcing his vision to the world. Literally. Quite the approach to accountability, don’t you think?”. You’re not doing this so that others can call you out on it. It’s more of a touchstone for you to remind yourself, daily, that you can make things happen.

    Be realistic. Just as you didn’t lose the fifteen pounds you said you would in years past, you’re going to slip up from time to time. Allow for it. Don’t beat yourself up. As Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or learn”. That’s brilliant. Even though it’s really easy, try not to get discouraged.

    Keep swinging. Promote, promote, promote. Be it your business, your idea, your service, and/or especially yourself.

    Considering that you’ve been locked up for so long, this one might seem odd, but hear me out: make time for you. I know of what I write, having worked from home since before it was chic. It’s very easy to finish dinner and then go back to whatever it is you call your home office (sidebar: I have seen some great ideas using little more than a linen closet!). Shut things down and keep them down. Introduce yourself to those people who seem to be occupying the same space. They may be nice. Maybe they’ll feed you.

    By now, I think you know how I feel about resolutions. Just be the best version of you that you can be. Be genuine. I’ll close with one more quote, this time from Judy Garland. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else”. Just do your best.

    Oh…and Happy-ish New Year.

    Mike Schenker, MAS, is “all that” at Mike Schenker, Consulting, where he assists businesses entering the promotional products industry, mentors professionals, and offers association management. He is a promotional industry veteran and member of the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) Hall of Fame. He can be reached at mike@mikeschenker.com.

    Used with permission from PromoCorner

  • December 16, 2020 9:15 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Promo products professionals are no stranger to the power of promotional products, and if you’re in the promo business, you probably already know just how impactful they can be for a company or organization. But unless you’ve been around since the beginning, you might not know all these cool facts!

    1. The first imprinted promotional products were used by George Washington in 1789 as a part of his campaign for president. They didn’t mention that in Hamilton!

    2. 8 in 10 people like receiving promotional products.

    3. …and 7 in 10 people wish they received promotional products more often!

    4. 96% of consumers want to know ahead of time when companies offer promotional products.

    5. Virtually everyone who receives promotional products will keep at least one.

    6. Jasper Meek started using burlap bags to promote small businesses in 1896. He was even dubbed the “Father of Promotional Products”!

    7. Almost 9 out of 10 people can recall the company that gave them branded promotional products.

    8. The top five industries purchasing promo products are the business services, education, healthcare, manufacturing, and financial industries.

    9. The biggest reason consumers decline to keep a promotional product is because they have no use for it. However…

    10. 79% of people pass along promotional products that are no longer valuable to them by regifting, selling, or donating the items. That means they end up in even more hands!

    11. The top 5 promotional products categories in 2019 were wearables, drinkware, travel items, technology, and writing.

    12. Consumers love promotional products! 91% of consumers keep promotional products such as mugs in their kitchens.

    13. When given branded promotional products by their employer, 59% of employees have a more favorable impression of their workplace.

    14. 99% of people say that they’re willing to go out of their way to get a promotional product.

    15. And 9 out of 10 people say that they already have gone out of their way to get a promo product!

    16. In 2019, the promotional products industry did over $24 billion in sales.

    17. 85% of product recipients did business with the advertiser who gave them the item.

    18. Advertisers love promotional products, too. 70% of ad agencies consider promotional products to be effective or highly effective!

    19. When people were asked why they keep the promo products they received, the top three answers were that the items were fun, functional, and trendy.

    20. Nearly 6 out of 10 people say that they would enter sweepstakes, contests, or raffles to win promotional products.

    21. Promotional products that reference pop culture and current trends appeal mainly to Gen Z consumers, while Baby Boomers respond to products that carry an important message more than any other age group.

    22. More than 60% of people who receive promotional products will look the brands up online later.

    23. Almost half of consumers feel more confident doing business with companies that use branded decor or furniture.

    24. Three-quarters of consumers say that promotional products make their experiences more memorable.

    25. 80% of people have an immediate reaction when they receive promotional products from companies they’ve never heard of.

    You’re practically a promo fact expert now! Send this article to your customers, prospects, and any promo skeptics you know to show them just how powerful marketing with promotional products can be.


    2019 Consumer Study, PPAI Research

    2019 Sales Volume Study, PPAI Research





    Used with permission from SAGE

  • December 16, 2020 9:15 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    As the year begins winding down, many managers are thinking of ways to show gratitude to their team members. While monetary rewards, thoughtful gifts and holiday parties are welcomed and appreciated, there are additional heartfelt ways to show your appreciation.

    According to speaker, consultant and best-selling author, Dr. Cindy McGovern, if you want to show your hard-working and loyal staff that you truly value and appreciate them, you should listen to them. They have ideas, complaints and personal struggles, especially after a year as tumultuous as 2020.

    If you are looking for the best ways to show appreciation to your sales reps, read on. We’ll share Dr. McGovern’s top ways to show gratitude in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

    1. Get their ideas. You never know who might be thinking about your company’s next big initiative. As a way of showing you value your sales reps, ask them for their feedback—and then listen. Dr. McGovern says that when former PepsiCo CEO told the corporation’s thousands of employees that they should take ownership of the company, one janitor took it seriously. He suggested dusting Cheetos with chili powder instead of cheese powder and the result—Flamin’ Hot Cheetos—ended up being one of the brand’s top sellers.

    2. Enable your team members to solve problems. What’s something that isn’t working quite right on your team or in your organization? Invite your sales reps to solve the issue. You could sweeten the deal by offering a financial reward to the employees, adds Dr. McGovern. She gives an example of two workers at Audi who noticed ventilation systems continued to run even when no workers were present. They suggested shutting off the ventilators overnight and saved the corporation more than $120,000 a year.

