A Time to Be Confident
It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times - Charles Dickens
7/16/2020 | Roger Burnett, CAS, The Burn
Let’s face it. If you call the Promotional Marketing industry home AND if you’ve sat out selling PPE, times are pretty bleak.
Many of my friends’ lives have been turned completely upside-down. Many of our friends in the Supplier salespeople ranks have been tossed overboard like deck chairs from a sinking Titanic. It’s not wrong for businesses to do what they need to do to survive, and I have no complaint with the ways leaders are facing the challenge at this moment. I have the ultimate respect and understanding of the need to keep a business viable in the face of a seemingly endlessly shifting set of circumstances. No-one should get a permanent black eye for their approach to solving what seems to be an unsolvable problem right now.
None of that changes the fact that many people have had their careers thrown off the rails. Theirs are real fears and concerns about the possibility of being rehired to do what they have done for their entire careers. Many have reached the career stage where we’re not yet ready or willing to retire, but daunted by the idea of making a significant career change. It’s forcing people to undergo some pretty uncomfortable metamorphosis.
If that’s where you find yourself at the moment, know this.
Some of those forced metamorphosis’ I’ve been witness to have been done with a healthy eye toward people choosing to do things that make them happy to wake up in the morning. Folks who may otherwise have had a somewhat easy road to retirement age are making choices to do the things they’d always wanted to do but were too comfortable to try. It’s as if I’ve heard these words in their actions; “If I’ve gotta be broke, I might as well be broke doing trying something I like doing.”
I CAN RELATE.
When we started Social Good Promotions back in January 2019 (that’s like five years IRL, am I right?) we did so with a blank canvas;
ZERO existing clients
ZERO email prospects
ZERO brand equity
We’ve earned our way to building relationships via a relentless focus on delivering value to people for the long haul, as opposed to looking at businesses merely as a transactional means to an end.
Leave it to a global pandemic to accelerate the pace of change.
After two months of excellent sales growth and a decent March to start 2020, our revenue line took a beating in April and May. Those meager results forced us to look at our infant business and consider her viability.
After much consideration and a look at the business from a purely financial perspective, we realized we would be ok getting by for a reasonable amount of time, plus, all of our pre-COVID_19 commitments we’d gotten from clients are still good.
What we needed to do to survive was to focus our efforts and attention on building trust.
We were making an educated guess. Should we find success in elevating our trust status with others during this time of crisis, they’d be more inclined to invest in our company. Giving us money to help them with their businesses once they regain the confidence to start spending again has been the reward we’ve reaped as a result of our efforts.
So, as Dickens reminds us, there are moments of tremendous transformation going on all around us. While there’s an enormous amount of sadness, so are there also a litany of creatively refashioned careers rising like the Phoenix, emerging borne anew from the ashes of a crashed economy.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stand in the way of you finally taking the steps necessary to awaken tomorrow, resolute that you’re now on the path to doing what it is you should have always been doing.
Used with permission from PromoCorner
Eileen Joy Spitalny
Co-founder and President, Fairytale Brownies
The Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), the industry’s nonprofit dedicated to recognizing and encouraging scholastic excellence and academic performance among promotional products industry employees and their college-aged children, will award a record-breaking $276,750 in scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year. This brings the total amount awarded since PPEF’s founding to more than $2.4 million.
“PPEF is able to provide more scholarships to industry college students and their children each year. I’m more than thrilled that PPEF awarded a record number of scholarships through this pandemic,” says PPEF Board Chair Dana Porter. “PPEF is now awarding two-thirds of its funding to students who qualify for financial need. The scholarships provide much-needed funds to cover the increasing costs of earning a college degree. This year more than ever, students and their families need additional support to attend college and thankfully PPEF can be that outlet. Our industry is like a large family and being able to help the next generation go to college is an important part of what brings us together. I want to thank PPEF’s donors for providing their generous and inspirational support to the next generation.”
