Time to Re-Open

As companies start to reopen, how do we let our returning team members know they will be safe and welcome them back. Feeling safe, appreciated, and needed is important to your team. Most companies have set up social distancing standards, hand sanitation protocols and a list of safety guidelines. As business owners and managers, we need to do more!

As people return to the office and their desks a simple welcome back package of safety items will return dividends. Picture a branded package with a welcome back message from the company. A branded coffee mug for safety. Branded face masks to prevent the spread and contraction of COVID.  A safety tool with your logo on it for pushing elevator buttons, opening doors, and operating kiosks. These simple and cost-effective items will increase efficiency and help to prevent the spread of disease. Happy and safe employees can focus on their tasks at hand and as a result deliver increased productivity and profits to the bottom line.

Let them know it is great to have them back and they are SAFE!!!

Sustainable Items and their Place in your Promotional Plan

People are seeing value in sustainable products today and companies who provide them are seeing the positive reflection in their corporate images. But what is a sustainable product and how can these items fit into your promotional strategy?  A sustainable product one that’s components can be replenished over time and some ties a fast as they are used or harvested. A perfect example is bamboo which can grow up to 36 inches in 24 hours. Other examples are cotton and jute.

Having promotional products that are made of sustainable resources in your promotional arsenal will be a must in the coming years. As millennials (Gen Y) and the Gen Z become more involved in decision making in corporations, they will be looking for items that meet their needs and fill their moral and social beliefs. Environmentalism is one of these core beliefs of these two demographics. Also remember that as a target market Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z account for approximately 147 million people in the Unites States or 48% of the U.S. population. This is a market to be respected and targeted.

When choosing a sustainable promotional product be careful and do your homework and the Gen Y and Z will do theirs. Make sure what you claim is true as you only get one chance to make a good impression. Also make sure the items are of good quality and form a region in the world that that human rights and policies will not tarnish your company. Remember the child sweat shops of the past decades in certain countries and the effect they had on the company reputation carrying their products?

Remember not every item can be sustainable and people understand and respect this fact. But adding these items to your promotional plan will reap benefits to you and your company over time.

Selling in the New Normal

With everything starting to open again you need to reach out to your clients and prospects. However, with not being able to meet with most clients in person how do you stay top of mind in you clients’ eye, but in a positive way?

Developing a promotional strategy is more important than ever! The correct promotional item packaged with a message will get your message across and keep you in the forefront of you client’s mind. But how and where do you start? Listed below is a simple plan to get thing started.

Step one: Determine what clients and prospects you want to target. Develop a list of who and where you plan on marketing to. Make sure you validate addressed, this scan be done by your supplier if they have access to mailing and shipping software. If they do not move on to someone who as this capability. Sending out items that get returned is a west of time and money and can cause issues of someone in a company receives your package and others do not.

Step two: Set a budget, this will help to determine the cost of the items you want to send out. Be honest on what you can afford. The cost will also help to choose the best item or items.

Step three: Determine the delivery method of the product. In todays world UPS might be the best option. With many people working from home, you will need to update their addressed as companies may not be forwarding packages coming in, to people’s home addresses. Also, will you or your supplier be the handling distribution?

Step four: Develop the message to go along with the promotional item. Is this to remind them you are still there? Is it something to help them drive revenue?  Your promotional item, the packaging and the message must stand out.

Step five: Choose a promotional item to brand and send out. You may choose one item to send to prospects and one to send to clients. You may choose multiple items to send out in a follow up campaign. You may choose to send different items for different clients.

Step six: Packaging is everything! Sending out the promotional item in a branded package is more often more important than the item you send out! The message on the promotional item is usually limited to your company name and contact information and maybe a brief message. The packaging allows you to deliver a very precise and compelling message of your benefit statement or why they should choose to do business with you over your competition.

Step seven: Set up a plan or process measure the ROI on your campaign. Remember you are spending capital and should expect a return on your investment.

