What is your title/role within your company? President/CEO
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry? I was introduced to the Promotional products industry when I worked for Newport Printing Systems in Irvine, over 18 years ago. There I was asked to sell everything to my clients. So, I learned what my clients needed and in many cases it was promotional items. Through my prior sales experience of solution selling from Vanier Graphics I helped create solutions using promotional items and logo wear programs for my clients.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product? The 12 oz. double wall stainless steel camper mug from ETS Express. Keeps my coffee warm for hours and no need for plug in warmer.
There are clients—and then there are high-profile clients. These VIPs often have very different expectations. When you have a chance to work with a high-profile client, preparation is paramount.
James Harris, co-founder of Bond Street Partners and star of the hit television series Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, says working with high-profile clients presents many exciting opportunities. The trick is to take time to understand their needs. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Harris' tips for succeeding with customers who are considered VIPs in their companies, industries and communities.
1. Always use discretion. Harris says that high-profile clients appreciate discretion and confidentiality. No one wants their personal information given to perfect strangers. High-profile clients are no different except every move they make is under a magnifying glass. Never broadcast your client's next step. Not only is it an invasion of his or her privacy, but it's also a security issue. Harris recommends using your discretion as a selling point. By understanding the importance of your client's privacy, you will build a reputation for being dependable and trustworthy.
2. Be respectful of their time. When working with a high-profile client, Harris says it's best to keep your communications succinct and only reach out when necessary. Try to schedule calls and meetings in the morning as early as possible. As the day progresses, it only becomes more difficult for your client to remove themselves from their business to speak with you.
3. Stay flexible. High-profile clients typically don't work a traditional schedule. They expect you to be available 24/7 as they travel and may be in another time zone when they call you. Make sure you take their calls and respond to them on their schedule—not your own.
4. Provide top-tier service. High-profile clients rely on you to ensure that all their needs are met. They are typically involved in large transactions and expect your service to be in line with what they are spending. Harris says it's important to take yourself out of the equation. When dealing with high-profile clients, it is all about their needs. Put your ego aside and put them first. Your clients may not necessarily need the things they are asking you for, however, you must listen to what they want and deliver. If you don't, they will think you are wasting their time.
5. Anticipate their needs. Actively listen to your client and pay attention to what they are requesting. Make note of little nuances like their daughter's recital or corporate functions. By taking note of relevant information and applying it to the clients' needs, they will appreciate that you were listening, and you will service their needs accordingly. Harris also suggests noting any allergies, dislikes and uncomfortable moments. If your client mentions that she is allergic to shellfish, you don't want to make the mistake of making lunch reservations at a seafood restaurant.
6. Deliver value. Harris says that just because high-profile clients are successful doesn't mean they don't appreciate the value of a dollar. They want the best investment possible, which means they want a service that fits their needs and bottom line. Harris notes that high-profile clients aren't difficult—they're just busy and need a partner who understands how they do business.
Landing a high-profile client can be an exciting opportunity. Use the tips above to manage expectations and focus on their needs. When you do, you lay the groundwork for a long and fruitful partnership.
Source: James Harris is co-founder of Bond Street Partners, director of The Agency Real Estate and co-founder of thepls.com. Harris is also the star of the hit television series Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, which airs on Bravo.
An article in January’s issue of PPB Magazine shared recruiting ideas for finding good hires in today’s tight job market. This month we’re focusing on some ideas for retaining your best employees as the market continues.
In a strong economy, your business could be at risk of losing its best employees as your competitors work to lure them away. Maybe your employees are just looking around for a higher salary or more opportunities. Maybe they’re just plain unhappy where they are.
A 2018 Conference Board survey reported that only 43 percent of employees are happy in their current positions. That number is up slightly from previous years, but the percentage of happy employees still represents the minority of the workforce.
So how do you keep your best people without breaking the bank? This, too, is a complex issue with no simple solution. There are some steps, though, that you can take to increase retention. And the good news is they don’t all involve big salary increases.
Invest time and dollars in your managers and supervisors. According to a recent Fortune.com survey (and lots of other surveys, too), the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs is because of bad supervisors and managers. “Bad” supervision and management comes in all shapes and sizes. Employees may feel their work is not recognized or appreciated, they may not be given clear direction, or they may receive little to no feedback on their performance until appraisal time, when a host of issues that might easily have been addressed sooner suddenly appear.
