It’s Time For A Change

by Patrick McHargue on July 21, 2014

in Originals

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More and more, I’m committing time, thought, and effort here. I love this blog. However, it represents a very small portion of my interests. In order to write with all of the passion inside of me, I need to make a change.

Moving forward this website will no longer focus fully on promotional products. It will expand to encompass all of my interests.

What’s in store?

The look of this site with change. The logo and branding of it will evolve.  New topics and themes will appear.  Social Media. Advertising. Branding. Business in general. A little bit of copy writing.

I’m very, very excited for this change.  It will take time, but I know it will be a positive one.

Please join me.

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Stop with all the the “Thank you’s”!

I’m a very polite, affable, friendly guy.  I give blood.  I hold the door open for strangers when I’m running errands.  I help my less tech savvy (much less) co-workers save pictures of their grand kids to their desktop.  I like helping people and am grateful when they return the favor.

Despite my happy-go-lucky nature, I recently made the decision to stop thanking people.  I (like a ton of people) have had the generic “Thank you!” line above my email since I began my professional career in 2007.  The chief reason that I made this small, but critical change is because of people’s subconscious perception of value.

When you have a message of gratitude in your email signature what are you really saying?

You’re saying one of the following things:

  • Thanks for reading my email
  • Thanks for your response
  • Thanks for recognizing me

All of these sentiments greatly reduce the value of your brand, product, or service. You are degrading yourself for no good reason!

People should want to read your emails because you should write emails that people want to read. Recipients should respond because you should give them a compelling reason to. If you are providing a valuable and worthy service or product to your consumers that should be enough.  You don’t need to bow down or genuflect in order to be recognized.  You need to give the consumer so much value that they view you on the exact same level as they are.  Be a partner, not a peasant.

OK.  End of rant.

Gratitude has its place in business.  It should be deserved and not tossed around during every single interaction.  Your “Thank you” in your email is about as insincere and empty as any gesture can get.  Want to thank a long time customer for a big order?  Call them, ask about how they are doing and THANK THEM!  More social than that?  Leave an awesome review on their LinkedIn page. Between old technology and new technology, there are so many ways to give a genuine thank you that putting a generic “Thanks” in your email signature is the height of lameness.

Your strategy on saying “Thank you” is completely up to you.  Be sure to consider what you are really saying and what your customer is really hearing.

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3 Questions You Need to Ask To Ensure Safe Promos

by Patrick McHargue on July 16, 2014

in Originals

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Here are a few important questions that I want you to ask in order to ensure that your promotional products are SAFE.

Are you ordering youth or children size apparel?

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 requires all children’s products include permanent distinguishing marks, also known as tracking labels. This is

a tracking label that is printed directly onto the garment. This additional imprint does carry an additional cost that you need to be aware of when ordering sizes from Infant to Children’s size 14.

Are you ordering an item that you can you eat or drink out of?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating food contact substances in 1958. Since, then the FDA has developed a wide‐ranging set of regulations covering most classes of food packaging materials. The FDA refers to these materials as food contact substances.

The products that fall under this regulation are drinkware, plates, utensils, napkins, serving platters, and lunch-to-go containers

  • All plastic items must be BPA free
  • Most standard food service items already have testing from the FDA that will be sufficient
  • Any item that comes in direct contact with food or the person during their consumption of food must have testing on both the item and the imprint
  • Ceramic Mugs must have testing on the imprint unless the imprint is etched or is part of the kiln fired design

Who is the intended audience or product recipient? Could the items be distributed to children?

Another result of the CPSIA is that all items must have an appropriate recommended age range labeled on either the product or packaging. Items that contain small pieces, sharp objects, or a 12 volt power source must be marked accordingly.

Want To See What a Product Safety Program Should Look Like?

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T-Shirts 101

by Patrick McHargue on July 3, 2014

in Originals

Apparel is the largest (and most confusing) segment in the world of promotional products.  Within that segment, no item is more popular or more varied than t-shirts.  T-shirts are the perfect promotional product.  They get a ton of impressions, state your message loud and proud, and come in a lot of customizable options.  Below is a quick map of the world of t-shirts.

Style & Fit

Adult/Tall – longer sleeves; relaxed fit throughout; tall styles are 2” longer than regular style in body and sleeve length

Adult

Young Men’s – this style is has shorter and trimmer sleeves; the body fit is slimmer as well

Young men

Ladies – generally have a longer sleeve length and a more relaxed fit

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Juniors – this style has shorter and trimmer sleeves

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Youth – this style is unisex; it has a longer sleeve length and relaxed fit

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Girls – this style has shorter, feminine sleeves and is slimmer in the body

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Fabric

Cotton: a natural, soft fiber that is renewable, biodegradable and regulated by the USDA as a food crop. The US is the world’s third largest producer of cotton and the world’s largest exporter.

