STATE OF THE INDUSTRY / 2011
Eight to-do items sure to help improve your marketing efforts right now.
CREATE AN ELEVATOR PITCH
Thirty seconds: Wow the people you meet with a dynamic first impression
that could pay big dividends. Go!
It’s one of the first things an applicant crafts for a job search. So why is it so hard to create an elevator pitch for a company?
Jennefer Witter, president of The Boreland Group Inc., a PR agency based in New York, says distributors should start by clarifying the singular vision for their company. Like an
individual’s elevator pitch, the plug for a company should be no more than 30 seconds and include a phrase upfront that sums up the company’s mission, then a sentence or two that backs up that mission.
The key is to quickly connect with your audience. You should be spending much more of your elevator pitch talking about what you do for clients than what your mission and goals are. Ad specialty
distributors provide valuable marketing and advertising services to their clients, so that point has to be clear.
You’re not just providing products – it’s a service that your clients repeatedly value and inject into their marketing campaigns. That message has to be as succinct and clear as possible. It would even help, experts say, to have a quick anecdote or case study ready to give life to what you provide for clients in case somebody asks a brief follow-up question. This kind of example can paint a picture for your audience, which is exactly what a good elevator pitch should do.
Keep in mind, however, that once a pitch is perfected it’s never done. Elevator pitches should be reworked, edited and practiced at least once or twice a year, Witter says. Also, now is a good time to tweak your elevator pitch to include new-media initiatives you’re conducting with and for clients. It’s always good in an elevator pitch to include buzzwords and topics that are timely and would interest people right now.
Offer Print Services In Addition To Ad Specialties
One of the biggest trends we’ve noticed is printers getting involved in the promotional products industry,” says David Blaise, an industry consultant and president of Blaise Drake & Company, a business consultancy in Wyomissing, PA.
It’s an added service offering for printers that makes sense. But, it’s also a natural for ad specialty sellers to add printing to their own offerings, say some distributors. “From a distributor standpoint it really is the same thing,” Blaise says. “Printed products are printed products, whether you’re printing on paper or mugs and magnets. You just need to gather the necessary information to get it done.”
To that end, bringing in equipment and suddenly offering on-site printing is far more than most distributors can (or should) take on, experts warn. Start by doing research. No, your local FedEx Office isn’t going to give you tips and allow you to steal a portion of their business. But a printer across the country might. Find one that has a similarly sized outfit and “mimic their strategy,” says Stephen Woessner, an author, business counselor and instructor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Small Business Development Center in La Crosse, WI.
But don’t think copying a successful business model alone will do the trick, he adds. The fastest way to generate new business with a new offering? Recruit an expert or salesperson already working in that field.
In addition, Blaise suggests reaching out to current printers to jump-start your print business. “Contact them and ask for information on how to best sell and rep their products,” Blaise says; “then call clients” and let them know you now offer printing services.
It’s best to start with a limited service offering until you gain a deeper understanding of the print industry, he adds. Ask suppliers about popular printed items, then approach clients to see if it dovetails with their needs, since selling to existing customers is an easier entrée to a new market segment than starting from scratch.
GET INVOLVED WITH A NONPROFIT
Yes, The Red Cross may be a great organization with a great cause, but if their mission doesn’t resonate with your clients or match your corporate goals, supporting the cause may not be the best branding strategy.
“There are plenty of ways to find the best charities” to support as a company, says Keith Emmer, principal at Startegix, a consultancy for startups based in New York. “Look around and see which ones have the same kind of target membership” as your client base.
“If your clients are recreational athletes and you live in New York, you may notice that there’s not enough green space, so you might want to get involved with the Central Park Conservancy,” Emmer says.
Starting local isn’t a bad idea either, experts say. Donating money and, say, clearing downed trees from a trail to support a local environmental group rather than a national group may give a distributor far more negotiating power on how much their company will be featured.
One thing to remember, Emmer says: Start small. Not only do volunteer efforts and donations have a greater return (and possibly better visibility) at a smaller organization, but it keeps costs lower initially as well. Budgeting 1% of a marketing budget is an ideal place to start, Emmer says. That way a distributor hasn’t squandered a significant portion of his budget on an organization that’s not a fit.
Ultimately, though, the key to working with a nonprofit is to be as involved as possible. If you want to try to turn this organization into a customer, you’ll have to first win over their trust by personally and professionally backing the cause.
Speak At A Networking Event
Never addressed an audience before? Standing before a crowd the size of a presidential inauguration probably isn’t the best place to start. Instead, says Jennefer Witter, president of The Boreland Group Inc., a PR agency based in New York, start small. A crowd of 20 to 40 is often comfortable for most presenters.
Make sure, though, to get your company’s brand out there by including your name in presentation materials – handouts, PowerPoints, giveaways – Witter says. One thing not to do: Don’t use your speaking time to tout your company’s offerings. Nothing turns off an audience faster or kills a brand image quicker than someone pitching his company under the guise of an educational seminar. Talking like an expert and providing concrete tips for the audience to better their businesses will do plenty to build rapport and interest in your firm.
Suppliers are definitely solid partners for distributors and can surely help in their marketing efforts, but what about competitors? How close should you get with them? Go to www.asicentral.com/soi8
to listen to a podcast that offers clear advice on which competitors to become close with – and which to stay far away from. Share this with your networking contacts, and your competitors too.