To be fair, employees who are promoted into supervisory and management positions often lack the skills to succeed and aren’t given enough guidance and support by their supervisors and managers. And if they’re not successful and leave the organization or move to another position, that means another new, inexperienced supervisor may assume the role. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to hear employees say, “I’ve had six different supervisors in the past 18 months and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.” Investing in your managers and supervisors can help your organization avoid this chronic problem.
Be proactive. Often, employees don’t get asked about their intentions for staying with an organization until they announce they’re leaving. Being pre-emptive and proactive—through regular employee communication using both formal and informal channels—can help identify employees who may be thinking of leaving. In 2014, recruiters at Credit Suisse started calling employees identified as being at risk of leaving and notifying them of openings within the company. By taking this action, the company estimates they successfully retained 300 employees and saved $75 - $100 million in recruiting and training costs.
Start thinking—and communicating—total compensation. Most organizations don’t do a good job of thinking about and communicating total compensation to employees. A typical total benefits package is worth 30 to 35 percent of base salary, and a robust package may be worth almost 50 percent. Add in incentive and profit-sharing plans, and your total compensation package may actually exceed that of your competitors. Make sure your employees understand that. And just like it’s possible to create a customized benefits package for a potential new hire, offerings like an extra week of paid vacation or an increased contribution to health insurance can be useful tools for retaining an employee you don’t want to lose.
Restructure jobs. If you’re balking at giving each of your customer service reps a $10,000 raise to match the salary of that new CSR, consider restructuring or adding more responsibility to their jobs. Do they handle more complex calls? Do they work more closely with the sales representatives? They may already be functioning as senior CSRs but without the pay. However you choose to address this type of issue, be sure that you are rewarding them with something tangible and meaningful. Most importantly, be transparent. Remember, your employees will talk about it.
Offer a variety of training and development opportunities. According to the same Fortune survey cited above, after bad bosses and compensation, the third most frequent reason for employees to leave their jobs is lack of opportunity. There are multiple ways to provide your employees with training and education to prepare them for new opportunities. These may include formal training courses, industry conferences, webinars and online learning or inexpensive alternatives such as providing a mentor or a cross-training opportunity.
An increasing number of employers are also offering tuition reimbursement for education not related to an individual’s current position. Many traditional tuition reimbursement plans limit reimbursement to course work related to a current position, but a 2015 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey reported that 46 percent of survey respondents offer tuition reimbursement for any course work, regardless if it is related to the work currently being performed.
The bottom line is to get creative and ahead of the game to keep your best employees.
Susan Palé is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations, such as PPAI, and their member companies. www.affinityHRgroup.com
This article was originally published in PPB Magazine, July 1, 2019. Used with permission from PPAI.
Is your sales strategy focused mainly on price? To reach their quota, many salespeople resort to lowering their prices. While everyone loves a bargain, savvy B2B buyers know that you get what you pay for. They consider more than price when reviewing providers and making purchases. That's why it's important to explore alternatives for turning prospects into buyers.
Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, says sales professionals should avoid relying on price as a differentiator and instead focus on understanding the prospect's unique needs. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Thomas' thoughts on what to do instead of dropping your prices.
Focus on features that fit a unique need. Thomas says this accounts for the largest degree of differentiation, regardless of an industry, and is typically what product education focuses on. What features, functions and deliverables do your B2B solutions provide that are ideal for a particular prospect? How are these an improvement over what already exists in the market or within the company? Can you cite specific customers who have seen quantitative improvements since adopting your products or services? These brief stories will stick with the prospect, especially if they were battling similar business issues.
Offer more favorable terms and conditions. If you're in a crowded field or your solution is now commoditized, you may distinguish yourself by offering more favorable payment terms or extended product warranties.
Save time by delivering convenience. Time equals money, especially if a company lacks internal resources for anything but a quick deployment. How easy is it to explore your offerings? Does a contract come with 24/7 support online or over the phone? Do you offer free resources? Think about how you can provide value by offering convenience.