Step eight: Set up a plant to follow up once the items are shipped. Getting back tracking information on shipments will allow you to determine when your items delivers to your clients and prospects. Knowing this will allow you to reach out to them after the package with you message arrives and opens up the door for you to offer to help out with any of their needs you product and service can fulfill.

Step nine: Execute your plan. Planning is great but planning without execution is pointless! Set up a timeline and a process to follow up!

COVID and Leveraging Current Suppliers

At the beginning of the COVID nightmare you were tasked with locating PPE supplies. You quickly opened your computer went to Google or Safari and started searching for what you needed. Once you located it you placed an online order input your corporate credit card and submitted your order and received an order confirmation with an estimated ship date. The only issue was the ship date was 4 to 6 weeks out and it was almost impossible to contact the supplier via phone and e-mails went unanswered for hours, days and even weeks. When you were able to get and answer you found out your items were being delayed with production issues, back ordered and later only to be held up in customs.

Leveraging your current suppliers might have been another option. You know these people, you have their e-mail addresses, office phone numbers, cell phone numbers, address for their offices and in many cases their home addresses. Going dark in communication could have been avoided. In addition, you could have cut a purchase order and avoided using your credit card, and the accounting headache.

Looking at your current suppliers and asking them if they have access to the items you needed, a referral to someone who does have the items might have and easier and safer path. These valued partners are not interested in a one-time order but a continued business relationship. Your success leads to their success! The ability to expedite delivery, understand the issues of supply, receiving a reasonable cost and honest and accurate answers is what these relationships foster.

Next time a situation arises reaching out to your current suppliers for their related products, assistance and direction might me a more fruitful endeavor.

Decorate & Standout

You have selected the items for your apparel program, but how do you make them stand out and get noticed. In other words, how do they keep your brand top of mind in your clients and prospects and drive revenue? Choosing the correct type of apparel decoration can take the ordinary to tune it into something unique and cutting edge!

Dye Sublimination is the process of using heat and pressure to transfer a design that is printed on a special paper onto a fabric. Today’s Dye Sublimation can be put in on or more location on a garment, or over the entire garment. Think of a camp shirt with a Hawaiian design and message on the entire shirt or sox with images of your company’s logo and images of your products. Today’s Dye Sublimation is more than press on letters, it has come of age and is a powerful marketing tool.

Direct to Garment Printing (DTG) is the process of using specialized inkjet technology to print detailed and colorful graphics directly onto a garment or fabric. DTG is used when low quantities are needed. This is a good process when multiple colors are to be printed as well. DTG yields its best results when applied to 100% cotton fabric. This is a perfect choice when starting up a brand or store with low minimum quantities, colorful designs, and fast turn times.

Debossing is the process of putting a relief image onto a piece of apparel. Debossed patterns are sunken into the surface of a fabric and will not fade or wash away. This process creates a unique detailed 3D subtle tone on tone look. Debossing can be used almost anywhere on a garment, from side seams, back shoulders to zippers. This production process is perfect for technical garments such as active wear and fleece as it will not puncture the or ruin fabric keeping them waterproof and windproof.

Embossing is the process of creating a raised relief image on apparel surfaces using a metal engraved die. These images are raided against the background material and will not fade or wash away. It is an extremely rich look on fabrics. This is good to use on leather, cotton, polyester, pleather, and polar fleece fabrics. The dies and the process can be pricy, but they yield impressive results. This is used if a high-end result is desired.

Embroidery is process of stitching a logo or design onto a garment. The garment is placed onto an industrial sewing machine and the image is stitched into the garment. Embroidery produces a rich and durable look to a garment. This process is perfect for short or long production runs. Up to 14 colors of thread can be used at not additional change to the production process. Embroidery costs are a function of stich count per embroidered image so the size of and image and the need for multiple images per garment could affect the costs. Fine lettering can be difficult to hold depending on the material of the garment being stitched. Personalization is also a benefit of this process.

