Welcome to 2013 PromoManagers Blog

We appreciate you taking the time to visit our promotional products blog. 2013 is upon us, each day we will provide you information on the industry, product reviews as well as articles that may help you buy promotional or marketing products in the future with a focus on industry trends.

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Suppliers and Distributors reported strong growth in 2012 which continued into December.

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If you’ve been managing – or, rather, trying to manage – your company’s Social Media and Content Marketing efforts, you know how time consuming it can be.

Chances are you’ve also noticed how frustrating it can be.

Consumers are harder to engage than ever before. They are skeptical about marketing messages that come directly from a company and prefer, instead, to gather information about products and services from friends, as well as from online review sites.

That being said, Social Media and Content Marketing are invaluable to your company’s marketing efforts. They help make your products and/or services easier to find online, give you the chance to engage with your target audience on a more personal level, and help you SHOW your expertise rather than just tell people about it.

The challenge with Social Media and Content Marketing is that, because the general public enjoys blogging and knows how to use Facebook and Twitter, they automatically assume that they are qualified to develop and execute their company’s Social Media and Content Marketing strategies.

Unfortunately, that is not how it works.

A Social Media and Content Marketing strategy needs to be just that…a strategy. It needs to be goal-oriented, and grounded in research and statistics.

I came across an article by Michael Teitelbaum called, ‘When It Comes to Content Marketing, If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.’ It offers a great Content Marketing “checklist” for you to consider when developing your strategy.

Social Media and Content Marketing can feel overwhelming, and is often much more time consuming and difficult to execute than many companies assume.

I don’t recommend outsourcing 100% of your Social Media and Content Marketing efforts. And I NEVER recommend using a “canned” Social Media and Content Marketing service (please, not under any circumstances!!). But bringing in a third-party to help you manage the workload can help make sure your strategy is properly implemented and managed.

Like anything in marketing, you get back what you put in to Social Media and Content Marketing. Put in a lot of strategic effort and the return will be well, well worth it.

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I am always a little creeped out by how targeted marketing and advertising can be. Around Christmastime I was shopping for a dried Forsythia wreath – to this day I still see remarketed ads informing me that the Forsythia wreaths I had been looking are…still the same price.

Or how when I updated my Facebook status with a picture of a Snow Owl that I had come across in passing, my sidebar filled up with ads about Snow Owls. Snow Owl necklaces. Snow Own earrings. Snow Owl rings.

And not one real, live Snow Owl for sale gosh darn-it.

The point – or, rather, the question – is how personal is too personal? At what point does a so-strategic-it’s-almost-evil ad cross the line and become downright creepy?

This Neuromarketing article by Roger Dooley, ‘Forget Evil, Don’t Be Creepy!’ sheds some light on the matter.

First, Dooley50 percent of social media users don’t like having ads targeted to them based on information in their social media profiles.

That, of course, means that 50% of people DO like these uber-targeted ads.

But, unfortunately, companies need to not creep out ALL of the masses. Not just 50% of the masses.

To reduce your chances of being creepy, Dooley recommends:

  • Don’t overpersonalize: Read his article – you’ll be blown away by how something VERY creepy can become something not-so-creepy-at-all…)
  • Ask for Permission to Personalize: It’s not creepy if your consumer volunteers for it
  • Stay Positive: Don’t associate your consumer with anything negative. For example, ‘Need a Job’ ads intrinsically make sense…but they can also work to make your consumer feel subconsciously inadequate.

So, now that your company knows how to avoid creepiness in marketing and advertising…let’s sit back and watch other companies come under public fire for their creepy advertising fails!

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This just heard on a recent phone call with a potential new client: I want to get involved in direct mail. And I want it to bring in two new clients each week.

This is what I wish I heard: I want to bring in two new clients each week.

The goal, after all, is the bottom line. How you get there, well, it takes more than direct mail. Or email marketing. Or radio ads. Or any single-channel strategy you can concoct.

Of course, this is where I come in. To right the wrongs of single-channel marketing. To help implement a multi-channel marketing strategy that is seamlessly aligned with the goals of my client.

