Make Your Customers VIPs: They’ll Reward You

Stone Crabs
This weekend is sad day because it marks the end of stone crab season! Stone crabs are a delicious South Florida tradition. I grew up in Miami, so I’ve always eaten my fill, so when I moved to Nashville for college I was shocked that so many of my friends had never heard of this delicacy. I remember lamenting the lack of stone crabs in Tennessee and my roommate (from Ohio) responding to my complaints by asking “what’s that?” I explained about eating the claws, the mustard sauce, etc. and somehow mentioned Joe’s on Miami Beach. Well, she had never heard of stone crabs, but she knew about Joe’s!

Joe’s Stone Crab is a Miami landmark. It opened in 1913 and first started serving stone crabs in 1921. It’s always been a favorite spot for the rich and famous and, aside from the crabs, I think that Joe’s is most known for its exclusivity. You see, it is only open for about 10 months each year and you can’t make a reservation! People are known to try to slip the maître d’ big tips for a table, and everyone knows somebody who knows somebody who can get them in, but in reality, if you go to Joe’s you just need to be prepared to wait. It is a restaurant known for long lines, and that seems to add to the allure and, well, the legend.

Joe’s has been around for almost 100 years and is world famous; unfortunately, most of our companies cannot say the same thing! However, we can all learn from their exclusivity. Now, I’m not saying that you should keep your customers waiting for hours; rather, you want to make them feel like insiders – like they knows somebody who knows somebody who can get them a table at Joe’s. For instance, you can thank them for their business with a “special gift” that is exclusively for them (maybe a high-end golf shirt with your logo discreetly embroidered on the sleeve). Or extend them the price that is reserved for only your best clients. They don’t have to know that all of your customers get the same thing. Make them feel like they’re “in” and they will keep coming back for more.

How do you make your customers feel like insiders?

Preparation: The Key to Networking

Shaking Hands I believe in being prepared for networking events. Think of them like a job interview. The first thing you want to do is sell yourself in your elevator speech (click here to read my previous post on that topic). Then it’s important to learn about the person with whom you are connecting: does it seem like he or she will benefit you or vice-versa? It’s like figuring out whether a position in a new company will work for you. Then it’s time for the end of the interview, when my least favorite question arises. Much like I find, “Do you have any questions for us?” to be a stumbling block, when a new contact asks, “What can I do for you?” I sometimes have a hard time answering immediately.

To get over my fear of “What can I do for you?” I’ve come up with a couple of stock answers that work for me. My go-to is to ask for referrals. As you know by now, Gossett Marketing is a creative promotional products distributer. While I believe that every company needs some sort of promotional products, not every person within that company is going to be buying them. Let’s say I’ve just met a doctor from the Jackson Memorial Hospital. When he asks what he can do for me, I’m not going to tell him I’d like a free yearly physical; instead, I’d ask him to please refer me to his department’s marketing director. Or if he seems to know several people at the event, I’d ask him to introduce me to them right then and there.

If the person with whom I am networking does seem to be someone with whom I’d do business, then my “What can I do for you?” answer is always the same: I suggest that we schedule a meeting. We generally do not set a date then and there, but it opens the door for a future appointment. I also make sure to follow up with that person the next day – don’t drop the ball when someone wants to meet with you!

Those are two really easy stock responses to what I find to be a difficult question. Of course, if you are a networking pro who doesn’t get tripped up when put on the spot, go ahead and be daring with your answers! But having these two in my back pocket makes me infinitely more comfortable when meeting new people – like a job interview, in networking preparation is key.

A Good Networking Event?

Networking EventWhat makes a good networking event? I am sure it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s a good combination of people – those I know and don’t know. As well as individuals that are there to meet people – not just sell.

I prefer an event where there are a few people that know me and are willing to make introductions. I find it helps put most people more at ease rather than walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself.

I was at a function recently at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove and was introduced to a woman starting a new company. We discussed many aspects of her company and as I offered her my card I told her not to hesitate to contact me with questions or if she felt I could introduce her to some prospects. Her response was surprising. “Wow, at most events I go to, no one ever offers to help. It seems they just want to sell me their products.”

A good reminder for any networking event – it’s give and take. Not all take. How many times have you been at an event when someone interrupts a group to push their business card into your hand with not even an attempt to understand what it is you do or need. First impressions count. So don’t be remembered that way or not at all because I throw those business cards away

While we are all out there trying to make an impression and market our small or large business, we also need to be willing to listen and understand the needs of the people we meet.

T-Shirts People Want to Wear

Boccalone T-Shirt

We live in Miami, but my husband is a California native so we end up in San Francisco a lot. Whenever we are out there, I make a point of going to the Ferry Building, which is where they have a fabulous farmer’s market as well as unique shops and delicious cafes. It’s all great, but I must admit that I do have a favorite – Boccalone.

Boccalone is salumi store selling wonderful, small-batch cured meats. Everything that they make is absolutely scrumptious and I’m so happy that I discovered the store because, to be honest, I almost didn’t. You see, I have a huge sweet tooth so on our first trip to the Ferry Building, I was dragging my husband toward a beautiful chocolate shop. That’s when I first saw Boccalone and, with my sights set on truffles, I didn’t give the meat store a second thought until I saw their tagline – “Tasty Salted Pig Parts.” That was it! I had to see what Boccalone was all about!