Organic Cotton: cotton grown without harsh pesticides or chemicals.

Jersey Knit: The consistent interloping of yarns in the jersey stitch to produce a fabric with a smooth, flat face and a more textured, but uniform back.

Performance: 100% polyester which wicks moisture away from the skin for cooler, drier wear

Polyester: A man-made, non-biodegradable fiber used to produce synthetic fabrics. It’s generally manufactured using petroleum-derived substances.

Weight

What do those weights for t-shirts mean? They are how much one square yard of that material weighs. The heavier the material, the thicker and more durable the shirt.

Heavyweight: 6 oz+

Midweight: 5-6 oz

Lightweight: 4-4.9 oz

Color

I’m not going to delve into the hundreds of colors that t-shirts come in.  However, I will mention this quick guideline: Generally speaking the darker the color, the more expensive the shirt.  Dyes cost money and black shirts will always cost more than white.

Have any t-shirt questions? Post them below and I’ll answer them!

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5 Books That Master Marketers Have Read

by Patrick McHargue on July 2, 2014

in Originals

What good book have you read lately?

If you’re like most people (no judgment) you don’t have a good answer to that question. I love to read, but even I can go through long periods of time without cracking a book. Opening a book is a big investment. You’re expecting yourself to finish it, to retain important information and to be able to apply its lessons to your life. That’s a lot of pressure.

Well, below is a list of the five best marketing books that I have ever read. These books have helped me to become more creative and focused on getting strong results for myself and my customers. I know that they will help you too!

My goal with this list is to take some of the pressure of. Don’t have time to read? No big deal. Hopefully, you can pick up some good tidbits from my analysis below.

Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing”

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If you’ve never heard of Seth Godin, please, please, please go to SethGodin.com and sign up for his blog. Do it. Now, or you’ll forget.
Seth Godin is a genius. His take on marketing is fresh, unique and most of all very practical. For decades, marketers only goal has been to cram their brand message down people’s throats. Seth Godin turned this concept upside down by pointing out that people have so many choices today that they’re going to pick and choose what messages they want to hear. You must make your message attractive, important and likeable to your target audience. Then and only then, do you have a chance at getting their permission

Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail”

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In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson points out the revenue value of niche products. He analyzes web-based purchasing habits (think Amazon or Netflix) and suggests that the lower volume, less popular items will become more and more important to bottom lines in all industries. A Blockbuster (may they rest in peace) can carry 8,000 movies. However, Netflix has 25,000 movies. Now Blockbuster carries the most popular 8,000, Netflix can find paying customers who value the less popular 17,000 movies that only they provide access to. This long tail can be very profitable.

Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made To Stick”

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There have been a ton of books and articles written about brand story telling. These brothers have written by far the best! They looked at a large number of success marketing campaigns. Why did one campaign become known throughout the country and the others fail to resonate with customers? They discover the six elements that always play the most critical role in the “stickiness” of a campaign. If you want to create something that will stay with your customers for a long time read this book!

David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules Of Marketing And PR”

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If you are interested in the world of social media this book is a must read. Scott is laying out the first strong case for content marketing. It’s been updated many times over to reflect changes in the world of media. If you’re looking for the ultimate primer on social media, what it means and what it can do, this is the perfect book to bring you up to speed.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Maubrogne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy”

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Blue Ocean Strategy is an eye-opening book. It makes you question the critical aspects of your product or service. What if you tweaked one part of your product? Could it make a big different to your business? The keys examples used are Cirque de Soleil’s evolution from the classic circus concept and the sales of Yellow Tail wine exploded because of the simple and straightforward fun that they brought to the overly complex wine industry. Could you make one or two changes and leave your competition in the dust? Or better yet, move into a competition-free blue ocean?

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Branding on the BBQ

by Patrick McHargue on June 26, 2014

in Originals

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It makes a lot of sense to associate your brand with America’s favorite culinary pastime.  We all love BBQ.  I don’t even eat meat and I still love smelling the grill and admiring what everyone else gets to eat.  If you want consumers to drool over your brand the same way that they drool over a rib eye consider using practical BBQ products to promote your business!  Here are a few ideas:

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This 13-piece BBQ set includes everything needed to be king or queen of the backyard grill — spatula, tongs, knife, fork, four skewers, and four corn holders, all in an aluminum case.

