Category Archives: Uncategorized

The value of time

How much is your time worth?

If I asked 1000 people that question, I’d probably get 990 different answers.  And, if I asked the same 1000 people that question a week, month or year later, I’d get 990 different answers.  In business, the question can be answered by taking your salary and dividing it by the hours you work to arrive at a value of your time.  Interestingly, your perception of time changes with your workload.  If you’re twittling your thumbs, you probably would not have as much sense of urgency as when you’re swamped.

save time, marketing ideas, business forms

Dwindling spiral of time.

As a vendor of promotional products, corporate apparel, signs and print marketing, I often run into buyers who invariably buy the cheapest products they can find.  Those customers, unfortunately, do not understand the value of time.  Case in point: I recently built a custom website for a customer to order all of their embroidered shirts from.  In addition to building their personalized e-store, we gather the individual orders by employee, embroider the items with the correct logo (they have 2 color variations, based on the color of the item), bag the item and label it with the employee name, split the orders into 16 locations and ship them out.

Sure, they may be able to do all of this work themselves, but is it worth it?  To save a hundred dollars by shopping around apparel companies, embroiderers, freight companies and ecommerce brokers, they would wind up spending thousands of dollars in labor, invoices, checks and other expenses.

The moral: when planning a major job, consider all of the time that will be involved in implementing each solution.  Quite often, the penny you save in product may cost you more money and headaches than you realize.

Then, call me. 🙂

I’ll save you the most precious resource you have.

-Jim

Accurate Forms & Supplies

817-498-4840

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The secret to saving money on direct mail

Hi all,

It’s been a while, as I’ve been incredibly busy lately with business, family and our new son, Theta.

In talking with a few customers who were looking at sending out some direct mail pieces, I was momentarily blocked by the cost of postage.  Indeed, when you’re looking at sending several thousand postcards or other mail pieces out, paying $.24 to $.40 per piece to the post office gets really expensive.

While you can choose the Every Door Direct Mail program from the USPS to lower the cost of postage to $.15 per piece, your options are limited.  You can’t use your own mailing lists, you have to deliver your mail pieces to each post office ZIP code you’re mailing to, and you’re limited to how many pieces you can send per post office per day.  That’s a lot of legwork, with a lot of restrictions.  Far from being a truly turnkey operation (and when you figure in the gas and time required to make it work, you’re probably right back to paying $.20-$.30 each anyway).

I got an idea from a marketing specialist to use flyer distribution services to hand out promotional pieces in order to get leads.  After I called a local flyer company, it turns out that this is indeed a cost-effective alternative to direct mail.  The two companies I called here in Dallas charged $.07-$.12 per piece to pass out flyers or door hangers door-to-door.  You can customize where they deliver, whether you want residential or businesses, and sometimes choose which demographics you want.

You should do a bit of research on the company you’re choosing, and it’s a good idea to choose a company that offers auditing services, which allows you to verify that they pieces are actually getting distributed to the locations, and exactly when they were delivered, so you can follow up in an appropriate timeframe.

There you have it.  You can contact me for the printing, and cut your delivery costs in half.  I love win-win situations!

Jim

Accurate Forms & Supplies

(817) 498-4840

http://www.accuratesupplies.com

The secret to handling lagging sales

In talking to hundreds of sales managers, CFOs, CEOs and business owners over the years, I’ve encountered a somewhat disturbing trend.  This trend is a behavior pattern that I’ve encountered when discussing my products and services.  This pattern, while common, can be deadly.

The pattern I’m referring to centers around statistics and how these decision makers react to them.  When statistics begin to go down, the first thing many of these decision makers do is cut back on expenses.  The idea seems logical at first; if your sales and profit are down, you need to cut expenses to balance out the P&L statement.  However, I believe it is a mistake, and sometimes a huge one.  I’ve even seen many salesmen do this (and I have too in the past).

The first thing a company MUST do when facing a slight dip in sales or profit is PROMOTE.  Economy is important, but you have to promote as a first action.  If you fail to promote, your slump will either get worse or be prolonged.  If you think about it, promotion makes the most sense.  To promote means to make your business, product or service known and well thought of.  If sales and profit are down, and you rein in your expenses and fail to promote, you rob yourself of the opportunity of garnering more sales and closing the deals that are close to completion.  New customers who may only now be ready to buy or entertain presentations will not be able to find you easily.  Old customers may not know what specials or other products you have.  All of this means that the action that can directly add sales and profit on an immediate basis – PROMOTION – will not occur, and your business will continue to slump.

