One True Way to Become a Faster Writer
Aubrey Collins, Creative Challenges
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sponsored by Bulova

By nature, I’m not a fast writer. (Some would argue that by nature I’m not a fast anything… but I digress.)

Over the years, I made peace with my pace, telling myself that it’s because I’m someone who likes to ponder, reflect, contemplate, and finesse my copy. Although that never quite acknowledges that it’s more that my contemplation turns into rumination, where I find myself considering, reconsidering, and then reconsidering the reconsideration. Endlessly. Which means I’m not merely a slow writer but more of an obsessive over-thinker who naturally self-edits to a fault.

A lot of us are the mulling-over-and-second-guessing-each-sentence type, embodying the Dorothy Parker quote, “I hate writing. I love having written.”

If you, too, lean toward creating content at a dawdling, dithering, downright frustrating pace and just assumed you were destined (or doomed?) to be a slow writer forever, I have some good news. Being a slow writer is not a life sentence, and it’s actually possible to improve your writing speed without sacrificing quality.

It all comes down to one word: Practice.

Yes, to borrow from another famous phrase, “Practice. We’re talking about practice.”

How do I know practice is the antidote for the agony of staring at blank screens and rewriting the same sentence 50 times?

I lived it.

About halfway through my career, I spent a few years as a copywriter, where my primary responsibility was to, well, write. On the first day, I looked at jobs assigned to me and assumed the traffic manager who allocated them made a mistake. Each day on the calendar, I was expected to produce enough copy to complete an array of newsletters, direct mail pieces, email blasts, flap copy, banner ad blurbs, and more.

I can still feel the dizzying wave of red-hot panic when I realized that my natural pace would need approximately a month (or maybe two) to complete each day’s tasks. How on earth was I going to do this?

There was a moment I considered pretending I left something in the car and screeching out of the parking lot, but instead I spent the next two years abiding by the lessons in Copyblogger’s “10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer,” which you can now purchase as a poster for your workspace.

1. Write.

2. Write more.

3. Write even more.

4. Write even more than that.

5. Write when you don’t want to.

6. Write when you do.

7. Write when you have something to say.

8. Write when you don’t.

9. Write every day.

10. Keep writing.

Granted, as a copywriter, I had no choice but to live by those words. By doing it, though, an interesting thing occurred. I got faster. Then I got even faster. Then even faster.

Over those two years, I wrote so much that I stopped letting self-editing stifle me. Self-editing is a natural part of human behavior and how we learn. For some reason, it is especially maddening when it comes to writing because we struggle to hit the pause button on the tendency, even for a few minutes. We use the backspace button so much, the key itself starts to show wear.

The best way to put your self-editing tendency in check and have it actually work for you so well that you can self-edit on the fly is to reach competency — which is the state your mind reaches when you’ve made enough mistakes that your brain is satisfied it can move on. The brain needs to make and correct enough mistakes to have a database of knowledge that it can summon at any time.

The highest level of competency is fluency, which is when self-editing occurs so quickly that we don’t even notice. It’s wonderful. It’s magical. And you only get there with practice, which I realize is both good news and bad news.

Either way, get out that pen and paper or fire up that laptop and get writing.

Aubrey Collins is the director of marketing and communications at MediaTree, a supplier of branded digital entertainment cards. She fell in love with the promotional products industry in 2011 at her first PPAI Expo. She shares her perspective on everything from the industry, what parenting continues to teach her about business, to what marketing campaigns make her cry on her blog. Connect with her on Twitter or email her

Find Your Raving Fans
They're the key to your long-term success. Johnny Campbell, Campbell's Soup to Nuts
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sponsored by Bay State

Johnny Campbell, DTM, AS, is a million dollar sales producer, hall of fame speaker and author. Johnny is CEO of Rise-Up and Win International, and the publisher of the Promotional Product Sales Confidential report. He is an expert at helping business professionals use LinkedIn and social selling to acquire, retain and recover lost customers. He can be reached at or

Home Is Where the Logos Are
Sherry L. Baranek, Product Feature
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"The three top trends that we have seen in household products have been related to entertaining, craft cocktails/beer, and electronics."
sponsored by Galactic Fun Time Line

The kitchen – the most occupied room in a majority of households – is a comforting place where family and friends come together to share the happenings of their day while preparing food for meals, parties, and other events. For distributors, it is a prime opportunity to provide items that will not only be seen and used on a daily basis, but will have lasting power. Cutting boards, oven mitts, barbecue sets, drinkware, tumblers, knives, charging stations, blankets, and Bluetooth thermometers are just a sampling of the many products available.

Promotional products suppliers agree that demand in this market segment is steady year-round. Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions notes that kitchen and household products are not limited to just one or two markets. “Many different markets order houseware products, like: finance and insurance, realtors, healthcare businesses, appliance repair companies, restaurants, food co-ops, agriculture companies, plus many more,” she comments.