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This stainless steel fork has a jumbo LCD, an updated digital thermometer (°C/°F) display and a built-in count up/count down timer.  Never overcook chicken again!

JIATC-IBLZM OK.  I’m partial to this one.  Washers has been a constant at my family BBQs since I was a kid.  Back then our set was homemade.  Now it’s one of the hottest games in the market! Washers is a game that requires skill similar to horseshoes and can be played by competing individuals or teams. Players toss washers towards the opposite washer pits and try to land in or close to the cup. The player or team that collects 21 points first is the winner. Includes two washer toss boards and two sets of washers.

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Want to be crowned King of the Tailgate?  The original all-in-one, insulated tailgating charcoal grill with removable water-resistant cooler is all your need.  It includes three BBQ tools and a drawstring bag for grill.  Plus a 24-can capacity cooler made of polyester.

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Every grill master needs an apron with a snappy saying.   I’m a fan of “Keep Calm and Grill On”, but you can pick your own.

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I’ve never been a big believer in the old adage that “All publicity is good publicity.” Being in the paper for owning sweatshops, an executive fraud investigation, or turning away customers because of their sexual preference is not the publicity that you want. Urban Outfitters recent use of promotional pens created quite a stir and not the good kind.

Urban Outfitters is giving away promotional pens shaped like hypodermic needles with the imprint “I love Harroin”. Harroin is a hair salon in New York City. Everyone gets haircuts. No big deal, right? Well, to lots of people the suggestion of heroin needles is a bit offensive.

Here’s where I take a moment to tell you that I’m not a prude guy. I totally get the desire or ambition to be edgy. It can be very appealing to a certain demographic and promotional stunts like these can really cut through the media clutter and get the attention of consumers. That’s all well and good. I get what they were going for and, better yet, this tactic (in general) can get solid results. However, it’s also risky.

In this case, the idea that was gold in the board room went over like a loud fart when it saw the light of day. Drug or substance abuse is a really tough thing to be witty or flippant about.

Want some free advice? Talk these kinds of edgy, attention grabbing stunts over with people outside of the board room. Sleep on it. Get your spouse’s thought on it. Most importantly, realize that it could get you a lot of attention, but it could be for the wrong reason.

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Sell Your Brand Story

by Patrick McHargue on June 24, 2014

in Originals

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Go on social media (go on, I’ll wait. Are you there yet?) and you’ll see a lot about branding or #branding. I define branding as all of the descriptive words that pop into a consumers head when someone mentions your company’s name. Branding is good and it’s important, but it won’t pay the bills. Your brand won’t keep you warm at night or be there to greet you when you come home. What I’m trying to say that your brand is important, but it’s not the end all be all. Your story is stronger.

I believe that your company story is significantly more important, but often overlooked. Your company story is about some unique aspect about your company (awesome customer service, founded in 1859, family business, etc.) that is crafted into a narrative that permeates the business.

Here’s an example of your story: ABC Widget Corporation was founded in 1974 by a single mother raising four kids. We’ve known the value of a dollar since the beginning and that’s why we work so hard to keep our costs low for our customers.

This story can be simplified into the branding: ABC Widget Corporation is the low-cost source for widgets in Missouri.

It suggests some of the same elements, but it’s much, much less powerful.

This is a fairly generic example. However, it does illustrate the main idea: You can create the narrative and control the conversation. There’s no manipulation here. You share the uniqueness of your organization and tell the customer how it translates to them. This tool is very powerful if you want to have some say in those all-important words that pop into consumer’s heads when your company is mentioned.

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Starbucks Elevates the Mug to an Art Form

by Patrick McHargue on June 11, 2014

in Originals

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This mug is awesome.  It’s everything that a promotional mug should be.  Major kudos to Scott Sternberg at Band of Outsiders.

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promotional-products-promodirect

We don’t want every order that you bring to us.

Small and complicated orders are usually losers. There isn’t enough money to be made to justify the time and effort.

Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this to illustrate how important it is to develop a relationship with your promo person. If you are fair and loyal to your salesperson they will be fair and loyal to you.

I’ve paid out of my own pocket to get some orders done for valued clients. In one instance, I knew the order was a loser when I got the phone call, but my client needed it done and in a hurry, so I made it happen. I never told the client that I paid money to make their order happen. I simply knew that they valued me and I valued them enough to get it done right and on time despite the added cost and effort involved.

You have endless places to source and purchase promotional products. Price is often the chief consideration. Next time, ask yourself if the generic website you are using will go the extra mile and treat your business like their own. It may save you more money in the long run to develop a relationship with a real person.

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