This year, PPEF is awarding 127 new and 33 renewal scholarships to selected recipients who have displayed remarkable academic achievement, extracurricular participation and community service. Each will receive between $1,000 and $9,000 to support their college educations. Since PPEF was founded in 1989, it has awarded $2,448,000 million in financial assistance to 1,358 recipients.
“PPEF continues to focus on investing in the education of the children whose families make up the fabric of the promotional products industry,” says David Grobisen, vice chair of the PPEF scholarship committee. “We receive and review hundreds of applications each year from deserving students with higher aspirations for themselves and their communities. When I think about the events taking place today, investing in our youth, the country’s future, takes on an even greater weight. The financial impact of the pandemic cannot be overstated and the contributions from the members of the promotional products community supporting the efforts of the PPEF to invest in our children, especially now, is an endeavor worthy of our industry.”
Funded by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) and generous donations from companies and individuals within the promotional products industry, the scholarship program enables youth and professionals to continue their education at the collegiate level. The Association and industry patrons have a long-standing commitment of service to the promotional products industry, and this fund supports those who demonstrate the same commitment.
The full list of 2020 scholarship recipients is available here, along with details on how to help support PPEF and its scholarship program.
Used with permission from PPAI
Bill & Ted said it best, “be excellent to each other."
I could probably stop writing after that statement. There’s nothing more to be said. It’s that simple. But, I’ll go on so we examine this together a bit more deeply...
Growing up, “Bill & Ted” was one of my favorite movies. Although, as an adult, I couldn't recall the last time I had watched it. Early on during Shelter in Place, I felt called to watch it again.
Watching “Bill & Ted” as an adult brought a whole new meaning to the message in the movie - one I wasn’t ready to receive back in my childhood. You see most simply put, Bill & Ted had a message of being excellent to each other. The opening scene of the first movie, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” says it all…
“Hi, Welcome to the future… San Dimas, California 2688. I’m telling you, it’s great here… the air is clean, the water is clean… even the dirt... it’s clean!”
This quote from Rufus, a character played by George Carlin, doesn’t seem to have a big impact on the surface. Yet, if we dive deeper we can see the message behind the words.
Los Angeles, the county in which San Dimas the city is located, is notoriously known for poor air quality. No shame to LA, being a Northern California guy I need to make that clear, but LA is really known for being dirty in general (much like most big cities).
THE POINT is they are setting the stage that something is different. Something changed to create a more “clean” environment nearly 700 years in the future…
As the movie progresses you meet Bill & Ted and learn that their simple message, “be excellent to each other” was a foundational piece to society turning over a new leaf for the better.
I’m sure you realize by now that I’m half-joking yet half-serious when I say, “Bill & Ted had it right all along."
What if it really is as simple as being excellent to each other?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer meet friction with friction.
Please stay with me here as I start to spread messages of peace & love…
Joe Hawley, an 8 year NFL veteran and a recent guest on my podcast (link to listen here), recently said, “The only way to change the world is through the lens in which you perceive it."
Albert Einstein once said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe in a friendly or a hostile universe."
Marianne Williamson, an author, activist and politician, said “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on Earth."
And in the words of Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
I share these quotes with a heartfelt invitation…
Please “be excellent to each other."
If you’d like to go deeper on these types of beliefs and join a community of mindful, conscious and maybe a little “woo-woo” type folks then you might be interested in this private facebook group.
Much Love My Friends,
Sam AKA SwagSam
Used With Permission From PromoCorner
One of the best things about promotional products sales is the plethora of products you can sell. While many industries have few products to market, you have thousands! That makes it easier to pivot into new markets and focus on much-needed products. These days, you need to be nimble to be successful.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for current ideas that can grow your promotional products sales, and that your clients and prospects need, here are seven trends to pay attention to that can dramatically boost your revenue and not one of them involves selling masks!
