… Neutrals are out. Clients are looking for all the colors of the spectrum. Gone are the days when they wanted neutrals or just a black shirt. They love that they can dress in a more "retail fashion" manner. For promotional shirts, we've had many requests for more all-over prints, side prints and other unusual locations for printing and embroidery.
… There's always a silver lining. I got involved in promotional products quite by accident. I was downsized from my corporate marketing position and started working on some sales promotions that included promotional product ideas that I custom-designed. They were really well-received, but as you can imagine, only providing custom programs is difficult from a timing perspective, so I added the more traditional promotional products to my mix of services. I still get most excited about developing custom solutions for my clients to help their brand and message stand out and be remembered.
… The Internet is both hindrance and help. Clients are searching the Internet for ideas and products and think they are comparing apples to apples. They do not understand all the nuances with the various products and their manufacturing processes. Luckily, most of our clients understand the difference we provide and don't go online, but when they do, we have to reeducate them that what they saw online may not work out the way they are expecting.
… Diversification is key. We lost 80% of our business overnight after 9/11. At the time, most of our clients were in the travel and tourism business, and I never anticipated a national calamity that would impact all my clients at once. I learned a lot from the experience and became much more diversified across a wider spectrum of industries. I really stepped-up our networking and made sure I was having at least five new business prospect meetings a week. And it worked. We were able to expand beyond travel and tourism to many other key industries like health care and education.
… Sometimes the planets align. One Friday morning at 11:30 a.m., we received a call from the office of the president at a local university. They needed shirts for an 8 a.m. breakfast the next day. They had been asking around for two days before calling their event department, who told them, "If anyone can do it, Danette can." We didn't say no, but we did indicate that the planets needed to align to make it happen. They did. We not only got them a layout proof for approval for a two-color, two-sided imprint, but delivered the shirts to the provost's home by 7 p.m. – less than an eight-hour turnaround.
… Blogging is the gift that keeps giving. About four years ago, we realized we might be missing out by not having a blog. We didn't know how to go about it, so we hired a social media coach to help guide us. Our clients are getting younger and younger, and we didn't want to get left behind. We want to be known as the authority for promotional marketing among our clients and prospects. One of our early blog posts, "Confessions of a Pen Thief" about taking the pens from Ritz Carlton Hotels (it's why they have the logo, right?) still brings us business when people Google Ritz Carlton pens.
… We joined Twitter kicking and screaming. We didn't get it and didn't want to get it, but our social media coach kept insisting that we needed to be there, and she was right. We have forged some great relationships, and it really does keep us up-to-date on trends and in touch with our clients. Whatever keeps our name top of mind will stay a part of my marketing plans.
… It's important to decompress. I try to practice my yoga at least two or three times a week, and I try to play golf every weekend. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. In both of those sports, you have to be on your mat or the course, so they really take me away from the worry of running a business.
… My parents are my inspiration. They were entrepreneurs and had many businesses over the course of their careers. And even in their so-called retirement, they have stayed very active. As a matter of fact, my father learned how to be an online options trader at age 80. They taught me the importance of looking forward, having integrity, being honest and staying true to the passion of my business.
… In stories of courage. I recently read the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It's a bit of hard read at times because of the graphic nature of the cruelties that occur during their capture. However, the story of courage, resilience and ultimate triumph was so inspiring for me to remember: Never give up.