Provide a higher level of assurance. Thomas notes that this advantage typically goes to industry leaders with a proven track record of delivering quality goods and ongoing support. If you are a startup without a strong client list, tout the expertise of your staff to assure prospects of your solutions' durability, flexibility, security and any other highly sought feature or function. Most B2B entrepreneurs were first successful somewhere else; that's why they went out on their own. They also tend to bring solid talent with them. Leverage that expertise to quell any concerns about the lack of long-term successes.
Don't strive to be known as a low-cost provider. Instead, aim to become known as someone who provides the best value for the price. Whether you're working with a prospect or a long-time client, make sure you show how your vision for success and their vision match. This is where differentiation makes all the difference.
Source: Julie Thomas is CEO of ValueSelling Associates. She has personally consulted and trained in a wide variety of industries and corporations, including The Ken Blanchard Companies, ON24, Adobe, NCR and PrimePay. Thomas serves as a board member to the Value Selling and Realization Council and is the author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation At A Time.
Hello Fellow SAAC Members,
It's hard to believe it is already May—a big month for our industry as we celebrated Promotional Products Work! Week.
It has been a rapid three months since we’ve partnered with PPAI and brought on board Jennifer Bingham, our new executive director, who has been working diligently to ensure a smooth transition while utilizing all of the assets and resources available to us. Some of the priorities for SAAC include:
The SAAC website has been streamlined and updated for functionality. Please visit the site and check it out if you have not already done so.
· 2019 SAAC Expo
The details are taking shape for the SAAC EXPO in August. The exhibitor list is robust and growing daily. Please click here to see who has signed up to exhibit, then check back often. Distributor registration is now open and you can click here to register. The schedule, floor plan and educational sessions available will undoubtedly provide numerous opportunities for attendees to exchange ideas as well as grow their business and relationships. As we close the show floor on day one, we are thrilled to be hosting members, at no cost to them, during a cocktail reception prior to the re-imagined SAAC Awards. You will start receiving notifications and information about the 2019 EXPO with regularity in June. In the meantime, be sure and save the date for August 7-8.
· Internal Operations
Less exciting, but equally important, Bingham has also been working on internal operations to maximize efficiency and minimize expense. Additionally, SAAC is focused on enhancing value for its members. This includes refining features already in place and streaming communication, so members can maximize their membership benefits.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, with much more on the horizon. Thank you all for your continued support through these operational changes. Please reach out with any feedback or questions you may have. Your input is vital and encouraged as we work to shape the future of our Association.
Thank you also for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president. I look forward to our future working together.
What is your title/role within your company?
I am the president/CEO and Chief Cat Wrangler
What do you like best about your company?
The size and flexibility of our company allows us to make decisions that are meaningful to us and our clients. The environment is a huge personal concern of mine, so if I want to make a decision about using less invasive freight methods or promoting eco-friendly options to our clients, I can make it a priority without having to wait or ask for permission.
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?
I’ve been in the business for a long time. I was originally a manager at the Disney Store and applied for a buying position within the Disney corporation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were looking for a promotional products buyer rather than a merchandise buyer. The division was a new one for them, so the entire group of buyers built the department together. It was a chaotic but eye-opening experience. I've switched careers several times over the years but kept returning to promotional products. I guess it’s just in my blood.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?
Customized food and snack products - everybody loves getting a snack!
Tell us something about you that most people may not know
My top sales executive, Karyn, is my niece NOT my sister (yup, I am that old) AND we are not the same person. Everyone calls and asks for Taryn or Kerrie, but there are two of us. If I happen to answer her phone, everyone assumes I’m her because we sound so much alike. However sometimes I think we share the same brain. If I can’t think of a name or an item, Karyn always seems to know what I’m talking about and vice versa.
I am the Western Regional Sales Manager for Next Level Apparel and work with a fantastic group of reps. We are in the field to support the market and make sure as many people as possible can see and feel our products. The goal is simple, but powerful… create a favorite tee from superior fabrics in an assortment of sizes that is worthy of your message or design, eliminating the notion of the disposable garment.
