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Top Reasons to Use Promotional Products, Now.

  
  
  
  
  

 

...if you aren’t working promotional products into your Marketing and Brand awareness strategy, you are missing a huge opportunity.

As I write this I am looking at a magnet on our corporate refrigerator for a muralist we used in our office…5 years ago. We haven’t used them since, not because it was a bad experience, just that we haven’t needed their services. But let me tell you, when I needed some painting done in my home remodel, the filing cabinet that is my brain, immediately pictured that magnet sitting on our fridge at work. I ran right to it. It’s a term I coined the “Magnet Effect™” and it’s the holy grail of all promotional product placements. PS: this also applies to decals. If you can get onto the fridge, you are golden. That magnet cost about $0.001, but my business? Over $3500. Quite a return.

custom tote bagsBut its not just magnets. According to a new ground breaking study of thousands of individuals, 60% of the participants did business with or donated again to the organization after receiving an ad specialty, such as a decal, magnet, t-shirt, tote bag. Of those who hadn't done business with or donated to the organization, almost 25% said they were more likely to interact with them in the future. On top of that, 41% say there were left with a ‘favorable’ impression of the organization and virtually none had negative feelings. Not many other forms of direct marketing can post those numbers.

With an average Cost Per Impression of $0.005 there’s no better cost-effective marketing strategy than through promotional products. Research shows Advertising Specialties, such as tote bags, t-shirts, custom embroidery, decals, not only increase revenue and prospects, they create goodwill, build brand awareness and loyalty, and have strong return on investment. The typical product is kept for 12 months (or in my case 5 years on the fridge!) and many are used and looked at everyday. That frequent exposure will ensure your organization is always top-of-mind.

Here is a quick test…take a quick look around your office, home, car and see how many free goodies you have. Can you think how long ago you received them? Do you remember who gave them to you? Think about how many other people have seen them as a result of you. (Here’s a hint…that tote bag you have for groceries you will keep an average of 4 years and be seen by thousands) Now, think about how much revenue you have allocated to internal marketing items that result in a 90%+ rate of being trashed, deleted or never looked at? Of course, I am not advocating getting rid of Direct Mail or Social initiatives, but what I am saying is that if you aren’t working promotional products into your Marketing and Brand awareness strategy, you are missing a huge opportunity.

Not convinced yet? Consider this:

  • 83% of prospects and customers remember the organization who gave them an ad specialty. That kind of brand recall blows others out of the water. 

  • Images speak louder than words. A powerful visual image can convey a lot more than words can in a brief period of time. Obviously, words are a powerful tool that your business needs to incorporate into your branding and marketing efforts – but when you’re limited to a glance, or a five second window to capture someone’s attention, words aren’t going to cut it.

  • Ever seen how excited people get when the t-shirt cannon comes out at a baseball game? People want their promotional freebies. Wearables are a great investment because of the high number of advertising impressions they produce coupled with the length of time folks hang on to them.

  • Creative and thoughtful gifts make people smile ... and happy people open their wallets. Consider the unconventional and make sure a gift leaves the impression you hope for.custom notecards

  • Ever worked a little harder so you could win that flat screen TV if the monthly goal was met? They motivate the masses. Incentive gifts encourage employees to work harder and create a culture of loyalty. 

  • Trade show giveaways are proven traffic builders and great for branding. Attendees will go out of their way to engage in the ritual of adult trick or treating.

  • Check your fridge, for The Magnet Effect. Promotional Products are utilized long after delivery, which equates to long term branding impact.

  • They affect brand choices and encourage brand interaction…sometimes without us even knowing it!

  • They improve open as well as response rates. Add dimension to your mailing. Bulky is better.

Want more of an incentive to start? All blog readers receive $20 cash back on orders over $200 by using the coupon code DABLOG416 at checkout. Happy Promoting!

promotional products

 

What we learned about Customer Service from 1-800-Flowers Very Bad Valentine’s Day.

