Extending Credit to Your Customers
Gateway to sales or gateway to losses. Harvey Mackler and Mark Borofsky, Banking on Harvey
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In the B2B world, particularly in light of today's economy, there’s always the question: Do I extend credit to my customer? Do I take the risk to increasing sales and or also take the risk of losses for nonpayment? There are three questions to ask yourself when considering producing and shipping product to your customer and extending open terms.

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1) Why should I extend credit?

2) How do I extend credit?

3) What steps do I take to extend credit?

Why – In today’s business climate, it seems that everyone is more interested in price and shipping and no one is really trying to build business relationships. In that light, it is very difficult to start a business relationship out of the shoot by asking the client to pre-pay and order or have the order ship COD. In essence you are saying, “Thank you for the order but I don’t trust you.” And that is what extending credit is – a matter of trust. They trust you will produce and ship their order on time and you trust them to pay you for that product on time. The advantage of extending credit enables the opportunity for new orders and increased sales.

How – There are many things to consider when making a decision to extend credit to a client. The most important is that you know as much about your client as possible. This is achieved through multiple of resources and avenues. Much of this will be covered in what steps to take.

The resources to consider would be the credit application itself, the credit reports and believe it or not, Google Earth. The application tells you about them (name, state address, and the usual you would see on any application). The credit report is going to tell you how they pay, number of trade creditors, if there any collections, tax liens, judgments, etc. If one knows how to really read a credit report, they can also get an idea of the sales volume of their client.

In how to extend credit you need to have a completed application, run your report and then analyze and review the report and make your credit decision form there. Many companies check references but I have found this to be a waste of time and not very helpful. Your client is not going to supply you with a reference that they may pay slow or have a bad experience debt with.

We have been using Google Earth for several years now and it is standard procedure. We do this to confirm both the business and the address, check out the physical environment of the business as well as get an idea of what the economic climate may be in that general area. An example of its use is that a few years ago, a client asked us to collect on an account. When we ran a Google Earth check and we found the address to be an empty lot.

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Aside from using Google Earth, do you visit you clients at their location? Do you know who their personal banker is and did you seek permission to speak with them? Are there competitors with whom you have a good relationship that could share information on the client?

What – We find it very troubling when we see companies fail to exercise due diligence when they set up a new account and or are selling to customers on open terms. The lazy thing to do is simply require pre-pay on all orders which is not fair to those companies who have good and acceptable credit ratings. The other area where companies get into trouble is to fail to ask for a completed and signed credit application. Note it said signed. If one is completed, yet is not signed, it is worthless as it relates to terms and conditions that may be and should be on your application. Remember, the application is your first line of defense or first step in avoiding future collection or credit issues with your client. Assuming you have a completed and signed credit application, your next step is to run the credit report(s). These reports can be an Experian report, CreditSafe report, D&B (not very reliable for small companies) or if your industry has developed industry specific reports, you can run them there. In today’s world we think it is very critical that you run at least two reports, three if possible.

From these reports you can glean enough information to come to a reasonable and informed decision as to how much credit (if any) you are willing to extend to the client. Once you have reviewed the report, looked at all aspects of the customer’s credit history and determined their credit worthiness, a credit limit is assigned and at that point a letter should be sent thanking them for their interest and the credit limit they have been extended. We would make a final point on the credit limit. It should not always be set in stone and concrete and there should be flexibility to approve orders beyond the limit assigned (unless it is an absolute fixed limit meaning you don’t wish to take any additional risk). The credit limit is there as a barometer if you will and used in such a way to manage your risk while at the same time increasing sales.

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Determining the limit is based on a number of factors, the most important of which is your appetite for a potential loss. Always ask yourself how much you are willing to lose in any one transaction. Never extend more than that amount. (See Enron, Worldcom, and many other large companies with tragic credit and collection consequences.)

Having covered the why, how and what, it is important to know what information should be in the credit application for your benefit as well as that of the customer. The application is vital for many reasons the least of which it covers the terms and conditions you as the seller are laying out in order for the customer to do business with you. The following are elements of the applications that should be in place and why:

The obvious in the application is going to be the address, city, state, zip, contact information, payables person, email addresses and such. The other elements and which are vital deal with the terms and conditions.

Venue - Your application should indicate the venue of choice. This is in place so that in the unlikely event you have to sue your customer or pursue them for a debt they owe, your location for the action would be your state, city and county. The last thing you want is to retain an attorney or take legal action away from your venue. You always want the action in your "backyard" so to speak.

Late Fees - Your application should indicate that late fees will be assessed at 18% or the highest rate allowed by law. This does not mean you will actually force them to pay but it provides for leverage if they are past due. For example, if they owe you $500.00 and have late fees of say $30.00, you can tell them you will waive the late fees if they send a payment that day or that week.

Collection/Litigation - This is very important to include in your application as it is a great tool to use when collecting past due debt. If your customer knows they will have to pay the collection fees (assuming a third party collector is used) or if you sue, they will have to pay all legal fees, they are more likely to work with you to pay your debt than allow it to proceed to such a point.

All of these should be written in your terms and conditions so the credit application which legally is a contract is used as a tool to encourage your customer who may be paying slowly, to pay the balance they owe. If you do not have a credit application in your credit arsenal, you can obtain these on line or contact your nearest National Association of Credit Management (NACM) office.

Offering credit terms is a great way to start a solid business relationship, obtain future orders and not merely a one hit wonder account. There are many advantages to establishing credit terms with your customer but in so doing, one must take all the precaution and care when moving forward with this approach. If you are hap-hazard in your credit review and in taking all the precautions, you will most likely end up losing money. As we say in the title, extending credit can be a gateway to sales or a gateway to losses.

Mark Borofsky CCE, CEW is the president of CORE Strategies, LLC a credit management and outsourcing company. If you have any questions regarding credit issues, he can be reached at 316-721-5549 or mborofsky@cox.net.

How to Sell 6 Orders a Day
Don Sanders, Drive-Ins
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Don Sanders is a 25-year promotional products industry veteran. Since 1982 he has sold more than $25 million worth of imprinted items. He has won two PPAI Pyramid Awards and hosts the industry’s first sales training site, www.sellpromoproducts.com.

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You Really Got Me
Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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Emotions are what make us feel. Without feeling, I don’t believe it’s possible to experience life.
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For as long as I have written this blog, I have always tried to maintain a very high level of transparency. It’s important to me that readers are able to share my life experiences with me whether they be good, bad, disappointing, painful, scary, or uncertain. At times, it’s been frightening to be so open with my life and emotions, but I always understood it was the only way I could truly allow people to know the real me. If you’ve followed this column, then you have been right alongside me during some interesting times:

• Launching a new company

• Struggling to find new clients

• Speaking at prestigious industry events

• Giving my wife CPR after a cardiac arrest and the subsequent days wondering if she would survive

• Selling my company to PromoCorner

All of those events – each one of them – evoke different emotions in me and take me back to very specific moments. For example, I recall the excitement-filled anxiety I felt before speaking at commonsku’s skucon event in January of 2016. Even though I’m generally very comfortable speaking in public and I knew the subject matter, I was going to be doing so in front of people I respect, such as Mark and Catherine Graham, Paul Kiewiet, Danny Rosin, Jason Lucash, and Kirby Hasseman to name a few. I can still feel my heart racing and my palms sweating as I walked onto the stage, and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything in the world. That anxiety made me feel alive.

