Happy Turkey Day!

photo from southernsavers.com

photo from southernsavers.com

It is Thanksgiving here in the US, and that is all the excuse I need to slack on my blog post for this Thursday. Just know that I’m thankful for everyone who reads our blog! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tourism and Networking…Sort of Relate?

photo from miami-hotel-reservation.info

photo from miami-hotel-reservation.info

Like I said in yesterday’s blog post, I recently vacationed on the Caribbean island of St. John. There are only about 4,000 or so human inhabitants on the island – there must be twice the number of deer to people there – but the population swells daily because of the huge number of tourists that visit. Tourists who clog the sidewalks, drive on the wrong side of the road, and generally leave chaos in their wake. But you know what? Every single native islander that I met during my time there was nice and accommodating when we interacted.

Clearly you just read that first paragraph and you’re thinking, “Lillian, obviously they were nice to you and all of the other tourists – they rely on the money that vacationers bring in.” I get that, I really do. But I am also someone who has lived her whole life in Miami, a major tourist destination, and I have to tell you that I do not necessarily always behave as warmly towards our tourists as the locals on St. John did towards me. What can I say? My hometown is flooded with so-called “Snowbirds” during the winter months and traffic becomes a nightmare. Walking around South Beach during the season? Forget it – too many people on the sidewalks. And if you think you can snag a dinner reservation anywhere good, then you’re wrong. Too many tourists!

I’m sure that many, many of the people who greeted me warmly as we passed on the sidewalks of St. John found my presence just as annoying as I do Miami’s tourists. But they sure fooled me. I’ll bet they’d be great at networking events – able to put a smile on their faces and make a stranger feel welcome and willing to do business with them. I know it’s a stretch to relate the kindness of the people of St. John to networking, but I’m going with it! And aside from that, their excellent attitudes (real or fake) are a great example for the people of Miami. Rather than feel annoyed by our own tourists, we at least act happy to have them here. I know that I am going to take a cue from the people I met during my Caribbean vacation and try to be a friendlier Miamian – and a jollier networker to boot!

Marketing a Tropical Paradise

photo from theroamingboomers.com

photo from theroamingboomers.com

I just returned from a week in St. John at a fabulous resort called Caneel Bay. St. John, part of the US Virgin Islands, is a beautiful place that is widely uninhabited, as the majority of the island is a US National Park. Our resort was surrounded by the Park so it was surrounded by lush vegetation, interesting critters (bats, iguanas, donkeys, deer, sea turtles, etc.), white beaches, and pristine water. Needless to say, my family was thrilled by our surroundings and absolutely loved our time away!

I was completely spoiled by being able to open my front door and walk onto the beach for a week, but aside from the setting the staff at Caneel Bay did a wonderful job of making the resort itself memorable. For example, when we were taken to our room on the first day of our visit, I noticed that is smelled divine. I asked the man who was giving us our tour if I was smelling flowers or his cologne or what. He smiled and pulled out a candle in what seems to be the property’s signature Mango Melon scent: it’s tropical and fruity, but not overpowering – it is just what a Caribbean resort should smell like!

Aside from the wonderful scent, what I loved about the candle is that it was mine for the taking (no, not stealing, our guide specifically told me that it was to use at the resort and/or to bring home). I brought mine and my sister-in-law’s back with me to Miami, and when I was wallowing in the post-vacation blues last night I lit it and was transported back to the beach. In my mind at least.

I positively love my Caneel Bay candle, and I know that when people ask me about its unusual scent I will tell them about our fabulous trip to the resort. Oh, and chances are that I will also show them the candle holder, which is tastefully imprinted with the property’s logo – smart marketing by an amazing Caribbean resort!

Bring Back Picture Frames!

photo from indulgy.com

photo from indulgy.com

The holiday season is upon us and our customers have already begun to order holiday gifts for their own customers and employees. Tech items have been really popular this year, so we have delivered a large number of iPad cases to various entities. We’ve also sourced neat coolers, tote bags, logoed apparel, and journals for the holidays. Interestingly, we keep getting the same request again and again this year – people really want to order picture frames.

Remember back in the day when you couldn’t take a picture and instantly view it? When it was so much fun to drop off film and then pick up the developed photos? I loved those days and I was always surrounded by pictures of family and friends back then – I had hard copies of the images, so I figured I might as well display them. Now in the age of technology we still have pictures of our friends and family, but they are in our phones, on our tablets, on memory cards, or online at Facebook and Instagram. That’s all well and good, but I have to say that I miss the days of regular old pictures!

Apparently I’m not the only one who misses having photographs and displaying them in my home and office because, as I mentioned, we have had a large number of requests for frames this holiday season. Whether our customers are asking for digital or traditional ones, I think it’s great that they want their customers and employees to be able to see their loved ones without having to pick up some sort of personal electronic device. And because their logo is imprinted upon these frames, they are, of course, doing a bit of marketing in the process of giving these frames as holiday gifts! Wouldn’t want to forget about that on this promotional products blog!

Do you have lots of framed photos at home or in your office? I’ve made a conscious effort to start using them again and it has really made me happy, so think about doing the same! Be like our customers and embrace the old fashioned picture frame.

