Business, product and service names affiliated with a single word or acronym are more than ubiquitous in today’s brevity-and catch-phrase-driven consumer markets. The promotional products industry is chock-full of products that are imprinted, engraved or embroidered with a company name, logo or acronym. In an instant, the average American could likely recite a number of products or services based on a simple word, symbol or acronym: Apple, Cheerios, Nike, Bambi, IBM, NRA and so on. Promotional Product Association International’s widely-known acronym, “PPAI,” its “Mark of a Professional” logo and The PPAI Expo mark also come to mind.
But, when is a mark or acronym protected from use by others? This article explores the trademark and service mark protection statute called the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125.
Briefly, the Lanham Act, which was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1946, prohibits the use of protected marks (or similar versions thereof) in a way that is likely to confuse consumers. Someone who believes that a violation of the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)) exists must show (1) that the person’s business or service name, acronym or logo is entitled to protection and (2) that an alleged infringer’s name, acronym or logo is identical to those marks or so similar that they are likely to confuse or deceive consumers.
You are likely thinking, “OMG! Are our service and product acronyms and names, and those of our clients, protected?” That can be a tricky question to answer, and the devil is in the details. Moreover, the analysis may vary, depending on the judicial circuit in which the issue is presented.
As a general rule, legal protection is only available to “distinctive” marks. Distinctive marks are marks that serve the purpose of identifying the source of the goods or services, which can occur by word usage or market reputation. “Distinction” of a mark is not always easy to determine and, in many cases, the subtleties in this area of law could result in COB (closure of business) or SOL (sorry, out of luck).
In the case of Welding Services Inc. v. Forman, 509 F.3d 1351 (11th Cir. 2007), the court described how or when a mark may be “distinct” as follows: “Some marks are inherently distinctive; some marks, though not inherently distinctive, acquire distinctiveness by becoming associated in the minds of the public with the products or services offered by the proprietor of the mark; and some marks can never become distinctive.”
To determine “distinctiveness,” courts generally consider four categories of marks: (1) fanciful or arbitrary, (2) suggestive, (3) descriptive and (4) generic.
Arbitrary Or Fanciful Marks
An arbitrary or fanciful mark bears no logical relationship to the product or service it is used to represent. Examples include Exxon, Kodak and Xerox, each being made-up words crafted to represent a product or service.
A suggestive mark refers to some characteristic of the goods but requires the consumer to take an “imaginational leap” to get from the mark to the product or service. In the case of Peaceable Planet, Inc. v. Ty, Inc., 362 F.3d 986 (7th Cir. 2004), a toy camel product named “Niles” was found to be a protected suggestive mark because it required an imaginational leap from the name to the Nile River. As the “Niles court” noted in its opinion, “‘Niles’ may evoke but it certainly does not describe a camel, any more than ‘Pluto’ describes a dog, ‘Bambi’ a fawn, ‘Garfield’ a cat or ‘Charlotte’ a spider.”
A descriptive mark identifies a characteristic or quality of the service or product. Examples of descriptive marks are “Vision Center” for eye-care services and “All Bran” for a food product. In the 1992 case of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. McNeil-P.P.C., Inc., 973 F.2d 1033 (2d Cir. 1992), the court adjudicated whether the use of “PM” in the name of a nighttime headache medication was a protectable mark, and the court found that the “PM” was descriptive and not suggestive or generic.
Marks that are fanciful, arbitrary or suggestive are inherently protected; there is generally no need to show secondary meaning in the marketplace. On the other hand, descriptive marks are protected only if there is a secondary meaning to the mark or usage.
Whether a name has attained secondary meaning depends on many factors, and a non-exclusive list of factors considered by the courts includes: the length and nature of the mark’s use, the nature and extent of advertising and promotion of the mark, the efforts of the business owner to promote a conscious connection between the mark and the business, and the degree of actual recognition by the public that the name designates the business owner’s product or service.
Courts generally find that generic marks can never become a protected trademark. Generic marks essentially inform the consumer precisely what class of product or services is marketed. “Light beer,” for example, has been described as generic, but the acronym “L.A.” used in low-alcohol beer labels has been described as a descriptive mark. In the 2007 opinion of Welding Services Inc. v. Forman, 509 F.3d 1351 (11th Cir. 2007), the court denied protection for a three-letter encircled acronym logo—“WSI”—because the abbreviation had not acquired a meaning distinct from the generic business name with which the acronym was associated: Welding Services, Inc. Thus, the WSI logo was also deemed generic. A generic name may also be a term by which the product or service itself is commonly known, such as “Kleenex” or “Escalator,” even if the mark was once registered and protected.