Emotions are what make us feel. Without feeling, I don’t believe it’s possible to experience life.

I love music. More specifically, I love guitar-driven rock music with Van Halen being my favorite. From the slight anger of “Unchained” to the reflective “Right Now,” their music moves me emotionally. I’ve seen them perform live somewhere around 20 times and I have never left a Van Halen show without feeling that I could conquer the world. That is a powerful emotion.

People who know me – even just a little – will tell you that I am rarely rendered speechless. In just about any situation I am seldom without a comment, remark, joke, or quip. Last Wednesday, I received an anonymous gift that not only stunned me into silence, it brought a burst of different emotions. An unnamed group of “promo friends” sent me an exact replica of Eddie Van Halen’s famous red, white, and black striped “Frankenstein” guitar. Along with the guitar came a note that explained why it was sent to me and read, in part:

“Over the past several years you have given much of your time, talent, and energy into helping others and we don’t want you to think it goes unnoticed. You have raised the bar in the industry and never asked for anything in return. To thank you for what you have done and what you continue to do, a group of people came together to express gratitude. Keep pushing us.”

Candidly, I struggle to feel worthy of the gift or such recognition as I don’t know if I’ve truly done anything to deserve it. I’m honored to accept the gift and will cherish it – and the feelings associated with it – for a lifetime. I mentioned above that the note and guitar evoked a flurry of emotions and I’m not ashamed to share that I cried last Wednesday. Those tears were a mix of joy, gratitude, and humility – the very same emotions I instantly feel when I look at the guitar today. Perhaps the most puzzling part about the gift is that the people responsible have chosen to remain anonymous. After numerous calls, texts, and emails, no one has taken credit for this breathtaking act of kind terrorism – and maybe that’s what truly makes this entire event that much more profoundly meaningful to me.

So, other than to attempt to express my own gratitude to the “guilty” parties, what’s the point of all of this?

I could tie in some sales, branding, or marketing lesson, but it would feel trite to do that. To me, the point is that in a world where it seems the news is always negative, so many positive and beautiful things happen and it would be a crime not to share them. This guitar and accompanying note represents the beauty that dwells within each of us. The surprise and delight in receiving such a thoughtful gift from an anonymous group of friends is a feeling I get every time I look at the guitar.

Perhaps the lesson is that expressing and receiving thanks is one of the greatest human pursuits. To the readers of this article, I hope this inspires you to reach out and convey your gratitude to someone you feel deserves it. To the silent senders, I hope they smile when they read this and it evokes the emotion of joy within them, secure in the knowledge that they really got me.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at bill@PromoCorner.com.

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Bill Petrie

They Want to Eat Your Lunch
The competition is dropping into YOUR client’s inbox. Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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Below is the text of several emails (in italics) that I recently received, which I copied and pasted exactly as I received them.

Re:10 years professional usb flash drive&power bank&phone case manufacturer in Shenzhen

Why you can believe in our factory for good products ? we have following qualifications:

-Achieved CE,RoHs,UL certificated;

-Absolutely passed H2 test for each USB flash drive;

-Working with us ,you can lower your cost and get higher - quality products;

-We have many successful customers in almost each countries;

Hi Jacob, how are you?

If there is any products or item project you are working on, we can quote your item back to you in couple hours, we are specialized in helping customer to do their customized item/merchandise / Corporate Gifts…etc we can fulfill what you need here. or weather any item you are looking for, we can get it to you in a short time.

Crazing Hot Fidget Spinner !!!

Hi, Good Day to you !

Thanks for your time and glad to know that you are esteemed promotional gift company.Today approaching you to find the way cooperate directly.

As the Fidget Spinner are the hottest sell model currently on every market , how about selling this Fashion Fidget Spinner ? We would like to support our quality beautiful fashion fidget spinner and offer the fast shipping.

We 'd like to see your blooming and flavourish business. Pls check below Fidget Spinner ,some may interesting you.

Looking forward to the win-win business together with you.

It’s been five years since I was an end-user client at a Global 500 company, yet these unsolicited offers still arrive in my inbox on a daily basis. Overlooking the spelling and grammar, do you ever wonder whether YOUR clients respond to these opportunities directly from Asia? These are just three examples, but most of them offer the same message—better, cheaper, faster—and with the same level of customer service you’re getting now. The offers I see from the powerbank manufacturers even offer some representation of product safety certification, if you’re into that sort of thing. What they don’t offer is YOU, and your relationship.

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It isn’t just manufacturers on the other side of the globe finding your clients with their search engines and poorly written email marketing outreach. Targeted ads from Staples Promotional Products serve up offers on Facebook, and the right key words in a Google search bring them Gildan Inkjet-printed T-shirts from Vistaprint with their business card order. Your potential competitors are literally everywhere.

“We are hearing more frequently from our clients about various industry disrupters offering products at substantial discounts,” said Jon Levine, president of The Image Group. “We have lost few sales due to our ability to reinforce our role as a service provider, protecting their brands with a sharp focus on safety and social compliance, while upholding their brand guidelines. We need to bring much more value to our clients than that of just a product sales organization, and positioning ourselves as a service organization elevates the relationship.”

Chuck Fandos, U.S. CEO and GM at Brand Addition, thinks it’s the new promotional products market reality. “The lines between a business customer and a retail customer are blurred. Make that quickly becoming non-existent. With technology (internet, email, social media), a buyer is a buyer. The channels are collapsing, and although we in the industry see the distinction, the person buying often doesn't see it, or if they do... care.”

“If our customers get direct solicitations from factories, Amazon, or our competitors, they act as a shopper would.” Fandos continued. “They check out price, availability, value, and other factors to make their decision. It’s the world we live in, we can’t stop it or fight it. So you better build a value proposition, clearly communicate it, and have great relationships. I don’t think this is going away. We can try to push what we want to push, or think like the customer, and give them what they want.”

In an industry long built on price-and-item, there is no question you can’t continue to race for the bottom price and still sustain your business. Have you focused more on improving your client relationships lately by knowing what they really want? Especially when you’re not sure exactly which competitor is trying to eat your lunch TODAY?

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 jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.

Lessons for New Sales Reps; Industries to Focus On.
Favorite Comedy Movies; Private Equity Money: Good or Bad for Industry? Native American Names For Sport Teams and more. Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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Industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing services provider to the promotional products industry, discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics in this weekly “talk show” column brought to you by commonsku. 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 Business Card Phone Stand from Webb Company features a slim design that fits in any wallet. Great for a unique business card, it folds in half to create an instant phone stand.