PCNA/Leed’s Rick French adds to Brey’s thoughts. “The three top trends that we have seen in household products have been related to entertaining, craft cocktails/beer, and electronics,” he notes. “Demand in all three of these areas has been very strong.”

According to Brey, high-end houseware products are currently popular. “People want their name associated with quality products,” she says, adding that many families are spending three to five hours a day in the kitchen as an alternative to eating out.

Expanding on Brey’s sentiments is Ron Rosencrans at ProRose. “The kitchen is the center of the home,” he emphasizes. “Anything that is useful in the preparation of the meal is going to get a lot of use and exposure.”

Trends seen at Starline are the company’s cutting boards, oven mitts, and BBQ sets. The oven mitts are not only cost-effective but offer a great imprint area, notes Joanna Waldman. “Our BBQ sets and cutting boards are at a higher price point which makes them great giveaways for golf tournaments and the perfect holiday season gift,” she adds.

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Janine Cannici at Punch Products USA/VisionUSA emphasizes that Made in USA continues to increase in importance, particularly when dealing with consumables/food/kitchen. “Safe and compliant is a must have!” she states. “Not only are product safety concerns at a high but patriotism is as well. In addition, Made in USA means always in stock!” Anna Ramos at Berney-Karp agrees that USA-made items are driving this market.

At Bay State, Josette Bosse reports that the company’s bamboo and silicone kitchen utensils have been top sellers. “Both are heat resistant, quality made items,” she details. “These utensils have a hole at the end of the handle which is perfect for adding a ribbon with a business card/thank you/welcome note/literature tied to it. It’s a perfect way to make a simple/single item a personal gift.”

Stainless steel, vacuum-insulated tumblers in larger 20- and 30-ounce sizes are tops in this product category at The Allen Company. Stan Dohan notes that bright colors are currently trending.

Beacon Promotions has added a number of kitchen and household products to its repertoire, including a ceramic fry pan/sauce pan, drying mat and full color towel as well as a colander. Brey notes that best sellers in this lucrative category are the utensils and the full color towels, adding that the company’s spatulas and oven mitts continue to do well even though they are “mature” products.

Several new barbecue utensils/sets and a digital Bluetooth thermometer are new at Starline this year; joining the company’s best sellers are the HW34 15-inch silicone oven mitt, KS02 premium steak knife set, and BBQ5 five-piece deluxe oven set.

Bosse at Bay State states the company’s gift sets have been extremely popular and are perfect for this time of the year. The Bamboo Combo (K5016) combines the company’s K346 Bamboo Cutting Board, K340 Bamboo Spatula and K343 Bamboo Spoon, and is packaged in an organza gift bag. The Chef's Therma-Grip Striped Oven Mitt Bamboo Combo (K5011) is a combination of the K229 Therma-Grip Striped Oven Mitt, K340 Bamboo Spatula and K343 Bamboo Spoon, also packaged in a matching organza bag. The Chef's Therma-Grip Striped Oven Mitt Oval Pot Holder Silicone Spoon Combo (K5014) packages the company’s K229 Therma-Grip Striped Oven Mitt, K236 Oval Pot Holder and K451 Silicone Spoon, in an organza gift bag. “The gift bags allow for customers to add additional literature or items,” Bosse explains, and the pockets in the oven mitts also allow for a great holder of additional literature.

sponsored by American Apparel

Bamboo is also selling well at ProRose. Rosencrans maintains that consumers are definitely into earth-friendly products. “Bamboo is the ultimate renewable products, as it grows so fast and replenishes literally in weeks,” he comments.

Leed’s has launched a new housewares brand in response to the craft beer and cocktails trend. “The Bullware Collection features wood, glass and metal to evoke the craftsmanship involved in creating a memorable drink,” French elaborates. “Since its launch in August, the Bullware brand has been extremely successful.” Additional successful new launches include a collection of Sherpa blankets, Kiwi charging stations, and an updated look for its popular Laguiole® knife collection.

New drinkware items have been rolled out by The Allen Company and Berney-Karp. The Allen Company has expanded its best-selling brands CamelBak®, Blender Bottle®, and Takeya® as well as its Blender® and Infuser products. New shapes and colors have been added to Berney-Karp’s offerings of mugs and water bottles. A fruit basket infuser made of double wall acrylic with a colored straw and colored bruit basket infuser has also been added this year.

A number of new desktop caddy items have been added to Punch Products USA/VisionUSA’s items in the houseware category. Cannici notes that desktop adverting provides daily exposure and longevity.