Generic-ness, if you will, focuses on the use of the term and not necessarily the term itself. As the court in Soweco, Inc. v. Shell Oil Co., 617 F.2d 1178 (5th Cir. 1980) described: “A word may be generic of some things and not of others: ‘ivory’ is generic of elephant tusks but arbitrary as applied to soap.”
Consider reviewing you or your client’s trade names, acronyms, symbols and other valuable business- or service-related identifiers. In your review, factor in your enhanced understanding of the protections for the various categories of marks and consider modifying your marketing efforts to enhance any “secondary meaning” that may be associated with descriptive marks. Consider also whether any secondary meaning remains relevant in today’s marketplace. As the court in Texas Pig Stands, Inc. v. Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc., 951 F.2d 684 (5th Cir. 1992) aptly described, “Whether ‘pig sandwich’ has acquired a secondary meaning greatly depends on whether the question is asked in 1930, shortly after the incipience of Pig Stands, or in 1990.”
Read more about some of the cases cited in this article:
Cory Halliburton is an attorney with Weycer, Kaplan, Pulaski & Zuber, P.C. (WKPZ), with officers in Dallas, Houston and Arlington, Texas, and he serves as general counsel for PPAI. This article is for general informational purposes only; it is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. There may be other federal or state laws that provide a means to protect trade or service marks. Each recipient is encouraged to consult independent legal counsel before making any decisions concerning the matters in this communication.
This article was used with permission from PPB Magazine, January 2020
The labor market should remain tight in 2020, despite the pace of job growth easing off. And while The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index declined in December—now standing at 109.68, down from 110.51 in November and marking a 1.2 percent decline in the index over the past 12 months—its behavior is in line with expectations, given the labor market’s expansion.
“The Employment Trends Index decreased in December and continues to be on a flat trend since the summer of 2018,” says Gad Levanon, head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “In the current state of the labor market, a flat index is consistent with an ongoing labor market expansion. We expect job growth to remain solid and the labor market to continue tightening. In Friday’s job report, the broadest measure of labor market slack, known as the U6 rate, fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest level on record. Such a tight labor market is a growing obstacle for further economic growth, but not a big enough obstacle to derail the U.S. economy from its two-percent growth trajectory.”
In determining its Employment Trends Index, the Conference Board aggregates eight labor market indicators that it has found are accurate within their own areas. It notes that aggregated individual indicators are placed into a composite index to filter out “noise” and show underlying trends more clearly. December’s decrease in The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index was fueled by negative contributions from five of the eight components.
On Friday, the federal government reported that the U.S. economy added 145,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate remained at 3.5 percent. Job creation concentrated primarily in the services and construction sectors, while the decline of 12,000 jobs in manufacturing shows that this part of the economy is still weak. The Conference Board notes that easing trade tensions between China and the U.S. may help to further improve business confidence in 2020.
In 2019, the unemployment rate reached its lowest point since the late 1960s, and job growth was strong with an average of 176,000 jobs added per month, although just over 20-percent slower than the average of 223,000 in 2018. In its analysis, The Conference Board highlights that the labor market performance in 2019 should therefore be considered a significant achievement after an economic expansion of over 10 years.
While The Conference Board expects employment growth to somewhat moderate in 2020, the labor market will likely continue to tighten further as the working-age population is barely growing and labor force participation rates are only slowly increasing. It says that employers hiring blue-collar and manual services workers will have a harder time recruiting and retaining current employees. For these workers it also sees strong wage acceleration, much faster than growth in the average hourly earnings, which stagnated in 2019 at around 3.2 percent and weakened in December to 2.9 percent. Slower wage growth for highly educated management and professional workers has held back average wage growth for all workers.
Name: David Lever, CAS
Title: Director, Sales
Company: Otto International, Inc.
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What do you like best about your company?
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?
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Consumers (and the planet) asked for eco-friendly, and the promotional products industry has delivered with green merchandise that’s impressionable, on trend and serves as a conversation-starter for end users. When is the last time you heard about a sustainable product or learned of a company that donates a portion of its proceeds to a green charity? The answer is probably very recently, with sustainability driving demand in the U.S. and worldwide, according to Forbes. And good thing, too, because environmental issues, like global warming, deforestation and ocean pollution, can benefit from exposure of eco-conscious products by stirring awareness and encouraging action.
