Category Archives: Business Boosters

Small Business Saturday!

November 24, 2012 is a day dedicated towards showing our support for small business nationwide.  Small Businesses create more jobs and opportunities than any other business in the nation.

With the support of American Express, last year over one hundred million people came together and dedicated their efforts shopping “small.”

 National Pen recognizes that the majority of our customers are in fact small businesses.  Whether you need promotional tools, items for giveaways, or products to highlight your small business, let us serve you with all your needs!  Come visit us @National Pen

Stay Positive!

October is Positivity Month.  Looking for some ways to stay on top and be more efficient?  Here are some ideas to manage energy and promote positivity:

The Power of a Good Night Sleep.  While days generally consist of long hours at work followed by trying to complete tasks afterwards, many people underestimate just how important sleep plays in the energy that we have.  According to the American Psychological Association, 40% of adults suffer from daytime sleepiness a few days a month, and another 20% suffer a few days a week as a result of their sleep habits.  This reduces energy, well-being, and ultimately causes daily activities to hinder as a result.  By aiming to average at least 8 hours of sleep a night, you will begin to feel better on a daily basis and operate at a higher level.

Develop Daily Plans.  Take time on a daily basis to map out what you need to accomplish.  By staying organized, you will begin to develop efficiency and identify tasks that are necessary for the utilization of your energy.  Think about the hours at work and home that are dedicated to tasks other than those that are necessary (surfing the web, telephone, social media, etc.).  Though we all want a little “me” time here and there, this leads to unproductive habits and drains our energy by not staying on task.  By keeping an organizer, schedule, or list, you can accomplish tasks quicker, save energy, and create more time for yourself to do things you want!

Create Time For You.  Half the battle with staying energetic and positive is that there seems to not be enough “me” time.  Whether work feels overwhelming or life becomes hectic, making sure that you set aside time for yourself is one of the most important aspects towards maintaining health and happiness.  On a weekly basis, find time in which you can perform something brings yourself happiness.  Whether it is catching a football game on television, going to the movies, meeting up with friends or family, and/or performing your favorite activity, find time for such.  By doing so, you will feel more relaxed, refreshed, and ready to take on tasks and goals ahead.

Go For It.  Don’t be afraid and have a “can do” attitude.  One major obstacle to obtaining positivity is the fear of failure.  Set goals that you see yourself being able to reach and go for them.  By holding back, you are only promoting negativity and the possibility of failure.  Whether win, lose, or draw; knowing that you gave it your all will allow you to gain satisfaction, bring about positive energy, and affirm your actions as being successful endeavors.

Surround Yourself With Positive Energy.  Whether it is being around good people, extending a helping hand, or becoming more involved (activities, organizations, etc.), surrounding yourself with positive energy will help promote health, wealth, and happiness.  Positivity and energy are transferable sources that when shared create mutual satisfaction and happiness.  Immersing yourself into actions that promote personal and communal positivity will lead to greater satisfaction and success within your daily lives.

Knowledge is Power

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” – Peter Drucker

January 19 is Get to Know Your Customer Day. It seems like we should spend more than a day learning
about our customers, right? Customers are the key to your success so it’s important to get to know them as well as you can. Learn about their interests, needs, and challenges so you can offer the products and services that are best suited for them.

What are the best ways to do this?

Surveys: An easy way to learn about your customers is to just ask. There are plenty of easy-to-use online survey tools that you can use to collect feedback. Ask about their satisfaction, where you can improve, what needs are not currently met. The benefit of doing this online is that customers will speak candidly and let you know the good and the not so good. Also include some questions that can help build your relationship. Do they like to travel or play sports? Do they have kids? You may find you have more in common than just your business relationship.

Personal Meetings: If you’re in the sales field, take your top customers out for lunch or coffee. Instead of just sticking to business, keep the conversation diverse so you learn as much as you can. If you have a retail or service location, consider providing refreshments for an hour or two when you can mingle and chat with customers.

Social Media: The Internet makes it possible to connect to your customers year-round. Set up accounts on Yelp, Facebook and/or Linked In for your business. Let customers know where to find you so you can keep an open dialog with them. The bonus to you is that new customers may find you online, especially when you get rave reviews!

The most important thing about getting to know your customers is taking the time to interpret what you learned. Listen to what they’re telling you, and read through their comments. Based on what you now know, think about what you can do to best meet their needs. Answer that succesfully and you’ll have more customers to get to know next time around! Happy customers tell their friends…

We value your support would love to know more about you and what you think about National Pen. Please let us know how we’re doing!

It’s National Thank Your Customers Week

The first week of January is usually a busy week for everyone. We set business and personal goals, get excited about the promises of a new year, and are often just taking time to catch up after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. This week is also National Thank Your Customers Week. As you begin 2012, remember to take a moment to thank those who supported your business in 2011. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.

Showing your appreciation can be as simple as writing a personal note to your best customers. Include a favorite inspirational quote to help set the tone for a great year. If you didn’t get a chance to give thank you gifts last month, here’s your chance. Personalized calendars are a timely option. You can also give gifts that support your customer’s resolutions for the New Year – a lunch bag to pack healthy meals, a duffle bag to take to the gym, or a new padfolio or business card holder to get organized.

However you choose to thank your customers, make sure they know you value them. Keep your message personal and memorable, and you’ll be off to a great start!

The Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing has been a proven tool in generating interest, traffic, awareness and ultimately – sales. But how has word of mouth marketing changed in the past few years? With the advent of the internet, information is literally at your fingertips in a matter of seconds. Wide searches and reviews can generate foot and internet traffic for retailers and businesses.