Got stage fright? A little secret from the speaker’s circuit: Everybody who speaks publicly has at least a bit of frightful stomach pains prior to going onstage. The best way to overcome that fear, Witter says, is to prepare.
Practice the speech dozens of times before the big day. Then, moments before the talk, don’t do anything but relax. Practice is vital, but right before you get onstage, put the notes down, take a deep breath and take a moment to look at the scene around you. That will relax your nerves and ensure that you’re comfortable when you begin.
After the speech, enter the participants’ information into your company’s database, write them a thank-you note for coming and then add them to your regular mailing list. So, while you didn’t do a hard sell during the speech, you can add attendees to your contact list and follow up with them afterwards.
Exhibit At A Non-Industry Trade Show
Plenty of distributors who want to tap into a new market segment do so through trade shows. But attending an agricultural trade show once because you want to sell premiums to pig farmers probably won’t generate much business all on its own, says Darren Horwitz, founder and CEO of Imprint PR, a public relations and communications firm in Dallas.
“No matter what the industry, everybody wants to feel like they’re dealing with someone who understands their market,” says David Blaise, an industry consultant and president of Blaise Drake & Company.
One of his clients, a quarter horse enthusiast, targeted that market and knew her prospects’ industry well, giving her a leg up on making connections at shows within that marketplace. Another, a former nurse, zeroed in on medical shows, given her background in health care. In fact, Blaise adds, for distributors who venture into a trade show outside of the industry, attending one that speaks to your passions will help you be a more inspired, engaging presence on the show floor.
The key to exhibiting at a show, though, is to leave with qualified leads (“not just anybody who has a pulse and can fog a mirror,” says Blaise), and follow up on them within the next week. It seems obvious, Blaise says, but too often exhibitors get caught up in the energy of the floor and fail to put enough emphasis on lead generation or follow-up. Make sure to hand them a memorable premium when they visit your booth, so you can reference that and jog their memory during a follow-up call.
Start An E-Mail Newsletter
Despite social media’s pull, more than half of small businesses will market through an e-newsletter this year, according to the fourth annual Fedex Office Signs of the Times national small-business survey. And for good reason. Facebook may have 500 million users, but e-mail newsletters allow distributors to more narrowly target end-users and send active messages to them on a regular basis.
Also, ASI-member distributors can get started easily by using e-mail marketing service provider Constant Contact. With online templates and easy-to-design newsletters, distributors can be sending information to customers within minutes.
According to Jennefer Witter, president of The Boreland Group Inc., a PR agency based in New York, a good first e-newsletter starts with a quick sentence about your company’s mission, along with a brief statement from the company’s chief executive about what the e-newsletter will provide going forward.
“With that first newsletter, you want people to keep it and use it as a go-to resource” when they need promotional products, Witter says.
Keep the information in it about the industry and products, not about your company. The best e-newsletters position a company as an industry expert. That keeps recipients reading and builds trust for future orders. One page or two is the longest most people will read, even for the most compelling e-newsletters.
Also include links, videos and other interactive material that will grab readers’ attention and draw them to your site. As your newsletter gains traction by providing information that your readers can put to good use in their businesses, begin to add your own videos to continue to keep their interest. Take a hand-held video camera to trade shows to do product demonstrations and show off new items you find along the way. Also, use video at any promotional events you’re involved in to promote your own case studies and offer ideas to clients in the process.
Bring A Supplier On A Sales Call
It seems counterintuitive to selling: Why introduce your client to a supplier and risk cutting yourself out of the equation? But suppliers – who are often more knowledgeable about their products, capabilities and promotional opportunities – can enhance the sales experience for the client and help distributors close more deals.
“Make sure it’s a supplier you completely trust and who you have an excellent long-term relationship with,” says David Blaise, an industry consultant and president of Blaise Drake & Company, so you don’t risk losing a client. In addition, it’s important to set boundaries regarding the structure of the sales call: who’s talking, the role of the supplier and protocol for post-call follow-up.
Bringing suppliers in to meet long-term clients who continually buy within the same product line or type of product is a good idea, Blaise says, because it lends an air of importance to the client relationship.
Sponsor A Youth Sports Team
Sponsoring a youth sports team may be one of the easiest ways to generate apparel or trophy business, say, but simply erecting a billboard behind left field may not be enough to get the job done. Make sure your company’s name will receive regular visibility throughout each season and each game.
When considering a sports league to sponsor – and local communities often have multiple leagues – here are some factors to consider: Find out how your company’s logo will be displayed. “For example, will your logo be on their jerseys or concession stands? Will you be allowed to set up a booth at games? How far does the team travel? Does your sponsorship apply to playoffs or championship games and tournaments?” says David Towner, president of CPG Strategies Inc., a branding and business consultancy based in Cincinnati.
Similarly to working with nonprofits, it’s hard to track the return on a team sponsorship, Towner says. “It’s important to consider the sponsorship as a community service rather than a marketing investment,” he says.
Still, distributors can give out coupons at games with tracking numbers to follow the redemption rate. The key, though, is branding your company as a contributing member of the community, one that also offers products and services that many people in the community could need at some point.