Distributors who wish to sell household and kitchen products should remind their customers that the items have a universal appeal. “They can be sold into many different markets and that makes the sale so much easier, Brey at Beacon Promotions maintains. “These are great items for thank you gifts, home or health fair giveaways, incentives for purchases or referrals, new account set ups, safety programs, grand openings, and new locations. It’s a great place to put an advertising message.”

Samples sell, Bay State’s Bosse asserts. “If you have a great quality item that is Made in USA, sometimes all you need to do is have the physical sample in the end buyer’s hands and the difference is immediately recognized.”

Rosencrans of ProRose sees the value in offering samples as well. “We offer a $5 spec sample on our bamboo cutting boards, so distributors can send us prospective client’s logos for engraving a sample to show. This is an easy way to prospect new clients, gift some of your better accounts, and prospect for new business. And once an advertiser’s logo or message is on display in the kitchen, it is going to get countless exposure.”

Starline’s Waldman adds her take on samples. “Offering a quick cooking demo or leaving behind a small recipe card on one side while the other side could have information on the promotional products you are selling,” she comments.

French at PCNA emphasizes the “heart” in household and kitchen products. “Great brands shoot for the heart, not your pocket book,” he concludes. “End users want their brands to be associated with good times and ‘happy spaces’. Whether it’s entertaining family and friends at home, or bundling up on the sofa with a great book or movie, having your brand visible at that moment of happiness is pure gold. These products help to achieve that experience.”

Weekly Poll Results
If the presidential election was held today, who would you vote for? Identity Marketing Staff, Identity Research
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sponsored by American Apparel

2016 Readers' Choice Awards
The complete results. Identity Marketing Staff, Identity Research
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Here's the complete list of winners in the 2016 Identity Marketing Readers' Choice Awards. Congratulations to all the winner and thanks to all who took the time to vote!

For more information on the winners, click on their logos.

9 Common Recycling Mistakes You’re Making
With 254 million tons of it, there's a lot going to waste in America every year. Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

According to Keep America Beautiful, if we could find a better way to manage the tremendous amount of waste produced in the U.S., up to $9 billion currently used to manage landfills could be used elsewhere. Before you raise your hand to say you’re already doing all you can, the fact is the guidelines can be quite confusing. Depending on where you live, it may not be as easy as putting paper here, and metal there — some cities make the process of recycling quite complicated.

But no matter your address, there are some very common mistakes that everybody makes. According to Junk King, the organization that bills itself as “America’s Greenest Junk Removal Service,” there are nine things you can do right now to improve your own standing as “King of Green” in your home or office. Let’s take a look:

Do Recycle Your Bottlecaps. According to Do Something, Americans throw out 25 million plastic bottles every hour, but the caps aren’t often with them. Make sure to keep the cap and the bottle together for maximum recycling results. It used to be that some municipalities didn’t accept caps, but that is mostly no longer the case. I didn’t know this, how about you?

Don’t Throw Dirty Cardboard into the Recycling Bin. Out of the 69 million tons of paper thrown out every year, it only takes small amounts of dirty or greasy paper to ruin large batches of recyclables. Keep your dirty stuff out!

Do Recycle Glossy Magazines and Coupons. Magazine Publishers of America notes that just 20 percent of magazines are recycled, so don’t forget to put them out for curbside pickup.

Do Sort It Properly. This one can’t be overstated, and it’s the most important key to successful recycling. Keep fiber products like paper separate from plastic and glass. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where sorting at curbside isn’t required, count your blessings. If not, sort, sort, sort. It can make all the difference.

Don’t Throw Out Plastic Grocery Bags. Every year, Americans throw out 100 billion of them. Unfortunately, local recycling plants don’t tend to accept them, but many grocery stores offer receptacles in which you can return their plastic shopping bags. Try to reuse plastic grocery bags as much as possible, and bring reusable bags to the store.

sponsored by J. Charles

Don’t Think It’s Too Much Work. If you think that recycling is more work than you want to deal with, you’re really deluding yourself. Over 87 percent of Americans have access to a curbside or drop-off recycling program, so there’s really no excuse for not doing it other than pure laziness. Sorry, but sometimes tough love is called for when it comes to doing what we can to save the environment.

Do Think You May Be Able to Recycle Things You Didn’t Know You Could. While you might not be able to recycle some things at curbside or at your recycling drop off area, sometimes a little creative thinking can make all the difference. For example, when it comes to things like packing foam or foam peanuts. It’s quite likely that your friendly neighborhood pack-and-ship store would be thrilled to take those things off your hands and put them to good re-use. Solutions like this are easy — you just need to care enough to think about it.

Don’t Include Shredded Paper with Your Recycling Until You Check With Your Hauler. Although paper has a recycling rate of 60 percent in the U.S., the shredded stuff is very difficult to get facilities to accept. It frequently isn’t compatible with plant machinery. So check with your recycling hauler on this front and if they don’t accept it, chances are good your pack-and-ship friend mentioned above will.

