Using Promotional Items to Gain More Leads at Trade Shows

Promotional items are a wonderful addition to your trade show exhibit.  They work best when they are combined with other marketing activities to reach your target audience. 
They work to hold your marketing message and keep it front and center in the minds of perspective buyers after the event ends.

Keep in mind that the best promotional items are ones that your prospects can use and see on a daily basis.  For example, items that sit on desks, hang on walls and stick to refrigerators and file cabinets work best.  Items that hold family photos like magnets, picture frames, and clips work well for this.  If you need ideas, we can help!

Trade shows will be in full swing during the spring and summer months. Use these tips to learn more about your customers, have fun and book more appointments.

1.Learn something about your potential customers. Ever had a burning question you always want to know about potential customers? Give away a promotional gift that is imprinted with your company brand in exchange for completing a survey. Make the survey available online for convenience and provide the ability to share the survey with colleagues. Give respondents an email confirmation when they complete the online survey. They can show you the email to receive the promotional gift when they visit your booth.

2. Keep it lighthearted. Make a promotional product part of a game or other fun activity that draws attention to your booth.  Nothing hard,complicated or unsafe, but make it fun and profitable at the same time. For example miniature golf, some form of bingo or trivia that ties into your product or industry.  

3. Make an Appointment. Give out promotional items to each person that schedules a free sales consultation.

4. Create a Sneak Peek. Offer a free sample to each visitor with a promotional item that has information on how to order the full sized product.

Fall Festivals and Football Season are Here… Is Your Business Ready?

concession stands, PTA, stadium cups, small business

Is your business ready for Fall events?

It’s time (at least on the east coast) for long sleeves, blankets, crisp, cooler days and turning leaves.  It’s also a very happy time of year… for fall festivals, craft shows, trick or treat and football and other team sports.

What do festivals, craft shows, Halloween and sporting events have in common? Refreshments, teamwork, games and prizes. Fall events and activities are focused on bring groups of people together.  Families will gather more during the period between now and the end of the year than during any other time of the year.  Is your business ready?

If your company is looking for ways to gain easy exposure, think about how you can make the most of these events.  Between now and the end of the year there will be many opportunities to present your products and services.

Think of your customers, and where they like to hang out. What games, festivals, fundraising walks, occasions, and other activities will they participate in this year.  Will your company be represented at these events? Gatherings are great opportunities for your business, so lets look at a few ways to expose your advertising message.

  1. Fundraising. If your organization is running a concession stand or providing refreshments for one of these events, why not purchase cups, bags, t-shirts, blankets and other items that can be used for fundraising.  For sporting events, what fan wouldn’t want an item with the name of their school and mascot to take home after the game? Are you selling popcorn, fountain drinks, coffee or hot chocolate?
    custom printed megaphones

    Custom Megaphones Make Great Souvenirs

    Custom stadium cups, hot/cold beverage cups and sleeves, stuffed animals, rah phones (megaphones), can/bottle coolers make great souvenirs and serve well for fundraising.  For example, megaphones turned upside down are great popcorn containers and come with lids as well.  Plastic stadium cups serve well as souvenir cups.  If you’re already selling refreshments, why not take it to the next level?  Offer free refills when fans buy the souvenir item (like a cup) and sell even more

  2. Sponsor an Event. If your community has a sports team, upcoming festival or craft event, why not partner with your favorite group or cause to sponsor the event? Donating useful items with the name of the event or your favorite group or charity along with your company name and contact information will give your company exposure and be will greatly appreciated in the community. Contact the group you’re interested in helping to see what items are most needed and what their requirements are for donations.  Some groups may require that you include their logo on items, and some may not.  Make sure the organization you’re interested in will take the items and that you offer is viewed as a mutually beneficial exchange.

    Pump up Concession Sales!

    The emphasis should always be in helping an organization in meeting it’s goals.  Items like cups, personal grooming items, blankets, mugs, and other items related to the event can be donated, helping the organization and providing positive exposure for your company.

  3. Co-Op Advertising.  Team up with another company in your area (one that compliments yours) to advertise at these events and save even more while gaining exposure.  You could for example share the cost of printing and distributing promotional items during an event.  Make sure to reach an agreement  with key decision makers on how the advertising will look and how the items will be distributed, as well as who will be responsible for what before you have items printed.

  4. Motivate and Reward. Plaques, awards, and gift items are great ways to motivate teams, recognize and say thank you to employees, volunteers, customers and others who contribute to your success.  If you’re on a tight budget, make a list that contains employees, volunteers, customers, suppliers, prospects and other important groups.  Prioritize your lists and pick times during the year that you can say thank you to these groups.Timing is everything, so figure out the best time or times each year to recognize these groups.  Check with us throughout the year for ideas deals and items in our Windjammer catalog that will be useful and appreciated.  There are also custom items that can be combined with other items or used alone that make wonderful raffle items and prizes. Don’t be afraid to use your creativity.