The same thought process works for individuals also.  If your personal statistics are down slightly, you need to PROMOTE.  Salesmen who experience lulls or dips in their sales need to promote and get their name and products out there.  Work hard to get appointments, make more calls, send more emails, disseminate sales materials, etc.  Other employees can get their statistics up by promoting and PRODUCING.  Sometimes, if your job doesn’t directly relate to sales, the action step is to produce.  For example, if the Accounts Receivable clerk has a responsibility to process invoices, send out invoices and receive payments from customers, each of these responsibilities can be measured in statistics.  Then, if the number of invoices sent, checks in, etc., start dropping, she can Promote by calling people directly for payments, asking sales departments if there are any pending sales to invoice, etc.  She can then Produce by getting those invoices out and checks in.

Promotion doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money.

It can be as simple as emailing your customers and prospects to let them know you’re there, or better, that you have a product or service that can really help them.  Email blasts are good for broad contact, but you should also send personal, individual emails or messages that focus on a specific product or service for that customer.  Make sure you tie in how that product will help that particular business or individual.  Other forms of promotion are phone calls, cold calls (when done correctly), website ads, how-to You Tube videos, etc.

My company is positioned to help businesses in two ways: promotion and economy.  We consult with customers and help them design one or more marketing pieces, such as flyers, postcards or promotional items.  Our relationships with manufacturers helps us save money while promoting.

Our connections also help customers save time and money on their office supplies, toner and printer supplies, business forms and A/P checks.  It is a good strategy to use cost savings on these items to pay for promotional actions.

If enough companies and business owners stopped complaining about the economy and just PROMOTED, we would go a long way toward turning our entire economy around, not to mention putting extra money in our pockets.

//

The key to surviving-and thriving-in a tough economy

The economy has its ups and downs, its booms and busts.  Have you ever noticed how some businesses (and some individuals for that matter) seem to be successful, no matter what the political, social or economic climate is?

The answer is not a willingness to cheat, steal or use some other unethical method to crush their competition underfoot.  Rather, it is the ability to be flexible.  There are many factors that are commonly attributed to successful individuals: intelligence, cleverness, competitiveness, social skills, etc.  But all of these factors feed into the common denominator of all successful people; namely, the ability to be flexible.
Companies that can spot changes in their environment, including supply costs, availability of product, changes in customer attitude, marketing trends, etc. are in a much better position to act and improve their situation.  But an even more important factor is the ability to be flexible enough to change when the opportunity or need arises.  For example, I still encounter business owners who know the possible effects- both positive and negative- social media can have on their business.  Yet, many of them refuse to adapt to these changes by trying to utilize these tools to expand their business.

These days in America, the buzz word on the street is how bad the economy is.  Interestingly, there are generally two reactions to the economy: 1) dig your heals in and try to weather the storm, or 2) get creative and try to find new ways to generate business.  The latter approach will unquestioningly be more successful on the long run.

This doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money.  As an example, my company’s core business lies in business forms and stationery printing.  However, with the economic downturn, companies have reduced their expenditures on printing; preferring to utilize email and other means to cut costs.  In response, we’ve looked for other opportunities, and as a result, we’ve picked up a lot of business in embroidered apparel and promotional products.

As a salesman, I was getting nowhere earlier this year while hitting the street trying to sell office products.  When I changed my tactics, and led with marketing and promotional product ideas, I started getting several requests for quotes.  After trying over and over to get through the “gatekeeper” in several accounts, my owner suggested talking to the receiving manager about custom labels and boxes.  We’ve also increased our social media efforts to increase our visibility.

All of these slight changes didn’t cost us any extra money than we would normally spend.

Instead of complaining about changing conditions, or fearing for your company or job, try to find new and more creative ways to get the job done.  At the very least, you’ll feel more in control of the situation; and maybe, just maybe you’ll turn a negative into a BIG positive.

Good Luck!

-Jim Kurtz

Maximize your Marketing with Persistent Advertising

There are two ways to keep your name in front of customers:

1) A steady flow of calls, messages, ad pieces, emails, etc.;

2) Useful items that customers will keep and reuse often.

Both strategies have their uses, and can be an important part of marketing.  I view marketing as having two essential functions: first, to assist sales by generating interest in the product or service; and second, to make your product or service well known and well thought of.  Ideally, the second helps establish the first. Brand recognition, humor, information and product comparison all contribute to these two functions.

The downfall of continuing to barrage customers and prospects with a litany of calls, emails, flyers and other messages is that it is expensive in terms of both time and money.  Additionally, people can become annoyed if you overdo it.  Every person has a different tolerance level.  Moreover, if you are in a field where there is a lot of competition, your customers and prospects are probably being inundated with messages and requests for meetings by your competitors as well.