Don’t Recycle Frozen Food Boxes. Keep those frozen food boxes out of your recycling bins. Those paperboard boxes are designed for the freezer, so they have a coat of plastic polymer sprayed on them, which makes them non-recyclable.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to do a little homework on recycling and maybe help change the world in the process? Can you use those shredded secrets for an art project, or composting? The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to recycling is not doing it. Hopefully some of these tips will help you do your part to keep Mother Earth a great place to live.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for more than 35 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He recently retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. As a recovering end-user client, he can’t help but continue to consult Fortune 500 consumer brands on promo product safety when asked. You can also find him working as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, traveling the world with his lovely wife, or enjoying a cigar at his favorite local cigar shop. Follow Jeff on Twitter, or reach out to him at

Word of the Week: Whirlwind
Kirby Hasseman, Word of the Week
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sponsored by Chocolate Chocolate

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry. He can be reached at

Questionable Distributor Brands; Give Back/Invest in Yourself
Must-have phone apps; Positivity needed and more. Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by Bulova

In this weekly “talk show” column, industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of brandivate discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff, New Products
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sponsored by Bay State

The new Ballpark Utility Pouch from Marlo Plastics is great to store your cash, credit card, phone and ID while having fun watching the ballgame. It features a clear pocket for easy viewing of contents. A black rope lanyard with two bulldog clips is included. Choose from more than 30 vinyl colors.

The popular Anthem pen from BIC Graphic is now available with a click-through stylus. Notable features include the iconic BIC® Boy molded into rivets on the barrel, comfortable grip and black trim.

New from Custom Creations is this leather bookmark (LB700). It is available in a choice of four colors and features a photo holder in a variety of shapes.

This flat bottle opener with spout remover from Webb Company is any home or commercial bartender’s dream.

What Is the Best Tech Product?
Kirby and Amy Hasseman, He Said, She Said
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sponsored by Galactic Fun Time Line

Kirby and Amy Hasseman have over 35 years of combined experience the promotional products industry. Together, they own and operate Hasseman Marketing out of Coshocton, OH (the birthplace of promotional advertising). Hasseman Marketing has four full time employees and six sales team members.
Do You Give Up Too Soon?
Danette Gossett, From Good to Great
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sponsored by BELLA+CANVAS

I had a great meeting this summer with a new prospective client at an existing client company. I thought we hit it off and she indicated that their previous supplier had just retired. I was thinking what perfect timing.

She gave me a long list of upcoming events for us to develop some suggestions for. I walked out of the meeting elated. And now, four months later, I still haven’t gotten back in to see her. I started a schedule to email her regularly, followed by phone calls. The messages have changed from, “I have suggestions for the events we discussed” to “let’s talk about 2017.” I got one response from her in late August that she was traveling on business and would be in touch when she got back. But so far – nothing!

Spec Samples Make Lasting Impact

Now, I have done several projects for other people in her company since then. I’ve gotten rave reviews. So what gives? I’m really not sure. I thought we hit it off. And, I’m not giving up. I’ve gotten some personalized samples done for her and when I’m in the building for a meeting with one of her colleagues I am going to stop by and drop them off. Hopefully it will start the process over again for us to work together. And this time, I want to understand better how and what type of communication is best for her and how often. Maybe my attempts to reach her overwhelmed (but twice a month?) or maybe she just likes you to show up with the proposal. Who knows – but I hope to find out!

Years ago I had a client tell me at an event that she “keeps up with me through my newsletters.” OOPS. That was a BIG red flag. I obviously wasn’t being consistent in staying in touch with her as a client. How many others felt the same? And it can be difficult when you are busy servicing active clients not to forget those that may only “need” you a couple of times a year or less.

Master Client List Keeps Contact Consistent

So, I have a master client list that helps me stay in touch at least quarterly with those clients that we are not doing business with on a monthly (or weekly) basis. I have tried many different CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs in the past and so far I haven’t found one that works well for me.

I get the programs where you set daily contact goals to help keep your pipeline full and to maintain contact discipline (I used for a while with a bit of success), unfortunately, I would get busy with meetings out of the office and days would go by without my logging in. Now, I schedule the time on my calendar like a meeting for follow-up at least twice a week. I usually block an hour – that way I have time to follow up on open quotes, presentations as well as to work on scheduling new prospect meetings and touching base with those less active clients. I would love the time to do it more often, but at least for now my schedule doesn’t allow.

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New Follow-up Plans for 2017

Now that I’ve begun developing my growth plan for 2017, I am re-evaluating our follow-up procedures for both existing clients and potential clients to help us stay top of mind. I know there are automated options available, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t like getting them so it’s not how I plan to proceed right now. Of course timeliness and consistency is key to a successful follow-up program and I am hopeful these steps will help.