Selling this multi-channel marketing strategy, however, can sound a little like ‘cha-ching, cha-ching’ to a new client.

I am not a mechanic. I am not creating marketing problems that require costly repairs. I am simply trying to tell you how to best reach your marketing objectives.

Every industry requires a different mix of marketing channels. But every industry requires a mix. This Marketing Pilgrim article by Frank Reed, ‘All Marketers Should Be Multi-Channel Marketers‘ presents compelling data and statistics on the multiple devices that consumers may be using simultaneously.

But it goes beyond multiple devices…multiple CHANNELS is more than just devices. Multiple channels encompasses social media marketing, referral marketing, branding, advertising, promotions, tradeshows and more. All of these channels funnel down into one end-result: your marketing goals.

If you are convinced that your business needs only one marketing channel, good luck. You may see some results. But the best results will be from a multi-faceted marketing approach that leverages the various marketing channels that your target audience is exposed to.

Of course, multi-channel marketing is null and void if your messaging misses the mark. But that is a blog for another day (and another reason why, hey!, hire me!)

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Does anyone else remember the very first Budwesier ‘Wazzzzuuup’ commercial? I don’t mean the first ‘Wazzzzuuup’ campaign. No, I’m talking about the debut of the very, very first ‘Wazzzzuuup’ commercial.

I swear that my father and I were the only two people who noticed that ad.

It aired during Monday Night Football in December of 1999. I can remember thinking that everyone would be talking about it in school the next day. And no one was talking about it. Not a soul.

Just another painfully awkward moment in high school, I guess.

But my dad and I, we shared that commercial. We called each other just to say, ‘Wazzzzuuup…’ and we laughed every time we said it. We waited and watched and watched and waited for the the commercial to air again.

But it wasn’t until Super Bowl of that year that the ‘Wazzzzuuup’ campaign really gained traction with the masses.

I don’t want to say that the ‘Wazzzzuuup’ campaign was responsible for my venture into the marketing and advertising world. But it certainly was a major influence in my decision to pursue a career in this industry.

But now, NOW!, my how times have changed. The advertising innovation that we once saw during Super Bowl is no longer. I’m sorry to say that. But it’s not. I’m not even looking forward to this year’s roster of ads. I am expecting a series of gimmicky ads that try so hard to stand out that they do nothing but blend in.

And this year, for the first time, advertisers are ‘generating buzz’ for their ads by pre-releasing not only ad teasers, but also the full length spots. Stuart Elliot writes about this phenomenon in his New York Times article, ‘Before the Toss, Super Bowl Ads.

And of all the teasers mentioned and linked to, not one of them intrigued me. Not even the 10-second teaser for the Honda CR-V commercial, starring Matthew Broderick, paying homage to his 1986 hit movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Elliot describes the teaser is mysterious. Let me tell you something. If you don’t think you’re in for a series of Ferris Bueller-like shenanigans, you’re wrong.

Funny? Potentially. Creative? Innovative? Memorable? I doubt it.

I think what advertisers are struggling with is two-fold: (a) marketing budgets are under more scrutiny than ever before and a risky Super Bowl ad is a $2 million risk thatg most CEOs just aren;t willing to take and (b) there’s not a whole lot of marketing taboo anymore, not a whole lot of envelopes that haven’t already been pushed to their furthest limits.

So, what I anticipate is a bunch of ads that teeter between pragmatic and risky. And teetering is the biggest risk of all.

Go big or go home. If your CEO, CFO…whatever…isn’t going to buy into you creative Super Bowl ad 100% – if he is going to scale it back to be more safe – just go home.

And, perhaps, that same message should be shared with a certain contending team in this year’s big game?

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While drumming up some new business in the ‘gigs’ sections of Craigslist a few weeks ago, I came across an ad from a woman looking for help with her marketing. She was a Rolfer, new to the area, trying to fill her new practice with new patients. She needed a marketer to review her website and current marketing efforts, as well as to suggest new marketing initiatives to further support her business development efforts.

She could not offer monetary payment, but rather, could barter for a Rolfing session.

