Blog Archives

Are your marketing materials “Sticky”?

As I’ve delved into the depths of SEO and web design, I’ve seen several sources mention that a cornerstone to good online advertising is having “sticky” content.

Sticky content refers to content that will entice visitors to a website to come back often.  Examples include chat rooms, forums, games, etc.

As a provider of promotional products, that made me wonder: how “sticky” are the promotional products you are using to promote your business?  Businesses use promotional products for a variety of reasons, including: tradeshow giveaways, as a thank you to valued customer, conversation starters, etc.  One thing I hear often when discussing promotional products is, how much will these cost?

A better question is, how much value are they?  Value can be considered by evaluating how much something costs and how much return on your investment you get from them.  If I had to spend $1000 on expensive briefcases with my logo on them, but got $100,000 in new sales as a result, I would consider it a good investment.  On the other hand, if I spent $200 on branded pens that get thrown in a drawer and forgotten, I would not reinvest in that item.

A key factor is how “sticky” the product is.  How often will the person use the item?  Is the item useful in itself?  Does it inspire conversation?  Will others ask about it?  Examples of promotional items that have good stickiness are tools, water bottles, calendars, sports schedules and office supply items.  These items get used frequently.  Other items may work well, depending on the industry and the typical customer.  Whether they acknowledge them or not, people will see your name and/or logo every time.  And they will remember your name when you talk to them.  Next time you’re looking to advertise or order promotional items, go with something that’s sticky.  It will be money well spent!

To your success,

Jim Kurtz

P.S. here are a few of the items we use:

Accurate Forms & Supplies Car calendar

Our Fast Trax car calendar

Magnetic business card

Magnetic Business Card

Baseball schedule wallet cards

Baseball Schedule wallet cards

Using Google Adwords to find your hot marketing buttons

I stumbled on this idea while reading up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and building a good website.

One of the primary concerns of any marketing staff or business owner is finding out what people will respond to.  I refer to these as “buttons”.  The reason they are called buttons is that once a button is pushed (meaning once the word or phrase is said), it will produce a reaction in the intended audience.

As an example, consider the button “terrorism”.  When I say that word, most likely it evokes an emotional response.  When creating a marketing campaign, advertising piece or even a simple sales or marketing email, a key feature in the success of the advertisement is what buttons are used and how they are used for a specific type of audience.  But how do you know which buttons to choose?  Or how do you know if the buttons that were successful last year will be successful this year?

The answer is keywords.  Keywords are the words and phrases that people enter into search engines like Google or Bing when they are looking for something.  Keywords are the most important factor in building an effective Search Engine Optimization strategy for a website.  If your website has a high concentration of a particular word or phrase, it will generally rank higher in search engine results when people type in those keywords; all other things being equal.

In order to find out what buttons to use in a marketing program, consider using popular keywords.  If a lot of people are already using a particular work or phrase to find things in search engines, it stands to reason that these words are already on their mind.  By using these same words in your marketing, you stand a better chance to evoke a response to your marketing piece.

Google Adwords is a paid form of advertising that appears on the results pages when people search for related topics.  One very helpful (and free) tool that Adwords provides is a keyword suggestion tool.  If you type in adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal into your web browser, you will be able to find out what phrases people are using to find similar products, services or information when they search on Google.

To give you an example of how to use this process, my company is running a special on promotional products this month, and I want to know which words and phrases people are using to search for promotional products.  I enter in “promotional products” into the keyword tool, and I get 100 top keywords and phrases that people use in Google.  By doing this, I found that people use “promotional advertising products” and “Cheap promotional products”  more than others.  I then incorporate the words “cheap” and “advertising” into my marketing.

This tool works best for marketing to a broad audience.  If you want more targeted uses, such as limiting to regional markets, you may want to add the region you’re marketing to in the search phrase above.  So, in my example I would enter “promotional products dallas” to try to get more locally targeted results.

To your success,

Jim Kurtz

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.

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Gasp!

As we come out of Thanksgiving and roll into the holiday season, I find myself gasping for breath.

Sales is a fun endeavor, with lots of randomity.  On any given day, I’m cold calling, following up on leads, generating proposals and following through on existing orders to make sure my customers are well satisfied.

 

The last point deserves some mention, for both buyers and sellers.  In the age of the almighty Internet, buyers have unprecedented access to a wide variety of vendors.  I was talking the other day to an account that buys custom printed envelopes from a small printer in Iowa.  By “small” I mean the printer was a one-man operation.  My prospect said he found the guy on the Internet while searching for a good price.

