Network With Thy Neighbor

Neighbors Networking If you aren’t from a hurricane-prone place like Miami, then you might not know the truth about these storms – they’re boring! Here’s what happens, the forecasters start to tell you that a tropical storm is approaching, and for about a week there are constant updates, and I do mean constant. The whole area is put on edge as we watch the “cone of uncertainty” to see whether we are going to get hit. When it looks like, yes, we’re going to get a storm everyone begins hurricane prep. This involves chaotic trips to the supermarket for ice and non-perishables, runs to the hardware store for various supplies, and then the inevitable “boarding up,” where we put up our hurricane shutters. Then…we wait. Hopefully all of our preparation and waiting turns out to be for naught, but sometimes we do get hit, the electricity goes out, and we’re left to stare at each other by candlelight. Trust me, it’s not romantic, it’s boring. With rare exceptions (like category-5 Hurricane Andrew), that has been my experience with every hurricane. So now you know the truth.

Well, fortunately our recent hurricane scare was just that, a scare. However, because we’ve been hit hard in the past, South Florida operates with an abundance of caution when there is a weather disturbance in the tropics. So when Tropical Storm Isaac headed our way, we took our usual precautions and “hunkered down,” as they say, but nothing happened. Sure, there was rain and some wind, but nothing overly scary. We could have gone about our lives, but most Miami schools and businesses were shut down, so we just sat around at home. This, as it turned out, was also boring.

Fortunately, my neighbors were similarly bored, so bracing for Isaac’s impact found many of them, like my husband and I, wandering around outside (obviously this happened between feeder bands). We met several people who had recently moved to the area, chatted with people we hadn’t seen in a while, and basically networked with our neighbors. I knew most of them by name, but not much else about them. Now I know where they work, what they do, their kids’ names, etc. I always say that when you attend a networking event you should try to connect with the people you meet – that is exactly what I did with my neighbors this past weekend. I’m not sure that any business will come of it, but you never know! I’m just glad that a tropical storm threat allowed me to get to know those who live near me, making a boring event into a social (and hopefully beneficial) experience. It was something that I should have done a while ago, so thank you Isaac, for forcing my hand.

BIC Graphic: How to Handle a Tricky Customer Service Situation

Bic Graphic USA
As promotional products distributors, the team here at Gossett Marketing has a longstanding relationship with BIC Graphic USA. A few years ago BIC merged with Norwood, another major promotional product supplier, and just recently the now-united company switched its computer systems so that BIC and Norwood operated on the same one. Although they had planned this switch for some time, it did not go as smoothly as possible – and it resulted in a disastrous order for us. So, what did this blogger do? I posted about it. And if that wasn’t enough, I tweeted my post to my 2,500 followers – and tweeted it and tweeted it. I wanted BIC to notice me, recognize that not only did our order have issues, but their customer service was severely lacking. Guess what? It worked!

This afternoon I received a phone call from Jill Stirnkorb, VP of Inside Sales at Norwood and BIC Graphic North America. Jill had seen my blog post, and called so that we could get to the root of the issue to make sure that it would never happen again. She had pulled the orders that we had placed recently, and we went through them together in order to nip any potential problems in the bud. Then we went over the order that had sparked my ire so that I could tell her further about our experience. Jill was incredibly kind to me, even as I said less-than-kind things about the incident. When I was through, she explained why the problem had occurred (there were delays due to the implementation of the new computer system), then told me how BIC is working to rectify the situation (the full customer service staff is currently on call 7 days/week). We also spoke about our inside sales representative, who has been on special assignment this year – Jill told me which team I should call instead and exactly how to reach them. When I hung up, I felt a tremendous amount of confidence in BIC Graphic and Norwood – they had a hiccup, but they are getting over it.

I must seem so wishy-washy – I went from a raging anti-BIC lunatic to wanting to place more orders with them! That’s what this type of customer service gesture will do for you, though. A simple, brief, thoughtful phone call brought me back to BIC’s side because I know that they are fixing their internal issue. Well done Jill and BIC, you are back in Gossett Marketing’s good graces, and you are a wonderful example of how to handle a tricky situation.

Marketing Up A Storm

Greenbay Packers boots As I mentioned last week, Tropical Storm Isaac spent his weekend visiting South Florida (where Gossett Marketing is located). It’s mainly been a rain event, meaning that everyone down here in Miami has been sporting their storm gear for the past few days. Although I am an Account Executive at a promotional marketing company and I sell logoed rain wear, I was shocked to see just how many people were wearing and carrying imprinted apparel!

