I Believe...

The who, what and wear of industry experts

… Social media can be a distributor’s best friend. I manage more than a dozen accounts. It’s a great way to tap into news, trends, interact with an audience that shares similar interests, and it doesn’t cost anything other than time. It’s a crucial research tool. You could never get a client to tell you as much about their company as their social media managers post.

   …The board game world is a wonderful industry of publishers, gamers and geekdom. I discovered Wattsalpoag Games when I was browsing job boards for potential clients for The Trek Pass. A two-person operation, the company had managed to publish seven board games since 2006. Not knowing anything about the board game industry but keen to explore, I joined as part-time business manager to allow the owner to focus on game design and our graphic designer to focus on visuals and product development. My business experiences have translated pretty well into helping Wattsalpoag. I’m also the guy in the office who represents the average consumer browsing the game shelf at Target, trying to decide if a game would be good for my kids.

   … There’s more out there than Monopoly. There are thousands of incredible games available. I never had any idea. My personal favorite right now is A Fistful of Penguins, a dice game from Wattsalpoag where players have three turns each to build the most expensive collection of animals. Part chance, part strategy, and it gets kids doing math while they’re having fun.

“I cringe every time I hear someone say I sell swag.”

   … Swag is like confetti. I cringe every time I hear someone say I sell swag. One of my mentors advised bringing a notepad, pen and a bunch of questions when meeting potential clients. This is the discovery meeting. Once you’ve learned whether your services are fit, you’ll meet again with solutions – specific ideas and samples. I want clients to understand there are many things we can logo that could be used for all aspects of their marketing, but there are also areas where they should focus their marketing dollars on a targeted audience, either with specific branding or selective products. Should your best customers get the same T-shirt you hand out to everyone at a trade show? Or would it be wiser to present them with a nice quarter-zip with a laser-etched logo on the left chest? I try to educate potential customers from the outset not to think about swag. Take care of your best customers, focus on potential customer niches, then fire off the “confetti.”

   … Growing a business is a lot like hiking a trail. It’s a journey that you can try to do alone, or you can enlist someone who can help carry the load of building a business – a sherpa, or in my case, a promotional advertising specialty sherpa. With the Trek Pass, we want clients to bring us in to provide targeted solutions to their project needs. Our tag line is: “A Clear Path to Marketing and Branding Solutions.” I think that says it pretty well.

   … Finding a clear path for a client can get complicated. I had a client order customized drinkware the included a carabiner clip, specifically so they could be attached to flight bags for pilots. Custom-printed materials were hole-punched to fit the carabiners. I had sent carabiners from a separate suppler to the drinkware supplier, confirming they were delivered and would be attached to the finished tumbler. But when the products arrived in the Midwest on a Friday afternoon, the event coordinator called to say the carabiners weren’t attached. The East Coast drinkware supplier was already closed for the weekend. After a few tense calls, I was able to find a West Coast supplier, BrainChild USA (asi/41511), whose rep went out of his way to get the inventory from the warehouse, package the carabiners and hand-deliver the package to the UPS person for Saturday delivery, all within a half-hour of contacting him at 4:50 on a Friday afternoon! Long story short, the client received the carabiners, attached them to the tumblers and the event went off without a hitch.

   … Subtle decorations can stand out. The trends I currently really like, when produced right, are micro-embroidery (think woven label), laser etching and sublimation. All three have come a long way. I mentioned a quote from advertising giant Leo Burnett the other day on Twitter: “You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally, without screaming or without tricks.” These styles can make branding look very subtle, small or tone-on-tone, and, when combined with great graphics, can blend right in with fashion trends.

   … Entrepreneurs and firefighters are a lot alike. They both have the courage to run into a burning building and then try to do something about it.