1. Work from Home Now that companies realize that employees can easily work from home and still be productive, the trend will continue. Twitter recently announced that all their employees can work from home indefinitely and you can expect more companies to do the same. Promotional merchandise that helps employees work more effectively at home will continue to be in demand. Tech-related items such as power chargers, as well as gifts to make employees feel appreciated, will continue to be popular.
2. Road Trips With air travel on the decline, and social distancing the norm, more people will be taking to the road this summer. RV sales have skyrocketed in the past few months. This presents a great opportunity for you to market items that make a road trip easier and more fun. Items such as coolers, insulated bottles, playing cards, puzzles, games, and car safety kits will be in demand.
3. Home Cooking The virus has forced many people to shelter at home, making home-cooked meals a necessity. Items that relate to cooking make great gifts. Think cutting boards, kitchen tools, jar openers, wine glasses, and flavor-enhancing spices to name a few. Opportunities are plentiful in this arena.
4. Hands-Free We’re all much more aware of spreading germs these days and that trend is here to stay. Top products to suggest to your clients are stylus and anti-microbial pens, touchless key rings, tissue packets, and the ubiquitous hand sanitizers.
5. Great Outdoors It’s long been known that being outside and getting exercise contributes to good health and as a bonus can dramatically improve your mood. While many events have been canceled, the great outdoors will always be available. This presents wonderful opportunities to promote items such as pedometers, water bottles, caps, lip balm, and sunscreen.
6. Online Meetings Platforms such as Zoom, Go-To-Meeting and Google Meet are where business is being done these days. Employees need to look professional (at least from the waist up) on those meetings. Corporate logoed apparel and backdrop signs are hot items to suggest.
7. Exclusive Deals These days businesses are more price-conscious than ever. That doesn’t mean you have to cut your profit margins, but it does mean that you have to look for ways you can save your clients money while still making a good profit. Many suppliers are offering great deals at this time. Make your clients aware of ways you can help them save money such as early order discounts, bulk ordering, and free drop shipping and you’re sure to sell more.
Speaking of bringing in more sales, go on over to my website https://promobizcoach.com/5-must-know-strategies-for-selling-in-the-new-normal to access a FREE On-Demand webinar, 5 Must-Know Strategies for Selling in the New Normal with fresh ideas and great deals you can immediately use.
Here’s to your selling success!
Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach, is a promotional products business expert, sales coach and top-rated speaker. Combining her skills and years of experience in promotional sales, she helps her clients sell more at higher margins to better clients. Get FREE up-to-the-minute sales tips and a FREE On-Demand Webinar 5 Must-Know Strategies for Selling in the New Normal at her website: www.PromoBizCoach.com Reach her at Rosalie@promobizcoach.com
A voice is a powerful tool in driving change. Beyond speaking out individually, sales professionals can also look to their organizations to promote diversity within. By actively taking a stand for diversity in the workplace, professionals can work to create an open, positive and welcoming culture for all.
Kabbage, Inc., an Atlanta-based financial technology company, shared a blog post highlighting how small businesses can successfully integrate diversity into their culture. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we examine six valuable ideas from Kabbage to appreciate, value and recognize all people.
1. Establish a diversity board. Appoint a panel of employees to serve as an internal task force in charge of implementing diversity policies. This board can also determine how to reach a more diverse customer base by learning more about different minority groups. According to Kabbage, this is also an opportunity to better understand your employees' views and how your organization can become more progressive.
2. Commit to open communication. Make sure your employees are aware of your expectations surrounding diversity policies and awareness. Kabbage notes you can do this by outlining your diversity goals and agenda. You should also make it easy for your employees to provide feedback on what they like or dislike about your diversity goals and programs.
3. Diversify your holiday celebrations. Different people celebrate different occasions. Be sure to recognize this at your business by implementing holiday policies that take everyone's preferences into account. By observing multiple holidays, you can educate yourself and your team about the importance of diversity, says Kabbage, and you help make everyone feel welcome and important.