Laser Etching uses laser technology to burn a logo or design right into the fabric of a garment yielding a high quality and trendy look. The results can differ by fabric but is always a precise, clean mark. On polyester polos and woven shirts, the laser machine burns the top layer of fabric resulting in a darker, tonal mark on the garment, and on denim shirts, the process removes the pigment as it burns the fabric. Medium-colored, smooth fabrics achieve a more distinguishable design than light or dark fabrics. Laser Etching allows for unique decoration placements including oversize left or right chest, large vertical, full front over zippers, or hip areas can be used to bring extra attention to the logo and satisfy high impact branding and advertising needs.

Screen Printing also known as silk screening is the process of applying onto a garment via an ink blocking stencil or mesh screen. This is a good fit for medium to large runs. The advances in screen printing allow for multiple colors or process color images to be printed on shirts, bags, masks and almost any product. Screen printing produce bright fabric with a better soft feel on the hand. Garments produced through screen print method tend to be durable and can endure roughness from any washing machine.

The simple point to is to use the decoration process that fits your needs and matches the desired outcome. Remember taking time to think about your decoration options will help to Drive Your Revenue!

Technical Apparel Decoration and Care

Apparel has morphed over the years; this includes the fabrics to make the clothing. No longer are garments 100% cotton or polyester. The introductions of moisture management shirts, jackets, and pants have brought in a new age of apparel. It is critical to make any apparel items purchase meet the need of the intended use. Is the shirt to be used for golf, exercise or for work in the field? These questions need to be asked.

Different fabrics yield different results. Moisture management garments are designed to wick moisture and perspiration away for the body and expel it into the atmosphere away form the garment. Cotton is designed to breath and keep one cool. Fire retardant fabrics are intended to keep the person wearing the item safe form fire or sparks as a result of welding or fire prevention. Hi-Vis apparel is designed to have people be seen and kept safe; hence the Hi-Vis vest a construction worker is wearing during road construction. Now shirts and hats are even offering UV protection.

As different products yield different benefits and they also require different forms of decoration for banding. The correct threads for embroidery, inks for silk screening and heat transfers are critical for a shirt, jacket, or hat to have the desired impact. Every year there are innovations in the decoration technology to keep up with the ever-changing fabrics.

But how the garment is cared for is just as important. Moisture management apparel should not have fabric softener or dryer sheets used in laundering as these items will clog the pores of the fabric resulting in the any moisture and perspiration being retained in the fabric. As a result, it will hold the moisture and odor in the item until laundered again. Even 100% cotton comes in preshrunk sizes and can be washed differently than 100% cotton items that are not preshrunk. An important thing to be considered during choosing the sizing of the items being ordered. These simple instructions for care are listed on the tags on the garments as well as the tags attached to them when the arrive to you newly decorated.

Taking a moment to review these instructions for care will keep then new shirt, jacket, hat, or paints looking new for a lot longer. Coupled with making sure the apparel item chosen truly meets the needs for the intended use will ensure any branded apparel program will have greater success. It is your brand make sure is it presented properly and looks good every time itis i worn.

Leveraging Supplier Technology

In today’s world no one can be expected to be an expert in everything. You and your company are experts in the products and services your business provides. Your suppliers are experts in the products and services they supply. Companies need to leverage their top supplier’s technology to help reduce their operating costs and grow their bottom line.

You hear about this every day, but are you really doing it? Have you set a process in place to track supplier technical support and its transfer to your bottom line? Do you have meetings to cover orders, onetime deliveries, costs and technical support as well?

Technical support can mean a wide variety things; product expertise, online ordering, online product proofing, and product information just to mention a few. These resources do not come free and are usually included in the costs of the supplied products and services.

Set up a plan to meet with your top suppliers. Ask them what more they can do for you than they are doing now. If their answer is, “We can sell you more products,” move on. Locate a supplier that wants to take the time to understand you, your company, and your company’s goals. This supplier should also ask questions about what you think could be improved in your processes. They should identify and focus on the areas they can help improve to make your ordering process more efficient from product conception, to product delivery.