There are just a few ideas but there are many more that will fit your needs.   As fall approaches and people are supporting their favorite teams, participating in walks and other awareness events, getting ready for the holidays and enjoying the changing seasons, there are many ways to spread the word and build your brand without the hard sell.  Make use of these opportunities with the “silent salesmen” that work, even when you’re not around.

Your Logo: 5 Reasons to Invest in a Professional Design

promotional blanket, custom printed blanket

Your Logo: Clip art or Graphic Designer? Does it Matter?

This is Part 2 of our Marketing Tools Checklist for Small Business.  This is where we elaborate on one of the critical tools for branding  your business, the logo. The logo is #2 on the checklist, but we’re starting with a discussion on logos because it’s not one of the tools that you can that you drop into an envelope and send to your customers by itself.  For a start up,  it’s a building block that when combined with all the other marketing tools will set about doing the job of branding your company.

When used effectively, it becomes is the most highly recognized part of your marketing and advertising efforts.  The thought is that this branding will translate to increased sales and growth for your business. It’s a tried and true method used by companies large and small with tremendous success.

There’s always a question of when and how it should be created.  Some experts feel that you should invest in a professional logo design from day one.  Others think you should wait until your business is established to invest in a logo.  Here are some things to consider regarding how much you should invest in the logo whenever you decide to create your design.

Here’s a common scenario… You’re just starting out, maybe your budget is tight and you’re not sure if you should invest in graphic design services for your logo.  You have no graphic design experience, but how hard could it be, right? With all the off the shelf graphic design programs and royalty free clip images, you get the idea that you can use your computer to create a logo for your business.  Problem solved. Right? Well…maybe not.  Before opting for this do it yourself (DIY) choice, please take a moment to think about your business, and your long term goals.

A poorly designed, low quality image may send the wrong message to potential customers.  There are a number of things to consider beyond the image itself.  Think of the impact your logo will have on your ability to do the kind of business you want to do, as well as the kinds of relationships that will be impacted by your logo design:

1. First Impressions Last – Have you ever received a business card that was printed on the family ink jet computer? Think about how that made you feel when you saw it, versus how you’ve felt when you received a professionally printed business card.  Low quality, home printed materials are a good indicator that you’re a rookie who probably doesn’t have the resources to obtain quality items.

It creates doubt in the minds of your customers. They think that if you don’t have the resources for professional printing, what else is missing?  It’s important to present a professional image and highlight your strengths to build confidence with your customers.  Remove as many doubts, blaring red flags and fears as possible about your business and your ability to handle the job.

A professional marketing package will take you a long way to reaching that goal.  Therefore your logo, coming out of the gate should be polished to present the best possible image for your company.You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

In essence, your logo will play a major role in setting the tone for your business and it should speak to the character, values and quality of the products and services you’re offering, as well as the audience you want to attract.  For example, if your business theme is happy, fun and carefree, that should be reflected in your logo.  If your logo design unintentionally sends the opposite message, you may miss the audience and the business opportunities you’re looking for.

2. The Long Haul – Over the life of your business, your logo will be placed on every marketing piece, every piece of letterhead, invoices, business cards, advertising, signs, billboards, apparel, proposals, business plans, your website and so much more.This is your brand, the icon used to identify your company.  It’s a unique combination of symbols, colors, and shapes that your customers, employees, the general public, and even your competitors will associate with the great experiences they have (or will have) with your company.  You want it to represent you well over the long haul.

3. Credibility – Even though money may be tight in the beginning, investing in a professional looking image  will go a long way toward seeing your business recognized and taken seriously by investors and those you intend to do business with.  Changing logos can be devastating for any business. Once your customers get used to seeing your logo and they make the connection between the symbol and your business, there’s no turning back.  Change the colors, change the background, but when you change the logo, you’re forcing your customers make the transition to learning what that represents all over again. In some ways, it’s like starting from square one.  When was the last time you saw a major brand change their logo?  You won’t see it much unless there is some catastrophe that is associated with a brand that makes it virtually useless.  Brands become intangible assets that companies spend a ton of money to maintain.

4. Pride… Not Embarrassment –  Think of how you feel (what descriptive words come to mind) when you see the logos of popular brands.  When I’m out riding in the car with my three year old grandson, he already recognizes “Toys R Us” from viewing their signage.  It brings a reaction that usually results in his asking me or his parents to visit the store.  This is  branding at its best.

