4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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10 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Change the Social & Economic Story

Men and women who create for-profit and nonprofit new ventures can and should do things of the kind that the President-Elect is likely to neglect, negate, or avoid. Entrepreneurs can quietly change the story, one organization at a time, whatever government may or may not do.

Here are ten ways venture founders can alter the course implied by what we know of Donald Trump’s intentions. They are all within our own authority, not those of government. We can:

  1. actively appreciate the economic and social needs of disadvantaged groups and consider how our own organization can make a difference-or start a new one that can; at least ensure that our own organization does not contribute to disadvantage;
  2. be inquisitive about rural and underserved populations adversely impacted by political, economic and tech change-and examine ways that our organization can make a positive contribution, including the offer of products, services or employment;
  3. create inclusive policies on gender, gender identity, race, national origin & religion; offer all employees dignity & respect, provide healthcare, parental leave, clear policies on sexual harassment, & the opportunity for participation in decision-making and sharing organizational success;
  4. take the opportunity to participate in the life of local communities to mutual advantage, through direct civic engagement, as well as supporting employee volunteering; become involved in community supported enterprises;
  5. evaluate all practices of the organization that may contribute directly or indirectly to climate change-and introduce ways that will reduce pollution; seek to be powered by clean energy and move to zero waste;
  6. ensure that the pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid members of the organization does not exceed 20:1 (as it was in 1965) to reduce financial inequity, given that the ratio between average American CEO pay and worker pay is now 303:1;
  7. re-examine the consequences of all purchasing decisions, in order to avoid pain and hardship, either in supplier organizations or the local and global community; research supplier behaviors on socio-economic parameters;
  8. commit to support the lifelong learning of all members of the organization, regardless of where they are starting or what position they hold-through internal development programs and external qualifications;
  9. employ socially responsible financial policies that do not disfavor any stakeholder, either close at hand or nationally, as well as avoiding immoral or self-serving practices, such as the avoidance of repatriating foreign profits;
  10. build a widely communicated progressive corporate story that is reflected through the behaviors of everyone in the organization and enshrined in all official organizational procedures; regularly monitor its reality.
  11. GEI scores 137 countries on 14 pillars of a healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Whither the World’s Fair?

The moniker “Expo 2017” is currently being bandied about in North America. In the US, various optimists, often plain vanilla citizens like you and me, have launched web sites and forums promoting a return of the world’s fair–or Expo 2017 in this case–to America. In Canada, at least four cites and/or organizations have recently promoted the idea of an “expo”, with one of the first efforts publicly unveiled in Montreal in 2007.

In America, the idea of a world’s fair–an officially sanctioned one, that is, will conceivably remain a distant dream until Washington comes to its diplomatic senses and rejoins the Bureau of International Expositions, or BIE–the governing body in Paris which awards world’s fairs in much the same fashion as the IOC decides who gets to hold the next Olympic Games. Just like the Olympics, an aspiring world’s fair applicant is required to invest a considerable amount of energy and expense putting together a bid, and, of course, impressing the appropriate officials. Unless, perhaps, you’re the city of New York which, after a clash with French dignitaries, decided to hold its 1964/1965 World’s Fair without BIE approval. At the time, superpower America had enough clout that many of the nations who were subsequently prohibited by the BIE from participating decided to show up anyway, posing as trade and tourist organizations.

Right after New York, and only a skip across the border, the city of Montreal staged what is often considered to be the most successful (and BIE approved) world’s fair of all time. Set on a sprawling venue of two man-made islands and a peninsula in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, Expo 67 introduced a number of technological and cultural “firsts”–including the now ubiquitous moniker “expo” itself.

There are “expos” for everything now, from computers to kitty litter, while the mighty world’s fair that spawned these cheap imitations hasn’t been seen in North America for decades. Even if a city here managed to secure an official bid for “Expo 2017” it would be for a much smaller affair, a “recognized” expo limited by the BIE to 25 hectares exhibition area. That’s because there have always been two types of world’s fairs, a very large one (a “universal expo”) and, in-between, a smaller one (a “special expo”)–both of which are now, respectively, called “registered” and “recognized” fairs. In 2017, unfortunately, only the smaller recognized expo is allowed.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the world’s fair not only needs a major boost in North America, but that North America desperately needs another world’s fair. No other event has the collective potential to attract a huge audience to the latest cultural and scientific endeavours humankind has to offer. With our planet in the precarious state we have put it in, and North America no longer as influential and respected as it used to be, a world’s fair, properly staged and presented with the latest social and environmental initiatives, could be the political and technological beacon of hope this continent is yearning for. Of course, that might mean that Expo 2017 would need to encompass a great deal more than 25 hectares exhibition area and would need to address a lot more than the narrowly restricted theme (the fair’s purpose) officially allowed by the BIE for a smaller “recognized” expo. This could be done, with a little creative thinking (and without resorting to New York’s 1964 strategy), but that’s for another article to address.

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Private Jet Detailing And Aircraft Cleaning Entrepreneurs Have Good News

The general aviation sector has been in the doldrums for quite a while. Some blame this on increased FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, much of which occurred after 9-11 to protect airports from potential terrorists, unfortunately these increased security requirements and increased regulations have stifled the general aviation (GA) sector. The economic crashes of 2000 and 2008 didn’t help, although in 2003 the economy was flying high thanks to Bush Tax Cuts and stimulus, then it hit a wall again and didn’t really do well until the run-up just before the 2008 crash.

The GA sector has only slightly recovered since then but not back to its 2003 highs. When Obama got elected he railed against Corporate Jets and Corporate Fat Cats which hurt jet sales and new aircraft sales. Remember when congress went after the Auto Makers for flying their corporate jets to Washington DC to beg for bailouts? Public sentiment against GA was at an all-time low. All of this had hurt aircraft cleaners and jet detailers – it made it tough to make money, but it looks like things are changing and the number of GA Aircraft is increasing. This new Trump Administration is pro-Aviation unlike the Obama Administration. Cutting corporate taxes will also help GA and jet sales. It looks like clear skies ahead for those in the General Aviation services business.

There was a great article in AIN – Aircraft International News – December Edition titled; “UBS Bizjet Index Sees Post-election Surge,” by Chad Trautvetter posted on December 12, 2016 which noted the following facts; The new Trump Administration in the U.S. is widely seen as a positive, with 61 percent of those surveyed expecting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election to ultimately be positive for the business jet market, while 11 percent don’t see a positive impact and 28 percent are uncertain. In fact the article went on to note that there was an increase of between 44-49% increased orders for private jets over last year. Many of those aircraft will be delivered by 2018, and the backlog will increase used aircraft sales and current new inventory. More aircraft certainly means more aircraft to clean and more new aircraft means more corporate detailing customers as well. Meanwhile, along with the fractional jet market, we see jet air-taxi services on the increase as well as Uber style aircraft ride-sharing plans smaller companies can buy into. All of this means the GA sector is ready to take off again and that’s good for business.

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