Promotional items can help get their attention

Promotional items can help get their attention

Collectively, these items make up a $20B (with a B) industry and are used by most businesses in America. They have some distinct advantages over some other marketing vehicles:

1. Low cost per impression (CPI) compared to TV, magazine ads, radio, and others. That’s because you generally control how many are given out, who they’re given to, and when.

2. They stay in prospects’ hands longer—up to 9 months or more for some categories of items. Compare that to an email solicitation that’s easily deleted or can quickly drop below the fold, never to be seen again. We humans just seem to engage in the tangible for longer periods. See the chart for the staying power of most popular items.

3. Higher response rates–when included as “lumpy mail” in a bubble pack or box. If you’re like me, I always open such items thinking they’re something of value. So the open rates for this sort of campaign are typically much higher than for a flat letter or an email. Even the best emails are opened only about 30% of the time.




So Many Products to Choose From

With such a diversity of items, you can use your creativity to build a campaign that captivates your audience.  Here are just a few product ideas and a theme to build around:

a.    Custom logo mug:  “Care to discuss your needs over a cup of coffee?”
b.    Packet of seeds: “Are you ready to start growing again?”
c.    Instant cooling towel: “Need our help?  No sweat.”
d.    Custom matchbox:  “Things are heating up!  Check out our specials.”
e.    Tape ruler:  “Our competition just can’t measure up.”
f.     Tin of cookies:  “Happy Holidays from us to you!”

Promotional products, when used effectively, can grab your customers’ or prospects’ attention like no other marketing vehicle. Please give us a call if you’d like to hear more ideas to help you connect with your target audience.  Or, visit our website to browse our world full of products. (Prices are only representative.)

10 Key Factors for Effective Web Design

10 Key Factors for Effective Web Design

  1. Understand the Objective – What is the primary goal for your website? We want to understand the business outcomes you’re expecting before we begin. Simply having a website is no longer enough.
  2. Ease of Navigation – We’ll lay out a clear, intuitive path for the user so they can get the answers to their questions quickly, hopefully within 2 or 3 clicks. Both the user and Google value clearly defined site architecture.
  3. Meta Titles, Descriptions, & Headlines – These are among the most critical components of any website. We ensure these are properly written to help Google locate your site above your competitor’s.
  4. Content Is King – Visitors are coming to your site for answers. The quality and depth of your content plays a vital role in converting visitors into customers, and positively impacts your search engine rankings.
  5. Keywords & Key Phrases – Striking the right balance of keywords and their synonyms helps Google determine whether your website is relevant to someone’s web search. We analyze appropriate keywords and inject them into every page.
  6. Appealing Design – Of course your website should be attractive.  But using a lot of fancy bells and whistles can also slow down your pages from loading.  We lean towards practical, clean design.
  7. Site Loading Time – Google scores your webpage performance from 0 to 100. A score in the high 70s or higher is desirable. Decreasing page loading times can have a positive effect in visitor bounce rates and lead to higher conversions.  
  8. Inbound Links – Link building is critical. The more quality links you build, the more Google deems your site relevant, and of value.
  9. Clear Calls-To-Action – A clear call-to-action can motivate the visitor to respond in a way you hope for, such as opting into a newsletter, purchasing a product, or contacting you.
  10. Contact Information – We ensure your contact information is clearly visible using a combination of page location, font size, and color.  We also set your phone number as clickable on mobile devices.  No need for them to retype your phone number.
10 things to consider

What’s Better: Email or Direct Mail for Your Marketing Campaign?

What’s Better: Email or Direct Mail for Your Marketing Campaign?