Maple Ridge Farms is now offering both Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream. A high-quality aluminum ice cream scoop is pad printed with your logo in one of eight standard colors and packed in an attractive gift box along with a redemption card. The card contains an explanation of how recipients can receive four pints of ice cream delivered directly to their door, directions to the website, and a unique coupon code.

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This new performance cap from KC Caps is fashioned from blended jersey. It features unconstructed six-panel construction, a pre-curved bill, deluxe four-needle sweatband and self fabric with silver buckle closure. It is available in charcoal or light gray.

U.S.-made academic weekly planners from Drum-Line feature a 30 pt. poly planner cover foil stamped in one standard color with two round corners on covers and inside sheets. They have a black heavyweight pen safe back cover with elastic pen loop and free dynamic pen in loop. Inside sheets blank 100 lb white tag, August-August (13 months) one week per two-page spread. Includes month at a glance pages at the beginning of each month plus two years at a glance for advanced planning and personal information and contact sheet. Plastic coil bound on left side in black or white.

The new Turri™ pen from Hub Pen is a shapely promotional pen with attractive details and a budget price. It has an hourglass carrell in translucent bright colors with striking chrome accents, and a unique sculpted clip and grip.

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New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff
New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff
New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff

Channel Your Inner Infomercial to Create Compelling Content
Aubrey Collins, Creative Challenges
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sponsored by PPAI

The other day, I was in a restaurant waiting to pick up some takeout. An infomercial was playing on the TV in the corner. Initially I tuned it out, but the longer my food took, and the longer I sat there, the pull of infomercial promise lured me closer and closer. The before and after photos were impressive. My skin has been looking a little dull lately. Umm, yes, I would love a free skin polishing brush and glowing serum. Thankfully before I called to place my (worry-free) order, my food was ready.

More infomercials than I’d care to admit have hooked me into nearly ordering — and some have actually succeeded. Why is it that these advertisements, that are often steeped in schlock and cheesiness and predictability are able to entice and persuade so many? And how can you employ the same tactics to your advantage when it comes to your brand, products, and services?

First we have to look at the typical formula an infomercial uses to hook its audience.

1. You have a problem.

2. Here is a solution to your problem.

3. Here the problem with most solutions.

4. Here is how our product is different and can actually solve your problem.

This method works for a few key reasons. First, it uses the classic copywriting formula of Problem-Agitate-Solve. Second, it brings your audience along a path of taking small, bite-sized steps to you providing the ultimate solution.

But wait, there’s more!

The typical infomercial formula is only half of what makes an infomercial so captivating. Here are some other infomercial mainstays designed to get you to place that 2 a.m. purchase.

Repetition – One of the hallmarks of infomercials is repetition. Typical infomercials are not afraid to hit you over the head (and over and over) with the sales pitch. The advantage of infomercials is that this is expected.

That said, in your sales materials and in the content you are putting out, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Your audience isn’t hanging on your every word. Generally speaking, they are skimming it. The best way to pull this off without being off putting is to re-frame what you have to say each time you say it. Come up with new angles and metaphors each time you repeat your theme.

Testimonials – Strong testimonials are powerful. Buyers want to know other people have trusted your product or service and have benefitted from using it.

Testimonials are the perfect way to “show instead of tell.” They let the audience imagine what it would be like to experience the same wonderful benefits without you needing to bore them by listing all of the benefits.

A word of caution: testimonials have to be real and authentic and believable, because if they aren’t, you are destroying your credibility.

Strong Call to Action

This is where you want to channel your inner-Billy Mays and tell your audience exactly what to do. This can feel uncomfortable or forward to implement, but having a clear and solid call to action — and repeating it — is essential.

If rest of your message resonates with your audience, the right call to action can drive your audience past indecision, get them off the fence, and get them to sign up for your services or request more information — even if it isn’t the middle of the night.

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 atacollins@mediatreegroup.com.

Where Do You Want to Take Your Business... and Your Life?
Jeff Solomon, Deep Thoughts
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In this Deep Thoughts commentary, Jeff talks about accomplishing goals and acknowledging achieving goals. Read the full story on FreePromoTips.com: http://bit.ly/2qXrLuW.

Jeff Solomon, MAS, is the voice behind FreePromoTips.com is a PPAI award winning business resource. With over 20 years of industry experience, he has a passion for networking and helping others. Based on his own personal journey, Jeff created SuccessFit4Life! an innovative program that drives product sales through SuccessFit4Life! WELLNESS PROGRAMS and EVENTS. Contact Jeff to learn how you will benefit from the innovative, sales generating SuccessFit4Life! program. His YourPromotionSolution.com video website enables distributors to share short product videos with one click. Jeff is also the president of All American Marketing Group that is affiliated with a large national distributor.

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6 Solutions for Clients Who Price Shop
Rosalie Marcus, Promo Biz Coach
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sponsored by Webb Company

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! Reach her at Rosalie@promobizcoach.com. Get a FREE Promo Biz Success Kit at www.PromoBizCoach.com

Can a Negative Leader Become a Positive Leader?
7 leadership tips that make people feel great and achieve incredible results. Jon Gordon, From the Business World
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The good news is that pessimism is just a state of mind. It’s not permanent. You can change it, and you definitely should.
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Any business leader will tell you that running a world-class organization is no easy feat. It’s challenging to work toward a vision and create a positive future for you and your team, especially since you are guaranteed to face all kinds of challenges, adversity, negativity, and tests along the way. But in the face of these obstacles, your attitude makes all the difference in the culture and success of your organization. Best-selling author Jon Gordon advises you to choose very carefully.

Pessimists don’t change the world. Throughout history, we see that it’s the optimists, the believers, the dreamers, the doers, and the positive leaders who change the world. The good news is, even if you’re the biggest pessimist you know, you can learn to change your outlook and that will change your life and make you a much stronger leader.

Research clearly supports the connection between a positive attitude and success in terms of individuals and organizations. For example, Daniel Goleman’s research demonstrates that positive teams perform at higher levels than negative teams.

Also, according to Wayne Baker, research he and Robert Cross conducted shows that “the more you energize people in your workplace, the higher your work performance.”

Baker says that this occurs because people want to be around you. You attract talent, and people are more likely to devote their discretionary time to your projects. They’ll offer new ideas, information, and opportunities to you before others. The opposite is also true. If you de-energize others, people won’t go out of their way to work with or help you.

Finally, a Gallup study estimates that negativity costs the economy $250-300 billion a year and affects the morale, performance, and productivity of teams.

