Category Archives: Resources

Personal Networking in the Digital Age

Personal Network

Building a strong and viable network is something every business person understands is critical to long term success. The advent of social media platforms and other technologies provides the ability to reach out to virtually anyone to grow that network. While that access has made it easy to rapidly build a network, it has eroded authenticity and has made it difficult to grow one that is truly personal or meaningful.

In the digital age, it is more important than ever to leverage humanity to truly stand out and add value to a network. Here are three steps to ensure that the network you develop is not only powerful, but personal:

1. Pay It Forward– Are you offering people in your network information or ideas that would help them achieve their goals? No one likes an “all-take, no-give” personal relationship and your professional relationships are no different. When you share information that benefits someone in your network it goes a long way to building both authenticity and trust – two necessary ingredients to a strong network.

2. Be Genuine – When you have sought someone out in your network for assistance, be candid and up front about it. Beating around the bush can feel like a waste of time at best and disingenuous at worst. Ask for what you need politely, but directly. Then listen closely and take in all the information they are willing to give. Being bashful will only limit the growth and viability of your network.

3. Be Consistent– Touch base with those in your network on a regular basis. If you only make contact when it is for your benefit, all trust will be destroyed and people will view you as merely an opportunist. Congratulate people on a new job, comment on a blog post they’ve written, or engage them on an article they shared. Your consistent engagement will be viewed as professional, not opportunistic.

The goal of any network is to develop – and maintain – strong relationships that push each other to achievement. The ease of available information online has made it easier than ever to build a network. However, a network that is built without putting the needs of other first, without consistency, and without candor is nothing more than a house of cards that will collapse at the exact moment the network is needed.

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.

DistributorCentral Launches DC ARTStudio

DistributorCentral (PPAI: 220404 | UPIC: DC) announced their new value added service called DC ARTStudio.  Members can now order production ready artwork services directly from their accounts.  Services will be provided by software partner Artwork Services USA.  Distributor services include vector art, digitizing, virtual samples, flyers, brochures, image retouching, and product templates.

DistributorCentral members can take advantage of a special introductory offer of a 50% off flat discount for one month with offer code 1M50DIS.  “In addition to the initial 50% off, DC members receive better rates than the general industry. We’ve made it very easy to order artwork and it’s completely integrated with their account.” said Jason Nokes, President of DistributorCentral.

“We are truly excited by our partnership with DistributorCentral to provide a critical service to its members; one that can be such a stumbling block for executing the order accurately and on time. We hope the members can take advantage of our special rates and speed of execution.” said Varshal Thakor, President of Artwork Services USA.

For more information visit: http://distributorcentralartstudio.artworkservicesusa.com

The Information Game

Information GameIn a competitive business environment the most important form of currency is information. Most promotional products distributor owners and salespeople employ some sort of customer relationship management (CRM) database to manage sales opportunities. A database that has contains high quality information serves as an effective tool to help handle accounts as well as understand how many and what types of opportunities are in the sales pipeline at any given time.

However, a database is only as good as the information that has been entered into the system. A lack of information or, even worse, access to bad information will hinder your ability to drive business growth. To keep in touch with prospects and clients, it is essential that your CRM database contains relevant and accurate data. To accomplish this, there are three simple steps:

1. Keep it Current – Utilizing a CRM database is useless if the information is out of date. When this happens, calls don’t get answers and direct mail pieces don’t get to the right contact leading to a waste of resources. If you can’t clean outdated data, get rid of it. Bad data is more costly to keep than it is to simply purge.

2. Input Everything – To get the most out of a CRM database, record everything so you can analyze your clients. Are there missed opportunities for add-on sales? Do certain customers buy in cycles? Is there a company milestone coming up next year? Looking at your data this way will keep you thinking in terms of helping your clients and building relationships.

3. Act Now – Armed with insights generated from clean CRM data, it’ far easier to make informed resource decisions. After each sales effort (prospecting call, presentation, merchandise quote, etc.), data should be collected to give additional insight on future sales endeavors: What worked? What didn’t work? How did the client react? Were the ideas presented in line with their goals?

Used properly, a CRM database is an enormous asset to your company. Keep it current, input everything to identify new sales opportunities, and use those insights to drive sales activity. The CRM database should provide far more than just a list of current contacts and their particular details. It should be the starting point for any and all sales efforts.

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.