4. Provide diversity training. With a defined training program, you can educate your team about how to respect and understand people of all races, religions and cultures. Kabbage recommends including team-building exercises that teach employees how to identify prejudices and how to change them.
5. Adjust your hiring practices. Now is a good time to make diversity hiring an integral part of your business. Make sure you have transparent policies that all employees are subject to and create equal treatment policies that employees must agree to.
6. Diversify your leadership opportunities. When you have a culturally diverse staff in place, celebrate their valuable contributions and outstanding work by promoting them to leadership positions. By doing so, Kabbage says that you create an atmosphere of cultural diffusion and a precedent for all employees who are looking to progress through the ranks at your company.
If you are committed to making change happen, don't just talk about it. Take meaningful action to make your organization inclusive and embracing of all colors, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Kabbage, Inc. is an online financial technology company based in Atlanta, Georgia. The company provides funding directly to small businesses and consumers through an automated lending platform.
When the economy takes a hit, customer-facing teams often struggle the most. While COVID-19 has made it challenging to manage customer relationships, there are ways you can focus on them, even when the future looks uncertain.
Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ, says that strengthening your company’s customer success strategy is crucial during a downturn. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Wan’s suggestions for retaining customers and navigating new customer acquisition in an economic crisis.
Reevaluate your prospects. According to Wan, sales professionals should evaluate companies based on industry and financial health. Doing this allows them to tailor messaging according to the group they belong. For example, Wan recommends categorizing your prospects like this:
COVID strong, strong financials: Companies in industries such as ecommerce, telemedicine and virtual collaboration software likely won’t be as impacted by the economic decline. Wan recommends prioritizing these companies for prospecting.
COVID strong, poor financials: Companies that fall into this category are cautious about spending. Wan says you can still contact them by leading with free trials and price discounts.
COVID weak, strong financials: While these companies are strong financially, they belong to industries suffering the most during the downturn. Wan suggests leading with advice and free services. You could also try to complete deals by offering prepayment discounts.
COVID weak, poor financials: While Wan says it’s best to avoid prospecting to these companies since they don’t have a cash cushion and are experience the most difficulty in a downturn, you should still check in on personal relationships and offer support.
Align sales guidance appropriately. What separates you from the competition is your ability to emotionally connect with your customers and prospects. Make sure you focus your sales guidance on maintaining and growing relationships in the middle of a downturn. When you are reaching out to active customers, previous customers and prospects, learn what they are facing right now and aim to be helpful however you can.
Focus on growing revenue. Wan says growing your revenue in an economic downturn won’t be easy, but with planning and execution, you can succeed. He suggests using the crisis to offer thoughtful discounting. You could also pilot new features and MVP products. The goal is to lead with empathy and value.
Update sales plans. In these times, Wan recommends adjusting salespeople’s goals. Unchanged goals may incentivize behavior that hurt the brand and customer experience, he notes. Look for ways to introduce other types of interim metrics that align with your customer engagement and nurturing strategies.
The economic downturn poses new challenges to everyone in sales. For your business to survive, your sales team must be able to adapt in a COVID-19 world. Remember that while sales may be slow now, things will eventually change. In the meantime, you can succeed now by focusing on your customer success strategy.
Source: Jordan Wan is founder and CEO of CloserIQ.
Used with Permission From PPAI
What is your title/role within your company? My title is CEO, yet with a small company this gives me the privilege to wear all the hats.
What do you like best about your company? I like knowing there are no limits to what we can do and who our clients are. By offering promotional products there are many different industries we reach and work with, building relationships along the way.
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry? While working for a marketing company, I received multiple requests from clients to locate sources and purchase branded items complementing their campaigns. This was where the lightbulb of an idea developed to create my own company and jump into the world of promotional products. The early days were mostly providing printed collateral along with the special items to promote the client’s brand. We have now grown to be a full-service promotional products distributor.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product? First, to pick just one favorite product isn’t fair at all! I have always loved pens and believe every business should have a branded pen.