Think of how you want your customers to feel when they see at your logo.  How will your employees feel wearing your logo or handing out their card with your logo imprinted on it?  When they look at your marketing materials, what feelings do you want them to have? Pride or anxiety? You certainly don’t want them to give out marketing materials with a low quality clip art design, do you?

Think of your business, and what you hope will come to mind when potential customers, investors and prospects receive your materials? Do you want them to think of descriptions like excitement, strength, integrity, stability, happiness, style, class, fun, tranquility, energy etc.  Or do you want them to anxiously smile and say something like, don’t call us, we’ll call you?  If you want to be recognized for the image you’re trying to project, consider these factors when selecting the method for creating your logo.  A great logo will work well to promote your business and will eventually stand on its own.  A low quality logo can make the most knowledgeable person seem lack luster.

5. Print-ability– When you think of how your logo will be designed (DIY or graphic designer) keep in mind that a professional designer will (or should) provide you with camera ready, color separated art files that can be taken to any printer that will handle your marketing materials.  This means that your logo will be created in a vector based program like Illustrator and ready for high quality printing.  Raster based programs will create images that result are low quality and when enlarged, will result in a stair step, pixel based image that has blurred, distorted edges.  Printing companies, including promotional product manufacturers will charge more to convert your files to a vector based format.

All things considered, that simple little symbol, shape or combination thereof along with colors, word choices, and fonts; when pulled together, says a lot about your business.  Make sure it says the right thing, and illicits the responses you want from your customers when they see it.  Once you have a prototype, ask your team members, friends and family for feedback.  Ask them how they feel or for words that describe how they feel when they look at your logo. If there’s a match between your intentions and their impressions, you’re on the right track.

I can’t think of any instance where you would want to send a  message that says low quality, cheap or amateur if you’re trying to build and grow your business.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on your logo but you should invest time in finding a professional to create your design.  You should also have a general idea of the theme, color, fonts etc that you might want to use.  And by all means, consider the factors above before crafting this very important business tool.

Implement a Retention Program to Grow Your Start-Up Company

But wait… If you have a start up, the assumption is that you don’t have many (if any) customers to retain.   The title sounds a little confusing, but it will mean more once you’ve read the article and watched the video…

You’ve  just started a business, you’re filled with excitement and optimism about doing what you love.  You’re ready to go.   What should be one of your first priorities?  The one that’s most obvious would be to establish your business and fill it with lots of customers as quickly as possible.    But once you’ve had a nice stream of customers come through your doors, what next?  Of course you’ll look for ways to get more customers, right?  Well kinda…  What about the customers you’ve already worked with? Do you “hope” they liked your product/service and that they will return soon?

It’s easy to focus on “getting” customers and becoming so overwhelmed and excited about them that you don’t put much thought into existing customers, the one’s who have already made a purchase.  When thinking of company growth, the first thought that comes to mind involves more sales, more customers.  But did you know that  it usually costs more to gain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one?  That’s right.  The time, cost and energy used to gain a customer is lost many times, because companies have typically focused on new business and lost existing customers due to inactivity.

So, back to that initial question.  One of your first priorities will be to utilize an appropriate mix of marketing materials (brochures, business cards, sale sheets, etc., media (websites, emails, social media, online videos and demonstrations),  and advertising specialties (custom printed items related to your industry, custom signs, displays and banners, and apparel printed with your message), to get the word out about your company.  You’ll participate in community events and trade shows, so that people can see your displays and recognize your brand.

Your marketing  strategy should also include a plan or program that will help you gain customers and  grow… maintaining steady growth over time.  Growth is a necessity, not an option for the survival and success of your business.  The best and easiest way to grow is through repeat business from existing customers; repeat business  and happy customers leads to referrals,testimonials, etc.  One thing leads to another and before you know it, your company has exceeded expectations and you’re really “in business”.   So the question becomes how do you get repeat business?  One great way is by incorporating a customer loyalty or retention program from the beginning,  that ensures that you will receive constant feedback, and two way interaction with your customers.   If the plan is effective, you will build a solid relationship and customers will contact you, instead of your competition when they are in need of your products and services.

View the video above for tips and ideas that you can use as well as ways to use promotional items to boost your program.  A common misconception is that only large corporations can use and afford promotional items.  Let us show you how to advertise your business with items that will fit most budgets.   Contact us for promotional items whether you’re a large corporation or a one or two person operation.  We’ll help you find and use materials that will work best for your business.

Have You Joined The Growing Wave of Entrepreneurs?

Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo High unemployment has led to growth in entrepreneurship.