During my visit, I swooned over scrumptious nduja, bought plenty of salami for our family, and then made my favorite purchase – I got a Tasty Salted Pig Parts t-shirt! To this day I wear the shirt at least twice a week, and whenever anyone sees me in it (generally at the grocery store – I try to look a little bit better most of the time), they always chuckle and ask about Boccalone. Essentially, I paid them $25 to do their advertising for them! Plus, I have several friends who have requested their own shirts for Christmas – we’re spreading the word in a big way!

Like mine from Boccalone, t-shirts give your brand excellent exposure, but only if they’re something that an individual wants to wear. If you are considering giving out or selling T’s, make sure you give the end user a reason to actually put it on – a clever saying, a beautiful silkscreened image, or performance fabric could all be motivators. After all, you can’t promote your brand with a shirt that sits in a drawer.

Make Them Remember You

Remember Name Button
I received an Amazon Kindle for my birthday and I absolutely love it. It’s compact and light, purchasing books is convenient, and the battery lasts forever – I’ve downloaded and read three entire books and have yet to charge it. I’m a huge fan! My only gripe about the Kindle is that I can never remember the titles of the books that I’m reading or have read on it. I guess it’s because I don’t have to pick up an actual book, which would have the title displayed on both the cover and the spine, so I see the name less frequently. That lack of exposure allows the book’s name to escape me even if I really love what I’m reading.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this. Well, here it is… I can’t remember the title of the book that I’m reading while I’m reading it because I do not see it every time I pick up my Kindle – lack of exposure is the problem. So if your customer is not exposed to your company’s name and logo, how will they remember you? Sure, they might have “Accountant” or “A/C Guy” programmed into their phone, but will they be able to refer you business if they don’t have that phone with them? Probably not!

Get your logo out there if you want people to recognize your corporation! Promotional marketing products are an excellent way to do that. If you are an accountant, give out calculators – that’s a no-brainer. I have my appliance repair company’s magnet on my refrigerator so I see their name – Glenn’s – every day. And Gossett Marketing gives out fun logoed items to our customers: bags, hand-shaped, highlighters, you name it! We practice what we preach!

So put your logo on something and give it to your customers. It really helps them remember your name!

September 11th

american flag
Instead of reading our blog post today, please take a moment to remember those people who were lost on September 11th, 2001, as well as their loved ones. Thank you.

Keep Work Relationships Civil

photo from artbistro.monster.com

photo from artbistro.monster.com

I recently had a meeting with the sales team of a company that I shall not name. They were looking for promotional marketing products that would apply to various situations – trade shows, client gifts, etc. – and we were trying to pick one or two items that the whole team felt would be appropriate. I have these meetings a lot and they usually go very smoothly; however, this particular one did not because two members of this team clearly did not get along.

Honestly, I don’t think that you have to be friends with your coworkers. Sometimes it’s nice to form a deeper bond with someone in the office, but if you do not, it’s no big deal. You just have to be able to tolerate your coworkers enough to get your job done. Unfortunately, at the aforementioned meeting, there was no level of tolerance between two coworkers, and it was detrimental to everyone involved. Two of the ladies in attendance were downright frosty to one another, and when one indicated a promotional product that she liked, the other shot it down immediately and rarely for any good reason. Judging by the looks that the rest of the team members gave each other whenever either of these women rejected the other’s preferred promo item, this was not the first time that these two had behaved that way. It was incredibly awkward and it made it very difficult to nail down their order even though they had an immediate need for promotional products.

Like anyone who has been in the job force for any amount of time, I’ve had coworkers that I really did not like (I’m not just saying this – none of these people have been at Gossett Marketing!). But I cannot say that I have ever had a hostile relationship with any of them – particularly not in front of someone outside of the organization. Workplace hostility is detrimental to teams/departments/companies because it disrupts communication in one way or another, and a lack of communication makes it that much more difficult to succeed in any business. As I said, you do not have to be friends with your coworkers, but try to at least fake a pleasant relationship with those coworkers that you detest. A hostile work relationship is not just negative because it might make you feel bad, it’s just bad business.

4 Things to Consider when Purchasing Promos

photo from warpandwoof.org

photo from warpandwoof.org

Very often when people call me to order promotional products they will already have something specific in mind, so I simply find the best-priced version of that item and send them a quote to get the order process started. Because they do not say, “I have X event coming up, and I need to order Y for it,” I frequently do not know exactly what the promo items are going to be used for. This is unfortunate because as a promo products distributor, I am very familiar with the items we sell. So if I know what they are being used for, then I can help people select more appropriate promotional products than they might otherwise purchase. Here are four questions that I consider when suggesting promo items – questions that most people outside of our industry might not think about:

  1. Where will it be used? Today I was looking for dry erase boards at a customer’s behest. When I called one of the vendors whose items I thought might fit the bill he asked, “will this be used in a hospital? If so, I would recommend adding a special coating to protect it from the harsh chemicals that hospitals often use to clean.” This was a great bit of information that I was able to pass along to my customer – yes, a hospital – so that they do not wind up ordering something that will be accidentally ruined by their cleaning crew.
  2. Who will receive these promo items? Did you know that products that are distributed to children are required to have a General Certificate of Conformity? A lot of people do not, and that’s why you hear news reports about, for instance, the toys in a box of cereal being recalled – they might have contained lead or been choking hazards or anything else that was not in compliance these General Certificate’s guidelines. You definitely do not want to have a promotional product recall on your hands, so be sure to let your distributor know if kids will be your target audience.
  3. Do you need something that adheres to safety standards? Much like there are specific safety considerations when items are given to children, there are also requirements that pertain to high visibility clothing. So if you simply asked a promotional products distributor for a neon green vest with your logo printed upon it, it might not be up to par with the American National Standard’s Institute’s standards for that type of apparel – and that could put your employee in danger.
  4. Do you want something creative and different? As I mentioned, we promotional products distributors know a lot about the items we sell, so if you tell us what kind of event you are planning, we might have a unique idea that would not have thought of. Or if you want to get truly creative, we have the resources to have custom promo products made for you.

Promotional products are not just imprinted pens, bags, and t-shirts. So the next time you decide that your company needs to order some, provide your distributor with as much information as you can about the event or recipient. That way you are sure to give something that won’t be ruined by a cleaning crew, that is compliant with safety regulations, and that is something creative and different that your customers and employees will love!

Networking Online vs. Offline

photo from rightmixmarketing.com

photo from rightmixmarketing.com

I spend a good portion of this blog talking about the importance of networking because it is really a major factor in business development. I believe in attending networking events and building relationships with the people I meet in order to ultimately grow Gossett Marketing. I also think that social media is a valid way to meet new business contacts. If you ask me, participating in the online networking community is virtually identical to attending an event in person – you put yourself out there to meet someone new, then have to nurture the relationship until something comes of it. The only difference is that you not actually ever meet that person face to face.

When I started writing this post, I had anticipated saying that networking by attending events and doing so via social media are the same except for the fact that you can be more laid back online, but I’ve decided that that is not the case. At least not for members of the Gossett team. Whenever any one of us goes online, we try to interact with the people we meet just as we would if we were doing so in person, and that means staying professional across the board. That means not using foul language or crude jokes, sticking to business-related topics (with a few “Easter egg” deviations here and there) and certainly never engaging someone in a way that they might find disrespectful. And that is exactly how I act at a networking event.

I know that someone out there is thinking, “Lillian, you are not describing how to behave at a networking event or when meeting someone online, you are just explaining how to be a human being with normal social skills.” Well, frankly, that’s all that I think it takes to be a successful networker online or off. Being natural, genuine, conversational, etc. is a much better tactic than being stiff and robotic because it makes other people comfortable enough to talk to you. And all you need to do to grow your business is start – and carry on – conversations that build your professional network.

Google+: A Good Social Media Platform that I Don’t Want to Use

photo from orgspring.com

photo from orgspring.com

The Gossett Marketing team recently sat down with our social media coach Cynthia Seymour of Seymour Results to discuss Google+. As someone who writes a lot of blog posts and spends quite a bit of time on LinkedIn and Twitter, I actually groaned numerous times during the meeting. Another social media platform to learn? Who has the time? This online networking thing isn’t my real job, you know, I do have to sell promotional marketing products at some point during the day!

Cynthia was undeterred by my whining, though, and she powered through her explanation as to why we all need to be on Google+. And what she said made sense. G+ lets you connect with people in a unique way – when you follow people you actually put them in “Circles” of your own creation, and you can filter your content according to those Circles. For instance, both Baptist Health and Royal Caribbean are our customers, so they would be in my Customer Circle. But Baptist would also be in my Healthcare Circle, while Royal Caribbean would go in the one that I establish for Travel. So if I wanted to see what sort of content both of these customers have shared, I would elect to look at my Customer Circle, but if I wanted to share a neat post pertaining to healthcare just to the people with whom I am connected in that industry, then I could send it to my Healthcare Circle exclusively.

Other than filtering content in an easy way, Google+ also allows your personality to shine through differently than it can on other social media platforms. Posts can be longer than the 140 character limit imposed by Twitter, which makes it an easier way to share deeper and more complete thoughts. And Google’s social media platform isn’t as buttoned up and corporate as LinkedIn, so everyone is a bit more relaxed and carefree than they are on that site. I think that being more personal makes you more memorable when you’re networking, so I actually like the fact that Google+ lets you be yourself while making connections across the world.

Clearly I can tell that there are business and networking benefits to joining Google+, but I’m still reluctant to participate. As I said before, I only have so many hours in a day to get everything done – and social media is just one aspect of my job. I’m sure that I will ultimately begin to use the platform, but I can promise you that there will be much more whining before I do so. What do you think? Am I being stupid? Or are you also overwhelmed by the number of social media platforms that we now seem to need? Let me know in your comments below, please. I’d love some feedback.

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