Advertising That’s Progressive

photo from thecarconnection.com

photo from thecarconnection.com

I don’t know about you, but when I watch TV or listen to the radio it feels like there is at least one car insurance ad during every commercial break. Progressive, Geico, USAA, Farmers, and Allstate are all incredibly familiar names not just because I’ve used one or more of their services, but because they seem to advertise constantly.

I have done absolutely no research to prove this, but in my mind Progressive and Geico feel like they have the most commercials out of any of the five aforementioned companies. Progressive’s pitchwoman “Flo” is ubiquitous – I know that I have seen Progressive commercials in which she is not the star, but she seems to always been in them somehow. Geico, on the other hand, employs several characters in its ads: the Gecko, Cavemen, and the “Happier Than” guys (there are probably more, but as I said – no research). Both companies advertise constantly which really annoys me in Progressive’s case, but hardly bothers me with Geico because they vary their message and its delivery.

The interesting thing about the annoying Progressive commercials starring Flo is that the company knows that they are getting on my nerves (and probably everyone else’s). They have a new radio spot where Flo says something like, “don’t bother changing the station…you know I’m on all of them,” and it’s so true! I’ve actually changed the channel during a Progressive ad and landed on yet another one! So now I don’t bother – I just sit there and listen and I’ll bet a lot of other people do too.

Now I don’t know if Progressive’s approach to advertising is more successful than Geico’s or any of the other companies’ that I listed previously (I repeat – no research!), but I do know that I find it the most annoying. But here I sit writing about it for anyone to read, so I guess flooding the airwaves with Flo must be a good strategy!

I’m not sure if Flo is an international figure, so if you are reading this from a different part of the world you might be unfamiliar with America’s most annoying commercials. If that’s the case and you want to know more about these ads click on the YouTube video below:

10 Easy Conversation Starters

photo from ohedtech.org

photo from ohedtech.org

Have you ever gone to a networking event and been approached by someone who introduces herself and then just stops talking? You know the cringe-worthy conversation I’m talking about: a friendly woman makes eye contact and walks over to greet you, tells you her name and company, you respond in kind, and then she just stands there waiting for you to keep the conversation going. That can lead to some terribly awkward moments of silence, but you can avoid those uncomfortable conversational lulls just by having some easy questions in your arsenal. Here are 10 of my favorites:

    1. I am unfamiliar with your company – what do you do?
    2. Can you tell me about what you do within your company?
    3. What brings you to this networking event?
    4. Are you active within [insert the name of the organization hosting the event here]?
    5. Do you know anything about this luncheon’s keynote speaker?
    6. This might not be professional, but I love your haircut – who does it?
    7. Oh wow, the hors d’oeuvres look good, have you tried them?
    8. I was listening to news radio on the way here, did you hear that [insert topical reference]?
    9. Do you feel that being a part of this chamber of commerce has helped you grow your business?
    10. Is it just me or do you feel totally awkward at events like these?

The next time you are at a networking event and someone introduces herself then just shuts down try one of my easy conversation-starting questions. Anyone with any sort of social skills will be able to answer them, and hopefully that will get a real discussion going.

“Anchor Down” to Come out on Top

photo from anchorofgold.com

photo from anchorofgold.com

I think I’ve mentioned my alma mater, Vanderbilt University, on the blog before. Vanderbilt is a member of the Southeastern Conference, and while the SEC is known for strong athletics Vandy is not historically the football powerhouse that some of the other members are. I know that while I was a student there the Commodores never had a winning football season – oh well, it was still a lot of fun!

I could go into a lot of statistics about how well Vanderbilt’s football team traditionally performs in the SEC, but I’m not going to bore you with that. Suffice it to say that the more football-centric schools often play the Commodores as their homecoming game because they want to be sure to have a victory that weekend. The University of Florida played Vandy for just that game this year. And you know what? Vanderbilt won!! For the first time since 1945, my Commodores beat the Gators in Gainesville – so much for an easy homecoming victory, Florida fans!

I’m so proud of my underdog team for winning in The Swamp, and I think we can all learn a good lesson from the victory: never give up. The Commodores had not won on Gator turf since the last millennium, but they went there, played hard, and came up with the W all the same. I don’t know about you, but I find that both admirable and inspiring. So the next time I face a major obstacle that I think is insurmountable I am going to put my Commodore game face on and, as we say “Anchor Down.” That way, I know I will come out on top.

Click on the YouTube video below to watch the first Anchor Down ceremony. I think Coach Franklin’s words are applicable to everyone!

Give Your Employees what They Want

photo from parentmaze.com

photo from parentmaze.com

I recently read an article about corporate gifts in The Wall Street Journal online. It revealed that 78% of employees would rather receive a gift than have a company party this holiday season – what great news for employers! Why? Because those gifts can and should be imprinted promotional products that their recipients will use, which will then provide them with marketing exposure. Add to that the fact that those items will make their employees happier than a party, and giving promotional gifts is a no-brainer. Here are some ideas.

