Category Archives: Business Development

Make your Email Blasts Count


Effective email blasts are an art form. The most impactful email campaigns are relevant to your target audience and strike a balance in email frequency that keeps your brand fresh in your customers’ minds without overloading them.

Keep it Simple

Think about your own email inbox and what types of emails catch your attention and cause you to react.

Create an Awesome Subject Line

Make sure your subject lines make sense, are relevant and persuasive.  Remember, you have to compete with all the other emails that are being sent out by your Email Blast Service Provider. Make sure your subject line will catch attention. (What key words should I use? What ones are overused and, therefore, should be avoided?)

Make it Easy

The overall goal of the email is to get people to open them, read the information, and then click through to take action.

Take the guesswork out of wondering if your email generated leads for you. Know if you’re getting results by setting up and tracking marketing analytics. Set up offer codes to track your promotions.

If your email blast content is advertising special pricing, does your blast link directly to that product where it is easily orderable? Or does it go to your homepage and then the Distributor is expected to navigate to find that item?

Make it easy for your customers to respond to the offer you are blasting to them by leading them directly to where you would like them to take action.

Be Consistent

Whether you want to send emails quarterly, monthly, or more often, put your email blast dates on a calendar and stick to the schedule. You’ll build momentum for yourself and your customers. They’ll come to start expecting your emails to arrive. If you’re good about sending your emails for a while but then suddenly go dark, you’ll start to lose the momentum on both ends.

Also make sure your artwork has a consistent look at feel so your customers begin to recognize your style.

Make It Count

When creating the content for your email blast, make sure your messages contain information your target audience will care about and again, keep it simple. It’s normal for brand managers to get excited about every aspect of their product, but an email blast needs to convey information that is exciting for your readers. Email blasts need to contain well-written information and a specific call to action that your audience will respond to.

Create an “Above the Fold” Call to Action

If you create an email blast for which you want your contacts to do something, like take advantage of an offer, make sure you have that high up in the email.  A good rule of thumb is that your call to action should appear right away, when someone opens your email. If someone has to scroll to find it, it’s in the wrong place. Think of a newspaper headline.

Send the Right Amount

Are you bombarding your customers’ inboxes twenty times a month or just once a quarter? Both are probably not the best way to go about email blasts. If you are clogging up your clients’ email with a dozen or more messages every month they will most likely stop reading them all together or get annoyed and unsubscribe. On the other hand, sending an email blast once every 2-4 months won’t keep your company name fresh in your customers’ minds.

Email marketing is marketing, not magic. You wouldn’t expect to get a great return on playing a radio ad or running a TV commercial just once.  That is why we as a Service Provider do not sell email blasts à la carte.

If you are considering email marketing, we recommend you test the effectiveness for a period of time.  Remember that customers will open emails differently depending on the time of year and even the time of day that your email is sent. To get as many customers as possible to open your emails, you need to commit to sending emails over a period of time and implementing these best practices to make the most of your efforts.

Stephanie Protz, CAS | Marketing Director
sprotz@distributorcentral.com
 @stephprotz

Living in Your Pipeline

If you’ve been in sales for longer than a week, you have heard someone – a manager, co-worker, or accountability partner – stress the importance of building an active sales pipeline. Even so, many sales professionals look at building and maintaining an active pipeline as a “non-sales activity” not critical to their growth. It’s time to think differently about a sales pipeline, using it as a guide to both strategic thinking and actionable steps to sales growth. To get the most out of your pipeline, you need to focus on three areas: the need, the approach, and the execution.

The Need

1.       Focus– You simply cannot keep everything in your head. Notebooks, sticky notes on your desk, email reminders aren’t going to give you the complete information necessary to deliver maximum efficiency. The pipeline is a system to manage leads, status, next steps, reminders, and other sales activities for you. As a salesperson, your time is best spent on the best prospects – the ones ripe to take the next step in the sales process. The pipeline will manage that for you.

2.       Messaging– At each stage of the sales process, prospects want different things from salespeople (type of information, frequency of contact, communication channels, samples, proposals, etc.). By using a pipeline with defined steps, the vast majority of this thinking is done for you and you can focus on executing each stage of the process.

The Approach

1.       No Selling– That’s right, no selling at all. This is especially importing in the early stages when your prospects aren’t ready to buy. Instead, seek for opportunities to become a trusted advisor – connect, educate, and add value. The more value you build, the more your prospects will seek you out when there is a need.

2.       Differentiate– As you communicate and build value along the sales process, take advantage of opportunities to stress differentiation and preference for you and your ideas. In a competitive marketplace, it’s critical to communicate how different you are and how that differentiation will make the prospect better off by working with you as opposed to your competition.