  
  
  
  
  

Poor Janet from 1-800-Flowers’s Twitter feed had a very long Valentine’s Day Evening.

 twitter 1-800 flower issue

And it appears Stephanie's evening isn’t much better.

 twitter 1-800 flowers issue stephanie

So what happened, you ask? Why all of the apologies? Well this happened:

 1-800 flowers valentines 1

1-800 flowers valentines 2

1-800 flowers valentines 3

 

1-800 flowers valentines 1

1-800 flowers valentines 5

What a disaster….and it all played out publically, unfiltered and globally. I can only imagine the Execs pounding their fists and heads.

But while I saw this role out, while looking at my own beautiful bouquet of flowers (which came from @proflowers, which had their own issues, but handled them beautifully) I thought about this from an insider’s perspective, that of the Fulfillment Logistics Company. This can, and does, happen to any organization that sells and fulfills product. Especially, when delivering on that promise is, in part, controlled by an outside vendor (in this case, USPS or UPS and floral suppliers) or Acts of God (i.e.: the mother of all snow storms.) It’s a given in the Fulfillment Logistics Industry.

But what the major and I underscore major mistake here was a classic case of the mismanagement and complete lack of communication of expectations and impending doom. Look, I realize that Valentine’s Day is a huge day, and I realize that it was coupled with a pretty big snow storm which affected not only the ability for floral suppliers to get their product to distributors, but also for the shippers to get their product to the customers. And I also realize that at the end of the day, this doesn’t mean a hill of beans to the customer when they have paid for and expected perfection.

It’s easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback, but this lesson in communication isn’t a hard one, especially for a seasoned company like 1-800-Flowers.

In the Fulfillment Logistics Industry, everything is managed around communication and expectation.  When you, the customer, place an order, you inspect the product, whether that’s online, in a catalog, in a store. Next, you are told exactly the turnaround time for when you will receive the product and how much it will cost to get it to you. You then, most likely, receive various emails and notifications telling you the status of your order and confirming your order which also include various pictures of your product. The order processing cycle is pretty set in stone. The order starts, it’s fulfilled and then it ends.  In our industry, your day, week and month, is set on cycles that surround weather, shipping company labor disputes, postage increases, etc. Outside of a terrorist attack, you have a lot of tools to plan ahead and manage customer expectations.

This is what makes the 1-800-Flowers issue so egregious. They knew it was their busiest time of year, they knew about the impending snow storm and while they may have attempted to plan for it as any good Fulfillment Company would, they failed. And when it did fail, they closed ranks and left their customers thinking the work they were producing was acceptable when they knew it wasn’t.

As the old saying goes, ‘mistakes happen, its how you recover from them that matters.’ 

A simple email, tweet or phone call to the customers indicating the delay in shipment, or the fact that due to lower quality of product, the arrangement may be smaller, accompanying a refund for any additional charges, would have gone a long way in communication to the customer base, you knew of the problem, you knew it wasn’t up to the promises of your brand and you were addressing it.

To go from Good to Great, I would have also added a coupon code to be used for their choice of one of three preselected free arrangements to be sent at a future date. Recent estimates state that over $1billion in gift offers and cards go unredeemed, so the perceived value and what is gained in customer loyalty is more than what would ever be lost.  Sure, you still would’ve received your fair share of upset customers, but you were managing expectations—you were ahead of the wave and you were doing everything you could to mitigate the damage and being transparent.

There are two guarantees in Fulfillment Logistics: Problems and crises are guaranteed to happen and most likely at the most inopportune time; Being silent on either their impending doom or sweeping it under the rug will never result in a satisfied customer or client.   

I once broke a vase when I was very young. I was so afraid of the punishment that I swept it up and hid it in the basement hoping I wouldn’t be found out. Once I eventually was, my mom came to me and said a simple phrase that I still live by today, “it’s not the vase that I am most upset about, it’s that you kept it from me.” 

What might have the tweetersphere looked like for 1-800-Flowers the evening of the 14th, had they not hid the broken vase in the basement?

Want to know more about how to have fanatical customer support?

  Download our Free Report Here!

Customer Loyalty Test (PS: Donors, Subscribers and Members are Customers too!)