Optimism in your company starts with you. If you don’t have it, you can’t share it. I am not a naturally positive person, but I am proof that you can learn to be positive. I think of myself as a pessimistic optimist. I will always gravitate, naturally, toward the negative. The good news is that pessimism is just a state of mind. It’s not permanent. You can change it, and you definitely should. I’ve worked really hard over the years, and it’s changed my marriage, my relationship with my children, my life, and my career for the better.”

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Here are seven tips to make the life- and business-changing transformation from a negative leader to a positive leader.

Stop complaining and blaming. If you’re complaining, you’re not leading. Leaders don’t complain. They focus on solutions. They identify problems and look to solve them in order to create a better future for all. Positive leaders don’t attack people. They attack problems.

Don’t focus on where you are; focus on where you’re going. Lead your team with optimism and vision. Regardless of the circumstances, keep pointing others toward a positive future.

When Clemson football lost the national championship in 2015, head coach Dabo Swinney believed they would return the following year and kept pointing his team toward a positive future. He didn’t see the loss as a challenge. He saw an opportunity to come back and win it the following year— and that’s what they did."

Lead with love instead of fear. Fear is draining; love is sustaining. Fear divides; love unites. The key to leading without fear is to provide both love and accountability.

Negative leaders provide a lot of fear and accountability, but no love. If your team knows you love them, they will allow you to challenge them. But love must come first. Former CEO Alan Mulally turned around Ford with both love and accountability. He said you have to ’love ’em up,’ and you have to hold them accountable to the process, principles, and plan. He was able to save Ford and help the economy with a lot of love and a lot of accountability.

Be demanding without being demeaning. Many people think positive leaders are Pollyanna positive who just smile all the time and don’t care about results. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Positive leaders pursue excellence. They believe in a brighter future so they take the necessary actions with excellence to create it.

Positive leaders are demanding but aren’t demeaning. They lift others up in order to accomplish their goals, rather than tear them down. They don’t talk at you – they walk and run with you.

Connect one-on-one. The greatest leaders connect with those they lead. Dave Roberts, manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a great example. One day I witnessed a player walk in and say hello. Dave got up and gave the player a big bear hug for about five seconds – the kind of hug that a dad would give to his son. I told Dave how great it was that he would give his player a hug like that. He said, “I do it each day and he often stops by to talk about life and challenges and whatever is on his mind.”

A few weeks later, while watching the Dodgers play the Nationals in the postseason, I watched in amazement as this player hit home runs in Games 4 and 5 to help the Dodgers advance. It was as if I had a front-row seat to see the impact of what happens when a coach makes the time to pour love and support into one of his players.

Create positive change inside-out. Don’t let your circumstances and outside events define you. You define your circumstances with your vision, beliefs, and action. Many leaders believe they are victims of circumstance. They have an external locus of control. But positive leaders believe they can influence events and outcomes by the way they think and act.

Coach Donna Orender is a great example. When she served as commissioner of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), she saw a lot of negativity amongst those in the corporate offices. There was a feeling that no one cared about women’s basketball and a lack of belief that the organization could be successful. But Orender saw the passion and optimism in the coaches and players, and she believed in them and in the future of the WNBA. She began building an optimistic belief system and inspired her colleagues to believe in the WNBA’s future as well. By focusing on one success at a time, she helped create a new reality for herself and changed the organization from the inside-out.

I saw the same optimistic attitude and leadership in Silicon Valley during the Great Recession. While the rest of the country was going through the downturn, the people who lead and work for the companies in Silicon Valley refused to participate in the recession. They were too busy trying to change the world. They were surrounded by a bubble of optimism.

Encourage instead of discourage. Positive leaders are also positive communicators in such a way that they make people around them better and feel encouraged instead of hopeless or discouraged. They also spread positive gossip, listen to and welcome new ideas, and give genuine smiles when they speak. Finally, they are great encouragers who uplift the people around them and instill the belief that success is possible.

One of my favorite phrases comes from the original Olympic ‘Dream Team’ and Detroit Pistons coaches Chuck Daly and Brendan Suhr: “Shout praise, whisper criticism.” Shout praise means recognizing someone in front of their peers, and whisper criticism means coaching them to get better. Both build better people and teams.

There is a power associated with positive leadership. Even if you naturally lean toward a negative outlook, making a few changes can inspire momentous change in your own career success as well as in the success of your team. When you lead with optimism and share positive energy with others, you will transform the negativity that too often sabotages teams and organizations. Your new positive attitude will at last allow you to take on the battle, overcome the negativity, face the adversity, and keep moving forward. The best really is yet to come."

Jon Gordon’s newest book is The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World (www.jongordon.com). His best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA, and MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals, and non-profits.

Gym/Fitness Products: A Fit, Focused Nation Drives Market
Sherry L. Baranek, Product Feature
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sponsored by PPAI

Fitness and gym products and accessories continue to flourish in the promotional products market. Items such as retail-inspired polos, pullovers, jackets, hoodies, towels, gym bags, and flip flops are extremely popular in this product category. The audience of these items includes gyms, personal trainers, corporate wellness programs, non-profits, education, physical therapists, and sports doctors.

Grethe Adams at Southern Plus points out that this market segment peaks in the spring as the warmer weather allows for outdoor activities and the approach of summer and beach season means getting in shape becomes a priority for many. She says that a growing trend is a more holistic approach to fitness. “We need to broaden our horizons when it comes to the target audience as well as relevant products for this market segment,” she states.

“Fitness should include a general healthy lifestyle and encompasses eating healthy, physical activity, reducing stress, etc.,” she adds. “It’s no longer only about sweating it out at the gym a few times a week. With an active and healthy lifestyle, the spectrum of promotional products fitting this category is much more than workout gear and the latest fitness gadgets. Think about a lunch cooler for bringing a healthy lunch to work; a reusable tote bag to hold fresh produce from the farmer’s market; or a sling pack for your bicycle ride to the park.”

As far as apparel goes, Aja Norman of Vantage Apparel notes that current trends in athleisure are comfort, style, and performance. “The wearer has to be able to move easily and comfortably in the garment,” she comments. “They want the style to be fashion forward and have additional performance benefits such as UV protection or moisture wicking. These styles are in high demand because the trends in active-inspired styles are no longer grouped into designated ‘work-out’ wear. These pieces are transitional and can be spotted from the gym to brunch. We are continuing to add more styles and colors in this grouping to support the demand.”

sponsored by ProRose

Towels are also an important trend in the gym/fitness promotional products market segment. According to Kirk Ross of Towel Specialties, both standard and oversized fitness and beach towels are trending. “Fitness walks, extreme obstacle races, charity runs, gym memberships, school recruitment, gifting to club members, event sponsor recognition and volunteer gifts are popular uses.” Ross says that red, royal, navy, gray, black, and white are popular mainstay colors; and fashion beach colors like orange, lime, and turquoise also do well. “We believe having a functional item like a beach and fitness towel that will carry your brand for 10, 15, 20 years or forever in a recipient’s hands is the best choice for maximum ROI and public exposure. With large format and bold brand imaging that transcends age, gender, and sizing they are the perfect choice to take corporate America into society.”