9 Steps for Better Follow-up

1) If possible/necessary, schedule the next meeting at the end of the present meeting (even if it’s months away)

2) Send a brief follow-up email within 24 hours after the meeting to recap discussion and next steps

3) Send email notes and direct mail with relevant information and specials on a monthly basis

4) Send monthly newsletter

5) Call! This is a lost art for many, but plan to pick up the phone on a more regular basis and actually speak to a client (or leave a compelling message) monthly

6) After an order is delivered, send a handwritten thank you note

7) Invite clients to join us at local business events

8) Stop by or send a quarterly with a spec sample of a new product or a self-promotional sample that is relevant for them

9) Be consistent in following the procedures!!

We pride ourselves on being high touch with our clients and I am hopeful that by following these steps that high touch will be more consistent with all our clients and prospects.

Danette Gossett is the founder of Gossett Marketing, co-founder of Promotions Rescource LLC and co-author of the best-selling book "Transform" with Brian Tracy. Danette utilizes her more than 30 years of advertising agency and corporate marketing experience to develop effective promotional campaigns and products for her clients. Visit or and follow us on twitter @MarketngTidbits.

In the News
New Expo East Dates Announced. Identity Marketing Staff, Business News
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PPAI Announces New 2017 Expo East Dates

Promotional Products Association International announced June 12-14, 2017 as the new show dates for Expo East, produced by PPAI in partnership with Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY). Expo East will begin with an Education Day on Monday, June 12; and exhibits open on June 13 and continue through June 14.

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“The new timing of a stand-alone Expo East will give attendees and exhibitors the opportunity to optimize planning and selling into the third and fourth quarters of the year,” said Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI president and CEO. “PPAI and SAAGNY are excited to evolve, grow and present the industry’s premier promotional products trade show on the East Coast in its preferred summer time slot.”

A 2014 Trade Show Executive Fastest 50, Expo East is focused on the promotional products industry rooted in the eastern United States. The industry’s premier show is located and designed to meet the needs of industry stakeholders with a preference for the location, timing and convenience of a truly unique East Coast event. Expo East features PPAI’s award-winning show production and its top-rated education and professional development programs.

More information on the Expo East tradeshow experience may be found here.

Disaster Recovery: What's Your Plan?
Brent Buford, Internet Insights
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

You’ve got one, right? OK, all done here. See you next month. Wait — you don’t have one? Alright, we need to talk.

If the latest hurricane, superstorm or natural disaster passed you by, be thankful. But unless you operate your business out of a bunker carved into the side of a mountain, you need to have a plan for when the next fire or flood burns down or washes away your offices and everything in them.

It’s dark stuff, I know. And you have insurance for all that, of course, so you can get back on your feet sooner or later. But the continuity of your business is important, as is the preservation of important business data. Your customers will be patient with you while you rebuild, but they may not be as forgiving when they find out you lost all their files and information and you need to start from scratch. It’s best to be prepared for the worst.

The Basics
I can’t speak to the operational aspects of disaster recovery; that’s something that will be different for every business. But the technology side of disaster recovery and business continuity is pretty straightforward, and can be summed up in a single word: redundancy.

Redundancy actually makes the technology part of disaster recovery pretty easy, because these days it’s cheap. Years ago, it was expensive to maintain redundant versions of all your technology “stuff”; you could have another version of your accounting software server off-site just in case, but it was a considerable expense, especially for a small business.

Today, with the combination of cloud services and the ease of converting documents to electronic files, having redundant versions of your important business documents and services elsewhere is an inexpensive proposition. Furthermore, the technology services that you use to operate your business – accounting, order processing, even telephony – can often be hosted or provided completely outside of your physical office. That means that when disaster strikes, you can restart many important operations as soon as you are ready to do so.

Building a Plan
At its most basic level, redundancy simply means having copies of things. You probably (hopefully!) have a backup drive or server somewhere in your office where you backup all your important data. The data on this drive or server is redundant; it’s a copy of the original. Many computers – especially the web servers that run the internet – have redundancy built in; redundant hard disks in case one fails, redundant power supplies, and so on. Most internet hosting companies even have multiple redundant connections to the internet in case one goes down, and redundant power in the form of generators. This is why it’s generally a pretty big deal when an internet provider goes dark – that means something really big failed that even the redundancy couldn’t handle.

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For your business, you want a basic level of redundancy that will allow you to deal with typical disasters (fire, flood, etc); you’re not preparing for a nuclear apocalypse. In order to do so, you need to think about what’s important to you and how you operate. What can you live without for a while? What will break your back if it’s not working? You probably have a short list in your head; it’s time to get that down on paper.