Actually, the better question is: which one is best for your situation?  The answer may be to use BOTH in an integrated marketing campaign. This allows you to stay top-of-mind with your customers while simultaneously nurturing prospects along the way to a purchase (often referred to as the sales funnel—a future blog topic!).  For example, a monthly email to your customers with news of a new service you’re launching or a seasonal promotion. Plus a postcard mailing to a list of prospects you want to go after, letting them know you exist (i.e. create awareness) and can help them.  Each method of communication has its advantages:

Email vs. Direct Mail

Email Direct Mail
Lower cost due to no postage Targeted lists readily available by geography,SIC codes, company revenues, etc
Measurable results/ROI tracking Print media are more engaging, more likely
to remain around.
Best with established relationships Best for approaching “strangers” when you don’t have their email address
BUT…purchased lists are expensive and unreliable. BUT…more expensive to execute
Inboxes are increasingly cluttered or blocked by firewalls; only 25-30% ever get opened


Email is best used in a drip campaign
to people you already know.

You are reading this blog article right now because you are a customer of ours or someone who’s interested in our services.  This is part of our ongoing monthly eNewsletter campaign. (Thanks for your interest!)  It works because we already have a relationship with you and, hence, we have your email address.  But we wouldn’t think about “blasting” this to people we don’t know from some list we purchase.  Those are too intrusive for our taste, and most would end up caught in spam folders or quickly deleted without opening.  Relying on email, we save money on printing, mailing services, and postage involved in traditional mailing.  You could make similar use of email to stay top-of-mind with your customers.

Direct Mail is best for prospecting
among people you don’t know.

In other situations, direct mail is preferred.  Let’s say you’ve captured all of Charlotte’s business, and now you’re set to open a new office in Fort Mill for your accounting or consulting business.  You’d like to target small businesses serviced from your new office.  You don’t really know who they all are and certainly don’t have their email addresses.  Sure, join those networking groups in Fort Mill, but that can take years to get noticed by the total audience you’re targeting. Direct mail to the rescue!  Now you can begin corresponding with strangers who might have interest in what you’re offering and eventually turn some into customers.

Marketing is about communication.  Thankfully, there are so many tools available to help you start a conversation. However, there is no silver bullet. The challenge is in choosing the right mix between email and direct mail and how you combine them with all other media options to achieve your goals and maximize your returns.  

Darn, All the Good Domain Names are Taken!

Darn, All the Good Domain Names are Taken!

choosing-domain-nameIt turns out that ICANN (the domain name police) have been working on some new domain extensions beyond the pervasive “.com.”   Late in 3013, as many as 1000 new extensions were approved for sale, including .gallery, .plumbing, and .careers.  It’s early, but I think this could catch on in a way some others (e.g. .biz) have not.  Peter Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors, said after last fall’s vote: “Today’s decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

Here’s how your company might benefit:

  1. From a branding standpoint, a new domain extension could help position your company in the eyes of your prospects as being a serious contender for their dollars.
  2. It could also shorten and simplify your domain name, making it easier for people to remember.
  3. Using a gTLD might help with SEO, landing you higher in search results.  Google and other search engines are always working to provide the most relevant results for whatever you’re searching for.  If you’re a plumber, wouldn’t you think a name with .plumbing attached would be relevant for someone searching for a plumber?  That said, I’ll caution you that the jury is still out as to how Google will react to all this.  It’s good content and lots of it that Google says they value most in their search results display.
  4. If your website is already established, you could consider buying one of these new gTLDs anyway and have it point to your existing domain name.  Most are inexpensive to buy—think of it as insurance while you wait and see how things evolve.

I recently purchased one for my company: (currently inactive).  Maybe this will cut down on the occasional person in search of a nail salon to help with their “image.”   You can see a partial list by visiting

5 Key Questions for Developing Your Marketing Plan

5 Key Questions for Developing Your Marketing Plan

Since 2008, business has been anything but usual. The economy left many small businesses in turmoil. Entire industries have changed. And still we can’t predict with confidence when our economy will return to “normal.”

Then there is marketing and media. Our options for how we get information have exploded. Marketers are paralyzed as they try to figure out what’s new, why it matters, and how to use it. Whoever heard of Snapchat or WhatsApp before they recently hit the media?

