Sunday, July 19, 2009

What would you do?

In my reading and research on being a more responsible promotional marketing consultant, I came across this analogy. The writer was likening the way we buy promotional products to the morning ritual of getting our caffeine fix.

Each morning on your way to work you stop by the same quick-stop joint to get your cup of joe. It's something you've done for years. It's convenient, it's always just right, the way you like it. But what if you found out that somewhere between the fields of coffee beans and that first steaming sip that touches your lips in the morning, people were suffering and, even worse, dying - Would that be enough to make you switch coffee shops? Would you be willing to pay a bit more? Would it be enough for you to take a left at the corner instead of a right and change your ways?

As salespeople and business owners, there are bottom line choices that have to be made in order to keep the profit and loss in check. But in today's world, there are new options available. And today, that cup of coffee you were looking for doesn't have to hurt anyone in order to provide us all our creature comforts. Now, there is a shop just another mile down the road that offers Fair Trade coffee, which ensures fair wages and a safe work environment for all involved in the supply chain. As for that fashion-forward tee you are looking for, or the hard goods you need in a hurry, there are ethically conscious companies out there with great products - so no more excuses. Just let your promotional marketing consultant know that these things are important to you.

Is that really your Excuse?

Top five worst excuses not to Go Green, Go Safe, and Go Responsible:
  1. It's too expensive.
  2. One person can't make a difference.
  3. It doesn't fit my lifestyle.
  4. The quality of the products just isn't as high.
  5. I don't know where or how to begin.

Being a Responsible Consultant

I have spent the last few hours reading an industry magazine supplement on responsibility. Subtitled "The Comprehensive Guide to Maintaining the Highest Safety, Environmental & Social Standards for the Promotional Products Industry". Believe me, it's given me a lot to think about.

When I started working in this industry, I was a bit ahead of the curve. I have always be "Eco Conscious". So when their was a big push about 3 or 4 years ago to start making the industry a bit more "Green", I was already well on that path. In fact, since my very first consultation, I have been trying to make my clients more aware of their choices and how it would impact the environment in relation to their marketing goals.

Some of the things I would have them consider when ordering an item were; What was it made of? How long would it stay in use? Was it recyclable? Was it biodegradable?, etc.

That in itself was a lot to think about. But now, there are so many other areas to be aware of. Certainly, as of late, whether a product is made in the USA or not has been more of a concern. Naturally promoting your own company with USA made goods in better for the overall economy. However there are other reasons to consider where something is made. Product safety concerns is a big reason. Fair wage and working conditions. Lot-to-lot quality is something that recently was brought to my attention. Did you know that some suppliers will pay extra to make sure that there is consistency in the quality of material used in the manufacturing of their goods? I didn't until a couple of weeks ago.

Besides the actually manufacturing of a product, it's important to look at the printing, packaging and shipping methods used. What kind of inks are being used? How does the supplier handle waste issues? Does the supplier use recycled packaging? Where is the supplier located in relation to where the product is being shipped?

Lastly, what does the supplier do to "give back"? Some suppliers give a percent of sales of pink products to breast cancer foundations. Others have organized community outreach events. And some will donate products to charity events and fundraisers.

Does your promotional products consultant council you in these areas? Maybe until the industry as a whole comes around, some of the responsibility should be on the client. So next time you place an order for water bottles or t-shirts you ask your consultant a couple of questions other than, "How much will this cost?"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Top 10 Reasons To Work With A Promotional Consultant

As I was looking for some information for a class I'm teaching in a few weeks, I came across this list of reasons to work with a professional promotional products consultant. There is a difference in working with a consultant, rather than just ordering from some cyber-store. Here are some of those reasons.

REASON #1: Consultants are the experts in their field. When you’re sick, you want a doctor who has the specialization and training to help you. PPAI consultants meet the highest qualification standards in the industry and display “The Mark of a Professional.” The MAS (Master Advertising Specialist) or CAS (Certified Advertising Specialist) designation after a consultant’s name means he or she has earned one of the industry’s only official certifications. There’s no need to spend all your time on the Internet or searching through catalogs. Your promotional products consultant will come to you—like a doctor who makes house calls!

Good consultants go beyond just selling products. Successful promotional campaigns don’t happen by chance. To realize goals, promotional products programs must be carefully planned, taking into consideration the audience, budget and, of course, the ultimate result to be gained. While it’s true that you can buy a product anywhere, an experienced consultant can help you solve problems, plan a program and get results.

REASON #3: Professional consultants have access to vast product research resources, including an extensive database which contains more than 500,000 products. Yes, you can find a mug online, but a consultant can find hundreds of mugs, in a multitude of colors, sizes, shapes, materials, designs, etc. Have you saved money if you get the mugs and they are not the right color? Is it worth the extra savings if you get the mugs and they are so breakable due to inferior materials that they are virtually unusable?

REASON #4: Consultants are in tune with the trends, including hot items and the newest products and processes. A qualified consultant can add creativity, innovation and imagination to your overall program to achieve your goals. Many online services show you the products they want to sell; a qualified consultant will listen to what you want and help you find the right product for your needs. And a consultant can provide tangible samples that appeal to your senses: taste, touch and feel!

REASON #5: Your consultant is more than just a salesperson. Chances are you will buy promotional products more than once in your life. Once a company uses a consultant, that relationship often continues for years—and even decades. Your promotional products consultant is someone with whom you have worked, someone you know and someone you trust. In many cases, companies use the consultant as part of the creative team, even including him or her in marketing meetings.

REASON #6: Personalized service is the role of a consultant. When going online, your selection is what the internet company determines to make available. When you work with a consultant, your selection is determined by your needs and goals, enhanced by the experience, creativity and recommendations of that consultant who has your best interests at heart. Online, you’re a faceless, nameless buyer. With a consultant, you’re a client with your own personal shopper, receiving service along with ideas and prices. When you order online, who monitors your order and your deadline? Your consultant has your interests in mind. Seldom do you receive that kind of personalized, “hand-holding” customer service from an unknown online company.

REASON #7: Industry consultants can offer experienced advice on how (and IF) to imprint items. You may have found the perfect key chain, but will your logo imprint on it? Will it be recognizable? Some things don’t work, or there might be something else that will work better. A qualified promotional products consultant can explain to you the best printing process for your program, your imprint and the product you’ve chosen.

REASON #8: Trained consultants can save you money in the long run. Many times, a price you see in a generic catalog or on the internet does not cover many “hidden” costs involved—set up, imprint duplication, shipping, etc. A consultant can help you avoid unexpected and unbudgeted costs by quoting the total price up-front.

REASON #9: Consultants will work with you to get your artwork imprinted properly. Say you want your company’s logo embroidered on a golf shirt. How do you ensure it will be done properly, and with the correct colors? A trained consultant can work with you to insure accurate transfer of your artwork, including correct fonts, size, spacing and many other important factors. And your consultant’s commitment to quality customer service will guarantee your satisfaction with the finished product.

REASON #10: Professional promotional products consultants can assist you in developing a workable distribution plan for your products. Distribution of a promotional product is as important as the item itself. Research shows that a carefully executed distribution plan significantly increases the effectiveness of promotional products. But what if the cost of distributing your product is more than the product and more than your expected ROI (return on investment)? A consultant can help you avoid unexpected problems like this.