Disaster recovery (from a technology perspective) can be broken down into two broad categories: Services and Documents. Services include things like accounting software, order management tools, your website, your telephones, and so on. Documents are most everything else: Customer records, accounting documents, employment records, payroll and tax documents, etc.

Your goal with any disaster recovery plan is to identify which of the above requires redundancy. To be even more specific, what you’re really looking for is what requires off-site redundancy. When your accounts receivable computer melts in a fire, the backup drive in the closet is probably going to melt along with it. Backing up within your office is still a great (and necessary) fallback when a hard drive or computer dies, but it does you no good when a real disaster strikes.

Redundant Services
On the services side, what do you need to get back up and running as quickly as possible? Are these things you can move outside of your physical facility entirely? For example, does your accounting software offer a hosted version?

I know many business owners are hesitant to put their accounting info in “the cloud” or in any third-party hosting environment; they want to control that computer, to see it when they walk in the door in the morning. They’ve heard horror stories of data loss or hosting companies shutting down. I get it; this is important data, and it feels better to keep it close.

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In reality, this is like keeping your savings bonds in a nightstand drawer when the bank offers a safe deposit box for a few bucks a month. Assuming you’re not that person in the bunker carved into the side of a mountain (and if so, do your customers ever come to see you?), the bank is better equipped to keep your stuff safe than you are.

Many if not all business technology services can be provided outside your physical facility, and most of them have their own redundancy; in other words, when you subscribe to an online accounting package, the company that provides it will keep redundant copies of your data in multiple locations, and will have redundant servers to deal with any hardware failure. In fact, the underlying infrastructure of most cloud services assumes frequent failure. The giant server farms (like Amazon Web Services) that run cloud services have hardware failing all day long; there is just so much redundancy that you never see any interruption at all.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what to choose, but I’ll give you an example: Our company runs almost nothing “in-house”. Accounting, telephony (automated attendant, call routing, etc,), web hosting, documentation storage, you name it; pretty much everything is handled by third parties outside our “physical” realm. I can count on one hand the number of times any of these services has been unavailable for more than a few minutes. If and when disaster strikes, we have very little operational technology that would be affected at all.

Redundant Documents
Off-site document storage has been a big business for many years, and not just for redundancy purposes; some businesses just don’t have enough room for all the paper they generate. We’ve all seen those Iron Mountain trucks rolling around picking up boxes of receipts and sales orders and moving them to big warehouses. It’s not a cheap service, but since these companies specialize in keeping your documents safe and sound, they’re often a sound choice.

I’m going to make a radical suggestion that I’ve discussed in a previous column: Get rid of all that paper. Paper business documents are a terrible liability. They have social security numbers and credit card numbers on them; they catch fire easily; they can be spirited away by employees or just plain lost.

It’s time to scan all that stuff. You want to keep a paper copy in the closet; fine. But scan it all and keep digital copies offsite. The document management companies can take care of all that for you for a fee, and they’re not a bad choice if you’ve got years and years of documents to digitize.

However, document scanning is a cheap and incredibly accurate technology now. A desktop document scanner combined with a web service like Evernote can quickly convert you to (mostly) paperless, and you’ll have a redundant copy of all your documents that you can access from anywhere when disaster strikes. The cost is negligible, but the feeling of security is priceless.

Brent Buford is a co-founder of eBlox, a Tucson, AZ and Austin, TX-based web development firm. He can be reached at

Towel Specialties' Shawn Kanak
Jeff Solomon, SuccessFit4Life!
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sponsored by Bulova

This SuccessFit4Life! video features Shawn Kanak from Towel Specialties, who clearly understands the importance of being active and the benefits that come with it.
Staying active is good for our personal and professional life. SuccessFit4Life! was created to share, inspire and motivate others in their wellness journey… wherever they want to go. This community is open to everyone regardless of their age and fitness level. Join the “industry only" FreePromoTips SuccessFit Facebook Group and share what you do to stay active. Don’t be shy! Posting is not about you, it’s about encouraging others.
And the Winner is … YOU!
Awards and recognition programs help make you a star. Lisa Schofield, Product Feature
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sponsored by Bay State

Imagine how great it would feel to be an integral part of someone’s experience in winning an award or being recognized for great achievement. Numerous entities engage in some form of recognition, and thus require a personalized/logoed award.

You already have the customers, but are you covering all their needs? The awards category is approximately 5 percent of the promotional products market, equating to $50,000 of every $1 million. Is your business aligned with those numbers, or do you have an opportunity to grow your business — and your margins — organically? About 89 percent of organizations utilize some form of recognition for their achievers. If you’re not selling it, someone else certainly is. And what you don’t need is someone else snooping around your customer!

