The past year has taught us a lot. We have learned to sell from home, groom ourselves, and Zoom. And while there are some things that have been surprisingly positive, most people I know miss being able to attend events in person. There is just something about the energy and the ability to interact face to face that is hard to replace. I know I can’t wait to get back to this level of “normal.”
But when will in-person events come back?
One thing I learned quickly in 2020 was, “don’t make predictions!” It seemed like, starting in March of last year, situations were changing so fast that there was no way to predict the future. We just needed to deal with what was in front of us. But as we look forward, I am getting a little more comfortable breaking this rule.
So here is my prediction…look for small and medium shows to come back in the 3rd quarter.
With the vaccine rollout going forward, more and more people are getting inoculated every day. The more people that have the vaccine, the more people will be comfortable heading to in-person events. The fact is, some smaller events have already started. I talk about a recent show I attended here. Look for more of that to continue. My sincere hope is that it will be closer to summer. But giving event organizers time to get ready, 3rd quarter seems more likely and more realistic.
What Does This Mean For You?
While I don’t see the mega shows coming back right away, this means that many businesses will be able to go to market at these small and medium-sized shows. If you are planning events, you can start to get these events back on the calendar. We have actually made that decision. Our annual Customer Appreciation Show (canceled last year) is back on the calendar for October 14th (more on that soon).
If you are an attendee at this style of event, it’s time to get ready! Most of us have not taken our signage and display information out of the boxes in a year! It’s time to take a look at that material. Is it still accurate? I mean, a lot has changed since last year this time! I often joke that last March seems like 5 years ago! Do you have new messaging? Is it time for an update? Have mice decided to move into the boxes and eat your display? These are questions you want to ask now…not a week before your show!
During the past year, American’s spent more time outside. To be fair, this is probably true around the world, but after being cooped up in quarantine, we were all thirsty for the outdoors. Sales on RV’s, kayaks, and boats were all off the charts. We wanted to take advantage of any chance to enjoy some time in the outdoors. Prognosticators will tell you this trend is going to continue into 2021.
So how do you take advantage of this trend? Create marketing and branded merchandise that reach your customers, employees and prospects when they are happy…and out enjoying nature.
Here are 5 products to reach your customers in the great outdoors.
Urban Peak® Blue Ridge Trail 20 oz Water Bottle: We all know it. When you are out in the great outdoors it’s important to stay hydrated. Whether out on the boat, hiking the trail or at the beach, we need to have our favorite beverage with us. This awesome water bottle will keep your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot for hours. And with a great imprint area, you have a chance to really leave a mark. Get more information here.
Urban Peak® Slate 36 Can Waterproof Cooler: When you are out enjoying the fresh air with some friends, it’s great to bring a cooler. This 36 can size is not too bulky and can be great for a small gathering. No matter if you want to cola, water or your favorite adult beverages, this cooler bag with a leak proof liner has you covered.
BIG UN’ Camp Chair: When it’s time to take a load off, we have a great item for you. Travel chairs are always a great gift…but they are not all built the same. The Big Un Camp Chair was designed with comfort in mind. This chair features an extra-wide design, cushioned headrest, full length back pocket, mesh armrest pocket, and a cup holder to provide for the day’s necessities. The 400 lb. tag rating will give full confidence to the burliest user. Learn more here.
Coleman® 36-Hour 42-Can Marine Soft-Sided Cooler: I personally fell in love with this cooler at a golf outing. It has a great look and a perfect branding location. In addition, the quality of the cooler is top notch. And the top lid makes it easy to grab a beverage and go without opening the whole bag. You can find more info here.
FUSION BACKPACK CHAIR WITH COOLER: This is the chair you and your customers need if you are “going to be there for a while!” As the vendor says, this chair has so many features, you may want to make it your new office. Including a backpack, cooler, a shelf and so much more, the Fusion Chair is for the most discerning of outdoor experts!
There you have it! Here are 5 amazing products to help you reach your customers while they enjoy the great outdoors! Want more ideas? Please reach out to your HMC rep or click here to set up a time to chat!