The alternative is by using number 2) above.  Certain items can provide a lasting impression, by virtue of the fact that they are useful.  For example, custom printed pens work well because everyone uses them.  They also travel alot (people steal, “borrow” and otherwise misplace them).  This can be great if your product can be used by everyone.  Not so good if your company has a niche customer base; the pens may leave the customer’s office without ever being seen by the decision maker.

A great item that provides lasting advertising is a calendar.  Calendars are used year-round by virtually everyone.  People make notes on them, mark birthdays, plan holidays and vacations, etc., all using a calendar.  Instead of looking at a flyer or email and throwing it away (if they even look at them), people tend to keep calendars.  Every time your customer or prospect uses their calendar, they see your name and/or message.

                        

You can tailor the calendar style and artwork to your design.  For example, we know some of our customers are car enthusiasts, others like to travel, and still others enjoy inspirational scenery.  So, we ordered several styles to accommodate them.

Another great tool are sports schedules.  If you’ve got quite a few customers or prospects who are fans of the local team(s), get a large poster made of the team’s schedule.  We use both an 11×17 poster with the Cowboys schedule and a column for writing in the scores and W/L next to each game.  We also print up a basketball and a baseball wallet card, which has our logo with the local teams’ schedules on the front and back, with our contact info on the bottom.  Every time they look to see who their team is playing, they’ll see our contact information and remember to call me.

Lastly, promotional products are a great tool to keep your name in front of customers.  I find that if you are in a specific industry, it’s better to tailor your promotional product to that industry.  For example, for the Health Care industry, stress relievers (squeezable foam balls that people squeeze to relieve stress) in the shape of a part of the body work well.  For example, if you’re selling to dentists:

Look around the offices of customers and prospects.  Find out what items are being used regularly.  We did a clipboard for a medical insurance company with their name and a shortcut list for a commonly used software program.  The customer loved it, and the insurance company got a lot of leverage out of it.

We’ve done well with magnetic business cards    and jar openers as well 

The possibilities are endless in this area, so I won’t go into all of the variations here.

The key to these items is that they are used, and as such, they stick around.  When you do make another cold call, or email or request a meeting, you can reference the item and build rapport.  Gate Keepers will recognize your company, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting you to the decision maker.  And, you might just impress the decision maker in the process.

For specific suggestions, or for quotes on the above, visit our website at www.accuratesupplies.com, or call me at (817) 498-4840.

Good hunting!

grAmrr & Cumyunikashun

I have to admit, I never liked to study Grammar when I was in school.  Usually, when the teacher would say something like, “today we are going to study parenthetical clauses” my eyelids would get heavy and my mouth would start to involuntarily drool.

However, as I surf my way through the information superhighway, I’m surprised to learn how advanced I am in comparison to the average blogger, RSSer, tweeter and commentators out there.  For example, here was a comment to one of my recent blog posts:

“Just wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity on your put up is simply spectacular and that i could think you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Fine together with your permission allow me to seize your RSS feed to keep updated with coming near near post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.”

Ouch!  Or:

“Unquestionably believe that that you stated. Your favourite justification seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to consider of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while other folks consider concerns that they plainly do not recognise about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , other people could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thanks”

The judge gives a life sentence for mercilessly hacking up the English language with a plastic spork (an eating utensil that combines a spoon and a fork into one device).

To be fair, these posters are probably not native English speakers.  As such, I give them the benefit of the doubt.  God knows my syntax is horrible whenever I try to spew out my limited vocabulary of Spanish, German or Turkish.

What’s perhaps even more annoying are the mistakes and just plain laziness of the average texter, tweeter and other internet and phone denizens out there.  Especially those who post in a professional capacity.  There is a concept called proofreading that I highly recommend, especially if you’re looking for me to take you seriously or otherwise view your argument in a positive light.

The bottom line is, people judge you based on how you present yourself.  In person, this includes your appearance, body language, etc.  Once they have a first impression of you based on your appearance, your communication skills (or lack thereof) will solidify their overall opinion of you.  If you sound like you can’t be bothered to pronounce your words correctly, observe at least basic grammar and speak in a clear, confident tone; people will have a negative opinion of you.

With online media, your appearance is often left out of the equation.  At best, people will have access to your profile picture.  That said, if you are writing in a professional forum or on a professional topic, make sure your profile picture isn’t the one with you and your 2 best friends in the middle of a 15-tequila-shot binge (or the morning after).  Also, when you are referring people to your online profile, website, Facebook or other sites, make sure those sites are free of negative imagery.  Create separate pages or profiles if you have to.