Towels treated with antimicrobials are a hot ticket item at Pro Towels. According to Brian Porter, the need for better hygiene due to the increase in MRSA and staph infections in schools, sports, and fitness centers has led to tremendous success with products that are treated with antimicrobials, which eliminate that concern. “The other trend we’ve seen is the rise in class and ‘box’ type of programs, away from the treadmill and to more group and interactive fitness,” he says. “We’ve seen a nice increase in our yoga towels along with our longer 42-inch towels that drape over the neck, making it easier to use as you’re moving from station to station.” He adds that demand has been exceptional. “With the launch of so many 24-hour, low-cost gyms — and the obvious change in health care — companies along with individuals are seeing the return in their checks each week, along with the health benefits,” he says. “Many companies have increased their spend on ‘healthy lifestyle’ type products, our towels being one of them.”

sponsored by Webb Company

Many new and best-selling products address these trends. The towels treated with antimicrobials are top sellers at Pro Towels. At Towel Specialties, the FITOWL from the company’s Xpress Line and the CH45 from the Towel Specialties Line Up are two popular sellers, in addition to the Cold Front Cooling Towel (CLDFRT), Ross reports.

Vantage Apparel has unveiled new styles such as the GNFK701 Greg Norman Attack Life Unisex Heather Pullover Hoodie and the GNF6J200 Greg Norman Attack Life Full-Zip Jacket — which Norman says are specifically designed for active life-wear since the fabric has stretch and moisture wicking, WNS7J479 Greg Norman Embossed Dot Jacket, 7150/7151 Cloud Jacket, 3425 Pro Camo Black 1/4-zip Pullover and the 3426 Women’s Vansport Pro Camo Block Full-Zip Hoodie. These new garments join current best sellers Vansport™ Two-Tone Polo, 3470/3471 Vansport™ Performance Pullover, and 3271/3275 Brushed Back Micro-Fleece Full-Zip Jacket.

A flip flop collection is new at Southern Plus. Adams says that the 8058 Slip-n-Slide is a great option to slip on after a quick shower at the gym or after yoga class.

Promotional products suppliers have a plethora of advice for distributors when it comes to selling gym and fitness products to their customers. “If you don’t show them, you won’t sell them,” Ross of Towel Specialties states. He recommends ribbon tying them in addition to coupling or combining the products with another item for maximum impact. “Add a romance card that helps add to the presentation and for effect,” he says.

The customer’s message is also vital, Vantage Apparel’s Norman explains. “In order to properly sell these styles, find out what the customer’s message is,” he says. “For instance, if the customer is looking for a brand name piece that is already well established and touts style and quality, then our 2017 Greg Norman styles would fit their needs.”

Adams of Southern Plus recommends that distributors focus on the overall healthy/active lifestyle—not simply on just the gym or working out. “The scope of fitness is much more than that and includes what happens in the kitchen (what we cook and eat), our lunch habits, and weekend activities (think outdoors activities like hiking, picnics, etc.),” she elaborates.

Finally, Porter of Pro Towels notes that while gyms tend to buy their towels in bulk for the large-scale centers, they do have gift shops as well as ongoing programs for kids and adults. “There is always another giveaway opportunity,” he comments. “For the small-scale gyms, online programs have done exceptional as they order as needed, without inventory. From a fitness standard, in the corporate world, as I mentioned, it’s top of mind. Lower premiums for healthy adults and employees makes the bottom line better for the company. It’s truly a win-win!”

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Safety First!
Lisa Schofield

The Danger of Conformity
Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. – John F. Kennedy
sponsored by Bay State

Most entrepreneurs start their respective businesses to follow their passions, to do something better than what the marketplace offers, or to simply break free from the corporate mold. Yet when it comes to standing out in a crowd of countless competitors, they routinely fall short and end up treading water in a sea of sameness.

This happens because it’s easier to blend into the crowd than to take the risks necessary to differentiate. It takes a lot less effort to do what everyone else is doing, and, more than anything, it’s safe. In an industry brimming with competition and access to the same suppliers and products, swaying along to the safety dance will not yield the results you desire.

To break away from the conformity of your competition, you should get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must do things that your competition is either unwilling or unable to do:

• Use social media to communicate with your clients

• Write an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation

• Send a handwritten note to express your sincere gratitude

• Generate meaningful content and share it with your clients

• Say “no” to a sale when that sale is not in the best interests of your client (merchandise is not consistent with their brand message, etc.)

• Say “no” to a sale when it’s not in the best interests of your company (low margins, etc.)

Start looking inward and be daring enough to connect your unique point of view to your target audience. It may be an old saying, but people really do buy from people – and brands – they know, like, and trust. Allow people to see the real you and grant them access to what only you can offer.

It’s much easier to be you – with your voice, vision, and passion – than someone else. Stop trying to be like the distributor you wish you could be and start being the distributor that others aspire to be. When you find your voice, and can share it with your target audience, you will never be confined to conformity.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at bill@PromoCorner.com.

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The Uber of…
Bill Petrie

Summertime Blues Remedies; Fidget Spinner Fad.
Baby Showers for Men; Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing services provider to the promotional products industry, discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics in this weekly “talk show” column brought to you by commonsku. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

Save it For a Rainy Day
Mike Schenker, MAS, Uncommon Threads
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sponsored by PPAI

As you have no doubt read by now, I’m in the process of moving, opening a new office, selling furniture, starting a new adventure, and all around questioning many decisions in my life – and looking forward to all the exciting times that await. In the process, the Trophy Wife and I have been cleaning and purging our home of 30 years’ worth of, well… stuff.

I’ve written before about what makes certain things “collectible.” I have a house full of what we found to have had value, at least to us at the time. In the equation of C = S+V (Collectable = Stuff + Value), it really depends on the intended audience (or “sucker,” if you’re trying to unload this stuff). “Value” all depends on whether or not someone else has a need, use, or similar nostalgic memory as you do. The furniture we’re unloading has pretty much been with us since Day One. That is, our Day One together. Not in a biblical sense.

My point is that, unless you’re our son (you’re not, are you?) or one of our deceased dogs (PLEASE tell me you’re not), none of these possessions will have any special meaning to you. It’s just stuff that would otherwise be tossed, donated or sold off at a garage sale.

Back when Don Imus (http://www.imus.com/) was relevant, a distributor friend of mine gave me an overrun from her order of Imus bobbleheads. Having spent about an hour or so in the bobblehead business, I know that this piece was rather special, as it’s oversized and ceramic (as opposed to today’s norm of resin). Is there a market for this? Only if someone wants it. According to a listing on eBay, someone else is selling a similar piece (or attempting to, at any rate) for $150. That’s great, if someone is willing to spend that kind of money.