  
  
  
  
  

 

We loved this infographic regarding Customer Loyalty so much that we decided to share it with our own audience. Associations and Fundraisers don't be fooled by the title! In today's competative marketplace your Members and Donors are customers too!  

Infog.LoyaltyTest2 resized 600

Making an In-Demand Organization, Association or Non-Profit

  
  
  
  
  

Moving beyond what your constituents want into giving them what they can't live without

            Now anyone who knows me would say I am not the biggest fan of Steve Jobs on a personal level (a friend of mine worked closely with him for 24 years), but giving credit where credit is due, you have to respect his vision and innovation for building brand loyalty and giving the world items we skills in demand resized 600never knew we wanted. As he stated in 1997, "You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around." This before the Ipod, Ipad and a decent cell phone were in existence. You may be saying, "Well sure--Innovation in the technology field is easy-its what 'they do!'"  But don't be fooled.

                The same is true for all areas of business, even though, to those Organizations or Associations providing niche content or serving a niche demographic, innovation may seem like an arcane concept. But indeed, those institutions that can not only keep abreast of the times but even get out in front and lead are those that will prosper, thus expanding their own potential and influence and doing the best work for their members and benefactors. 

                In the Niche Circulation, Association and Non-Profit world, relationships are everything. Without good relationships with your donors, members, and subscribers... you sink. The way in which your organization maintains these relationships is as important as the bond itself; the way you make contact is the determining factor of the strength of that connection. Good relations requires initially good research: What type of person or group makes up your core? What is the age group, the socioeconomic status, the many background factors such as geography, education, etc.? Knowing with whom you are talking dictates how you will both frame your conversation and on what platform that conversation will best be held. Certain people may not use email and may still respond to mailers, while some may loathe them as a waste of time, money and resources. Most folks hate phone calls appealing for donations or requests to attend a seminar, but there are some who may appreciate the direct contact and information.  Do your homework! These people are your lifeline and why you exist!

                Now, to innovation. In the broadest sense, innovation is about two things: Better and cheaper. You already know your organization’s mission and its core model. Now, where can you trim the fat? Where can you use newer technology to speed processes up and implement new systems? Where can you, essentially, watch the bottom line? This is an important path to walk, but one that must be traversed with caution. If you plan to save money by outsourcing certain aspects of your organization, great, as long as you choose who you use with great care. It is rarely worth the savings you will reap if you use an outside company that does shoddy work – it lowers not only the quality of your output, but also can damage the image and prestige of your organization.

                Study what other companies or groups have done. Research technologies that could be beneficial to your organization and its constituents. But above all, make sure that when you make changes you are making them not because they may have worked for someone else, but because they are the right move for you.  Replication of what another organization has done isn't innovation, its mindless duplication...and it can be deadly. You need to find what has been successful for a multitude of org's and see how you could tweak it to suit your member base. How to do this?

                Think like your constituents. What do your subscribers, members or donors want? What do they need? What would make them more loyal to you and your brand?  True innovation is thinking of things they didn't even know they want--but will eventually find they can't live without.  New initiatives are not to be feared. Diversification is a good thing, as long as you follow your founding principles and move forward with vision. One of the greatest things I find one can to get a fresh perspective on things is to look at your Org as if you either just purchased it or just became the Board President. What would keep? What would ditch? Would you restructure?  Many times looking at things through this new view clears the cobwebs of too many projects, too many ideas and releases the dam of stagnation to innovation. Taking your organization to the next level may involve outsourcing, technological innovation or even just a re-imagining of the resources you already have at your disposal. What it never involves is sitting still, for even a moment.

On a final note:

"We're gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make "me too" products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it's always the next dream." -- Apple Executives, on the release of the Macintosh computer, 1984

Should Non Profits and Associations Outsource Fulfillment and Processing?

  
  
  
  
  

5 Quick Reasons why Outsourcing some of your Core Processing functions can not only save you revenue, but catapult your organization to a Higher Level.