Keep in mind also that because your online posts, tweets, comments and blogs are devoid of body language, voice tone and other communication nuances, you must be that much clearer in your intention.  For example, not everyone reading this post may recognize my attempt at humor in response to the quoted blog comments above.  Sarcasm is notoriously tricky to communicate via only the written word.  Unless you are very sure that your audience will understand your style, humor, etc., keep those elements to a minimum.

And finally, proofread, proofread, proofread!!!  If you’re language skills aren’t that of an English major, don’t try to be fancy.  Say what you mean as clearly and concisely as possible.  Make sure there are no speeling or grammatical errors (yes, I intentionally misspelled ‘spelling’ to prove my point).  That’s what a spellcheck was created for.  And if you’re writing an emotional response to something, take a few minutes to calm down and reread your comments before you hit send.

Good luck and good writing! (I hope I didn’t overdo it on the parenthetical clauses)

Time is Money

In our never-ending quest to save money or get a great deal, we often forget all that goes into a purchase. How reputable is the seller? What happens if I need to return the item? What if I’m not happy with my product or service? How convenient and responsive is the seller’s customer service?

For example, let’s say you want to buy some business cards. You call a professional printer (such as my company) to get a quote. After consulting with you as to budget, design, and features, the printer quotes you, say $50 per 1000.

Next, you browse the internet and come across an online company that has stock designs that you simply input your personal information over. The same 1000 cards costs only $20! Wow, great deal! Seeing such a great price, you jump on the internet site and order your cards.

After waiting a week, you receive your cards and realize that the name is misspelled. You go back to the website and realize that you typed in the name wrong, and got exactly what you ordered. The company you bought the cards from has an automated phone tree that takes 5 minutes to get through. Then, you get a voicemail (or worse, get stuck in a phone queue for 30 minutes). By the time someone answers your call after 30 minutes on hold (or after a day in the case of voicemail or email), you’re understandably frustrated. Hearing your angry tone (no doubt the 30th angry voice they’ve heard that day), the customer service rep curtly explains that the online proof is considered your authorization, and you can’t get a refund or credit, but will have to reorder.  Now, you’re either stuck with crossing your name off and writing it in, leaving it misspelled (both of which looks unprofessional) or reordering the cards.

At this point, if you decide to reorder, you’ve invested $40 plus all that time trying to get your issue resolved.

Had you gone with the first printer, you could have gotten a professional design uniquely suited to your business, an extra set of eyes to look over your information for errors, and an extra chance at officially proofing the information.  If the cards came back wrong, you could call the printer and talk to a real person, possibly gotten a credit or reprint or had the situation otherwise handled smoothly.

While my example is centered around business cards, it applies to everything.  Manufacturers are constantly cutting back on customer service, tightening their return policies and reducing customization; all in an effort to cut costs and offer everything dirt cheap.  Unfortunately, if there is a problem of any kind, you’re facing a truly daunting task in trying to resolve the issue if you’ve chosen a dirt cheap vendor.

All this is not to say that you can’t get a great deal from a reputable company.  All other things being relatively equal, I love cheap price as much as the next guy.  But if I have to choose between a manufacturer that I know has lousy customer service and a company with great customer service that is a few percent higher, I choose the more expensive option.

Why?  Because time is money.  How much time would I spend on the phone trying to navigate to a decision maker, explain the problem (as he or she probably knows nothing about my order), haggle back and forth and finally get approval for a resolution to a problem that is due to the vendor’s error (let alone if I made a mistake)?  That’s time that I should be spending on the phone getting more business or handling more important things in life.

Keep that in mind next time you’re out shopping.  And show some love to those of us who work just as hard to deliver great service in addition to good prices.

How pinching pennies can make you penniless

As the economy continues to be sluggish, many people and companies are tightening their wallets and trying to shave every penny they can off their expenses.  While this makes sense on the surface, it can have damaging long-term effects.

I’ll share my personal history to illustrate this.  For several years, I’ve had quite a lot of debt.  About $10k in credit card debt, and another $50k in unpaid student loans.  Much of this debt was incurred as I struggled to find gainful employment out of college; and later, when I was laid off and was out of work for a few months.  To try to get out of this situation, I responded by trying to cut any and all expenses I could: reduce the heat and A/C, cut out all eating out, reduce entertainment to nil, etc.

I expected that if I reduced my expenses, the result would be more money available to pay off debts and greater stability.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.  Every time I started making headway, some mysterious emergency would come and wipe out my progress.  My cars broke down.  My son had accidents or got sick.  Unexpected problems arose.

Only recently, when I stopped focusing on money problems, debt and cutting, did things start to turn around.  I focused on earning more.  Bringing in more income, rather than reduce outflow.  I quickly found new opportunities to earn extra monet.  The bills settled down, emergencies stopped coming up, and I’m finally starting to pay off those debts.