I grew up listening to Imus, from junior high school through college (he actually visited our college radio station’s studio, autographing a wall. Who knows how wasted he was at the time?); he was an idol of mine in the radio business. Getting that bobblehead many years later meant a lot to me. Today…it’s a dust collector. Maybe I’ll try to sell it to that other person who is selling one… turn it into a matched set. Bookends! That’s brilliant. But highly unlikely.

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I’ll admit that I’m having a hard time getting rid of it, not in the sense that no one wants it, but because of its value to me. I am of the belief that my wife wouldn’t mind if this fragile memento somehow didn’t survive the trip. While I won’t go so far as to accuse of her dropping the box in which it’s packed, if I see her do so repeatedly, well… let’s just say I’ll have my suspicions.

I find it ironic that the items with which I’m having the most issues are bobbleheads, considering that my collection (does “six” equal a collection?) was amassed prior to my short run as co-founder and vice president of a bobblehead company that I attempted to bring into the promotional products industry. I have one of Tiger Woods, which makes no sense, as I am neither of a fan of his nor of golf as a (w)hole. Someone make me an offer – quickly!

It’s no secret that I am a Mets fan. Off the top of my head, the extent of my Mets promotional items would be a cap, a Pez dispenser, a coffee mug with a sublimated logo which has nearly disappeared, a nearly-as-faded sweatshirt from the 1986 World Series, and a beer stein from the 1969 World Series (those of you who know me know what a big beer drinker I am, so this is a cherished collectible. You can only imagine how many beers I had back in 1969, celebrating that victory). For such an out and proud Mets fan, I don’t seem to have a lot of their merchandise.

I saved another Mets collectible for a paragraph of its own. Even though I was national sales manager of a promotional umbrella company, I spent good money to purchase, at retail, a Mets cap umbrella. You can refer to this photo, but mine is better. Mine has the “NY” logo on the cap, making it look like an actual Mets cap. I love this umbrella. It is just so unique and special. Why it has not come out of the closet in over 20 years is anyone’s guess. Will it make the move? Yeah, probably. Will it get used? Seems questionable.

As we are moving to the land of the daily afternoon thunderstorm, the rest of my umbrellas will most likely make the trip. Aside from that Mets piece, I do have an inordinate number of promotional umbrellas in my closet… none of which was paid for. I worked for Peerless Umbrella a long time ago; their products have held up quite well. I emphasize that I have not been on their payroll in well over 20 years… that’s not a paid mention for them as much as an appreciation for quality.

To my writing instrument friends: I must confess that I have thrown away (and in some cases, dontated) many of the pens you’ve given me over the years. Many are fine quality pens. Many are (how can I word this politely?) of the promotional quality. I need maybe six pens on a regular basis (a very random figure). Why I have hundreds is anyone’s guess.

I do have a carton of new pens, courtesy of my friends at Riteline, which are making the move. They have my association logo, my name and contact info. What a great promotional item! More companies should use something like this!

As we’ve purged, we’ve found other pens that were given to us when our son was born. There’s his name, imprinted along with his birth date and other vital info. These have zero value to the outside world. To his mother and me, they mean everything.

A collectible is in the eye of the beholder. Unless it’s a pen. Pens should never be in someone’s eye.

Mike Schenker, MAS, is the executive director of the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association (GCPPA), as well as “all that” at Mike Schenker, Consulting. He is a promotional industry veteran and member of the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) Hall of Fame. He can be reached at mike@mikeschenker.com.

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Why Won’t They Call Me Back?
Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
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sponsored by Webb Company

I hear you! Youre prospecting and you have been asked to provide a quote. You were told to call back in a few days, which you do. You’re told, We are waiting." So you follow up – once, then again and again but all you get is “crickets! I know it’s frustrating because like you I’ve lived it myself and, to some degree, still do.

As a consultant I hear this lament over and over: “Some clients and prospects just don’t return my calls.” And that’s when the voice in your head takes over and controls and consumes your day. And you begin to wonder:
• Did I do or say something wrong?
• Am I being used as a bidding pawn?
• Did they take my information and source it elsewhere?
• Are they just blowing me off?

The answer to all of these questions could be “yes.” However, there could be another explanation, let’s look at the situation from a different view. These points also need to be considered when these situations arise:

• Your project is not the only one on their plate.
• Perhaps their priorities have changed.
• Their supervisor may have decided to go in a different direction.
• The program or project may have been placed on hold.
• Then there is vacation, or out due to illness, or dealing with personal issues.
• Or perhaps your contact was transferred, promoted, took a new position with a new company or had their employment terminated.

The reality is it could be many different things, so don’t always look at situations with a negative view. The key is to work your marketing, create your quotes, send out your spec samples, and follow up systematically. At the time we get so excited and focused on a single opportunity that it begins to consume every activity of our business day. Indeed, the mind can do some ugly things to to productivity. The bottom line is that we need to focus on creating multiple opportunities then following through on each of these opportunities UNTIL they come to fruition!

As you go about your marketing, prospecting, quoting, and engaging with clients, consider the following points to ensure better engagement to attract and get clients and prospects to want to engage with you.

sponsored by Bay State

• Make you messaging about them not about you. Most clients and prospects could care less (initially) about how amazing you are. That comes later. Let them know it’s ALL about them!
• Make it relevant. General information is easily discarded; the more relevant the more difficult it is for them to ignore your message,
• Have a strong call to action. Vague messaging will not resonate with an audience. Make your message purposeful.
• Timing is everything. There is a fine line between having great customer service and the appearance of being desperate. Pace yourself.
• Set expectation levels for both your clients and prospects AND yourself. This I believe is the biggest challenge for most salespeople. Take the time to set common goals.
• Create a professional sense of urgency. Every quote should clearly state how long the quote is valid. Open-ended quotes give the client a large window to getting back to you. Setting a timeline will help in your follow-up process.
• Follow up when you say you will. This helps in creating a sound time management schedule. When you tell them you will call or stop by, do it when you said you will – NO EXCUSES!
• Lastly, learn to value and appreciate your time.

Make them want to call you back and engage with you. Until you hear “No,” it’s still a maybe. Keep your pipeline full of opportunities. Manage your follow-up. Never allow one major opportunity to consume you and as difficult as it may be, never become discouraged. In the end, follow these tips and when you do make contact (and you will), get excited, over deliver your presentation a DO reap the rewards – they WILL be amazing.

Until next month, continued good selling!

For more than 30 years, Cliff has been speaking, training and consulting internationally to associations and national business groups on more effective ways to market themselves, their products and services, as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid award 25 times, and the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity five times in three years. He has also received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he also was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100," as having a significant influence in education. He has also been recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. You can engage with Cliff at http://www.myengagepage2.com/cliffquicksell.