At Hasseman Marketing, we welcomed in the New Year with a (gasp) in person trade show. The OPPA (Ohio Promotional Professionals Association) held it’s annual road show in Columbus and Cleveland this past week. While the event looks a little different, the response was really great. Both suppliers and distributors were excited to get back on the road, and get back to business.
#2 Big-Un Camp Chair (holds up to 400#) from Brentwood: The great thing about camp chairs is they have a high perceived value. People love to get them. But when you go cheap on them, it shows. This piece will hold a more “juicy” individual and still have room to spare. And when you combine that with a big imprint area, this is a great piece! https://www.brentwoodline.com/products/cpxr
#3 Speckled Finish Double Wall Stainless Steel Tumbler from Moderne Glass (Glass America): We love our drinkware, and this is a new style that might get you feeling “campy.” This speckled style is like the camp style mugs, but in a tumbler. https://glassamerica.com/#!/product/18820?color=black
Since the beginning of the pandemic, leaders have been trying to find a way to communicate the steps to take to slow the spread of the virus. As we all know, in March, most of the country shut down in order to “flatten the curve.” That worked to slow the spread, but it shut down the economy as well. Now that we are nearing the end of 2020, the predicted ramp up of cases is upon us…and leaders all over the country (and the world) are working to slow down the spread.
That goal is what led Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to meet with local officials in Coshocton County via Zoom. He implored our local leaders to get creative and do what they can to help communicate the message that we need to be safe. After the meeting, officials from the City of Coshocton and Coshocton Regional Medical Center reached to us to help spread the word. We discussed creating a video, including many local officials, entrepreneurs and healthcare leaders to send a unified message to our community. The theme became simple.
We need to “Step up…and Mask up!”
The work on that script and video began immediately and I am proud of what we created. But it was important to us to create something that sustains the message after the initial bump. So rather than just create a video, we worked to create a campaign. Next up, we reached out to government officials to step up as well. We sent out script (that I will include below) and the first person who recorded his version of the video was Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. He applauded the efforts of Coshocton County and encouraged everyone to “Step up…and Mask Up!”
Excited about this participation, we worked to keep the momentum going. We will continue to share the message from leaders and government officials, but we also wanted to add something tangible to the mix. So what better way to encourage people to “mask up” than to provide masks with the message? We agree. The design was created (as you see in the video) and the masks are ordered and are on their way. In addition, we have created re-positionable stickers that are being printed and will be given to businesses that want to promote the message.
We are excited about the positive momentum that has been created so far…and are happy to use our powers for good. So how can we keep this momentum going? Here are a couple of ideas. First, if you are in our area and you want to participate, let us know. While we think these items will go quickly, we can try to get you a sticker and a few masks to help spread the word. We know that some people find this message divisive (I don’t get that and I talk about it here), but we feel it’s the right thing to do.
If you are not in our area, maybe you can create a campaign like ours in your community. In the interest of helping, here is the script we created that you can modify and use.
Step Up…Mask Up Script
In Coshocton County, we are proud.
We take care of one another, and look out for our neighbors.
We believe in supporting small businesses.
And we celebrate our heroes in healthcare.
We are kind…and we are proud to give back.
That is why we want to urge you to “mask up.”
Wearing a mask is not a weakness…it’s kindness. Mask up.
Wash your hands. Keep your distance. And mask up.
Step up…and Mask up.
(Multiple Leaders on screen). Step up and Mask Up
Let’s all do our part. Be kind. Support small business. Help keep each other safe.
That is who we are Coshocton County.
Let’s step up…and mask up.
Special thanks to our local leaders for not only wanting to do what’s right…but stepping up and working together to make it happen.
Here’s to keeping each other safe. Step Up. Mask Up.
Let’s say you are in a leadership role in a growing company. Good for you! Whether you are in purchasing, marketing, sales or the C-suite, this might sound familiar. You have worked hard to create a logo and brand messaging that works. The key players were all involved. You might have worked with an outside firm, or handled it with your internal team, but now you have a logo that you love. The colors are perfect. The feel is just right. And you have even created a set of brand guidelines that make sure everyone understands what you can and can’t do with your beloved brand. This is awesome…it’s how you create a tribe!