I, being not only a fan of the barter system but also intrigued by the promise of structural integration, took her up on this offer.

This woman was a great person. From a small town in Washington State, raised in Boulder and, now, a victim of our heartless city.

Since she liked my recommendations, she offered an ongoing barter. 12-13 Rolfing sessions for a new website and a few other miscellaneous projects. I accepted. But only to decline later. I am a fan of the barter system…but not an all barter system. There has to be some cash. Or NStar needs to start accepting Rolfing sessions as payment…

I knew I should have declined from the beginning. How unprofessional of me to accept and then push off the project and then push off the project a few times and then admit that I am too inundated to take on a new project?

But I really wanted to help her. She was a great person.

I am constantly coming under fire for being “too nice.” “A pushover,” they say. “It’s okay to say ‘no’,” they say. But I don’t want to say no. I like helping people. I more so like helping people whose businesses I am passionate about. After all, if I am going to spend most of my spare time working, it better be rewarding work.

I am constantly coming under fire for spending more time on a project than what I invoice. Excuse me for wanting to do the job right, but spending the extra time to deliver something that I am truly proud of is rewarding to me and, usually, rewarding for my clients as well. And isn’t that what I’m hired to do? Deliver effective work that generates a financial reward?

I am constantly coming under fire for my generosity…but now all of you naysayers out there – all of you it’s-business-not-charity-sayers out there – feast your eyes on the Attention Max article by Max Kalehoff, ‘Why Generous People Get Things Done.’

Fast forward to the end of his article, “The mandate: To be successful as a leader or manager, you’d better help others, and hire and associate with people who like helping others…Your organization and your world will become a much more pleasant, nurturing place.”

And his sources are Forbes and an Ivey Business School article.

I am constantly coming under fire for my generosity. But it has never bothered me. I am happy being generous. I wish there were more generosity in business, in the world. I will spare you a socio-political rant about our rat-race driven, morally corrupt, do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-a-name-for-yourself-no-matter-how-many-people-you-leave-dead-and-bloodied-along-the-way country.

But, I will ask you to be generous. In your business, in your life.

And I will help that Rolfer out. I will. Just as soon as I have the extra time…

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Over the last month I have seen (quite obviously) that even large corporations have a hard time running successful promotions. From great promotions with horrible marketing to horrible promotions with great marketing, this collective promotional strategy of the 2011 holiday season was more a comedy of errors.

And since promotions aren’t limited only to the days between Thanksgiving and New Years, I’d like to share some advice that I came across in Steve Benidt’s MarketingProfs.com article, ‘Eight Common Mistakes of Promotional Marketing.”

The eight mistakes are:

  1. Ineffective distribution: Make sure that your promotional items make it into the hands of your customers or prospects. This is also a matter of communicating properly with your sales team: they can’t give ‘em away if they don’t know you have ‘em.
  2. Not allowing enough lead time: enough said. Order in advance. Next…
  3. Ignoring what people may want to receive: it’s not about what you want to give out, but rather what your customers and prospects like to receive. You might try asking your customers. If you already have good rapport with them, they will be happy to give you feedback, and may even feel honored for having been included in the decision-making process. Shows you care how they feel!
  4. Not having clear goals: how will you measure the success of your promotion? Is your promotion the right promotion for the goal you are trying to reach? My favorite quote from the entire Benidt article is this: Don’t make the mistake of trying to cut wood with a hammer and ending up disappointed with the results.
  5. Focusing only on price: “Giving out cheap products is sometimes worse than handing out nothing at all.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
  6. Giving to the wrong people: I disagree (to a point) with the author’s belief here. He waxes poetic about a plumbing company that had a line of tradeshow attendees in want of one of their promotional stuffed penguins. Everyone wanted one for their kids. The fact that this company accommodated the requests did not go unnoticed…even if said penguin is now buried somewhere in the bedroom of their 3-year old son. I wrote about this very topic back in October. Read ‘Promotional Items that People Actually Use: Go For Quality, Brand Name Products‘ for my personal anecdote (my story has a unicorn…waaaay better than a penguin!)
  7. Ineffective information: imprint your promotional item with enough information for a prospect to act. Don’t disclude your 800-number just because you prefer prospects to visit your website. They may prefer the good ol’ telephone system…and the customer (as you know) is always, always right.
  8. Not dealing with a reputable company: have I mentioned that PromoManagers has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, live online chat, and incredible customer service? Just sayin’…

There are a lot of moving pieces associated with any promotion, but these eight are key. I might add a 9th: to market your promotion appropriately. To the right people, at the right time, and in the right capacity.