Women's Wear: It's T-Time!
Lisa Schofield, Product Feature
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... when an employee, consumer, or brand enthusiast rocks your unique design, it will spread the word to others, getting your brand noticed in the most organic way possible.
sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Women love wearing T-shirts, especially today’s active ladies of all ages. This is a different ballgame than it was not too many years ago when the boxy unisex T was pretty much the only game in town for promotional purposes, and women were rather loathe to wear them for any other occasion beyond doing housework or lounging around in solitude.

But now… they are sported with confidence, aplomb, insouciance and allure just about everywhere. And while women do not like the boxy T of recent yore, the femininity of a flare provides comfort and the ability to layer (yes, with another logoed shirt or tank). And to paraphrase one of the most successful taglines in advertising history, T-shirts for women have come a long way, baby.

Getting back to those one-type-fits-all-but-nobody-was-really-happy-in-them T-shirts, today’s promo T market for the ladies is seasonal. Let’s take some offerings from MV Sport, for example. For the springtime, its V-neck Hailey Henley 3/4-sleeve can be a go-to top for spring and summer. It is made of 3.7-oz. 55 percent cotton/45 percent polyester heathered jersey, and features distress printed white bicep stripes, and white flatlock top-stitching; available in S to XXL in six colors. For the upcoming autumn, MV Sport’s Eden long sleeve Hood T will be great for college bookstores, as an example. Also made of 3.7-oz. 55 percent cotton/45 percent polyester heathered jersey, it features raw edge collar, cuffs and bottom hem; unlined hood with matching drawstring, tonal stripes printed around cuffs and lower body, and matching twill neck taping.

Tank tops continue to “reign supreme” especially in summer, and as layering in the gym, says Marcus Davis, manager of product development, Hanes and Champion, Winston-Salem, NC. “The sassy sister of tank tops is the swing tank, which provides both lyrical movement and a little flair,” he describes. The Champion Originals Women’s Triblend Jersey Swing Tank has a racerback and a natural color twill tie on the racerback for added dimension and interest.

There are several key trends to look for when presenting selections to your customers. Davis observes, “Relaxed styles continue to dominate the landscape, where women look for comfortable apparel to wear throughout their day. Softness is definitely the key feature. Elevated fabrications, such as triblends and French terry, provide new dimensions for comfort with super-soft, draping fabrics that flatter.”

He adds that retro styling provides flair to traditional T-shirts, as with the Champion Originals Women’s Triblend Varsity T, for example. “The distressed, printed stripes on the sleeves provide visual interest and a nod to fun.”

Trends in fabrics are leaning heavily toward French Terry, which Davis says is popular again, and is now used more as great lightweight transitional pieces ideal for year-round layering. An example is the Champion Women’s French Terry Zip Hood. It also comes with a coordinating jogger.

Women’s promotional Ts are mirror retail, and anyone would be hard-pressed to find a difference. In the promo world, women’s T-shirt trends fluently merge fashion and function. One example is the Hanes® Women’s X-Temp® TriBlend, a very soft 60/30/10 poly/cotton/rayon blend, and sporting several performance features – wicking and cooling as well as advanced odor control.

Kavio also continues to launch retail-inspired, fashion-forward T styles for women. New styles include the Striped Jersey Contrast Raglan 3/4 Sleeve and Striped Jersey Multi Contrast Long Sleeve both in soft, poly-cotton sheer jersey. Available in sizes S to 2 XL and juniors, and in 11 colors, they are attractive for clients who want a more retail look, with splashy graphics and mottos. Think fitness clubs, spas, trendy restaurants and vacation spots/tourism companies.

One significant change in the decorated apparel industry is the emergence of styles specific to plus-size women, a wholesale market Davis asserts has been underserved. Just My Size by Hanes, popular in the retail market, just introduced a new T-shirt collection, available in 1X-5X; there are two styles – V-neck and crew – in six colors. “There is definitely a need in this market for women’s plus-size apparel that is made specifically for her – not just made wider and longer or unisex – but graded and sized on a plus size silhouette,” he says.

Summer Barry of Bella+Canvas, observes that in today’s world with media and messaging blitzing us from all over all the time, persuading your client’s target audience to purchase its product or use its service can be frustrating and prone to some failure. Get exuberant and tell your customers that for women, logo- or slogan-embellished Ts are “a cost-effective investment that will ensure the brand gets talked about,” says Summer Barry of Bella Canvas. “Think about it like this: when an employee, consumer, or brand enthusiast rocks your unique design, it will spread the word to others, getting your brand noticed in the most organic way possible.”

Obviously, there are hundreds of fashionable and functional styles to choose from, which is great news, as you can present the recommended three options (good, better, best). But the challenge is inherent in sifting through. So you should first fact-check with your client. If it’s to outfit a casual hospitality or restaurant staff, you would certainly want added performance features. And extras in multiple sizes are a solid concept for these customers, who tend to have higher employee turnover. Fitness and yoga centers will also be ripe to purchase women’s tanks and Ts with performance features as well, but those that sell their logoed tanks and Ts to customers will also want those same performance features.

Charitable events love to provide free Ts, and any client that plans on holding one to raise funds and awareness would want options that provide a feminine, flattering fit, as well as softness. “There’s nothing better than a super-comfy tee made with inks that are soft and supple, so invest in a high-quality product like our 3001 100 percent combed and ring spun cotton T, or, for something even softer, try a luxurious triblend like our 3413,” Barry offers.

Other ideas for ladies' T-shirts, according to Barry, include a welcome gift for new employees, as a prize for a social media contest, and as a thank-you gift for spending a certain amount of money or opening a store account. Businesses that are a “natural” fit for ladies’ Ts include house cleaning services, nail and beauty salons, and women’s healthcare clinics and practices.

But it’s not just the final T style you and your client select. Embellishment plays a huge role in arresting attention when it is worn. It’s no secret that many young ladies love “bling.” And blinged-out Ts are still very popular. Rhinestones, rhinestuds and nailheads, says Jennifer Williams of In Your Face Apparel, are “perfect for T-shirts, tanks, hoodies, yoga pants, cardigans and more. Adding bling by itself or with a print will help give the garment that extra pop you might be looking for. Rhinestones, rhinestuds and nailheads (different 3D textural looks) are great for adult beverage promotional wear, band merchandise, cheer and dance, nail salons, bar wear and more.”

Some clients may need or desire coordinating garments. Leggings and yoga pants are very hot now and can be seen on women of all ages and sizes because of how comfortable they are, allowing her to more easily move and power throughout her day. For the promo market, Champion recently introduced new Performance Bottoms. “These are great for yoga studios, teams, sororities, the hospitality industry, resort wear and workwear,” says Davis. “And joggers, which first emerged in the men’s market, are now gaining momentum in the women’s market as the looser fit and soft fabrics providing a comfortable alternative. Bottoms provide an opportunity to expand your product offerings.”

It has never been such an opportunistic time to sell women’s Ts – they are fashionable, comfortable and flexible.