Then one day you see something that is very upsetting.
You are walking through the halls of your beloved institution and you see a fellow employee wearing a shirt that CLEARLY is outside of the brand guidelines! At first, you think it’s just an anomaly…but then you see another. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. There is “off brand” merchandise all over! Apparently, a rogue manager (with the best of intentions) wanted to appreciate their staff, so they went and got some branded merchandise on their own. Since there was no clear internal option to make this happen, they did it on their own…and the logo brand guidelines got flushed down the toilet.
This is every brand manager’s nightmare. And this is just one good reason to create a company store.
A company store is an online e-commerce solution that offers branded merchandise for members of your organization to order. Done right, this solution can be simple and easy to use. And it will help to decrease the number of times that well-intentioned managers will “go rogue” for branded merchandise. It gives members of your team a place to shop and find curated branded merchandise that is consistent with your brand AND can be vetted to make sure you can imprint the correct information. While they do take some time to set up, they can help both marketing and purchasing be sure that promotional purchases are done right.
Understand the Kinds of Company Store
If you want to create a company store, it’s important to know what kind you want. While there are plenty of variations, let’s stick with two basic types of stores. These are inventory versus non-inventory stores. Both types of stores have their place, but you need to understand them before you pick the one that’s right for your organization.
An inventory store is where you (or your promotional products partner) order all of the branded merchandise in and warehouse the items. Then, as people from around your organization order, the items can be shipped out “on demand.” Sometimes these items are warehoused at the customer location and sometimes the promotional products partner manages that. The advantages to this kind of store are speed and minimums. Simply put, if you have the item imprinted, done and warehoused, you can ship them to your team right away. In addition, if you just want one shirt, this is a very easy way to do it. You can order just one.
There are several disadvantages to this type of store too. First, someone has to purchase all of these items up front. Whether it’s the customer or the partner, someone is on the hook for these items. So if at the end of year these items don’t sell, you will ultimately own them. So you better be really good at choosing items AND the quantity you will warehouse. In addition, someone has to warehouse the items and manage the items. For larger organizations, this financial commitment might be easy enough. But for smaller organizations this can be a big cash flow challenge.
The other option for a company store includes the non-inventory store. This option has become more and more popular over the last several years. It allows companies to address the brand issues that arise at the beginning of this post without having to commit to large amounts of branded merchandise each year. In this option, a company creates an online store with curated products that match the company brand. Then, as departments need to order, they can order from these selections with a manufacturers minimum. The order is then created “on demand” and the customer is only billed for the items as they are created.
The downside to a store like this is, you don’t have these items on hand. So time and minimums are more of a challenge (though both can be mitigated). If you just need one last minute polo for a golf outing, this is not a great solution. But if want to manage the brand, manage budgets and keep control on both, this can be a great option…even for smaller organizations.
So now that you know what kind of company stores there are…how can you make a good one? Here are a few tips on creating a company store.
Include the Basics
When you are creating a curated collection of items for your company store, don’t out think the room. Yes, you might want to include some cool and hot new products in the mix. That’s great. We are in favor of that. But don’t forget the foundational products that most people want and need. You will want to include a drink ware, writing instruments, and apparel. These are staples. You want to have items that are functional. I would also recommend getting multiples in a couple of these categories. While you may love a Nike 1/4 zip (and I do) not every budget will allow for that. Give people basic options so they can use the company store without breaking the bank.
Keep It Simple
On the other hand, though you want options, you don’t want TOO many options! Keep it simple. Just like at the grocery store, if you give people too many options, they might not be able to choose at all. It’s a delicate balance. And remember, you can always add items down the road. Which leads nicely to…
Update Items Seasonally
If you want people to continue to check out your store (and ultimately stick to the brand), continue to add options. I recommend adding items at least once a quarter. First, this gives your team some new ways to award their team and promote your brand. In addition, this is part of the fun for you! Be on the lookout for cool new items, or have us do that for you! This is a great place to add items to the list that are missing…or give you a place to try more “off the wall” items that might fit during a time.