 

The Execution

1.       Stages– Don’t stop at defining the stages your prospects go through during the sales process, but also define your communication strategy at each stage: what do they get, how often, and in what manner. Defining this up front will make for much more efficient decision making and actions to move the sales process along.

2.       Content– Place a priority on providing great content. Be remarkable, educational, and memorable. Show them how working with you will make their jobs easier. People are constantly looking to be taught so seize the opportunity and teach them.

3.       Ease– Make it easy for prospects to move forward in the process. Create situations and content (case histories, samples, decoration swatches, etc.) that put the prospect in control of taking the next step. Because you and your pipeline have done the work up front by building value, showing differentiation, and creating preference, prospects will be eager to work with you.

True sales professionals do much more than simply build relationships; they take ownership and actively live in their pipeline – tracking how each opportunity is progressing down the funnel and making the necessary adjustments if an opportunity is at risk of being lost. These are the activities that separate the good from the great.

Bill Petrie
engage@brandivatemarketing.com
brandivatemarketing.com
 
 brandivatemarketing
 @brandivatemktg
 

 

About brandivate
Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership position at leading promotional products distributorships. In addition, he launched brandivate – the first executive team outsourcing company solely focus on helping small promotional products companies responsibly grow their business. In March of 2015, Bill began a partnership with Proforma to assist their Owners growing their individual distributorships.
 
A former speaker at the PPAI Winter Expo and current member of the board of directors for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), Bill has extensive real-world practice coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and delivering RFP responses, and successfully presenting promotional solutions to Fortune 500 clients.

Engage Online Customers


Last month, DistributorCentral partnered with Technologo for an online webinar called “Keep Em Coming Back; How to Engage Online Customers” where we demonstrated various ways to engage customers on you website.

Tiffany Tarr, Vice President of Sales at DistributorCentral talked about some of the features that can be enabled on a DistributorCentral-hosted website that will enable you to be more proactive.

Being proactive isn’t always about finding ways to generate new business. By understanding the buying habits of your current customers you can anticipate their needs. Send them ideas well before their events so that you can avoid last minute rush orders.  One of these ways is by setting up Reorder Reminders. Distributors can setup automatically generated emails to their customers to remind them that it’s time to place a reorder. This is helpful for items like Calendars that are ordered annually.

Another way to be proactive is by sending customized presentations with products that display your customer’s logo. The Technologo Virtual Sample Tool can be enabled on your website and allow you to create virtual samples that can be used in your product presentations.

Stephanie Protz, Marketing Director at DistributorCentral talked about the benefits of implementing a Live Chat Feature on your website during last month’s webinar.  A “live chat” feature is a plug-in that can be enabled on your DistributorCentral hosted website that provides a quick and easy way for you to be proactive by reaching out to customers currently browsing your website. Questions can be answered in real time which greatly reduces instances where customers leave your website because their questions haven’t been answered. This type of functionality has been proven to increase sales, since it captures customers at the point of sale and helps them through the conversion process and checkout completion.

Create a sense of urgency by setting up a Discount Code to drive business within a specific time period. Discount codes are another easy and effective way to drive traffic to your website or encourage repeat sales. Whether you offer free setups, free shipping, or simple discounts we highly suggest taking advantage of this tool in your account and using it in your marketing efforts with your customers.

Lastly, take advantage of DistributorCentral’s Monthly Themed Product Specials. Themed Supplier product specials are available each month and are accessible on the homepage in DistributorCentral when you log into your account. These specials are also sent via email three times each month to Distributors subscribed to our marketing emails. This month we are featuring “Back to School” items. Looking ahead into this summer, you can expect “Sports/Fan Gear” products in July and “Awards/Recognition” products in August.

Each of the tools mentioned are available to you as part of the DistributorCentral suite of tools, or as 3rdparty tools that can be easily integrated into your DistributorCentral-hosted website.  Each of them also represent one more way to be more proactive in your sales efforts, and better leverage technology tools to grow customer relationships and generate more sales.

Being Proactive with Clients

The other day I was chatting with a friend who happens to be in the market for a new job. During our discussion, we were discussing strategies on how best to market him with his target companies. As usually happens in cases like this, it got me thinking about the importance of being proactive.

Being of similar age (disclosure – I am 45), my friend and I both remembered the “old” way of searching for a job. For those of you unfamiliar, it went something like this:

  1. Scour the “Help Wanted” section of your local Sunday newspaper for potential targets
  2. Circle the opportunities that appealed to you
  3. Carefully craft a cover letter to gain their attention
  4. Meticulously select the correct paper to print both your resume and cover letter
  5. Mail (the snail variety) both documents to the contact listed in the newspaper
  6. Hope and wait

That’s it. Other than physically sending out a few pieces of paper, the entire process was reactive. With easy access to information and social media, searching for a job today is a much more proactive experience.