More food for thought comes from Dana Meyer from Visions/Awardcraft who points out that we’ve all watched the Oscars and other notable award presentations and seen the excitement surrounding the event. Each nominee worked hard and the chance of winning the coveted award is part of the motivation; recognition in front of peers intensifies the pride. “Winning a corporate award and being recognized for your contributions provides the same sense of pride within any organization,” she emphasizes. “The opportunity to win drives people to excel. Recognizing hard work makes for happy employees and motivates everyone to do their best. Giving awards is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to have happy and productive employees.”

However, Meyer cautions that all awards are not the same. Only a true symbolic award provides the type of visible recognition. When money, trips, gift cards or merchandise are given they are appreciated for that moment — and are typically consumed, leaving no lasting impressions.

In agreement is Margit Fawbush of BIC Graphics, which offers the JAFFA line of trophies and medals. She states, “although awards have fewer impressions per month (223 impressions per month) they are kept around for a very long time and generate the most favorable impression from recipients. There is a difference between short-term motivation and recognition. Gift cards, team luncheons, cash and travel motivate for short term goals. Tangible rewards that are kept (and therefore remembered) are tied to psychological well-being. Companies that recognize or otherwise engage employees see increased job performance and reduced turnover – in turn making a company more successful.”

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Depending on your client, a successful recognition program can include: years of service, quarterly or yearly sales achievements, and team project completions. A recognition program is repeatable business, and with the increased importance on employee engagement, Fawbush points out, it’s a market that will continue to grow. Indeed, Miller notes that 80% of his company’s custom awards repeat annually.

When considering presenting the concept of an awards program if one doesn’t exist yet for your client, or perhaps revamping an existing awards program to be more efficient, pointed questions:

• What is the name of the project, such as ‘XX Founder’s Award, President’s Circle?

• Is there a theme related to the honor? (This helps with design)

• What objectives does the recognition program serve within the organization?

• How would you describe the company culture? How are you measuring these achievements?

• What are the demographics of the recipients? (you can then better focus solutions on what would appeal to them.)

• Where is the award to be presented? (Helps determine shipment logistics).

• What else was done in the past to recognize achievers?

• What worked and didn’t work, and why?

• What is the timeline for this project?

• What do you anticipate to be the greatest challenges in completing this project?

• What is the single most important objective for this awards/recognition project?

Fawbush adds:

• How many pieces are needed (quantities, award frequency)

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• Is there to be one award or multiple tiers?

• Where do you anticipate recipients keeping the award?

• Is a functional award appropriate or solely for display?

• Is the award specialized to a particular person’s interests or is it generic?

• What is the budget?

• What additional departments could be appropriate targets for your inquiry?

The following departments are all potential targets:

• Human Resources – Service, attendance, retirement, training, promotions, wellness programs

• Corporate/C-Suite – Significant milestones, new buildings, acquisitions, holiday gifts

• Finance – Budget performance, inventory control, cost/savings initiatives

• Sales – Annual performance, sales incentives, clubs, networking communities,customer gifts

• Marketing/PR – Trade shows, meetings, new product launches, project completions, events, brand advocate programs, contest prizes

• Operations – Cost improvement programs, efficiency/safety/process improvements

Don’t forget the large and potentially lucrative athletic/sports market, Fawbush advises. According to recent research from TNS Worldwide, more than 70 percent of Americans support recognition of outstanding achievements in sports via trophies and other awards and 65 percent approve of recognizing children for participating in organized sports. Participation trophies are gaining in popularity because they serve to remind children that they are part of something important and their contributions are appreciated.

Visions/Awardcraft, says Meyer, has been providing recognition awards for over 40 years. The supplier offers an extensive line of awards in a myriad of materials to best match the corporate image, award theme, or simply personal taste, for any budget. And although Visions/Awardcraft is a major supplier of crystal, it also offers a diverse collection of stainless, art glass, marble, wood, resin, “and we are the only company offering gorgeous natural slate. We also do custom awards in all these materials for when a truly individual award is required,” she explains.

Meyer advises, “as a promotional products distributor, if you are not proactively selling awards you are walking away from money. Nearly every one of your current clients gives some type of award whether to their employees, vendors, charities they support or other occasions. Asking and taking care of their award needs not only provides additional profits for you, you are also making yourself more valuable to your client.”

Word of the Week: Committed
Kirby Hasseman, Word of the Week
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sponsored by American Apparel

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry. He can be reached at

2016 Readers' Choice Awards
This week: Identity Marketing Staff, Identity Research
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Here’s the final round of the 2016 Identity Marketing Readers’ Choice Awards – six top product categories – Awareness, Lanyards/Badges, Decals/Stickers, Buttons/Pins, Writing Instruments, Leather Goods – plus “Favorite Supplier Overall.”

The first installment (Calendars, Journals / Notebooks / Planners, Drinkware, Foods / Beverages, Health / Safety / Wellness, U.S. Made) can be found here.