At the center of every organization, there exists a few core processes. Whatever you do to describe the imageactually create the revenue is usually a part of this. For a magazine, it could be researching, writing, and editing the stories. For Non Profit Fundraisers it’s raising the funds to further your mission and Associations it’s providing a level of service and benefits to your Member Community. It is these activities that generate 70% or more of revenue for your organization. So for the remaining 30% that don’t generate revenue (and that someone else could do maybe even more efficiently and effectively) the question becomes:

Why are you still doing them?

A recent study looking at the outsourcing practices of the Association and Non Profit Community indicated that key personnel spend 70% of their time on activities that only generate 30% of their revenue; most of which can either be outsourced or cut all together.  

What types of activities are we talking about? Well, for the Association and Non Profit, it could be Revenue Processing, Donor and Member Stewardship, Data Entry, Acknowledgements. For the magazine publisher, the actual printing of the issue, the mailing process and the subscription management areas could fall under this category.  

Partnering with a reputable Fulfillment and Stewardship Firm to handle these tasks can not only offload some of the “heavy lifting” but more importantly provide your organization a competitive advantage in what is now becoming a very competitive Association and Fundraising Industry.

While there are many benefits to outsourcing your fulfillment and other processing functions to a reputable third party fulfillment and stewardship firm, there are really five important reasons that every organization should consider:

1.      The ability to concentrate on your core business and mission. Not being involved in the day-to-day process of fulfilling orders or entering gifts, enables your organization to focus on higher level strategic planning and increasing revenue. We all know there are only twenty four hours in a day. We need to maximize every minute we have. Stuffing envelopes or answering standard phone calls from donors or members are usually huge time killers. And profit killers too.

2.      How about human resource considerations? People are expensive, right? When you outsource some of the labor intensive tasks, staffing concerns are shifted from your organization and placed on your outsourced firm. During peak seasons, rather than spending large amounts of time hiring new employees or utilizing temporary personnel, your new partner will manage all of these concerns for you. A reputable Fulfillment Firm is equipped to handle peak seasons well in advance. And remember when doing your cost analysis—unless you are hiring robots, these people need managing too—how much is your time worth? And if they are sick? Who is filling in? Are you able to still meet your goals? Are you adhering to regulatory requirements? Do you know what they are?

3.      Controlling your costs. We all know that cash is king and how you manage your budget and revenue flows can mean the difference between staying in business and closing your doors. Since your organization will only be paying the Fulfillment Firm for the work they actually perform, you are able to better manage fixed and variable costs and stick to budget.

4.      Technological Advances. When you outsource, you become part of a larger partnership with a firm that is working directly to keep your organization competitive. Providing you, and therefore your customers or members, the most up to date technology, resources and best practice recommendations to catapult your organization to the next level. In today’s competitive Association and Not for Profit marketplace, you need to think and act like a For Profit Business. Many times your member or customers dollar may be spent with a competing organization or just not at all if you don’t keep your organization on the cutting edge.

5.      The concept of real estate comes into play. Again, one of the big expenses of operating an organization is rent or lease expense. With outsourcing your core processing functions and/or fulfillment, costly warehouse space or expanding office space is no longer a concern. Many organizations that outsource their fulfillment services to a third party firm decided to do so in order to reduce the rent on very large facilities or expensive shipping equipment.  What is the value of that mailing and folding machine, extra storage space and racking you could potentially get rid of?

My mother always asked me, “What is your time worth? Always do what only you can do.” {Ah the consummate entrepreneur} But what she was saying truly relates—especially if you’re struggling with the core processing functions of your organization. Finding a reputable Firm that can manage to these processes for you is key (just like hiring the right employee) but the good ones will not only complete these processes for you, but become an invaluable resource for moving your Organization beyond its wildest dreams.


  cta_roi-revised


DirectAnswer and Association for Fundraising Professionals!

  
  
  
  
  

Yep! We here in the DirectAnswer "treehouse" (ie: what our DC Headquarters offices are called due to our proximity to many large oak trees surrounding our windows--check our video below) are all safe and sound!

Many of us experienced our first 5.9 Earthquake this afternoon, but have no fear, our stellar reps are not only safe and sound, but while going through the rubbling--it was overheard, "I'm sorry, do you mind holding, we are going through an earthquake right now!"  --What Composure!