However, one of the most important advances has been the use of social media for businesses. Forrester analyst Augie Ray recently wrote Word of Mouth and Social Media: A Tale of Two Burger Joints. This article discusses how two wildly popular restaurants rose to success – one over the course of 10 years, and the other – in just one year. How did this happen, and how can we all learn from this success?

- Twitter and Facebook engagement – get followers and fans and talk to them…it’s a quick, informal and viral way to disseminate information
o Offer prizes for contests such as trivia, scavenger hunts, pop quizzes, and holidays
- Use social media for promotions to drive and retain loyalty
o Offer special deals, sales, or insider information to encourage your customers and
prospects to visit often and enjoy the site
- Create videos on YouTube – product, sales, events…the possibilities are growing every day!
- Focus on time, not money.

Social media requires very little money to be successful, but it does require time. Devote time to creating interesting and compelling tweets and posts, and responding to your interactions. This type of activity fosters some of the most powerful word of mouth success available.

So get out there and be social start with us!

Test Your Business!

When developing a marketing and sales strategy for your business, there are many avenues, ideas and programs to follow. It’s overwhelming at times – Do I focus on message? Do I need a new design? Is my website performing? It’s enough to make your head spin! However, one of the key pieces of advice any consultant, marketing guru or successful businessperson can give is to test, Test, TEST!

Justin Premick published an article about his case study regarding his email efforts and how effective they were. The focus of the case study was comparing text links to html buttons in an email. He was trying to discover which type of presentation drove more sales and conversion. Not surprising, his initial results were that the colorful button drove more people to click. Rather than stopping there, Premick continued to test this in over 40 emails. His results showed that over time, these results were not true – in fact, the final results were that using “buttons” rather than tests was not the best long-run tactic to take.

So, why is this important? Premick stated it best:

  • What works today may not work tomorrow.
  • What works for someone else may not work for you.
Running a successful business takes testing and analysis to see what works for you and your business – so come up with a hypothesis and test it! Once you see what works for you, you can use those learnings to continue to refine your marketing strategy and get the most bang for your marketing dollar and time!

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Sizing Up Your Competition

When formulating a marketing and sales plan, one of the best places to start is with your competition – what better way to get a feel for what is working, what you can do better, and how to set yourself apart? As Steve Strauss discusses in his article How to Research Your Competition, using marketing research and competitive analysis is key in understanding the market landscape.

So just how should you research your competition?

1. Start with their website – it should contain history, product or service positioning and other useful information.

2. Do physical research – visit their store, call their customer service or purchase from them…what better way to see how they do business than to become their customer?

3. Speak to their customers – either literally or though their reviews and feedback.

4. Attend industry events – where they might present, attend or share information.

In short, once you do your homework, knowing what the competition does right (and wrong), can help you set your business and strategy apart and give your business the boost it needs.


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Going Green – for your environment, for your business!

Being eco-friendly and saving our resources is not just an environmental issue. It’s also a great way to save dollars in your business, and reach out to your customer and client base. Some obvious benefits of following the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” adage are: saving our environment, reducing waste, and saving money.

But what are the not-so-obvious benefits?

Why not use your ad message in a “green” way – like putting your imprint on a Shopping Tote? Many stores encourage the use of re-usable shopping bags, and some even charge for bags or boxes. What a simple way to keep your name and message in view!


Many offices are also downsizing their disposable supplies – that means no more Styrofoam coffee cups for some. Put your message on their morning coffee mug and encourage business and saving the environment.


Use these simple products to have an additional (and eco-friendly) way to stay in touch with your customers, and show them you care them, AND the environment!


For more tips on green business tips, visit http://www.business.gov/expand/green-business/.


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Trade Show Pay-Offs

In the world of small business, trade shows can be some of the best investments that can be made. They offer an opportunity for live interaction (and in recent years, virtual interaction) with fellow business members, customers, partners and vendors within your specific field. Networking, advertising, learnings and demonstrations are carved out for a customizable experience for each attendee or exhibitor.

How can you make the most of these shows? Joanna Krotz discusses her strategy with Microsoft in her article “9 Steps to Making Trade Shows Pay Off”. She outlines key points, such as creating a strategy, research, having a backup plan and getting noticed. In the strategy of getting noticed at trade shows, there are a few schools of thought, however Krotz suggests a dialed-down, more personalized approach. Rather than overwhelming attendees with flashing lights and massive displays, she suggests using personalized coffee mugs with company information as a give-away with plenty of fresh coffee available at your booth. Also, she recommends collecting business cards to raffle off a single high-value item.

No matter how you decide to use Krotz’s tips, trade shows, if done right, can provide fantastic ROI in the form of leads, sales, relationships and thought leadership.

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Customers for Life

Identifying and reaching out to customers is a challenge that businesses face on a regular basis. But what about retaining customers — for life? Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, in Missouri, uses a “front of the line” program for their regular customers – meaning that in the dead of winter, if your pipes freeze, you won’t have to wonder how long it will take for the plumber to come out.

In a recent article on MSN’s Business on Main page, Keeping Customers for Life, companies like Benjamin Franklin Plumbing are used as a model for how to grow and retain your long-term customer base.
Here are some key steps used by companies such as Southwest Airlines, ED Foods and Crucial Technology:
- Deliver what you say you’re going to do
- Expect the best
- From there, go beyond the usual
- Watch your customer, not your bottom line
- Nurture lifelong employees
- Make customers want to stick around
- Be picky about your lifelong customers
Customers truly are the heart of any business – we simply wouldn’t exist without them, so remember: treat them well and your company will be treated well in return!
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