Nurture The Planet, Nurture Your Brand
If Earth had a theme song right now, it would be Charles Bradley’s Changes. Earth is, undoubtedly, going through some major changes, and not all of them are good. As of October 2019, only 26.9 percent of the world’s forests and 68.5 percent of the world’s coral reefs remained intact, according to The World Counter, a “live” counter that uses data from organizations across the globe to indicate world stats in real time. The global ocean has risen just over three inches since the start of satellite sea level recordkeeping in 1993, according to climate.org, and an estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, most of it plastic, is dumped in the world’s oceans every year, a stat reported by seastewards.org. The latter is such a problem, in fact, that the “plastic soup”—the patches of garbage floating in the oceans—now covers more than 25 million square miles. If this were on land, it would be enough to cover the United States, China, India and Argentina, combined, with garbage. But it doesn’t end there. According to Project Kaisei, a nonprofit that focuses on marine debris, 70 percent of garbage that winds up in the ocean sinks, which means the plastic soup, though massive, doesn’t even account for half of the garbage underwater.
By stepping in, companies are stepping up by incorporating eco-friendly practices into their business.
The major plus here is that companies not only benefit from feel-good work, but enhanced brand perception. To discover the impact of sustainability for brands, Computer Generated Solutions (CGS)—a provider of business and outsourcing services and enterprise learning—conducted its 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey, which surveyed more than 1,000 Americans, ages 18 to 65. The results indicated that 68 percent of consumers consider sustainability important when making a purchase, so much so they’d be willing to pay more for it: 35 percent would pay 25-percent more than the original price, seven percent would pay 50-percent more, and five percent would pay double. When asked about what makes consumers loyal to a brand, 28 percent of consumers said “sustainable/ethical business practices.”
Right now, sustainability is trending because there’s a dire need for it, but what continues—in part—to drive people to the product is the product itself. For suppliers manufacturing eco-friendly apparel, a large portion of the product’s appeal comes from comfort and structure, and at the most fundamental level, the garment’s fibers, which can have a major effect on a company’s sustainability. There are many eco-friendly fibers to consider when manufacturing clothing, like recycled polyester, bamboo, Pinatex (pineapple leather), fish leather, organic linen, cork and organic cotton. But hemp is particularly popular—and no, it isn’t because of the legal marijuana boom. Here’s more about the fiber and its many benefits.
According to Global Stewards, organic hemp is made from cannabis sativa fibers or industrial hemp. Hemp fibers, often referred to as “bast,” grow outside of the plant’s stalk and are cultivated by hand. The hemp fibers are fast-growing, reaching between three and 15-feet tall at the 11-week maturation point, and they grow in colors ranging from creamy white to green, brown and black. Hemp requires little water, no pesticides and naturally fertilizes the soil it grows in, and because it’s low-maintenance, it costs less to cultivate. Hemp also produces two-to-three times more fiber per acre than cotton, and is 95-percent UV-resistant, mold-resistant, hypo-allergenic, non-irritating and pest-resistant. It’s also a strong fiber—up to four times stronger than cotton—which means clothing made from hemp fibers will last longer. One of the oldest fibers in the world, first spun to make clothing some 10,000 years ago, hemp is also antibacterial and durable, and it continues to soften the more it’s washed. Oftentimes, it’s blended with other fibers, like organic cotton or flax. Other than apparel, hemp can be used to make paper, rope, paint, biodegradable plastics, food, insulation, horticultural bedding for animals and stuffing for upholstery.
Watches aren't usually associated with eco-consciousness, but this Eco-Drive line of watches run without batteries. The watches are created using a technology launched in 1976 that exclusively powers the watch using any light source, whether natural, artificial and even dim light--indoors or outdoors--using a rechargeable lithium ion power cell. The end user never has to worry about losing track of time, and the brand salvages resources; within a year's time, if all the used batteries from Citizen Watches were stacked on top of one another, it would be taller than the Empire State Building.
Citizen Watch America / PPAI 410292, S1 / www.citizenwatch.com
The 100LS Unisex Ultimate Long-Sleeve Tee is made from 60-percent cotton and 40-percent recycled polyester fiber made from recycled materials, reducing petroleum and greenhouse gases associated with manufacturing, and conserving water and energy. The tee is 15-percent heavier than most basic tees, and is dyed using 30-perecnt ColorZen cotton, which allows cotton to be dyed using 90-percent less water, 75-percent less energy and 95-percent fewer chemicals. Available in XS-3XL in 16 colors, shown in heather gray.