To our clients, both virtual (ie: web, social, etc.) channels are fully functioning and phone and fax lines are also open!

From DC to NYC, we are checking in with our East Coast Client Family! Feel free to post below!

 

Should you charge a penalty for late Member or Subscriber Renewals?

  
  
  
  
  

In the age when organizations dealing with expiring members or subscribers are looking to increase retention while drastically reducing costs, many are feeling the pressure to implement "creative" strategies to fuel growth and reduce attrition.increasing renewal rates

But hold tight! When the standard "discounted or early bird renewal" seems to no longer be working, resist the temptation to go 'Bad Cop' and strictly penalize your constituents for not jumping on board.

A recent question was posed on one of our trade association's, ASAE (American Society for Association Executives) ListServ's highlighting this very topic:

"My Association is considering a monetary penalty to members should they not renew their Association Membership by their 'drop date.'--does anyone else do this?"

Of course this sparked much debate; from "Sure, why not?!" to "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! this isn't an A/R-- you can't penalize those for not responding--plus, you may be disincentivizing your members."

But I feel the answer to this isn't as simple--in fact you could just be treating the symptom and not the problem. That, of course, being why they aren't responding in the first place. It might not always be a pricing issue.

Case in point: A client of ours publishes a variety of  research heavy publications throughout the year. Customers can purchase them individually or subscribe and receive all publications as they are published, at a discounted rate. Recently, their renewals seemed to be dipping midway through the series and then spike again towards the end.

Now, the easy route would be to simply throw some discounts or premiums to spark interest during the lull- but we wanted to do a more creative and scientific approach--to really find out what was causing this change. 

The Answer? We quickly did a benchmark survey to gather a few key metrics from subscribers. How satisfied were they with the publications? Did they find their topics on point and useful? Where they overwhelmed by notices?  The responses were overwhelming and gave us the key to the mid-cycle drop off!

In short, subscribers loved the offerings, felt the price was right (read: discounting it wouldn't have made much difference and would've unnecessarily left revenue on the table) but among other smaller reasons, what most subscribers were waiting for was the release of the next year's titles which coincided with the mid-cycle drop. BINGO!!

So what did we do? Well, moving the release up wasn't an option--as we released them when we knew them. So in gathering all the data, we implemented a multi-pronged approach to redesigning the series.

  1. We kept the general areas of interest of each publication consistent throughout each year. Giving the subscriber the clear expectation of what was to come each year.
  2. Implemented a multi-channel renewal series; mixing email with mail and phone follow ups. The final response was converted to a short survey asking to provide feedback on the publications, with a soft ask for their renewal along with a 10% off coupon to use on the webstore.
  3. Tiered the Renewal Pricing. This went beyond the "Early Bird Rates" and made a consistent plan to increase the renewal price as the efforts increased. So in essence, it was less a harsh penalty and more a soft encouragement to renew sooner in the cycle.

This was implemented and tested against the control renewal series with astounding results:

  • The Renewal Rate Median jumped 2 renewal efforts. Meaning, the highest rate of return was previously on effort 4;  now it was on effort 2 with an increase in early bird, non-promoted renewals.
  • Cut efforts by a third. What was a 7 effort series, was reduced to 4. Since the median moved, there was no reason to extend the efforts out so long.
  • Lapsed Renewals converted to online buyers. By providing the 10% off webstore coupon with the final effort, lapsed renewals either returned their survey with valuable information and/or utilized the 10% off coupon to purchase publications online--keeping them engaged in the organization.

The case calls to mine an invaluable quote that has come to be  our internal mantra as well as one that we many times will convey to our clients, when their spirits start to suffer:

"Even in the worst of times and in every industry, there are those that are successful and those that are not. Don't let external influences keep you from being in the former. Do something different."

By taking a diligent step back, re-grouping and taking the time to  listen to the members and subscribers, we formulated a great strategy that was easy to implement, test and modify with the agility that is needed in today's market!

Best Practices for Database Management and Fulfillment..in a minute!