When I visited Publix on Saturday morning to supplement my hurricane kit, just about everyone was in some kind of waterproof clothing. The men and women who bagged groceries and carried them to customers’ cars were all wearing Miami Marlins ponchos – they were white with an orange step-and-repeat imprint all over. The Marlins most likely gave them to Publix for free, which garnered them excellent logo exposure for very little money. The supermarket’s patrons weren’t spending quite as much time outside as the employees, so most were just carrying umbrellas. The one that I brought with me was green and white and emblemized with the University of Miami’s “U” (my husband works at UM and “borrowed” it for the weekend). I also saw several golf clubs’ and hotels’ logos on umbrellas as people darted through the parking lot. My favorite waterproof promotional product that I saw on Saturday was a pair of rain boots. They looked similar to the Hunter galoshes that I’ve seen at Bloomingdale’s recently, only these had the Green Bay Packers logo all over them. They were so cute that many, many people stopped to comment on them. Another sports team got great logo exposure because of the storm!

Hopefully Isaac will fizzle out before hitting along the Gulf Coast later this week, but if it doesn’t then you can be sure that people there will be utilizing logoed storm gear. Is your logo on anything waterproof? It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will absolutely provide you with a great marketing opportunity!

In Case of Emergency, Here’s a Promo Product

Tropical Storm Hurricane Isaac
In case you haven’t heard, Tropical Storm Isaac has formed over the Caribbean and is expected to be a full-fledged hurricane by Friday. Gossett Marketing is situated in Miami, Florida, so we are currently in the “cone of uncertainty,” meaning that Isaac could potentially affect us sometime next week. As a native Miamian, I’m not particularly scared of a category 1 hurricane (I survived a category 5 20 years ago!), but I do know that it’s important to be prepared. That said, as someone who sells promotional marketing products, I encourage my customers to give out imprinted promos that can help their customers ready themselves for severe weather during this time of year. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Weather Station – Tropical storms and hurricanes are major weather events, so what better way to prepare your customers for them than by keeping them informed? A good weather station can support the NOAA emergency alert system and has a crank charger, which is helpful when the power goes out. Think about how much use your customers will get from something like this! And because your logo will be imprinted upon it, you’ll get marketing exposure through the storm.
  • Flashlight – Flashlights are invaluable tools for your company to give to any customer – they are useful to anyone year-round, so your logo will definitely be seen frequently. When a hurricane hits and your customer has no power, that useful promotional product becomes vital because candlelight is lovely and all, but it doesn’t illuminate nearly as well as light bulbs. A flashlight isn’t a true replacement for overhead lighting, but at least it’s an improvement over candles.
  • First Aid Kit – I’ve weathered a number of severe weather events down here, and fortunately I have never been injured during any of them. However, I’ve certainly gotten cuts, bug bites, and sunburns while cleaning up the landscaping after the fact. A great promotional product to help your customers after the storm is a first aid kit that includes antiseptic wipes, bandages, bug spray, and even sunscreen. Baptist Health South Florida gave me an imprinted kit years ago, and I continually refill it with fresh suppliers – and I see their logo and contact information every time. Those marketing dollars were well spent!

All three of the aforementioned promotional marketing products are useful no matter what, but they become particularly important when a large storm is looming. So whether your company is in a hurricane-prone area, a region that gets severe snow storms, or anywhere else for that matter, help your customers stay prepared for an emergency by giving out emergency-preparedness promos.

How can Augusta National Benefit its Newest Members?

Augusta National female members This week the Augusta National Golf Club made news by admitting its two first female members – Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. Since the announcement much has been said about Augusta National’s refusal to accept women previously, and I don’t want to go into any sort of sexism tirade here. What really struck me regarding this legendary club admitting its first two women was the networking opportunities that they will have by joining!

Now, the first two female members of Augusta National are no slouches. Dr. Rice is the former Secretary of State, is currently a professor at Stanford University, and has even performed with Yo-Yo Ma. Ms. Moore is a noted a noted financier who is a partner in the investment firm Rainwater, Inc., she was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune Magazine in 1998 and 1999, and she is a generous philanthropist. Clearly these ladies have broken the glass ceiling and made tremendous names for themselves, which certainly gives them access to some of the biggest names in business, so how does joining a stodgy old golf club augment that?

Well, I cannot even pretend to speak for Dr. Rice of Ms. Moore, but I have a couple of ideas of my own. First, I know that these two women have Rolodexes that would blow most of our minds, but how deeply have they connected with these contacts? Well, if they invited any of them to hit the links at Augusta National, they might be able to strengthen their bond because they would be spending several hours together in a recreational setting. Or perhaps some of gentlemen that these ladies know are also members of Augusta National. When they run into them at the club’s bar it’s another chance for them to get to know them better in a friendly setting. Clearly their memberships give Dr. Rice and Ms. Moore wonderful opportunities to bond with individuals who can help them further themselves even more!