Given the fact that there seems to be more competition than ever, most sales people seem to succumb to cutting their price to be competitive.  I view it differently.  I’m not a low-price guy.  I save my customers money by consulting with them to design the form or options that best fits their needs.  I follow the process from start to finish, including the production, delivery and follow up stages to ensure my customers are satisfied.  When there’s a problem or delay, I let my customers know in a timely fashion so they are not left guessing at where their product is.  I answer my phone!

While all of this may seem to limit how much business I can win, on the contrary, I build a loyal customer base that understands the value of service.

As a buyer, keep in mind that the low price guy may not be the best option, especially if you want a quality product, or if you want to know that the vendor you’re using will get your product right and on-time.

I believe good is ultimately a better value than just good enough.

The easiest money you’ll ever make

As salesmen and business owners, we have limits.  How many leads can I generate?  How many prospects can I see or call per day?  How many presentations can I make to decision makers?  How many deals can I close?

The latter questions are the ones salesmen, management and business owners are most concerned with, because closing deals is where the money ultimately comes from.

However, the first few questions can be the most challenging questions to answer.  Salesmen spend a great deal of their time trying to generate viable leads to present their products and services to.  If the average salesman was spending 80% of their time making presentations and closing deals, they would be highly successful.  Indeed, this is what highly successful salesmen do.  They use referrals, marketing, social media and other means to generate leads for them so they can spend the majority of their time selling.

Having said that, I find that I am extremely busy.  Between managing my staff, following up on existing leads and presentations, taking care of existing customers, managing our social media and website content, etc., I find that I lack the time to diligently prospect and cold call.  Much like any manager and/or business owner, I find myself needing about 5 more of me than I have to get everything done.

On the other hand, I know that I can do a better job, with better service at a more competitive price than my competition.  All I need is more business.

This is where you come in.  If you refer customers to me, I’ll give you a 10% finders fee on the first order.  If they order $200, you get $20.  If they order $1000, you get $100.  And, I’ll reciprocate by giving you leads in return when I can.

If you have a business and would like to use me, I’ll give you a 10% discount for mentioning this blog.

My areas of expertise: business forms, custom print, business cards, envelopes, postcards, 4 color process, business check printing, pressure seal, labels (stock and custom), tax forms, printer toner and supplies, and storage media.

Promotional product lines: Calendars, holiday cards, trade show giveaways, custom apparel (screen printed or embroidered), tools, banners, signs and magnets.

Yes, we do all of that and much more.  We’ve been satisfying customers for 29 years, and we’re always looking to help more people.

Call us today at (800) 777-0072, visit our website at http://www.accuratesupplies.com or email me at jkurtz@accuratesupplies.com.

Best regards,

Jim Kurtz

Accurate Forms & Supplies

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!

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

Knowledge is Power… and Money

The old saying that knowledge is power is true, but it also applies to sales.

Ten years ago, when I first entered into sales, a good account would have maybe two or three competitors vying for their business.  In this environment, the trick was to get the customer or prospect to like you, have a good product and present good ideas.  Typically, you could make a decent profit and subsequently, a decent commission check, just by being there.

Now, with the Internet, buyers have unprecedented access to options.  If I’m selling a commodity item, I no longer have to compete with 1 or 2 competitors, but potentially thousands.  A buyer can go online, type their product into a search engine, and find a dozen offers at dirt cheap prices.  While people still buy from people they like, a customer won’t like you much when they find out they can get the exact same item online for 40% cheaper.

The secret is knowledge.  What do you know that can help that customer?  What options should they consider?  How can your expertise help them make more money or save them money in the long run?  Your knowledge is the key to taking the sale from a commodity, dollars-and-cents negotiation (which you will eventually lose, every time) to a relationship-building, money-making sale.

In my business of custom print, people can certainly go online and order their marketing pieces, business cards, etc. from bargain basement online printers.  They probably can get it cheaper, too.  But do they know all of the options available?  Do they know which options work well for their application?  Which options really make an impact, and which options merely add to the cost?

I’m the expert.  I know printing.  By providing them with advice, options and using my experience and expertise, I save them time and money.  More importantly, the end result will be a professional product that will deliver the most bang for their buck.
As a sales or marketing professional, don’t be an order taker.  Don’t be a vanilla, low-price dealer.  There is always someone else out there who will do it cheaper.  With the Internet, buyers have virtually unlimited access vendors to purchase their product.  But if you are the expert, and you help them navigate the options to the best solution for THEM, they’ll respect you and continue to do business with you.  Be a professional.

As a buyer, don’t fall into the trap of cheaper-is-always-better.  Are you really getting the best value for your purchase?  Does service count?  Will that online vendor with a phone tree 9 button-pressing options deep, who is located halfway across the country be there if something goes wrong (especially if you’ve wringed every last penny out of the cost)?  Support your professional salesmen.  The good ones will always be there for you.

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.