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Unethical Holiday Pricing and Discounting

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One purchase that, as a mother, I tend to splurge on is a nice winter jacket for my daughter. This year I bought her a $65 full length puffy coat from babyGAP. It hurt. Trust me, it hurt. But that our winter would be full of snow angels, sledding and snowman-making made it more than worthwhile. Kid’s gotta stay warm, no?

I was back at babyGAP maybe two weeks later. I found a different full length puffy coat – black with white piping (so cute!!) – on sale for $42.99. I wanted to buy it so bad, but god only knows where the receipt from the first coat had gone, and after much internal debate I decided not to buy a 2nd winter coat. Instead, I stuck to my original plan and just bought a few outfits for my niece’s 2nd birthday.

Now, here’s where things get really annoying:

1. I walked by the store not 2-days later to see that all the full-priced merch I’d picked up for my niece was now 30-40% off. I brought my receipt in the next day for a price adjustment…and they weren’t on sale anymore?

Hey. GAP. I know what those clothes are really worth now. You’re really not gonna honor that? Oh, what was that you say? Business is business.


But then…

2. I get an email from babyGAP last week with the subject line: Take up to 60% off! And, what to my wondering eyes should appear was that gorgeous black jacket I’d just only seen!

On sale for $61.99

Um, wasn’t this jacket only $42 less than a month ago?

I’ve been wanting to write about my experience because it not only reinforces the last few articles I’ve written about how discounting can result in disenchanted customers, but to also make it known that customers aren’t oblivious to these things.

That’s right. We’re not oblivious. We have…price apps. And according to this Wall Street Journal article by Dana Mattioli (re-published on AllThingsD.com), retailers are trying to thwart them. Among some of the culprits are GAP (surprise, surprise) and J. Crew.

Nothing makes me want to stop shopping somewhere more than when they make me out to be a fool. I feel as though I’ve been cuckolded, betrayed, lied to.

Will I continue to shop at GAP? Probably, but no more full-priced merchandise for me. It’s not worth the investment when, if you go back on the right day, you can get a significant discount on the same exact items.

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It’s hard to stay ahead of the digital marketing curve when you’re still just figuring out current industry trends. But stay ahead, we must. Wayne Arnold’s Ad Ade DIGITAL article can help. ‘Ten Digital Trends Set to Go Mass-Market in 2012‘ introduces us to new tools and online marketing channels that we must at least understand.

But understanding these trends isn’t enough. We need to recognize which of these trends will be effective forums for marketers, and which of these trends are best left to social media users.

Here is my take on a few of the trends that Arnold has identified:

Filtering: Social networks are beginning to introduce filters through which we can separate our worlds. Family in one, friends in another, work in another, and so on. Arnold believes that filtering will become much more sophisticated throughout 2012, though the ramifications of this are largely unclear to advertisers. Can we advertise differently based on a user’s various circles? Should we?

I say no. I say keep calm and carry on. Let people keep their circles free from creepy, over-targeted ads.

Seamless transactions: Smartphone users will be counting on their phones to start and complete easy online transactions. From banking to buying, the way we use our smartphones will continue to evolve and we will depend on them more frequently for financial transactions and purchases.

Unless smartphone banking and purchasing platforms become littered with ads, in which case people will just get annoyed.

Location-based discovery: The potential of a mobile tool that would make suggestions about where you should eat, drink, play based on your geographic location is immense. This is also a key area for advertisers to focus in for 2012. As long as it’s done right. You only want to suggest your coffee shop to people who would actually appreciate it based on their other likes and interests.