With all this change and turmoil, it’s time to consider YOUR industry and YOUR business. You need to look at how they’ve changed in recent years and how your marketing needs to adjust.

In my last article, I explained why your business needs a solid marketing plan. Here I outline the five questions you must ask yourself to craft a plan for growth and success in today’s environment.

Answer these questions if you want to remain competitive and grow:

#1. How has your industry changed over the last few years?

Apple owned the high-end mobile phone market; then Samsung wanted a piece of that market. Google entered the market by acquiring Motorola Mobile, and then sold the company after just a year. You can imagine all the players adjusting, then adjusting again to each new development.

What changes has your industry seen? Have new substitutes become available? (For example, I changed from CareerBuilder to LinkedIn for my last two job postings.) This has shaken up marketing across the board. Is your 2010 marketing plan going to work in 2014?


#2. Do you have new competition?

Change can threaten, but it can also bring opportunity. Many companies have used the recent turmoil to grab new markets. For example, Angie’s List emerged to compete with Yellow Pages. Then Yelp entered the market for online review sites. That’s a lot for a marketer to keep up with. (At my own company, we’re listed on

Have any new competitors jumped into your sandbox, and what are the implications for your marketing? Or, for your entire strategy? How are you different from the others? Do customers still have a compelling reason to choose you?


#3. How should your message change?

Even if your industry’s competitive set hasn’t changed, you are leaving money on the table if you don’t update your marketing plan. Why? Because the world has changed. Your customers have changed. Their perceptions, needs, and concerns have changed. Your time-tested messaging may no longer resonate with your customers who are listening to someone else.

Do your buyers subscribe to the same media? Do they have the same purchase process? Where do you have to be seen in the buying process?


#4. Should you diversify?

Maybe your company can seize an opportunity in this turmoil. This is a plausible solution if you feel you need to change or expand to continue growing revenue.

If you decide to expand your company, then you need to extend your marketing. What do your new prospects look like? How are they different from current customers? Even if they’re the same people, how do they search for this new product or service? Is their buying pattern different or similar to other prospects’? Last year, we added Promotional Products such as pens and apparel to our offering, as many of our clients wanted these to complement the other trade show items we supplied to them.


#5. What resources do you need to make the change?

Do you have enough time to devote to your marketing? Do you or your staff have the necessary skill sets? Or should you outsource some of this work to experts?

Business is anything but “normal” these days. Only if you’re prepared to meet the new challenges of your industry can you hope to survive and thrive. Answering the questions listed above will help you uncover the direction of your industry and company as you continue to strive for growth and success.

7 Cost-Cutting Ideas for Small Business

7 Cost-Cutting Ideas for Small Business

I read a blog article written by someone in manufacturing and it got me thinking of other ideas I’ve implemented in my own company.  Business owners I talk with tend to think more about growing sales, but cutting overhead can have a huge impact on profitability. Every dollar cut drops straight to profit. To have the same bottom line impact, you’d have to sell $10 more to add $1 to profit (assuming a 10% net income for your company).  Here are 7 practical ideas you can do quickly that will save money without risking revenue.