Threadfast Apparel / PPAI 622344, S6 / www.threadfastapparel.com
The 200RV Women's Ultimate Short-Sleeve Tee is made with eco-consciousness top of mind. The 60-percent cotton and 40-percent recycled polyester tee is crafted using recycled materials--when recycled polyester is used to make clothing, it requires 70-percent less energy, 72-percent less CO2 emissions and 86-percent less water. Available for select styles and colors, clients can opt for digitally-enabled radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which end users can use to access an evergreen brand message. Available in S-2XL in 18 colors, shown in red.
Threadfast Apparel / PPAI 622344, S6 / www.threadfastapparel.com
With a natural softness and a worn, vintage finish, the Alternative Eco Ideal Stars Tee is a go-to selection for a casual look. With details including a bound neckband, blind hem stitching detail, and an allover star print, this made-in-the-USA garment is fashioned from Eco-Jersey, a blend of fibers that includes recycled and organic materials. The tee is decorated with eco-friendly dyes, further reducing the carbon footprint, and can include a three-color, full chest screen print. Available in S-XL.
BIC Graphic NA / PPAI 114187, S13 / www.bicgraphic.com
Give end users a product they'll wear throughout the coming (and hopefully not too long) winter--while ensuring all eyes are on your brand. These men's sweatpants are uniquely created for a customized fit, using different front and back measurements. The pill-resistant, machine-washable pants also include an elastic-covered waist and leg cuffs. Made with five-percent polyester created from recycled plastic bottles, the product is available in S-3XL in grey, navy blue and black (shown). Customize with a three-color imprint on the left leg.
BIC Graphic NA / PPAI 114187, S13 / www.bicgraphic.com
It's an oxymoron: get endless exposure while blocking out rays. The Flexfit Hydro Grid Stretch cap is water-repellent, made from EcoDry, flourine-free, 100-percent polyester grid fabric. The fitted hat features a structured, mid profile, three-and-a-half-inch crown and comes with a Permacurv visor. Available in S/M and L/XL in black, navy, white and grey (shown).
Kati Sportcap / PPAI 113758, S5 / www.katisportcap.com
For a cap with a no-nonsense Velcro closure on the back, the Mega Cap PET Recycled Structured features a mid-profile and six-panel construction, along with a pre-curved visor and hook-and-loop closure. The cap is made from 50-percent cotton and 50-percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic resin. When PET fabric is recycled, it breaks down into smaller fragments, which can be used to absorb toxins from water and soil. Available in one-size-fits-all in black, grey, khaki, navy, white and red (shown).
Crafted with quality, comfort and eco-consciousness as a focus, the Eco Chunky Cable Poncho is made using 75-percent recycled cotton and 25-percent polyester made from recycled materials. This made-in-the-USA poncho, available on one-size-fits-all, is also timeless, in that it's great as a transition garment for cool summer nights or brisk autumn days. Color options include hemp, black, aluminum (shown), charcoal and milk.
In2Green / PPAI 748975, S1 / www.in2green.com
Truly embracing sustainability, this 100% Recycled Re-Spun Tee is made from consumers' recycled, donated tees. Giving an entirely new life and look to an existing product, the tees are made using technology like UV sanitation--a waterless process--without the use of added chemicals. Added dyes aren't part of the process, either as every color is the result of combining hundreds of recycled tees of the same color. So far, 121,346 tees have been collected and repurposed by Marine Layer, and end users, clients and business owners alike can donate their used tees directly through its website.
Marine Layer, Inc. / PPAI 690355, S1 / www.marinelayer.com
A bestseller, the Afternoon Hoodie got its name from being the "definition of afternoon delight," according to Marine Layer. The hoodie is made from a blend of 50-percent, USA-sourced Supina cotton and 50-percent Micro Modal--which is sourced from sustainably grown beechwood trees--for a resulting hand feel that's so soft, it's compared to a cloud. And with plenty of room for a bold brand message, you can't go wrong with a repurposed product that packs a (green) punch.
Marine Layer, Inc. / PPAI 690355, S1 / www.marinelayer.com
The EcoSmart Collection isn't only trendy--its sweatshits and hoodies are closet staples, and ones that'll be well-received by end users. The sweatshirts are made to fit just below the wearer's natural waistline, while high-stitch density ensures the garment will last longer without piling. But in addition, all EcoSmart products have helped keep nearly 50 million plastic bottles from the world's landfills each year. From left, the Hanes ComfortBlend EcoSmart Crew Sweatshirt in stonewashed green, the Hanes ComfortSoft EcoSmart Women's Crewneck Sweatshirt in pale pink and the Hanes ComfortBlend EcoSmart Pullover Hood in deep royal and denim blue.