Second, by joining Augusta National, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore become trailblazers. While both women have had exceptional careers neither has done anything completely new and groundbreaking (I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true). However, their membership does allow them to tear down a barrier that has stood in front of women since Augusta National’s inception – no, they aren’t getting women the right to vote or own property, but in my opinion it’s still a big deal. I think that by becoming trailblazers in this regard, even more people (young women in particular) will look up to them and want to connect with them, as well as with other members of their network. Surely this will extend their reach on a business level – just by joining a golf club!

Whether you are a man or woman, most people will not have the opportunity to join Augusta National. But for those who do, it is certainly an excellent opportunity to expand their networks. Perhaps someday you will be able to join an exclusive club full of your town’s movers and shakers – doing so might not make you a trailblazer, but I still say go for it!

BIC Graphic: An Example of Poor Customer Service

Poor Customer Service Last week I wrote a blog post where the conclusion was that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well, I’m about to prove myself wrong! You see, last week I began tweeting about BIC Graphic and the horrible (more like non-existent, really) customer service that we’ve received from them as of late. Well, it turns out that I’m not the only promotional marketing product distributor who is disappointed in BIC lately, as several other distributors have recently tweeted out their frustration as well. I’m not saying that it’s a huge, global movement, but it is bad publicity that is reaching a larger audience than it would without Twitter.

In case you’re wondering why I’m pestering BIC Graphic, here’s what happened. One of my customers from the University of Miami placed an order for some BIC pens back on August 3rd. It’s an exact reorder, so I didn’t think there would be any issues. My only somewhat-unusual request was for a paper proof – I always get these when I place a reorder because I want to be sure that the supplier and I are on the same page as far as the imprint. No big deal, right?

Boy was I wrong! A few days after placing the order, Susan, a member of the Gossett Marketing team called BIC to inquire about the status of the proof; unfortunately, she was unable to reach anyone in customer service, and instead left several voicemails. Those messages were never returned, so she continued to follow up, which led her to spending 28 minutes on hold one day. Once Susan managed someone, an operator, she was told that there was “no one available to answer her questions.” Umm…that’s not the type of customer service that we expect from a reputable company.

Well, at that point Susan escalated the order up our chain of command – to Danette Gossett, the owner of our company. She had no luck with BIC either, so she went a different route, calling Norwood, another promotional products supplier that is now a division of BIC. Danette did manage to reach a live human being at Norwood, who assured her that he would follow up on our order and “call back within the hour.” Guess what? He did not! This led to Danette calling several more times, and ultimately finding another person who assured her that her order was now in capable hands – that was last week, and we still do not have our proof! Susan contacted the rep that Danette found last week to request that document again and she discovered that BIC had tried to send it out last week – only they typed her e-mail address incorrectly and never bothered to follow up. That’s where we stand now, 11 business days (and 17 actual days) later. Our order hasn’t budged.

Now, I know that BIC and Norwood have recently changed their computer systems, which was a huge undertaking that has delayed many of their orders. It happens. My issue, though, is that they are trying to use that as an excuse for their complete lack of customer service. By tweeting my frustration, I’m acting like the squeaky wheel and BIC seems to think that they’ve given me the oil I need to shut up. But they have not! Poor customer service is bad enough, but a total lack of it is inexcusable. This squeaky wheel is going to continue my noisy Twitter (and now blog) campaign until I get the oil I actually want – my order. Hopefully this will motivate BIC to serve its customers in the future. If nothing else, maybe this blog’s readers will learn from a major company’s real-life mistakes, and that there is, in fact, such thing as bad publicity.

Hard Knocks: Attempting to Instill Faith in the Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Hard Knocks
My husband and I recently watched the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, a documentary/reality series that follows an NFL team through training camp, giving viewers an inside look at preparation for the upcoming season. Although the program has been on since 2001, we’ve never watched it. This year is different because Hard Knocks is following our hometown team, the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins have stunk lately. Unfortunately for them, Miami is a town that is notorious for bad sports fans – if you watched the NBA Finals, which our team won, then you might have noticed that the majority of spectators didn’t show up to the American Airlines Arena until the start of the second quarter! If we’re that unsupportive of a good team, imagine how little enthusiasm Miamians have for the Dolphins. I think fans’ actions say it all: fewer people are buying season tickets, there have been calls to fire the team’s GM, and there is even a “Miami Dolphins Suck” Facebook page.

Because of all of this anti-Dolphins sentiment, and because the team has a new coach, will have a new quarterback, and it really needs a fresh start with its fans, I think the organization made a smart marketing move by allowing Hard Knocks to document its preseason. As a fair weather ‘Phins fan, I’ve definitely lost confidence in the team – to the point that I wasn’t sure that any of our coaches or staff actually did anything when they weren’t standing on the sidelines. So getting a behind-the-scenes peek at the hard work and preparation that goes into planning a football season is refreshing to me: lo and behold, the team is actually trying to win!