Translating this to the promotional products world, I see many distributors that market their business in a decidedly 1990’s reactive mode. They create websites, develop branding, and craft marketing materials then hope clients discover them. Today’s marketplace is far too competitive to trust a business future simple chance and luck.

With so many technological tools – especially at Distributor Central – available, it’s easier than ever to be proactive:

  • Setting reminders in a CRM (or even Outlook) to keep regular and meaningful with clients
  • Automated reminders for quarterly or annual orders
  • Following up with clients with targeted questions regarding delivery on their most recent order
  • A monthly reminder to brainstorm an idea for a client and sharing it with them

Much like my friend who is seeking employment, one must be proactive to achieve success. By using online tools to automate the process as much as possible – and ensuring there is both meaning and value in each client contact – you will differentiate yourself from the competition who will continue to hope for that next big order.

Bill Petrie
engage@brandivatemarketing.com
brandivatemarketing.com
 
 brandivatemarketing
 @brandivatemktg
 

 

About brandivate
Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership position at leading promotional products distributorships. In addition, he launched brandivate – the first executive team outsourcing company solely focus on helping small promotional products companies responsibly grow their business. In March of 2015, Bill began a partnership with Proforma to assist their Owners growing their individual distributorships.
 
A former speaker at the PPAI Winter Expo and current member of the board of directors for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), Bill has extensive real-world practice coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and delivering RFP responses, and successfully presenting promotional solutions to Fortune 500 clients.

Hirsch Gift, Inc. announce new Regional Sales Manager

David Degreeff, MAS has been appointed Regional Sales Manager for Hirsch Gift, Inc.  Degreeff will represent the supplier in the Southwest territory in the states of Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  He brings with him more than 35 years of unique industry experience from the supplier, distributor, and multi-line representative perspectives.  Peter Hirsch, President of Hirsch Gift, stated “we are very excited to welcome somebody with the caliber and experience of Dave to join our growing team.”

The Siren Song of eCommerce

Do you hear the siren song of the company store? If you don’t, your clients most certainly do. Over the past few years, interest in selling eCommerce solutions has exploded. As a distributor, the appeal of selling an online company store is alluring but, if not properly researched, executed, and monitored, can lead to a very unpleasant outcome for all – lost revenue, non-moving merchandise, and a soured business relationship.

To avoid the potential negative outcomes of an online store solution, there are three steps every distributor needs to take:

1. Ask the right questions – As with so many things in our industry, success boils down to effective and honest communication. There are several dozen questions (at least) you should get clarification on before investing the resources necessary to develop a company store. Some examples are:

  • Does the client have a current online solution? If so, what does it look like (who owns the merchandise, how many products, stocking vs. non-stocking, reporting needs, how is it promoted internally, and how are merchandise substitutions handled – to  name a few)
  • What functionalities do they need from the web solution? Is it secured or open-ended? Is there a shopping cart feature? Do they need real-time inventory updates? How is the shipping calculated?
  • What security parameters do they have for the solution? Will it need to be fully PCI compliant for credit card processing? What type of encryption is necessary?
  • What does the communication process look like for the end user?
  • How is customer care handled?
  • How are returns handled?

2. Formulating the solution – Once you have a full understanding of what the needs of the client are, you need to develop the solution. There are several companies within the industry that can assist with this, including a robust program from DistributorCentral. As you look for a partner to help you, it’s important to ensure the solution you jointly create provides the following:

  • Replicate the look and feel of the client’s site
  • Preserve the user’s shopping experience as they transition from the client’s site to the merchandise store
  • Limited choice – too many products can be more paralyzing that too few
  • Reliable up-time

Many solutions – DC included – allow you to get as creative as your client requires: standalone domain name, credit card processing, and even the ability to upload custom client images to products. The key is to build a solution that will achieve the goals of the client.

3. Ongoing Monitoring – Once the site is built, many distributors assume the orders will just roll in without any further effort. The hard reality is that after the site launches, the real work begins. It’s critical to understand that a company eCommerce site is a living, breathing entity and must be continually monitored, updated, and refreshed. Having quarterly stewardship reviews with your client to honestly discuss the below is essential to long term success:

  • What merchandise is selling – and what is not?
  • What product substitutions need to be made?
  • Are there any customer service issues – and what is being done to solve them?
  • How is the client supporting/promoting the website?
  • How are you planning for seasonality of the merchandise?

Partnering with a client to create an eCommerce site for their internal associates can be scary. However, if you ask the right questions, partner with a company that understands the promotional products industry, and continually communicate with your client, you can avoid the rocky coast and sail your ship to success.