Social media users are inundated with advertising at every angle. Facebook has even started to include ads within user’s News Feeds! The key will be to use digital media appropriately. More is not more as far as online marketing is concerned. More is just annoying.

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In an earlier post, ‘Your Holiday Sales Push Will Have An Equal And Opposite Reaction (November 15, 2011),’ I explained how offering deep discounts and switching from a brand-focused marketing strategy to a sales-focused marketing strategy can compromise your brand and upset your loyal (i.e. full-price paying) year-round consumers.

So, going into 2012, you’ll need to un-upset those customers. My earlier suggestions were to (a) redirect your 2012 marketing strategy to address the shortcomings that were revealed in your sales-focused holiday marketing, (b) adjust your prices so your consumers don’t feel totally gypped, and (c) develop new marketing messages that strike a balance between why your loyal customers love your brand and why your holiday customers loved your brand.

You should also implement a strategy to convert your happy holiday shoppers into loyal year-round customers. And to do this, here are a few pieces of advice from Mark Sunshine’s Forbes.com article, ‘7 Simple Techniques To Build Customer Loyalty.’

The catalyst for Sunshine’s advice was his recent experience with two car dealerships. But, you don’t need to be in the market for a new vehicle to bring his advice to fruition.

The gist of his advice is this:

If you are the owner, be a visible owner. Lead from the front line; don’t hide behind layers and layers of sales staff and management. Until I read this article, I never really thought about the value of the owner as the “face” of a business. But, it’s true – the better my relationship with the owner of a business, the more loyal I am. My salon, the restaurants and coffee shops I spend the most time at…I know the owners of them all and am greeted personally almost every time I walk through the doors. Bonus tip: Facebook and social media are great forums through which to “lead from the front line.”

Accommodate your customers; be open when your customers need you to be open (a.k.a. banker’s hours are only convenient for bankers…).

Fulfill your promises. Deliver when you say you’re going to deliver.

Focus on the little things, too. Ambience matters, as does personal attention and consideration.

Your customer’s overall experience will drive loyalty. Satisfy them now – and be repaid later – with repeat business. Trust me, you’ll need it in 2012.

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In the weeks leading up to the holidays, my email inbox has been filling up with more and more emails. Any company that has ever gotten its mitts on my email address – and a bunch of companies who must have acquired my email address by brokering a list – has sent me some marketing message or other.

But, to be honest, it’s getting really annoying.

At first, like Yukon Cornelius, I leafed through them, hunting for holiday gold.


And that’s what’s so annoying. There’s nothing. No good bargains, no good products, even. I think the most exciting thing I’ve purchased based on an email was a Living Social deal: three oil changes for $33.

Shall I print the voucher on holiday paper and stuff it in my own stocking?

I get at least four daily emails from giggle, Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, and zulily. The other retailers keep it cool and only hit me up once or twice each day.

Can I make a suggestion? Please? Get rid of the junk and send me one, concentrated email with only the best of the best offers.

Another suggestion: read Charlie Graham’s email marketing suggestions in the article ‘Customize Your E-Mails and You’ll Avoid Getting the Spam Treatment.‘ He offers several suggestions that are so obvious you (and I) probably didn’t even think of them. What it boils down to, though, is to target your email marketing as specifically as you can. Most email marketing systems, like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, make it easy to segment your member lists by sex, age, geographic location and personal preferences.

For example, I just got an email from giggle with the subject line: holiDAILY cheer: save 20% on the BabyBjorn Retro Collection!

I don’t have a baby.

But I can guarantee I’ll get three more improperly targeted emails from giggle today alone.

giggle has cried wolf one too many times for me to consider the possibility that what they have to offer is actually valuable to me.

If you take the time to properly segment your email lists, you can leverage them for much more effective (and much less annoying) email marketing campaigns. You’ll eliminate the need to create 1,786,276 separate emails to be broadcasted over a timeframe of four days and instead get a higher return on sending fewer emails.

And, really, during the holiday season, you only need to send an email if you actually have something valuable to offer. If you have a so-so offer, hold off on sending the email until you have a great, worthwhile offer. Otherwise, it will just get lost amongst emails with far more compelling subject lines.

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