Next Level Apparel has some of the softest fabrics, even after they have been run through my primitive laundering style. I’m not sure how we do it, but it is part of the secret of the brand and why many of you are using it for your projects already. If you aren’t already using us, you really should try Next Level Apparel. You will see, when you look through our product offering, that Next Level Apparel is an inclusive brand, with style options for so many personalities. As a mature woman, at least in years, I really appreciate that I can find fashionable styles that are comfortable. The only downside to how fantastic our offering is would be the increased number of shirts my family now owns. The inclusive feeling of the company and the product we offer is one thing I really like about Next Level Apparel.
Twelve years ago, I was saved from being the victim of a company downsize when I was offered to interview for a segment of business I did not even realize existed in the corporation I was working for, promotional t-shirts. I owned a few, but never thought about the industry behind the promotional items. What a fun change in pace with a fantastic crossover into so many various businesses. I had the branded products and now I was working in the industry that created them. What a creative industry, finding new segments of business to support with swag. I mean, who doesn’t love swag!
T-shirts, of course! Although I prefer the t-shirts I can wear over and over. Always disappointed to see the event shirts from my kids that sit in the drawer, never to be worn again. If only those school events and sporting clubs had given us better shirts, we would be showing them off. I also have lotion, lip balms, chip bags, stickers, phone cases, cups, photos printed on glass and metal, key chains, and so many pens. Each of those logoed items remind me of a place or company or person, which is absolutely the goal of our promotional products industry.
Tell us something about you that most people may not know.
That would be a very long list because I do not post on social media, so I am a bit of a mystery.
Creating a smart marketing strategy involves understanding what customers want and how you can create value better than the competition. When you can bring more customer value than your competition, you gain a huge advantage.
Julie Hennessy, a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and her colleague, Jim Lecinski, a clinical associate professor of marketing, say almost any manager can take steps to gain superior customer insight. We share their five steps to get to know your customers better than your competitors in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
1. Talk to the end user. Even though you're likely selling to different audience, spend time interacting personally with that organization's end users. Hennessy and Lecinski explain that companies that sell foods for kids' school lunches often spend most of their research dollars asking parents what they like to pack, although they would get different insights by asking kids what they want to eat. They would gain even better insight by spending a week sitting in school cafeterias to see first-hand what kids bring in their lunches, what they actually eat, what they trade and what they throw away.
2. Spend more time with the customer than your competition. Quality time matters, but "quantity" time is more important. Decision makers who spend enough time seeing the day-to-day lives and challenges of their customers have a level of understanding that staged drop-ins cannot provide. Hennessy and Lecinski say they also get the credit that comes from being the business that is willing to walk in its customers' shoes.
3. Watch customers buy similar products. Before customers can use your products in their promotions, they must buy them. Go into a gift shop, retail store or wherever similar products are available and watch how consumers interact with them. What do they pick up? Where do they spend time? Where do you lose them? Hennessy and Lecinski say that Home Depot used this strategy and found that many customers weren't thinking through the entire project and would forget to buy items they needed. So, Home Depot developed a checklist and how-to videos for common household projects—which ended up being a successful sales strategy for the company.
4. Watch customers use your product. Observing consumers as they use your products is the perfect chance to understand which features create value, which ones are never used and which ones get in the way. Hennessy and Lecinski say that watching people's behavior can help you make your offerings better and might even help you source and suggest new products.
5. Engage end users as product designers. Rather than seeing consumers as research subjects, consider seeing them as partners in product development. Companies of all sizes can explore this strategy. Software companies often employ groups of beta users to try products and provide feedback. Some companies codesign products with key customers. You can also try crowdsourcing to give consumers a voice in your product offerings.
There's power in having a close relationship with customers. Instead of spending hours analyzing data and spreadsheets, use the tips above to gain a real-world understanding of your customers and how you can serve them best.
Source: Julie Hennessy is a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Jim Lecinski is a clinical associate professor of marketing at the same school.
Dear SAAC Members,
I want to first thank all of the SAAC members for their support of the Foundation for SAAC. The Foundation for SAAC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation for the specific purpose of granting scholarships to numerous family members of Specialty Advertising Association of California’s members to promote professional, academic or artistic achievement in post-secondary education.