  
  
  
  
  

Look, we all get bombarded with coupious amounts of industry knowledge not only daily, but now hourly...and many times the information is just too good to pass up--but as I scroll down the PDF, I just don't have the time to read -- when I am only looking for the takeaway.

Knowing many of you are in the same boat, today we formally launched our new knoweldgebase, "Minute Tips." Desinged for the busy Association, Fundraising and Publishing Executive.

We gathered our best and most popular tips and tricks of the trade and condensed them into 60 seconds or less readable formats.

Happy {Speed} Reading!

Minute Tips

 

Should Non-Profit Organizations Shut Down their Websites?

  
  
  
  
  

I know its a sounds crazy, but its a concept that is growing some legs.

In a recent article on bnet.com, David Rogers (no relation) spoke about how the U.S. State Department shut down their website, www.America.gov, created to "to provide cultural and policy content to the world." in favor of harnessing Social Media to advance its message. 

The aim is to communicate in a more interactive way with today’s networked audiences around the world—like those blogging Egypt’s revolution from Tahrir Square or documenting Syrian unrest on YouTube. Further, the Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks receives over ten times as much traffic to its Facebook page (19.4 million unique visitors each month) as to its corporate website (1.8 million). For Coca-Cola, the divergence is even starker: 22.5 million visitors on Facebook vs. just 270,000 to its website—over 80 times as much traffic.

So am I a believer? Not entirely. Yes, with all the apps, twitter feeds, etc. I rarely go to one's website initially but what these apps and tweets are doing is pulling me to the website. It's good ol' fashioned Multi-Channel Marketing.  And the corporations listed above have a much different audience and vision that many Foundations, Associations or Publishers.

We recently signed up with an firm that would help optimize our website, etc. After going through the training, we realized it was no different than the tried and true Direct Marketing concepts that have been used for decades...Call's to Action, Source Coding, Lead Nuturing...it was only a different channel.

So in a time, when pennies are pinched, Not for Profit and For Profit Organizations have to be more agile than ever before, many are looking to dump the redundancy and cost of their full fledged website in favor of free social media sources. But before you do so, my brother from another mother, David Rogers, has come up with a few Pros and Cons of each approach.

Pros of Social Media:

1. Inherently interactive. That’s where the term “social” comes from. Unlike a static HTML website, designed to read and click, social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are designed around sharing, responding, and interacting.

2. Where people are spending time. With over 500 million active users on Facebook, most Web audiences are spending more time there than browsing organization's sites. Just be sure that’s true for your own demographic (e.g. Facebook is a nonstarter in Japan) and your own industry (most users still do not use Facebook for learning about b2b topics). 

3. Easy to acquire. Clicking a “like” button on Facebook or “follow” button on Twitter is a lot easier than filling in the sign up form on a web page. So it’s no surprise that many companies find it easier to build a large following on social media platforms.

4. Virality. When your audience interacts with you on social media platforms, it is instantly visible to their own friends and contacts. This digital “word-of-mouth” can be one of the most powerful tools for reaching new audiences.

Benefits of Your Own Website

1. Control the design. Have you ever tried designing a page on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? The experience is like trying to swim with one hand tied behind your back. Having your own website allows you complete control, which may be essential if you have a lot of content or options that you need to organize for different audiences.

2. Own the data. Social media platforms are owned by the companies that run them, and, as such, they are the only ones holding all the data on your members, customers and donors and your interactions with them. On your own website, you own all the data.
 

3. Targeting and personalization. Owning data and controlling design allow for much more targeted interaction with your constituents than is possible on social media platforms. If you know which emails a member in your database is clicking on, you can ensure her follow up emails, Web landing pages, and ecommerce experiences are much more suited to her particular interests.

4. Reach all your audience. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other services which might reach large segments of your customers, your own website is available to 100% of them. (That is, as long as your website has been optimized to work on a mobile phone.)

So unless you organization is so small that you lack in house resources, you most certainly need both Social Media and a tried and true website...even the State Department kept its main site!

Learn Fundraiser's Top 4 Dilemmas a

Is this what your Members, Donors or Customers think of you?

  
  
  
  
  

....good thing our clients' constituents don't!

Click to read the full post from theoatmeal.com

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