    3. Adjust for personal needs. Each one of your sales reps has different needs. Some may need to adjust their work hours due to family obligations. Others may need to work from home occasionally, while some may need extra time off. As a way of showing your gratitude, find out what your sales reps want and need the most, and then make that happen for them. Dr. McGovern says companies as large as GE and as small as five-person companies offer flex hours to help their employees and to boost their ability to recruit newcomers.

    4. Celebrate their good deeds. According to Dr. McGovern, when you recognize your team members’ good deeds, you encourage more helpful behavior. Consider Hardee’s, which handed over a $1,000 check to a teenage employee simply because the worker offered his arm to an elderly customer who was walking to the car with the aid of a walking cane. If you spot an act of kindness or generosity among your sales reps, recognize it.

    5. Involve your sales reps in service projects. There are many ways to give back—especially this time of year. Involving your employees in charitable activities is a great way to show you value them while also helping the community. Dr. McGovern says that businesses that give back are as popular with their own employees as they are with the recipients of the goodwill.

    Showing your gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Sometimes, the most meaningful ways of showing appreciation come down to listening to your employees. Consider the points above when you are looking for ways to show employee appreciation this holiday season and all year long.

    Source: Dr. Cindy McGovern is a top-rated speaker, consultant and best-selling author of Every Job Is A Sales Job.

    Used with permission from PPAI 

  • December 16, 2020 9:11 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Just like the promo industry, the meeting industry and event planning has taken a pivot or two over the last several months. With the holidays now in full swing, meeting planners are doing exactly what you’re doing: Planning for the new year. Just because large in-person events are not likely to resume in the foreseeable future, there’s no reason the meeting planners on your prospect list shouldn’t hear from you. In fact, it’s probably more important than ever that you reach out to those meeting planners. After all, for a reinvented meeting industry characterized (today anyway) by virtual meetings, when you think inside the box, it’s possible to score some big wins.

    Let’s talk about some big wins, shall we? The folks at Bishop-McCann in Kansas City are absolutely embracing the reinvented meeting industry and getting innovative in the process. The founder and CEO have complimented the Bishop-McCann event planning business by launching Eventure, an online platform designed to create and deliver gift ideas to virtual meeting attendees. "Even though face-to-face meetings were not happening, the need was still there for people to be able to connect — no matter what seat they're in, whether they're sitting in a ballroom or at home," Bishop-McCann CEO Rob Adams told the Kansas City Business Journal.

    Think about this for a minute, and consider that you can do this very thing — or something similar. Client needs haven’t changed. You’ve sourced items for room drops, gifts, and identity merchandise for in-person events, and the product thinking shouldn’t change now. Your clients wanted an emotional connection to the event back then, and with virtual attention spans shorter than ever now, that magic is even more important. Just how big is your clients’ Zoom mindshare fade? Chances are good that it’s gigantic. In fact, according to recent research from Civicom on what else meeting attendees admitted doing while meetings are going on include:

    Daydreaming (91%)

    Doing other tasks (65%)

    Checking social media or sending emails (63%)

    Eating or making food while on the call (55%)

    Playing video games and shopping online (25% and 21%, respectively)

    And that’s where you and that inside the box thinking can come in. The magic you can bring is adding the integration of active promo items into the meeting. I like that Eventure’s tagline is “think inside the box.” That really captures the idea of what they’re doing. Eventure's “Applause Box” has custom flick sticks with water-soluble confetti, wine tumblers, and Tost branded cranberry- and ginger-flavored sparkling non-alcoholic drinks. They also include a recipe card for making cocktails yourself later. This kind of promo item is perfect for Appreciation Season and but one example of how creative thinking can help make even virtual meetings or events interesting and exciting.

    What’s important not to miss here: Bishop-McCann’s Adams said that they are purposely keeping Eventure as a separate entity so that they can approach third-party meeting planners. If they can convince those third-party folks that they aren’t actually looking to compete with them, that means they’re coming after your lunch, promo distributors, and it’s time to get serious about thinking inside the box your own selves.

    Talking about the launch of Eventure, co-founder Dan Nilsen said, “Meeting planners have worked tirelessly to reinvent the industry and continue providing effective meetings and events on a virtual platform. Our easy-to-use eCommerce system, combined with our exceptional customer service, takes the work out of gift giving. It creates a seamless, customized experience while delivering a flawless, customized product to delight meeting attendees.”

    But how can you compete if you don’t have a sophisticated website? I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t suggest you think about fixing that outdated website and thinking about pivoting more to ecommerce offerings, of course. In the interim, you can still offer a menu of event boxes you’ve already curated right now. You already know where to find the facemasks, hand sanitizer, and basic snacks to fill a box, and adding a whiteboard with markers would be no sweat for you. You did custom branded notebooks for meetings before I’m sure, and maybe there’s a fidget spinner or stress ball still hanging around just waiting for good use. Having clients make suggestions for their own box is not much more trouble.

    So, what are you waiting for? You developed products to move attendees to action at your clients’ in-person events, now it’s time to truly embrace a reinvented meeting industry and think about how you can use inside the box thinking to deliver innovative solutions to your customers. Move that promo connection out of the conference center and into the box you’re packing up for them and don’t let a competitor get there first! Even as we begin to move from virtual, to hybrid events, and on to in-person events someday, the need for this kind of curated boxes is never going away. Just as you’ve seen with the Bishop-McCann example, the folks in the industry who understand how to pivot and embrace a new way of thinking are today’s innovating winners.

    Used with permission from PromoCorner

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