Category Archives: Marketing Tips

Proud to be American-made

We recently received the letter below from a happy customer. You may not know that many of our National Pen brand products are 100% Made in the USA. We manufacture top-selling pens like the Contour and the Colorama at our plant in Shelbyville, TN. The benefit to you is that you get American-made quality, factory direct prices and fast delivery. Most of all, you can feel good knowing that when you buy our products, you’re helping to keep dollars and jobs here in the USA.

“Dear Mr. Thompson:

Several weeks ago, I ordered pens from your company. We plan to give them away at the county fair. The pens arrived promptly, and look even better than as displayed on the website. Last week, I brought them to our monthly meeting and everyone was pleased with them.

It is important to our members that we shop for items made in America (the real America, not some off-shore territory). But even if that were not a factor, the price, quality and speed of service would ensure I recommend your company to others.“

For a complete list of promotional products Made in the USA, visit our site.

Guarantee Your Sales!

Have you ever taken a plunge on a new product and realized it just wasn’t what you were hoping for? I know I have, and as a direct result, when I do my online shopping, I look for a guarantee. Though it might seem like a big risk as a small business, guarantees can actually pay you back with more sales, customer loyalty and buyer confidence.

When customers are looking for which product or service to choose, a guarantee might be the deciding factor – offering the risk-free purchase they desire.

Some of the other benefits of offering a guarantee are:

Customer Buying Confidence – offering a guarantee ensures customers they can purchase with you with no need to worry

Increased Sales – If someone is not 100% sure of their purchase, this might give them the final push they needed to complete the sale.

Give you a leg up on the competition – This can be a real differentiating point between you and your competitors – so use it in your advertisements and marketing!

Internal quality control – In order to make sure these guarantees don’t have to be used, this can create a way to ensure the best service and product you offer is consistently being delivered – a sort of check and balances for your internal team.

With a good product or service and a sound guarantee in place, you are sure to see sales skyrocket!

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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!

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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Cross-Promotion for Small Businesses

Small business owners are often faced with the challenge of how to most effectively market their business with restricted budgets and resources. An article on bestsyndication.com titled 5 Ways Small Business Can Cross Promote, outlines the top 5 steps for making the most of your marketing dollar through collaboration.

1. Find complimentary business
2. Make an offer
3. Combine Mail-outs
4. Create a combination display
5. Link your site
This is an interesting approach to collaborative marketing. Often times, complimentary businesses or strategic partners pair up at tradeshows and conferences or in advertising campaigns. Perhaps a little ‘out of the box’ thinking can help uncover other uses for this team marketing methodology.

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Online User Reviews – How to Make Them Work for Your Business

A recent Wall Street Journal article “As Online Reviewers Grow, Businesses are Listening” discusses how online reviews, written by everyday customers is on the rise. With sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Yahoo Local and CitySearch, users have the ability to review and rate their favorite (and not-so-favorite) businesses. Many consumers use these sites to discover and research their choices online. In fact, the article states that 4 in 10 consumers perform online research to aid in offline purchase decisions.

So how can you harness the power of this user-driven content? Some businesses publish positive reviews on their websites, or print them for viewing in their stores. Sites such as Yelp and CitySearch offer the ability for business owners to publish special promotions for their users. Yelp alone had 29 million unique visitors in September, so the purchasing power behind these users is quite attractive.

So in short, be aware of and listen to your reviews. It’s free market research from your actual users!


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Mother’s Day Marketing

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. It’s a holiday which means it is a perfect opportunity to promote your business. Utilizing holidays to promote your products and services is great because it will draw people to your business. It will help you boost sales over the weekend where sales might normally be soft.

People generally like to go out to eat on Mother’s Day, so offer a Mother’s Day special! Maybe it’s a discount, maybe it’s a special once-a-year dish. Since Mother’s Day is on Sunday, it might be quite crowded. Offer a discount for people to come eat on Friday, Saturday, or even Monday! People will likely visit because they don’t want to wait long.

This same strategy can be used with services or products. Offer something special, limited time, to women only, or give away a gift to customers for them to share with their mother’s or someone they know that is a mother.

Of course there are always last minute shoppers, so offer great discounts or creative gifts and ideas for people to purchase, build, create, or make for their moms.

Show your company’s love to moms all over.

Free to Try – Engaging Your Customers

If you are confident about your products and services, prove it. Businesses who believe in their products will stand by it and are convinced that if you tried it, you would come back again. This shows off a company that is bold, willing to take chances, and believes in what they offer.

Earlier this week, two popular fast food restaurants offered their version of flame grilled chicken to anyone who asked for FREE. The keyword here is FREE, KFC and El Pollo Loco both believed their product was better and they were willing to sacrifice the cost of the product to have people try their food – fully believing that if you tried it, you would see how great it is, and come back for more. KFC offered one piece of chicken while El Pollo Loco offered two pieces including two tortillas.

This type of head-to-head competition is great. It shows that these businesses are trying to put up a fight for themselves and are willing to take a risk to prove that they are the best. This also engages the customers. It makes people go out of their way to get your FREE item, try it, and then give their feedback. They’ll tell their friends, family, they’ll blog about it, post it on their Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace accounts resulting in a lot of Word of Mouth marketing.

Another company jumping into the scheme of this social media, word of mouth, creative marketing, is Ford. Ford created a social media contest to find 100 people from the US to try out their new Fiestas (a subcompact car that has been popular in Europe). They are hoping to stir up interest in the US with their Ford Fiesta Movement. The 100 were chosen from YouTube videos they submitted explaining why they should be chosen. They were also looking for people who were well connected in the social media realm: YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, etc. They wanted people who had many followers that would be able to hear about the experience these winners had with the cars. The 100 will get to drive the car for 6 months and go on monthly missions and then record their adventures in their social media realms for all to see.

This is a smart move for any business, getting connected with those who are the most connected. The great thing with social media these days is that you don’t have to wait to see what people are saying about your business and products. It is all at your fingertips. Businesses should consider taking more of a risky approach in their marketing to see what the return may be. If anything, you will create a lot of buzz around your business which leads to traffic and eventually conversions. Plus, people love FREE stuff.

Image Courtesy of klabusta