Get Feedback From the Troops
When it comes to your organization’s company store, your team members are your customers. Listen to their feedback! While you won’t be able to add every single item that is requested, you will likely see some themes. Giving your team input into the items that are on the store will give them more ownership in the idea. That makes it more likely that they will stick to the program and won’t go rogue again!
These are just a few tips on getting your company store up and running successfully. If you want to chat more about whether a company store is right for your organization, we would love to talk!
One of the buzzwords that is thrown around a lot in business today is the word “culture.” I actually love that. It’s important because it speaks to the environment around the organization…and how everyone feels about their work. When you create a successful culture, you have the ability to create a tribe. If you have done that…congratulations.
And when you create a company and a brand that people are proud to represent, something cool happens. Your employees will actually WANT to wear the logo. In fact, they will often be willing to pay their own money to buy branded merchandise with the organization’s logo on it! That shows a powerful culture.
If you find yourself here, then it might be time to create a Employee Sale.
An employee sale is a fairly straight forward exercise. It’s not a new concept. You would select some items that could be imprinted with the company logo on it. Employees have the opportunity to select items for themselves. You would curate the items and the way they would be imprinted. This allows employees to select items that they would be excited about using or wearing, while you get to manage the brand. While the concept is not new, the technology has improved. Now you can create an online shop to help you manage this process in a much more efficient way.
But an employee sale can really get out of control. When they do, they can become a real nightmare to manage. And when that happens, leaders often throw up their hands and say “no more!” That’s a shame. Because if you have created a culture and a tribe that want rep your brand…you want to help them!
So here are a few tips on creating a successful (and less painful) employee sale.
Keep It Simple
One common mistake I see with employee sales, especially the first one, is to try and include everything. The more items you include, the more you have to manage. What I recommend is to keep it simple and include the basics on the first sale.
I explain this to everyone when we start this process. They always nod and say “Yes. That makes sense.” Then when we select products, they ultimately want to include 20 or more items. It’s easy to do! First, we are excited! Second, we have everyone (including our boss) making special requests to be included. Then you look down and have a ton of options on the table. This is what most often leads to frustration. Trust me. Keep it simple. You can always add the special requests on the next sale. This leads nicely to…
Do Them Every Quarter
One of the ways to manage the requests and the expectations is to let everyone know you will do these sales consistently. That will allow you to add special items to the “next time” list. In addition it allows you to add seasonal items. Things that people want in December are not what they want in July. If you do the employee sales every quarter, you can help manage the items and the expectations.
How Do They Pay?
This may sound simple, but there are several ways to do this. There is no “right way.” But it’s important to figure it out up front so that both the team and the vendor know! One way is that the company gives everyone the ability to order the item…and the company pays. Another popular option is to allow employees to order what they want and then deduct the cost from their pay. This payroll deduction option is one of the most popular. Finally, you can let employees just pay themselves. The employee sale can be set up with a credit card option to make this work. Either way is fine…but this needs to be worked out in advance to avoid confusion.
Test and Test Again
Just like any other online product, your new store needs to be “proofed.” You need to look over it with a fine tooth comb. Are the colors right? Is the logo the one I want? Then run a few test orders to make sure the site works like you want it to. You will likely be the first person people come to when they have questions. So make sure you have used the site and can answer the basics.
As I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID crisis, so everything is colored by this time. Stock for nearly all suppliers is a challenge. Delivery times are tough and shipping has been delayed. I wrote about this here. But even in normal times, an employee sale has a lot of moving pieces. There will be hopefully fewer if you took our advice on keeping it simple, but there are still lots of individuals, ordering lots of items, with different imprints. That means things can be confusing.
My advice is to be patient. Your tone will be powerful in your organization. This is a spot to under promise and over deliver. When you are talking about delivery times, give yourself time. The order will not be placed until the Employee Sale closes. After that, give yourself 3 to 4 weeks to expect delivery. When you say that from the outset, you manage expectations and headaches. If then, the items come in sooner, great. But expect the unexpected. It will decrease your stress and the amount of emails you have to answer about the items.