Tell us something about you that most people may not know. My husband and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner at the first location of Souplantation on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego. We were on a tight budget and this was a favorite place for us, so it was an easy decision to have our pre-wedding celebration there. We’ll be married 32 years this November. We’re sad to see Souplantation close their doors after so many years and fond memories.
Pivoting Safely To PPE
…with counterfeits everywhere, how can you confidently source safe products?
5/18/2020 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
It seems everybody in the promotional products industry decided to sell personal protection equipment overnight. Most are approaching the opportunity to fill the urgent need with an altruistic heart, but a few opportunists in our industry have offered a toehold to the growing problem of counterfeit products.
I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with distributors hesitantly filling orders for only their best clients, and only on request. They realize there is significant risk to their brand not only from the appearance of taking advantage of high demand, but also from unknowingly selling unsafe product.
At the commencement of “The Mask Rush,” the gold standard was the N95 respirator mask, intended to protect the wearer from incoming airborne particles and from liquids contaminating the face. Highly regulated (CDC, OSHA, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and in short supply, priority on these respirator masks was to get them to healthcare providers and first responders. The Food and Drug Administration originally rushed approval to 80 manufacturers in China to make N95-type masks for U.S. healthcare workers on April 3rd. But in an abrupt reversal, the FDA cut that number to just 14 at the beginning of May, saying masks did not meet U.S. standards. According to the Wall Street Journal, tests found 60 percent of 67 different kinds of imported masks allowed in more tiny particles than U.S. standards allow. One Chinese manufacturer’s masks filtered out only 24 to 35 percent of particles, well below the 95 percent threshold that gives the masks their name. The FDA has even issued letters to 14 manufacturers for making “bogus claims” of the capabilities of their masks. It’s easy to see why distributors would be hesitant to navigate the choppy waters of importing these masks, which leads me to an important point: How can you spot a fake, even one made in the U.S.?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health here are some signs of a fake N95 respirator mask:
There’s also risk in turning to fabric masks as an option, especially for suppliers not aware of the updated FDA emergency use order (EUO) intended to clarify manufacturing guidelines for fabric masks. The EUO was updated and re-issued to clarify that fabric masks are intended only for “source control.” This means that these style masks provide only a barrier of outbound transmission by covering the mouth and nose during a cough, sneeze, or just while speaking normally. In short, fabric masks are meant to protect others, not the wearer. They’re not meant to give a false sense of security. In fact, the FDA makes it clear these fabric masks are not authorized as personal protective equipment. They are not a substitute for filtering face piece respirators or for surgical face masks. There’s the rub for many distributors. These fabric masks have very specific labeling requirements, they cannot be advertised as PPE, and they have to be traceable for any product failures (like skin reactions from end-users).
Chris Blakeslee, the president of Bella+Canvas, told me there is “an incredible lack of awareness around facemasks” in our industry. Bella+Canvas pivoted early in the mask game, and is now making 100 million masks a week. “In a matter of weeks, our industry has probably become the largest PPE distribution network in the world,” Blakeslee told Promogram. But, he continued, “We’re putting ourselves at risk by being uneducated. We all know how these things go. At some point, someone wearing a face mask is going to get COVID-19, and they’re going to have the perspective that the mask didn’t protect them. If the company who made it didn’t adhere to the guidelines, they’re going to be in trouble.”
Finally, we’ve talked here several times about the promotional products industry being a little slow on the draw when it comes to product safety and sustainable sourcing. No question the trend we’ve seen toward improving that will continue as businesses come back to full throttle, and that’s a good thing. During the time I worked with the Quality Certification Alliance, I had the opportunity to work with several compliance experts from accredited suppliers who both volunteered their time to the non-profit, and also cooperatively shared their companies’ best practices, ultimately helping create the protocols QCA used for accreditation. I had the occasion recently to connect with Larry Whitney, who was president of the Board of Directors during part of my tenure with QCA, and whom I just learned has gone out on his own to form Whitney and Whitney Consulting Group.
