What is your title/role within your company?
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.
What do you like best about your company?
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.
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?
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!
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?
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.
Promotional Products Work! Week (PPW!W) continues as industry professionals at companies and organizations across the country celebrate the power of promotional products and the importance of working with the industry. Running May 13-17, the seventh annual PPW!W is an opportunity for businesses, professionals and organizations in the $24.7 billion promotional products industry to raise awareness on the value and effectiveness of the media.
Several of the industry’s regional associations are taking PPW!W’s message to their members. Among them, the Promotional Products Association Southwest is sponsoring an end-user golf tournament today at Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas. The tournament has drawn industry professionals from across the region as players and sponsors. During the tournament’s lunch break, PPAI Vice President of Business Development Alan Peterson delivered remarks on PPW!W and the strength of the industry in Texas. Among his comments, Peterson said, “This strength is a testament to the fact that promotional products work. They help marketers and advertisers get in touch with their employees, their clients and their customers like no other advertising medium. Promotional products help build brands, raise awareness, increase loyalty, support causes and even help save lives.”
Also, as part of PPW!W, the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association (GCPPA) teamed up with Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, to engage with college-level marketing students to introduce them to the industry, so they are aware and knowledgeable of promotional products before entering the marketplace. Tanesha Anderson, the GCPPA board secretary and membership chair, presented to MBA marketing students in the Integrated Marketing Communications class and to undergraduate marketing students in the Marketing Research class. She says, “During both presentations the students were engaging and had a lot of questions about the industry and projects that were being worked on. There were a few students who had entrepreneurial ambitions and wanted advice on finding the right partners to work with and wanted to find out about working with domestic vendors versus buying direct overseas.”
GCPPA also shared gift bags with students filled with products from IMAGEN Brands and Goldstar Pens.
Industry companies are also stepping up for PPW!W. Among them is distributor HALO Branded Solutions, where employees are sporting custom sunglasses for the event to draw attention to its message and share it with their clients. Distributor AIA treated its staff to branded cookies at the start of the week, along with games of Promo Bingo. And industry businesses across the country are highlighting the week and its message in a wide variety of ways on social media.
Throughout PPW!W, PPAI is hosting local Association members at its Irving, Texas, headquarters. Complete with a red carpet, guests are joining PPAI for lunch and to learn more about the Association and the industry’s resouces. Several have also joined PPAI in a series of live videos for Facebook, sharing their experiences in the industry and their perspectives on the power of promotional products.
PPW!W is built on five pillars that exemplify ways PPAI member companies and others can speak up for the promotional products industry and take part in this year’s program, and the fourth pillar calls on the industry to share its impact with legislators, politicians and government officials. Industry professionals are doing that this week on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as part of PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.)., but it can be done closer to home, too. This week, David Hawes, MAS+, with Geiger, met with Clara Severson, political director for Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), to discuss how the industry impacts Minnesota's economy with $1.7 billion in annual revenue, more than 20,000 jobs and 947 companies, 95 percent of which are small businesses.
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