This is the first a number of posts that will take a look at building and growing a new business.  We are taking note of where things stand in terms of the way we look at work, and the shift that’s taking place.  Where some are being forced from traditional employment arrangements to unemployment, a whole new wave of people have moved to self employment (contractors) and entrepreneurship as a way to thrive and survive during the economic downturn.  For some, starting their own business developed over time from a hobby to a full time occupation.  For others, a business evolved out of necessity because of a job loss.  People have had to become even more resourceful as a result of changes in the job market.  They have had to focus on ways to grow and cultivate a new business venture through effective marketing and advertising.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity released last month (by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation), in 2009 business start-ups reached their highest level in 14 years — exceeding the number of start-ups during the peak 1999-2000 technology boom.  And surprisingly, most of the growth in start-ups was propelled by 35- to 44-year-olds, followed by people aged 55 to 64.   Forget Internet whiz kids in their 20’s, older adults are taking the reins of the new “start-up economy”.

There are some very noticeable groups emerging, those who have lost their jobs or they are facing potential job loss, who need to quickly find a new way to make a living. The second group consists of those who are employed but they’ve grown weary (and leery) of the corporate world or wherever they happen to be right now. They have reached a plateau in their careers and they are now ready to use their knowledge and skills to work on their own ventures.  There are also those who are able to find jobs as “contractors” in their field.  They are technically self-employed, but they may or may not consider themselves as formal business owners.

These groups are transitioning at various rates depending on their situations, from the structure and security (items like a predictable paycheck and benefits that used to be considered secure) of a traditional job to starting and growing a new business.  They are finding out how to take their interests, hobbies, dreams and passions and turn them into thriving ventures.  The first step may involve investing time researching their chosen industry as well as market conditions.  Is there a need for their product or service?  The second question involves discovering whether their knowledge, skills as well as their strengths and weaknesses, will translate into a viable business.   These steps are all necessary to make the best business decisions.

Once the decision is made to start, marketing and advertising will be a necessity (not an option) for your business to grow and prosper.  That’s where we come in… We have many solutions that will help in a number of ways, to grow your business, gain and maintain customer loyalty, create awareness and improve things like safety and  productivity. We believe that using promotional items is a very important and effective part of your overall marketing plan.

All you’ll need to work with us is your ideas, an open mind and a desire to grow your business, improve and maintain your relationships, and be a leader in your market. You have a marketing plan that includes your customers habits, where they hang out, what they read, and how to network with them.  All you need is to make the connection.  Even if you don’t have all the planning ironed out yet, we will help you determine the most effective way to reach them in the shortest amount of time. During our series, we’ll be looking at various ways to grow your business, and make the most of your advertising dollars.

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Work Smarter Not Harder: Save on Repeat Orders

Purchasing custom items online is different from other purchases because the are other elements involved, like the number of items to purchase (size and color considerations for an entire group, versus one person) and the artwork.

Here’s one tip that can help make your next order more affordable and hassle free.

When you reorder the same item and use the same imprint, you can save a bundle on set up charges.
So for example you order items for a give away or direct mail promotion and you order the smallest quantity possible. The promotion turns out to be a big hit and you decide to expand it.

All you would need to do is call us up, give us the order number from the previous order and say “repeat the order”. We will take it from there. We’ll look up your order and artworK and send it to the factory.

The reason this is such a great idea is that many manufacturers will give you a price break of 20% – 50% on set up charges if you use the exact imprint on the repeat order.

As a matter of fact, many factories will maintain your artwork for up to one year. So the time needed to get proofs, create and approve artwork is eliminated.

So if you’re looking for a hassle free order, you may want to look at items you’ve recently ordered, to see if there are any products that would make good repeat orders. Then send us the quantity wanted and let us do the rest of the work. As they say, leave the driving to us. For more information, contact us at http://wwwmcustomtshirtmakers.com

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Idea of the Day: Church Festivals

Build Business at Church Festivals

Build Business at Church Festivals

Here’s an idea that can bring in lots of new leads and business, especially when used with promotional items.

Every spring or fall, churches typically host a variety of events, festivities, and church yard sales that are open to people who want to advertise and sell crafts, treasures from around the home and other items.

Contact these churches and rent a table for the event. Rental fees are usually less than $20 dollars and can be a great source of leads.

Can’t attend because of your busy schedule? Ask about sponsoring a table which mean you buy a table rental that could be set up ahead of time. There you can leave items like brochures, flyers, surveys, promo items etc, unmanned.

Whether you’re sponsoring or you have your own table that you’ll man on the day of the event, make sure to have some promotional items, t-shirts, cups, magnets, etc to give away.

Make sure these items display your name, your company’s name, your website, what you do and a way to contact you. Be sure to wear your t-shirts, polo shirts or other custom apparel to the event for maximum exposure and a uniform look.

Hold some type of contest registration/drawing so you’re able to collect names, emails and mailing addresses. This will allow you to continue up-selling to these potential prospects and keeping your name in front of them after the event has ended.