I’ve witnessed the same phenomena in business.  When I worked for a wholesaler in the foodservice industry, I would inevitably run across cheapskates who haggled me down as much as they could to get a better price.  The worst ones had 5-10 separate vendors, and shopped around on every item.

Instead of getting rich, however, most of them went out of business or struggled just to keep their doors open.  They spent so much time trying to stop money from going out, that they never focused on bringing more money in.  None of the several vendors showed any loyalty to these customers, as they barely made any money themselves.  When the account went even slightly past due, they were cut off.

A better approach is to pick one or 2 vendors and partner with them.  Find the vendor that has the best combination of price, service and knowledge of their business (and yours) and give them all of the business.  They will take care of you.  They will give you creative ideas.  They will help you get the word out.  They will promote your business using their social media, word of mouth and other channels.  We’ve just started doing this with our vendors, and we are already seeing positive results.

More importantly, don’t skimp on your marketing budget.  While you shouldn’t continually throw money out without results, you shouldn’t cut marketing completely either.  The big advantage of social, online and email marketing isn’t so much in the cost as it is in the ability to track results.  Pay attention to which messages and specials get responses and sales.  Then, back up your online messages with print and hard copy promotional materials that repeat that message.  Some people still don’t use social media or respond to online marketing.  However, by using online marketing strategies first, you can eliminate a lot of the trial and error involved with finding a marketing message that works.  Then, you can use your hard copy pieces more efficiently to really bring in the income.

Happy hunting!

Jim

AFS

Make a personal connection today

Normally, I work 40-45 hours a week at my day job, and another 30 hours a week or so at my church, delivering spiritual counseling. As you can imagine, my time with my family comes at a heavy premium.

This week I’ve been off from my work with my church, enjoying some much-needed R&R and time with my kids.  Yesterday, while I was playing with my son in the pool in our apartment complex, I noticed another kid playing by himself, while his mother sat in a lounge chair, texting for several minutes.  After playing with my son for several more minutes, I again noticed the mother, who was now reading a book.

The entire half hour we were there, I think she said maybe 2 sentences to her son.  She divided her time between her phone and her book.  At first, it made me sad that she thought so little of the time she had with her son that she didn’t feel the need or desire to play or interact with him.  On the other hand, it reaffirmed the gratitude that I felt for the time I did have with my son.  I haven’t always felt this way; nor have I truly appreciated the gifts that I do have.

In our society, we are so inundated with communication from TV, magazines, text messages, email and elsewhere that we tend to zone out a bit.  Personal, one-on-one communication is becoming a lost art.  Several years ago, I was at a restaurant on Friday night.  I noticed a group of 5 people at a table.  What struck me was, every one of them was talking on a cell phone.  There were five friends out together on a Friday night, yet none of them were really there!  And that was before texting and email were readily available on smartphones.  Now, it’s common to see people completely oblivious to the outside world; faces transfixed at a screen about 2 feet in front of their eyes, frantically tapping out messages.

Take some time today to physically talk to someone; as in, stand in front of them and communicate.  Put down the phone, ipad, etc.  Shut of the TV and computer.  Close your magazine or 50 Shades of Grey (or other book).  Have an actual, human, face-to-face interaction with someone.  Play with your kids.  Enjoy someone else’s company.  If you find it difficult to do, don’t worry.  Instead, see it as a sign that you need to practice this much more often.

As Farris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

The power of gratitude

In sales as well as life, it’s important to focus on-and be grateful for- the positive things. Thank your customers for their business, no matter how small it may be. Thank your prospects for the opportunity to show them what you can do. Thank your employer for the opportunity to work for them. Thank your employees for all their hard work.

As I’ve been making a number of sales calls lately, I’ve changed my attitude about how I view the work and the people I talk to. I thank them for the time, thank them for their honesty if they are not interested, thank them for their smile, thank them for the help or information they give, and always wish them a great day.

It may sound trite, but I really believe that it has made a huge difference. I’m getting more leads, more requests for quotes, more return calls and soon, more business.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my boss for his patience, guidance and assistance. I want to thank my team for their hard work. I want to thank all of my customers, both current and future.  Thanks to Pete for the opportunity you’ve given me.
I want to thank my wife for constantly trying to change me for the better. Thanks to my wonderful boys for smiling and playing with me, and keeping me young at heart. Thank you to LRH for giving me a spiritual compass that guides me. And of course, thank you to all who read this, and may your days and lives be filled with success, wonder and joy.

And, if you’ve liked this, pass it along to those you are thankful to. Better yet, write your own notes of thanks.