Bill Petrie
engage@brandivatemarketing.com
brandivatemarketing.com
 
 brandivatemarketing
 @brandivatemktg
 

 

What’s Wrong with “Your Logo Here”

The way people buy merchandise of every variety is in a continual state of evolution. The music industry provides a great example:

1960’s – Singles (called 45’s) and record albums were purchased at a local record shop using cash or a personal check

1970’s – Two new formats – the cassette tape and 8-track tape – were introduced, but still mainly purchased at a store dedicated to music. Cash, check or charge please!

1980’s – One format died (the 8-track) and a different one emerged (the CD). Consumers continued to purchase music at record stores, through record clubs, and now through large big box stores like Target or Best Buy. More reliance on checks or credit cards to purchase.

1990’s – The CD became the king of traditional music delivery while upstart companies like Napster leveraged the internet to bring music to the masses. Credit or debit cards were the most common form of payment. Unless, of course, if you used Napster. That was free.

2000’s – The internet began to radically shift how music was delivered: traditionalists could still buy physical CD’s from places like amazon.com while the introduction of the iPod and legal music downloading made getting music faster and easier than ever. Debit or credit cards only.

2010’s – Technology continued to advance allowing easier access to music than ever before. Streaming services such as Spotify allow subscribers to control content that is available only in a cloud-based format. Physical manifestations of albums in any format are slowly disappearing.

In just 50 years, how people want to receive music has changed at least 5 times. In that same span, the way people pay for music has changed at least 6 times. Wouldn’t it be safe to say that the way your target audience wants to buy and experience promotional products has changed as well?

Today’s promotional products buyer is far more savvy than even 10 years ago. They understand industry codes, usually have no issue bouncing around online to find ideas, and want to fully see what they are going to get BEFORE they order. Thankfully, there cost effective solution to this that will reach your audience on their terms: the virtual sample.

Virtual samples bring promotional merchandise to life. A T-shirt on a website that says “Your Logo Here” is just a T-shirt. However, when your client has the ability to upload their logo to see what their brand would look like, that same exact garment becomes a powerful sales tool. By leveraging a virtual sample to show your clients how their brand will look on specific merchandise, you begin to turn your ideas into a tangible client experiences and differentiate yourself from the competition content to show “Your Logo Here” products.

Promotional products are still a relationship business, because a brand is something that is personal. Technology can help your client make the connection between theory and reality, which will turn a customer into a client.

Bill Petrie
engage@brandivatemarketing.com
brandivatemarketing.com
(615) 440-2155
 brandivatemarketing
 @brandivatemktg
 

 

First or Worst Impression

Promotional marketing professionals know the single biggest challenge when building a distributorship is standing out in the marketplace. With 24,000 promotional product distributors selling the exact same products through the same supplier network at similar prices, individuality in the marketplace is critical.

With a world of information at everyone’s fingertips, the vast majority of clients and prospects will use your online presence to form their opinion about you and your company. If the website is merely a showcase for products – the very same products the other 23,999 competitors sell – does that create the sort of impression that differentiates you from the competition? In short, the answer is a resounding “no.” 

Because of the lack of unique product offerings between distributors, the only real differentiator is you: your vision, your experience, your work, your passion, and your story.

A website is essentially a blank slate: you can be anything you want and tell your story your way. By creating specific and easy to navigate tabs on your website (DistributorCentral templates make this very easy), you can share what makes you stand out from the product dependent masses.

Take advantage of that digital real estate to give your audience reasons they should partner with you. At a minimum, a client-centric website should include the following tabs: 

  • Who You Are – Tell people about yourself and your value proposition. Where are you from, where did you go to school, what are your passions, why do you do what you do, etc. Inject your unique personality and perspective for your audience to embrace. 
  • What You Do – Take people beyond the nuts and bolts of placing logos on products. Share how the solutions you provide to clients fuel your passion. If there are specific industries where you have expertise or an ideal client you want to target, house it here. 
  • Case Histories – People relate strongly to case histories. There is no better way to showcase your unique perspective and how you apply that view to solve problems for your clients. Leverage case histories to give your audience practical and tangible evidence of your value.  
  • Client Recommendations – After successful promotions, ask your client for a brief statement regarding your work and permission to post it on your site.  As you try to differentiate, client recommendations are critical to people as they form an opinion about your and your company. 
  • Product – A distributorship is in the business of selling ideas that make products come to life. By making product searching a component rather than the focus of your website, you underscore the value you provide to your clients while still showcasing selected merchandise.

To go the extra mile, add a video section showcasing new products and/or a blog to share content marketing. Above all, give your target audience points of differentiation by moving away from a product only website. Even in a technology reliant society, people still buy from people/companies they know, like, and trust. By sharing your story – in your voice – with your audience, you give them the opportunity to understand the value you bring beyond decorated products.

Bill Petrie
engage@brandivatemarketing.com
brandivatemarketing.com
(615) 440-2155
 brandivatemarketing
 @brandivatemktg