Hanes/Champion / PPAI 191138, S10 / www.hanes.com
It's raining, it's pouring--but you'll be thankful your end users have their ponchos, especially the Biodegradable Rain Poncho - Standard * Plant. The poncho, which can be adorned with a logo or brand message, is 100-percent compostable and, when disposed of correctly, will decompose and convert to soil. The poncho is made from bioplastics, including natural starch and sugar alcohol, and it's also non-GMO. Available in a milky white color (shown).
Josanto, LLC / PPAI 720927, S1 / www.josanto.com
According to CGS’s survey, Americans believe it is most imperative for the following product categories to include eco-friendly and sustainable options.
Here’s an example of eco-friendly done right.
BELLA + CANVAS. The Los Angeles-based supplier leaves virtually no landfill at its Los Angeles headquarters and manufacturing facility, because anything that isn’t used is recycled. Leftover or scrapped fabric is converted into a myriad of goods, like baby bibs or upholstery stuffing, and cutting processes have been enhanced to reduce the use of plastic. BELLA + CANVAS uses one-seventh the water of an average clothing manufacturer, saving 24 million gallons per week, and water that is used goes through a filtration system, so it can also be recycled. In the headquarters, the company uses solar energy to power its sewing and cutting machines, motion-sensor LED lighting and skylights, and provides electric car-charging stations for its employees.
But aside from its facilities and products, the company is dedicated to the working conditions of its employees and to remaining American-made. BELLA + CANVAS manufactures in the United States and employs more than 1,000 people in LA. The company is also certified by W.R.A.P.—a nonprofit team of global social compliance experts—for human resources management, health and safety standards, environmental and eco-friendly practices, and legal compliance, including imports and exports, customs compliance and security standards.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.
Used with permission from PPAI Publications
Polyconcept, the parent company of Polyconcept North America (PCNA), home of industry supplier brands Leed's (PPAI 112361, S13), Bullet (PPAI 113079, S12), Journalbooks (PPAI 110769, S10) and Trimark (PPAI 198982, S10), has announced it has completed the acquisition of ETS Express (PPAI 135148, S11). The sale was finalized on November 29; terms of the sale were not disclosed.
ETS Express, with headquarters in Oxnard, California, and an additional location in Concord, North Carolina, is reported to be the largest supplier of promotional drinkware in North America and is a recognized leader in product design and innovative decoration. Polyconcept is reportedly the world's largest multi-category supplier of promotional products with distribution to more than 100 countries worldwide. The addition of ETS to the PCNA portfolio will extend its presence and leadership within drinkware, the fastest-growing category in the promotional products industry, according to the company's news release.
"ETS's demonstrated leadership in design and decoration creates exciting new opportunities for PCNA and our distributor partners. Its culture, values and service philosophy are in strong alignment with our own," says Neil Ringel, CEO of Polyconcept. "We welcome the addition of the ETS team and are excited to work together to ensure that this strategic alliance capitalizes on their leadership position while also ensuring that each of our individual brands remains highly differentiated in the marketplace."
ETS will continue to operate independently out of its Oxnard headquarters and be led by current CEO Sharon Eyal, who will also join PCNA's executive leadership team. All ETS operations, sales and marketing will remain independent, enabling it to stay exclusively focused on the drinkware category.
"I have personally known the PCNA team for many years, and because they strongly share our commitment to service and excellence, I couldn't be happier that they will be our partner," says Eyal. "This transaction is a testament to ETS's employees and all that we've accomplished together over the last 34 years."
Polyconcept was acquired in August 2016 by Charlesbank Capital Partners. Alex Weiss, a Charlesbank principal, says, "We are delighted to support the expansion of PCNA and to help bring together two leading companies in the promotional industry. We look forward to a successful integration building on the cultural similarities, talent and best practices of these two companies, all of which will position them for a stronger future together."
As the year comes to a close, you might start contemplating how you want to better yourself in the year ahead. By adopting some high-performance habits, you can steer yourself in the right direction. However, it's not enough to only think about what you want to improve—you must commit to consistency.