Our main fundraiser is the Jim Buescher Memorial Golf Tournament. It is being held this year on October 24th at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena CA. The tournament traditionally brings in members from all over the country to celebrate and support this important cause.
In 2018, we distributed over $16,000 in scholarships. For 2019, we plan to distribute over $19,000 to deserving students. This is thanks, in part, to a $5,000 gift from Jim Buescher’s widow, Bobbi Buescher who has been instrumental in keeping the legacy of Jim Buescher alive and well.
As part of our fundraising, we are in the process of developing an online auction with donated items and programs to help support these scholarships. Some of the auction items are NFL tickets, personal growth programs, gift baskets with anything from Amazon gift cards to movies to spa packages to wine tastings, etc. We are actively looking for sponsors of these programs. More information on this to follow.
The Foundation is also working in conjunction with the SAAC Board for additional events to promote and raise money for children’s education. We will be coordinating an event at the SAAC Expo in San Diego in August. The assistance of the associations’ Executive Director Jennifer Bingham and President Rhett Todd has been incredibly beneficial. More details will follow. We welcome all members to participate.
Our Board of Directors consists of:
So I want to say thank you again for the support. Our work is never done!
To contact the foundation for any donations or your desire to participate in any of our fundraising programs please contact email@example.com or 310.927.2450.
As SAAC moves forward in reinventing ourselves to continue supporting the vibrant, new members and organizations in our Southern California area, I love the idea of adding a column to our newsletter that reflects on the incredible people and impactful events that helped shape our organization. As a former SAAC president, I have the pleasure of kicking off this column, and it is my honor to do so.
I first attended a SAAC event back in 1982, the year I joined our industry as the “research boy” at the Walter W. Cribbins Company in Woodland Hills, California, working for Preshia Humecke. I quickly became involved with SAAC, serving on committees, taking photos at SAAC dinners, writing for the SAACTimes and helping with The SAAC Show in San Diego. Throughout the 1990s, I was the photographer for SAAC, taking shots with my trusty Canon SLR camera at every event and handing the film over to Joanne for processing and use in the newsletters. Later, for a year I worked as co-editor of the SAACTimes with Steve Tashman and served on more committees until eventually becoming SAAC President exactly 10 years ago.
When I look back on the many decades of service to SAAC and participation in so many wonderful events, I tried to focus on one memory that might crystalize my SAAC experience in this look-back article… and I came up with nothing. No single dinner, show or event came to mind—but what did come back to me, and what brings me the most personal value, are the many, many friendships that I developed in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s because of SAAC.
My very first week in the industry, back in May of 1982, I met multi-line rep Bob Collins, who took me under his wing, bought me a steak dinner at the White Horse Inn in Encino and introduced me to SAAC just before that summer SAAC show at the Town & Country at Hotel Circle in San Diego. Bob took me to meet Jim Smith, Eric Hirschman, Alex Krever, Neil Olinger, Cal Wofford and Bob Haynes—the great reps of SAAC and All Points West. Sadly, most are gone now, but the “Magic Man” Collins still, as ever, a road warrior.
So many of my closest industry friends ended up serving as SAAC president ahead of me, like Tommy Levin, Mikey Bistocchi, David Messe, Craig Spencer, Les Dorfman, Pattimo Lawrence and the great Steve Tashman and Bob Collins—all dear pals and trusted mentors, and all friendships formed weaved their way through SAAC. In more recent times, amazing people continued to enter my professional life via SAAC—wonderful industry pros like Lori Bolton-Herman, Craig Reese, Sarah DeBoer, Missy Kilpatrick, Steve Parker, Brian Padian and Angela Taylor. (If I seem like I’m name dropping, I am!)
Yes, for me SAAC is all about the people and the relationships, the ideas and the creativity, the connections and the friendships. I can never give back as much as I have received, but I’m trying. No matter where I worked, supplier or distributor, sales or management, the one constant has always been SAAC. I am eternally appreciative for my experiences with SAAC, and heartily encourage those who haven’t been around as long as I have to get involved and experience the camaraderie and support that SAAC brings to the fore.
SAAC & The Foundation for SAAC
PO Box 2394
Camarillo, CA 93011
p: 805.484.7393 e: firstname.lastname@example.org