Larry spent 15 years with Polyconcept, the last six as director of Global Compliance. Why do I think it’s important to mention this move here and now? One of the key indicators for suppliers truly interested in producing safe and compliant products was the ability to first document the protocols necessary to evaluate products for safety risks, regulatory requirements, and social accountability of supply chains, and then, follow those protocols every day. Larry’s consulting is an extension of what he did at Polyconcept, as well as helping with tariff mitigation and sustainability programs. Should you find yourself looking to jumpstart your current compliance efforts, I’d recommend reaching out to see if Larry might be able to help you. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With soaring unemployment numbers amid COVID-19, it's natural to wonder if your job is safe. Whether or not your company has experienced layoffs or cutbacks, the anxiety is real. These are challenging times, and while nothing is guaranteed, you can take steps to increase the value you bring to your employer.
Mary Kearl, a writer for The Muse and other outlets, says there are some things you can do now to increase your job security and make yourself a more appealing candidate should you decide to explore other opportunities. Keep reading this issue of Promotional Consultant Today for Kearl's six tips to boost your job security now and beyond the pandemic.
1. Remember to RAFT. This stands for being Resilient, Adaptable, Flexible and Thoughtful. Resilient professionals do not let tough times keep them down. They keep moving and do whatever it takes to stay afloat. Adaptable employees learn to go with the flow, adjusting as work environments and assignments change. Those who are flexible are willing to take on new and different roles. Employees who are thoughtful find ways to show kindness to their bosses, colleagues, and customers. These are the kind of people you want on your team. When you remember to RAFT, you can turn yourself into someone no one wants to part with.
2. Embrace creativity. Your company and your clients value people who can creatively solve their pain points. Now is not the time to fall back on business as usual—it's time to think about new and different approaches. To increase your job security, Kearl recommends using your creativity to help your company think through the unforeseen obstacles of the present moment and those still ahead. The only bad idea, she says, it not having any ideas at all. Be creative, demonstrate innovative thinking and look for inventive ways to solve problems.
3. Never stop learning. To make yourself the best employee now and in the future, commit to being a lifelong learning. What are some skills you do not currently have but may need? Even if you only focus on acquiring these skills for an hour a week, you can make yourself a valuable part of your team. Be sure to focus on the big picture, noting the fields that may grow the quickest during the pandemic. For example, how can you sharpen skills that may be relevant to e-commerce business and customer experience?
4. Think of solutions—and then execute. If you want to make yourself a valuable part of the team, it's important to not only have ideas, but also know how to get them done. Your boss and clients have a lot on their minds right now, so don't wait for them to come to you with a problem. It's best to think ahead and tackle challenges without being asked. In this current season, you can make your mark by being someone who rolls up your sleeves and gets the job done with tenacity.
5. Reach out to others. Networking is valuable skill that's worth developing, especially during uncertain times, notes Kearl. Even though people are social distancing or working from home, they will still appreciate you reaching out to them. By simply checking in on a prospect, client or former colleague, you could be opening the door to a new business opportunity. Don't be afraid to be transparent in these conversations. If you need help, ask for what you need. The other person will likely welcome the opportunity to make a positive difference in your life.
6. Practice empathy. Empathy is a soft skill that's especially valuable during difficult times. When you display empathy in all your interactions, you become someone that others want to work with. Whether it's your current team or your clients, others will recognize and appreciate your empathetic approach. Strive to listen actively, offer to help however you can and see how you can make a difference, no matter how small.
Although the current unemployment numbers may rattle you, they don't necessarily mean that your job will be cut. Still, it's important to build the right skills and keep the right mindset to make yourself as valuable as possible—whether it's with your current team or a new one.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Mary Kearl is a professional writer who has contributed articles to Forbes, HuffPost, Business Insider and others.
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