While I think the Dolphins agreed to participate in Hard Knocks to win back fans like me, it’s garnering them additional national exposure due to the antics of one player in particular. Chad Johnson (formerly Chad Ochocinco) was recently arrested for domestic violence. He was subsequently cut from the team – a moment that was captured on the show. I’ve seen coverage of this event on televised national news, Yahoo.com, Facebook, and Twitter. It wasn’t exactly a shining moment for the Dolphins, but heck, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?

If you haven’t caught Hard Knocks this season, you can click on this YouTube video to see the infamous Chad Johnson dismissal:

Miami’s Newest Promotional Product

Boat shoes
Gossett Marketing is located in Miami, so we’re always interested in what’s happening around town, including at the University of Miami. I read in the Miami Herald today that a 21 year old student at “The U” (as it’s known around here) has founded his own company called Category 5 Boat Shoes. As the name suggests, the company sells boat shoes. While that’s interesting enough, what makes his footwear even better from Gossett Marketing’s perspective is that they are customizable with a company’s logo.

As a promotional marketing product distributor, we provide a tremendous amount of imprinted apparel – from scrubs to golf shirts to caps and visors – to our customers. And while we have frequently supplied flip flops to the likes of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, we’ve never delivered logoed boat shoes, and I think they’re a great idea!

When you think of boat shoes you probably think of sailors. That’s an obvious market for these products, and I can think of a number of sailing facilities who could benefit from putting their logos on a pair of Category 5’s products. When their sailors participate in regattas, other sailors would then see those logos all around the country and world! Excellent marketing! But it’s not only sailing clubs and sailors who can utilize these shoes. Boat shoes have been very “in” lately, as evident by Sperry Top-Sider’s ever-expanding line. Thus, any company that imprints a pair and gives them to a stylish customer – who might balk at wearing a more pronounced logo on, say, a t-shirt – is likely to gain some marketing exposure for their brand. It’s a win-win!

We’re always looking for unique promotional marketing products, and it’s great to see that a student at a local university has founded a company that does just that. Keep up the good work, Category 5 Boat Shoes!

Mini MINIs – Viral Marketing at its Finest

mini cooper If, like me, you’ve been watching the Track & Field competition at the Olympics, then chances are that you’ve noticed remote controlled MINI Coopers zipping around the stadium. These quarter-size models, dubbed “mini MINIs” are being used to carry equipment like javelins and discuses from the field back to athletes in the throwing area, which is a big timesaver. Well, not only are the miniature MINIs practical, but they are also noticeable because they are such an anomaly on the field. Nothing like a miniature car has ever been used in the Olympics, so they are the talk of the town, if not the world.

The buzz surrounding the mini MINIs is great news for the brand and its parent company BMW, a major Olympics sponsor. The MINI Cooper is the official car of the Games and for all I know, the Village is crawling with them; however, I have yet to see one during televised Olympics coverage. BMW is also advertising relentlessly, but I’ve gotten so sick of the incessant commercials that I’ve been recording the Games and fast-forwarding through those. That being said, MINI/BMW’s sponsorship might have been a big waste of money if not for the mini MINIs. If I hadn’t seen the fun remote controlled cars, I wouldn’t have Googled them to see why they were there, and I would not have even known that MINI or BMW were involved in the Games. But because I thought they were such a fun novelty, I did just that, and now I’m blogging about them – that’s viral marketing at its finest.

I like to think that the popularity of the mini MINIs was just a happy accident, but I know that it was a calculated move by MINI/BMW. I wonder what they’ll roll out next to warm our hearts and pique our curiosity? (bad pun intended)

If you haven’t seen the mini MINIs, check out this YouTube clip:

Why You Should Combine Business & Pleasure

friends Like everyone else here at Gossett Marketing, I spend a good amount of time networking. I go to events, I seek referrals through LinkedIn, and I even reach out to people via Twitter. By being proactive and putting myself out there both in the real world and online, I have managed to make a lot of great contacts who have helped me to expand my business. I’m comfortable asking them for and giving them referrals and introducing them to key players who I know will help them grow their networks. So…why am I not doing the same thing with my network of friends?

As a native Miamian I know a lot of people down here socially, as I’m sure most people do in their hometowns. They practice different professions, have different interests, and because of that they all know different people who I’m sure could help me grow my business network. But because I know these people outside of the business realm, I don’t think of them as business networking tools, and obviously the feeling is mutual, as none of my friends ask me for referrals or introductions.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to my problem – I am just going to start networking with my friends. There is no harm in my picking up the phone to chit chat with a gal pal and in the process asking her for a referral. If we’re comfortable enough to discuss our relationships, then we’re certainly comfortable enough to help each other grow our businesses. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this sooner, but I am about to tap my strongest source of leads – my social network is going to expand my business network in a hurry!

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