This plan may take some time to setup, but it will yield results. Allowing you, and your company, to compete and thrive in today’s business environment. Your competitors may already be doing this! Stay ahead of the curve!!!


What is the True Cost of an Item?

Many customers usually ask what the cost is for an item. And, their perception of that answer is usually based solely on the dollar amount listed on the suppliers invoice. In reality the actual cost of an item is much more than this. There are other, often overlooked, costs in all transactions.

  1. What is the cost to place the order with the supplier? According to Supply Chain Digest, the average company spends from $35.88 to $506.00 just to process a single purchase order. This cost can be reduced by taking advantage of online ordering for items ordered on a regular basis, and if set up correctly, items can be produced in a more efficient process. This results in a lower purchase cost, as well as reducing the transactional cost of processing a onetime purchase order.
  3. How much time is spent collecting quotes for an item prior to placing the order? The old adage of “Time is money” is truer today than ever. Companies expect their employees to do more with fewer resources. Purchasing departments are consolidating more items under their existing, already overburdened, buyers. How do you combat this? The solution is to get closer than ever to your value added suppliers. A value added supplier takes the time to understand your company’s goals and aligns their products and services to meet them.
  5. What is the cost to process a supplier invoice into the system and process the payment? Once again a value added supplier will have their invoicing processes flow into your company’s purchasing, receiving, and accounts payable system. In most companies the true cost to process, file and pay an invoice can be in excess of ten to twenty times the actual invoice cost. The fewer people required to process these transactions will yield savings in excess of the cost of some (or most) of the items purchased.

Minimizing your transactional costs will allow more time to be spent focusing on value added purchases. An increase of 10% value added purchases adds more to the corporate bottom line than a 20% reduction in purchase costs savings.


Document Security

Every day you hear about something being hacked – websites, personal information, bank accounts or medical records. But one area of fraud that does not seem to resonate is document forgery. This can include checks, redemption coupons, gift certificates, and prescription pads. Check fraud alone accounts for an estimated $15 billion in annual losses.

The use of the correct security papers and printed security features for check documents are critical. Using the correct security features in the design and production of checks will not only reduce your probability of being a victim of forgery, but it will also help to ensure you or your company are not held liable for any losses.

Banks and insurance companies can require security features, and potentially hold you responsible for any losses or damages if those requirements are not adhered to. The best practices for document security is layering overt and covert features into any document. Overt features are those that are apparent when the document is looked at, acting as a deterrent to forgers. Included in these level 1 security features are bleed through MICR numbering, foil stamping, step and repeat designs, foils and watermarks. More covert features are hidden and may require a black light or a magnifying glass to see. These level 2 features might be florescent fibers in the paper, chemically reactive papers, micro printed signature lines and boarders.

Partnering with a knowledgeable provider of secure documents is critical to protect your transactions and your assets. With over 25 years of experience of providing these products, The Northstar Group can help to assure your critical documents are secure. Contact us to learn how we can help.


It’s All in the Packaging!

My sales professor in college use to say “If you want to get your message heard, how you say it is as important as what you are saying”. In other words “It’s all in the Packaging!”

A good promotional item can become a great promotional item by simply adding some packaging to it! You have so much more real-estate to add your marketing message and call to action. This simply gets you noticed and your message across before they open the box and take out your promotional item. If done properly every time you client or prospect picks up or sees your promotional time they will think of you, your company and your message.

Prospecting for new clients will no longer be a cold call. Sending out a useful item in a creative package to a prospect before making the call will set you apart from your competition and increase the chance of getting the appointment. Did you know that response rates for direct mail campaigns can increase by as much as 75% when coupled with an effective branded program?

At trades show people are walking through and picking up items and later looking at them at home or in their hotel room. A well-chosen item coupled with a clever designed box or package will help to get your message heard and remembered. Your prospects, or as I like to say, future customers will be more likely to visit your website, give you a call, or request more information.

With the cost of an average sales call at $150 to $450 per call you need to find a more efficient way to get your message across and in front of your prospects and clients. Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to have prospects and clients calling you!