Taking the “Blah” out of Blogging

Blog Article about BloggingDigital client engagement has evolved to the point where there are so many tools; it’s not only hard to know where to start, but also to know where to focus the resources necessary to achieve results. This generally leads to frustration or, even worse, inaction. Today’s business environment is far too competitive to ignore that digital marketing – specifically, content marketing/blogging – can not only drive traffic to your website, but also position you as an expert and win you clients.

Why content marketing? The numbers are staggering:

  • 54% of marketers generated a client from their blog in 2014
  • 86% of small business marketers view their blog as their most impactful marketing tactic
  • 72% of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionals rate blogging as their top inbound marketing activity

How about a personal, real world example? If you go to Google and type in the word “brandivate,” at least 8 of the top 10 results will be some form of brandivate marketing. While there are many factors at play, I mainly attribute this SEO success to content marketing: the brandivate blog.

While success through blogging isn’t a new concept, it is one that is gaining wild momentum. In 2014, the largest blog hosting site as over 83 million unique visitors in the United States EVERY month.  Blogs fuel SEO as search engines crave valuable content and reward you for it as evidenced by the brandivate blog.

Once you’ve decided to incorporate a blog into your marketing strategy, there are five guidelines to steer your efforts in the right direction:

Consistency – If you don’t have a calendar set up for your blog, how will your followers know when to come back for new content? For example, excluding holidays, the brandivate blog has fresh content every Monday and Thursday. Find a schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) that works for you and hold yourself accountable to it. No one starts a blog only to become one of the 95% that abandon it due to lack of consistency.

SEO – Use your blog to drive people to your website. A great way to incorporate key words is to take advantage of alternate text for images. On every brandivate blog post, the alternate text of the image used to support the text has the words “brandivate blog” and then the title of the blog. This has resulted in the brandivate website to be the top search result on Google. Also, ensure your blog is mobile friendly as it will negatively impact your SEO if it’s not.

Promote – Leverage social media to promote the heck out of each post. By linking your blog post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and commonsku, you drive people to your website. Twitter is especially useful for this purpose and there are dozens of free programs such as TweetJukebox that will automate it for you. In the din of social media noise, relentless promotion is your best friend.

Write for your Audience – I can’t stress this enough. Many beginning bloggers tend to make the mistake of writing about themselves or their business. Remember, readers generally want to read about things that concern them, not you. For example, think in terms of what they already know, and what do they want to know about the promotional products industry. Deliver information based on their needs and focus on how you can help them.

80/20 Rule – Don’t fall into the trap of having your blog be solely about the latest products or just to “sell something.” A full 80% of your posts should be focused on building your readership by educating and entertaining them. Share a case history, relate to a common client problem, or discuss how social media has impacted your personal marketing efforts. This way, when you do change things up and post something that is sales-based, it will stand out.

Content marketing can provide a high return on your resource investment when done correctly.  Being consistent, focusing on SEO, promotion, writing for your audience, and keeping the 80/20 rule top of mind will set you apart from the competition either unwilling or unable to engage with their target audience.

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.

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.

Nationwide Promotions Introduces CLIP-ALL™

San Diego, CA, June 4, 2015 – Nationwide Promotions, LLC introduces its patent-pending promotional product, the Clip-All™ — a single solution for holding several items and attaching them while at home and on-the-go! Made of a pliable silicone with three loops and two strong, commercial-grade magnets, the Clip-All™ can be hung in any direction and onto just about anything you can imagine.

Used for both function and fashion, simply fold the Clip-All™ in half in order for its magnets to meet to hold an array of items in place. From keeping glasses close at all times by attaching them to your shirt, to clipping keys, tools, or writing instruments to your backpack, purse straps or belt loops for easier access — the versatility and strength of the Clip-All™ are endless. It can even simply be used as a refrigerator magnet.

Nationwide Promotions, LLC will also customize the Clip-All™ with your company logo, contact information and/or design, and comes in a variety of fashionable colors to make this the perfect promotional gift for your next trade show or event to maximize exposure in your industry.

ABOUT NATIONWIDE PROMOTIONS: Nationwide Promotions, LLC is an A-rated SAGE supplier proudly offering a wide variety of high-quality promotional products to qualified distributors for more than 35 years. Headquartered in San Diego, CA, Nationwide Promotions, LLC efficiently processes and ships orders — ensuring that every order meets its high standards for quality control. For more information, visit nationwidepromotions.com or call us today at 800-367-2523.

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