  1. Replace all our older inefficient T12 florescent bulbs with more efficient T8s, along with changing from magnetic to electronic ballasts. We finished our conversion a year ago, and enjoy savings of 8-10% in our overall electric bill. In addition to savings, but Duke Energy paid us a handsome rebate!  Go to this link and click on “Complete Application” to see their program requirements and rebates:
  2. If you still sometimes use a fax machine, switch to electronic fax.  You’ll avoid the cost of ink cartridges/ribbons and paper.  Junk can be deleted or forwarded without being printed.
  3. Do you stock bottled water in your home or office?  We bought a Brita water carafe in lieu of bottled water for our employees. Do the math:  $0.25/bottle x 10 bottles/day x 20 days/mo x 12 months = $600 per year!  Compare that to around $50 for a Brita carafe and enough filters to last a year. It’s not just money saved, but also the reduced impact on our environment from all those plastic bottles!
  4. We just switched our merchant services provider (credit card processing) after learning that costs have come way down in the last 3 years, saving us about $750/yr. If you haven’t checked it lately, you might be surprised how much costs have come down.
  5. We switched from sending our customers paper invoices to electronic invoicing several years ago, saving on envelopes, inserting and postage.
  6. Replace any remaining large CRT (cathode ray tube) PC monitors with new flat screens.  Energy Star claims the newer flat screens are, on average, 25% more energy efficient than standard options. Learn more at
  7. If you have postal meter machine at your office, you can meter your 1st class letter for just $0.48 each versus the recently increased $0.49 using a Forever stamp.  That 2% savings adds up if you do a lot of letter mailing. (BTW, as a certified professional mail house, among other marketing services, our Presort Standard rates are around $0.23-0.30 each.)

Why Every Small Business Needs a Marketing Plan

Why Every Small Business Needs a Marketing Plan

See if this sounds familiar:

marketing-planAs a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats.  One minute it’s the Sales hat, the next it’s the HR cap.  Your Marketing hat, sadly, is treated like a bad Christmas sweater–you only put it on if you absolutely have to.

Maybe marketing doesn’t seem urgent.  Or maybe you think you lack the necessary funds or expertise.  Whatever the reason, you must realize that postponing your marketing plans can be costly, even lethal, to your business.

Do your competitors have their marketing on hold?  More likely, they have a marketing plan in place to target your prospects and customers.

What is marketing?   Why is it important?

At a basic level, marketing is how you communicate with your target audience. It’s how you reach potential customers, introduce yourself, and persuade them to engage.

Whether you realize it or not, you are communicating every time a prospect or customer comes in contact with your company.  The message can be clear, such as “we offer great service” or “check out our new product.”  Or it can be as subtle as a perception after seeing your print ad.

Perceptions matter.  Every connection you make with the audience either enhances or dilutes your brand.  Every interaction either brings you closer to a sale or pushes it away.

If this all sounds too ethereal, consider the “perception” you had the last time you called a cable company.  Now compare that to receiving a hand-written note from a Nordstrom associate.  In both cases, the message was “thank you for your business.”  But the perception created by each experience was likely very different.

Creating a positive experience, or a positive perception, with your target audience is critically important to the strength of your brand and your company’s success.  You need to position your company so prospects choose you over a competitor.  But first, they need to be aware of you.

Your company needs to stand apart from the competition in a good way.  That’s what differentiation is all about.  Anything this important warrants having a solid plan—a marketing plan.

Marketing plans aren’t just for the big guys.

A wise manager once told me, “Plan your work, then work your plan.”  Such a simple concept, yet so helpful.

Small businesses need a marketing plan to thrive.  If you ignore this fact, you do so at your own peril.  Whatever the area in your life, if it’s important, it’s worth planning for.

A sound marketing plan, helping you be proactive and take control, can lead to greater success—more customers, deeper relationships, higher profits.  By thinking about your long-term company goals and strategizing how to reach them, you’re less vulnerable to simply defaulting to last year’s tactics.  Marketing continues to evolve at a rapid pace; yesterday’s tactics may not be as effective as they once were.

A solid plan also makes you less vulnerable to “the best marketing idea” that some sales rep puts under your nose.  More than once, a new client has come to me saying: “I didn’t have anything else in the works, so I agreed to give it a try—and regretted it later.”

Your plan does not need to be difficult or complex.

How to Start Your Plan: set aside a couple of hours of quiet time and think about:

  • Your goals:  What do you want to accomplish both at your company and personally?
  • Where is your industry headed?  Will it mean new competition for you?
  • How might your company best position itself for success?
  • How can you differentiate your company within your industry in a way that customers will value?

With a little forethought, you’ll be ready to devise your marketing plan and march to greater success.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the considerations underlying a sound marketing plan.