Jennifer Cohen, president and CEO of fitness and wellness brand NGR, says it's simple to put four high-performance habits to work in your life, regardless of where you are in your career or life stage. We highlight Cohen's habits to develop in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
1. Wake up early and have a consistent morning routine. Every morning presents a new opportunity to achieve your goals. Cohen says that by waking up early and giving yourself adequate time to complete your morning routine, you'll already feel a sense of accomplishment. Without enough time to complete your morning routine, you'll likely feel rushed, stressed and anxious. Starting the day off on a negative note takes you away from your goals. Cohen adds that many successful people find the cornerstone of their routines to be hydrating, moving their bodies, meditation and eating. Figure out what you can do realistically and consistently.
2. Choose to approach everything with a positive attitude. No matter how much money you make, doing things you don't feel entirely enthusiastic about is a part of life. Everyone has to make it through the drudgery sometimes. While it's easy to become angry and frustrated, Cohen reminds professionals that having a bad attitude doesn't change anything. It often makes things worse by permeating other parts of your life.
3. Write down your goals. We all have a lot of ideas in our head, whether it's general to-do list items or long-term goals. No matter what category these plans fall under, it's important to write everything down. How you do that is up to you. If you use your phone for everything, an app may be best, even if it's just the basic notes app. If you like detailed journaling, a bullet journal can potentially work wonders for you, recommends Cohen. Putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) turns an idea into an action or a thought into something tangible.
4. Surround yourself with positive and successful people. They say if you want to become a better tennis player, you should play with someone more skilled than you. The same is true for most things in life, notes Cohen. You pick up a lot from the people you surround yourself with—both positive and negative. So, if you are trying to be more successful and productive, establishing relationships with people who have what you want can help get you there. Seek out a mentor or join a mastermind group. Even if you don't end up establishing a relationship with people in your field, anyone with a positive, encouraging attitude is likely worth your time.
Having the right habits in place make all the difference in your personal and professional success. If you want to level up in your life, commit to Cohen's high-performance habits.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Jennifer Cohen is the president and CEO of fitness and wellness brand NGR, No Gym Required, and serves as the lifestyle and fitness spokesperson for world-class brands including Muscle Milk, Polar Heart Rate Monitors and Weight Watchers.
Think about how you respond when you close a big sale. Do you consider it the beginning of a great new relationship or do you immediately run off to close your next deal? Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, says that too many sales professionals interact with customers when they close the deal and then revisit them a year later to renew the contract. To keep your customers loyal, you must be truly invested in your customers' success.
In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Thomas' best ways to retain customers and prepare for renewals.
1. Approach renewals with care. Most companies commit enormous amounts of resources and effort to win new clients, yet when it comes to retaining customers, companies do not apply the same amount of time, energy and thoughtfulness. Research shows that 44 percent of companies have a greater focus on acquiring customers, while only 18 percent focus on retaining customers. In order to avoid customer acquisition costs, many businesses follow the golden rule of retaining customers and building a loyal relationship with them. Consider these statistics on the value of keeping customers:
2. Create a frictionless customer experience. Selling today is a team activity that happens across several departments, says Thomas. A customer's impression of a company is shaped by multiple touchpoints with employees across the business. That's why it's essential for companies to use a sales methodology that all customer-facing employees can easily understand and use consistently. Make sure every department that interacts with the customer after the sale speaks the same language and is part of providing a holistic experience.
3. Conduct a health check. The ability to renew a contract depends on the salesperson's ability to build a relationship with the customer. Performing health checks with customers is a great way to check in and see how things are going without selling them anything, says Thomas. You came to know each other during the initial sales cycle, so now you have an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Gain rapport with your customers by being yourself and getting to know them.
4. Set reminders ahead of the renewal date. Thomas says that the average global 1000 corporation has more than 40,000 active contracts at any given time. If your company sells ongoing services, salespeople can set reminders to renew the annual contract well ahead of the actual renewal date, typically at least 60 days in advance. This will give you plenty of time to work through negotiations and approvals before the contract expires.
5. Perform continuous engagement for requalification. If your business solves a specific problem (rather than a continual service), you must realize that once that need is met, it's not a motivator for the next sales cycle. Staying partnered with your customers enables you to discover what problems the customer may have now and what their new needs are, according to Thomas.
Your success as a sales professional is contingent upon the success of your customers. When you focus on adding value and not just making a sale, you can establish a lasting relationship that benefits both parties.
Source: Julie Thomas is president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates. She is a noted speaker, author and consultant with more than 24 years of experience in sales.
Used with Permission from PPAI and PCT.
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