  • Tech Items: Items that are compatible with personal electronics devices are all the rage right now. People use and love headphones that plug into a smartphone, tablet cases, battery backups, and Bluetooth speakers, so delight your employees by giving them out this season so that your logo will go wherever their mobile devices do and be seen by countless pairs of eyes.
  • Travel Accessories: Whether they enjoy it or not, I’ll bet a portion of your workforce will travel during the holidays. That means that duffel bags, luggage tags, toiletry kits, and neck pillows are excellent gifts because those travelers will haul them through the airport. And even if your employees stay close to home they’ll eventually leave town and utilize them.
  • Apparel: Employers tend to shy away from giving apparel as gifts because they are nervous that they will order the wrong size and be stuck with various pieces of embroidered, unwanted clothing. I have two suggestions to combat this. First, you can ask your employees what size jacket or top they require and eliminate the guesswork. This might ruin the surprise, but at least it ensures that everyone gets something that fits them – and that they wear, which allows your logo to be seen. The second option would be to go with one size fits all items like hats or scarves, both of which can be decorated with your organizations logo and message.
  • Foodie Items: We all have to eat, so “foodie” items are always a big hit – people need them, so they use them. Coolers, picnic blankets, cutting boards, lunch bags, and utensils are all viable options. I like to suggest that our customers give away sets. A nice cooler and a picnic blanket is a fun combination that gives you even more logo exposure than you’d get by giving away just one piece.

This is just a tiny handful of the kind of promotional products that are out there and that I would recommend as a holiday gift. The majority of your employees would rather receive a present than attend an office party, so use that to your marketing advantage while you make them happy!

Networking Follow Up: Be Brief and Specific

photo from mindset.mercurypay.com

photo from mindset.mercurypay.com

I was going to start this post by saying, “unless you are the CEO of Coca-Cola, Macy’s, or another major company, then chances are that you participate in some form of networking.” Then I started thinking about it and I realized that the CEOs of such organizations probably reached their lofty positions precisely because they have spent their careers both working hard and networking effectively.

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – follow up after a networking event is, to me, the most crucial aspect of effective networking. It’s fine and dandy to meet someone at a luncheon with whom you think you can do a ton of business, but you won’t actually get that business unless you continue your communication with that person after the fact. The thing about follow up, though, is that it is often easily overlooked. Who hasn’t gotten an email the day after attending a local Chamber function and simply ignored it? I know I have, particularly if that email is really long – as pathetic as it sounds, I just don’t have time to read a verbose document from a near-stranger, even if I do think we can work together in some capacity. Same goes for long follow up calls: I’d rather not have them! No, a wordy email or a long-winded telephone conversation is not the best way to follow up after a networking event. But a brief yet personal version of either sure is.

Please note a very important word in that last sentence – “personal.” Do not send a form email after a networking event. Just don’t do it. Do reflect on the conversation that you and your new contact had at the event you attended and refer back to it in a 5-6 line email. If you don’t exactly recall your conversation, then Google the person’s company and say something specific about it. Or mention the pretty earrings that she was wearing. As long as you tailor the note to its reader it will make her feel more important, and then make her more likely respond.

If you choose to make a phone call rather than sending over an email, then tell the person on the other end of the line that you are not going to take up too much of his time – and then hold to that. You might say something like, “I enjoyed our conversation about X at the recent cocktail reception and I was hoping that you had 5 minutes to answer a question I’ve been mulling over.” 5 minutes is not much to ask, plus asking about a specific detail makes your new contact feel like an expert on the subject, and that is a great way to open the door to a new relationship!

So if you want to be the CEO of a huge corporation someday, start networking and following up effectively. Following up is the most crucial aspect of this equation that is where you truly grow and develop your network. By being brief yet specific in phone calls and emails you have a great chance of expanding your list of connections – and growing your business in the process.

Hey Guys, are you Shaving?

photo from no-shave-november.com

photo from no-shave-november.com

Have you heard of No Shave November? Also called “Movember,” it is a movement that encourages men not to shave their faces during the month of November in order to raise awareness about men’s cancer issues. What a good idea! Gentlemen who are usually clean-shaven can grow some stubble and start a conversation about the importance of cancer screening, research, and the like – and they are encouraged to donate the money that they would regularly spend on shaving to the cause.

I have a good number of friends who opt to forgo the razor during the month of November. They started doing so mainly out of laziness – I don’t know a single guy who loves to shave – but as we’ve gotten older and so many of us have been impacted by cancer in one way or another, the guys now opt to get hairy with a purpose and they really do spread the word about men’s health issues. My friends are growing up!

This year The Today Show is participating in No Shave November to really amplify the message. I think it’s great that their normally-fresh-faced male anchors and staffers have decided to put down the razor and promote men’s health issues this Movember. Hopefully their efforts, much like those of my buddies, will encourage other men to learn about the dangers of prostate cancer and other health problems that might specifically target them. No Shave November is not yet as prominent as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it’s no less important – so let those beards grow this month to support men’s health!

I wonder if the Duck Dynasty guys grew their beards in just one month? Click on the YouTube video below to check them out – I think that facial hair is seriously supportive of the quest to eliminate men’s cancer.


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