The second installment (Headwear, T-shirt Brand, Totes / Luggage, Paper / Plastic Bags, Golf, Sports / Cheer can be found here.

The third installment (Awards, Computer / Electronics, Desk Accessories, Magnets, Household Products, Watches / Clocks) can be found here.

As always, thanks to all those who took the time to vote in this year’s polling.

Millennial Observations, Opinionated Content
Selling from a place of fear; Tips on Productivity and more. Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by American Apparel

In this weekly “talk show” column, industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of brandivate discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

It’s Not My Fault!
How to handle supplier mistakes, miscommunications and other mishaps. Rosalie Marcus, Promo Biz Coach
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Remember, mistakes are bound to happen. It’s not the mistakes that will be remembered as much as how you reacted to them and what you did to fix the problems.
sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Recently I received the email below from a distributor coaching client. This is what she said:

“I’ve recently encountered a bunch of order headaches because of factory mix-ups, miscommunications and delivery driver issues. One of the strengths that I am proud of is my attention to detail. This has won me much business over my 20-year career but with all of the recent factory troubles, this doesn’t seem to matter... I seem to always be 'fixing' mistakes or issues caused by other parties. As a distributor, I am only as good as the suppliers that I use and this is happening with some of the 'best.'"

Can you relate?

In the promotional products industry, where annual sales are more than $21 billion and growing, mistakes are bound to happen. What can you do to minimize those mistakes and keep your clients happy?

Here are eight best practices that can help.

1) Give the bulk of your business to a core group of top-rated suppliers. When suppliers know you and your company they are much more likely to “bend over backwards” to correct mistakes. Get to know your core supplier’s staff and their inside and outside sales reps. If your top suppliers have a multi-line rep, get to know him/her as well. When you have an ongoing relationship with a supplier problems tend to get resolved much more quickly.

2) Get a pre-production digital proof or physical proof on all first-time orders. When you have a signed proof, you have back-up to compare to the actual product. With proofs you can avoid mistakes before they happen.

3) Get price quotes and delivery date acknowledgements. This will give you a paper trail should there be a pricing or delivery dispute.

4) Follow up consistently. Follow up at least once a week to make sure your orders are being produced as promised. Keep your clients in the loop as well.

5) Get a post-production product sample sent to your office. If a supplier messes up, misprints or another mishap happens, you will be the first to know and can take care of the problem in a timely fashion.

6) Making delivery arrangements ahead of time. Some trucking companies will not do inside deliveries. Some larger orders require pallets and delivery docks. You can minimize delivery headaches when you check on delivery requirements ahead of time with both your supplier and client.

7) Apologize and tell the client what you can do. Even if you did everything right, and it’s not your fault, a mistake or mishap happened and you still need to apologize. You are the sales representative and the person your client is relying on. Sometimes you many need to offer a discount or re-do the order. When you work with a core group of reputable suppliers, most will work with you to resolve the problem to the satisfaction of all parties.

8) Reach out to your colleagues and suppliers for help. There are many social media promotional products industry forums that you can join where you can post a problem you’re facing and quickly get a response from a colleague or supplier who may be able to help. Here are two forums to start with: On Facebook, Promotional Products Professionals (; on LinkedIn: PPAI Industry Professionals Networking (

Remember, mistakes are bound to happen. It’s not the mistakes that will be remembered as much as how you reacted to them and what you did to fix the problems. Here’s to your sales success!

Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach, is a promotional products business expert, coach and speaker. Combining her skills and years of experience in promotional sales, she helps her clients sell more at higher profit margins and dramatically increase their incomes. Get a free special report: 10 Proven Ways to Thrive in Promotional Products Sales… in Any Economy at Reach her at or (215) 572-6766.

New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff, New Products
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sponsored by J. Charles

The Book Company has signed an exclusive agreement to carry a number of SHINOLA journals. The journals are American made and are offered with hard or soft covers in several sizes.

The Glacial Diamonds Tumbler from BIC Graphic features stylish dual wall stainless steel construction with vacuum sealed technology that keeps drinks cold or hot for hours. It has a push-on acrylic slider lid, 20-oz. capacity and a unique diamond pattern on the bottom half of the tumbler.

This 16” round serving tray from ProRose features a full color decal imprint for maximum visibility. Made in the U.S., it has a non-skid cork surface and is made from high impact food-grade styrene plastic. It is available in black, white or clear.

The Pogo Blender Sport Bottle from Howw is made in the U.S. and features 28 ounces of mixing fun. It features a lid designed to accommodate large and small hands. Your choice of six sport themed agitators reaches top to bottom and side to side ensuring an even mix every time. Choose from 13 stock lid colors, with custom colors available for orders over 5,000 pieces. Lid features a convienient tuck-away carabiner clip. The bottle is top rack dishwasher safe.

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