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Halo's Terry McGuire: A Company-wide Wellness Culture
Jeff Solomon, SuccessFit4Life!
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sponsored by PPAI

In this SuccessFit4Life! video, Terry McGuire, Senior VP of Marketing for HALO Branded Solutions, talks about staying active and what his company is doing to create a wellness culture. As always, we share a tip about getting started. Encouraging people on their wellness journey is a key component is SuccessFit4Life!

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 SuccessFit4Life! Facebook Group and share what you do to stay active. Don’t be shy! Posting is not about you, it’s about encouraging others.

Do you want to be more relevant in today's marketplace? Would you like to enhance relationships with current clients? Are you interested in acquiring new clients? Click here to learn how your business will grow through SuccessFit4Life!


The Uber of…
Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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...your clients don’t want or need you to be the next Uber of anything; they need you to make their purchasing journey easier.
sponsored by ProRose

Any reader of this weekly column knows I loathe the overuse of generic business jargon. These are the words and phrases that take up a lot of space but say very little. For example, at any business meeting you might hear something like this: “We need to think outside the box to take our business to the next level by leveraging our bleeding edge core competencies, utilizing best practices, and creating value added and robust solutions for our clients.”

What does that even mean?

It seems that saying nothing of tangible use – and taking up a lot of space in doing so – has become an art form. Lately this practice has been elevated to include a phrase which puzzles me: “our goal is to become the Uber of <fill in the industry>.”
Since its founding in 2009, Uber has spread like wildfire across the globe, has completely disrupted (perhaps even destroyed) the taxi industry in major metropolitan areas, and is today worth around $60 billion. To make the story even more astounding, consider that Uber owns no vehicles yet they are the largest taxi company in the world.

Due to both the visibility and success of Uber, people from almost every type of business now clamor to be the “Uber of” their industry. Many think this is a forward-thinking perspective when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Very few individuals or organizations that experience wild success do so by merely copying the approach of another. Instead, they boldly blaze their own trail and have the foresight to understand transactional friction points so they can be removed. In other words, they are able to both comprehend and predict what their audience needs to move quickly through a purchasing journey.

In the case of Uber, it was as simple as founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp having difficultly hailing a cab on a snowy evening in Paris. Their solution – brilliant in its simplicity – was to create an app where the user had to only tap a button to get a ride. They didn’t set out to disrupt the taxi industry, but the solution they created removed so much friction from that process that it’s difficult to imagine traveling in a large city without using a ride sharing app. It was original, met a need, and dramatically reduced friction for their target audience.

In business, your clients don’t want or need you to be the next Uber of anything; they need you to make their purchasing journey easier. Instead of trying so hard to be the next “Uber of” something, take a close look at the purchasing journey of your clients, find the friction points, and remove as much of them as possible. The fact is, precious few have the ability, patience, or resources to truly disrupt an industry. A much more realistic – and dramatic – way to impact your bottom line is to take the necessary steps to make it easier for a client to get what they want.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at bill@PromoCorner.com.

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Your Client Cares More About Safety Than You Do
Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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The subject of product safety is a bit like being newly single and figuring out how to date again – it’s a difficult and complicated topic, and it can be messy and awkward. Most clients don’t want to know how the watch works, they just want to know what time it is. They sure as heck don’t want to think about customers getting injured, or perhaps even dying, as a result of using their products, and they definitely don’t want to consider, much less talk about, product recalls. See? Difficult, complicated, messy, and awkward. So, why bring up product safety when you don’t need to? It’s so much easier just to leave that thorny topic alone.

But, based on a new initiative from the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), you may soon find that your clients and prospective clients care more about safety than you do. Founded in 2008 by 14 promotional products suppliers, QCA is the only non-profit focused specifically on helping suppliers in the promotional products industry deliver safe products. How did QCA come about? The “Founding 14” realized that the industry was pretty much the wild west when it came to product safety – there were simply no standards specific to promotional products. As a result, the organization spent the first eight years trying to educate the industry as to why it was important for suppliers to go through the rigorous process of earning their accreditation. (Disclosure: I was executive director of QCA for more than four of those years.)

Now, under the new direction of Tim Brown, executive director of operations, QCA is taking its message right to the end-user clients instead. “Like any industry, the customers typically drive change. Our goal for the next few years is to create end-buyer awareness by sharing how companies can protect themselves and the integrity of their brands through the use of promotional products. During the early years of QCA, a massive amount of time, resources, and energy was spent creating awareness within the industry and seeking to gain acceptance. For some suppliers, QCA’s message about promotional product safety resonated, they understood the importance of product safety for both the brands that were their customers and the end-users, and they also understood the competitive advantage that QCA certification provided their companies. They stepped up, invested in the process, and at the end, they they had a differentiator and a market advantage.”

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Speaking from experience, suppliers faced a challenge in recognizing the return on that investment – not only the expense, but the time dedication it required from their staff. Says Brown, “The primary barrier was awareness. Most distributors were not comfortable addressing the topic of compliance with end-buyers. And, except for rare instances, end-buyers had no idea what QCA was, what it was about, or the value of its application to their brand.”

QCA is a supplier organization, but has the cooperation of the group of distributors in its Distributor Advocacy Council. “While there are non-accredited suppliers in the industry that are doing a very good job with their compliance programs, what end-buyers are beginning to realize is that requesting or requiring the use of accredited suppliers actually simplifies their jobs, while at the same time increasing the level of brand protection. We have provided the DAC with new marketing materials that their sales reps can use to communicate the message. These materials are designed to help to communicate, in concise manner, the concern and the solution and, most importantly, the collateral opens the door for the conversation. Through our messaging and training the DAC’s end-buyers are able to see the value of QCA Accreditation and how it provides enhanced protection for their brands.”

Out with the old, in with the new. There is a good chance that moving forward your clients may soon show new interest in product safety. “By going directly to end-buyers with a grass roots, personal approach, we have found them extremely receptive,” says Brown. “We are seeing an increase in the interest from them and an eagerness to learn more about how they can protect their brands. We are engaging with other organizations and non-profits with similar missions to see where we can deliver shared messages to increase awareness. Contrary to popular belief, the end-buyers are appreciative and these conversations are not scaring them away from the medium. Instead of continuing to try and convince the industry, from within, that responsible sourcing is in the best interest of everyone, we are going to let the end-buyers drive it down from the outside. After all, they are the ones with the most at stake.”

Speaking of “in with the new,” the CPSC has kicked off a cool new program (can you say “cool” and “CPSC” in the same sentence?) called the “Consumer Protection Safety All-Stars.” It’s a program designed for kids in grades 3-7 for them to learn how products are determined to be hazardous, if a product has been recalled, and how to use what they have learned to teach their family about consumer product safety. Nothing like starting them young when it comes to product safety.

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 jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.

What Should PPAI Research? Targeted Communications.
Mount Rushmore of Promotional Products; Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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Industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing services provider to the promotional products industry, discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics in this weekly “talk show” column brought to you by commonsku. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

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