Digital Expos

One of the challenges we are faced with because of COVID is we cannot do as much face to face as we used to. Fortunately, this has been rectified mostly by digital meetings, but what about larger gatherings? As businesses open back up again, things may be safe in smaller scales, but large gatherings of people, especially from all over the country or even the world are still going to be very limited for a while?

Expos and tradeshows are something most people in all industries are familiar with.  Most Expos and tradeshows are annual or semiannual events that give us opportunities to meet people from all over the country or world and collaborate, network with people and learn about new products and services and rediscover current products and serves we may have overlooked. How do we still get our message out to our clients and prospects until these trade shows reopen?

This is where the digital aspect comes in, create a digital presentation or your own personal tradeshow. Develop a digital version to showcase your products or services and reach out to your clients and prospects one on one. Making pitches is already a part of your process, turning them into digital pitches is a simple addition or tweak to the process. For those who are looking for new products and ideas this will allow them to stay current without leaving their offices. The digital world we live in gives us the ability to keep our clients and prospects up to date and remain connected with them. Those of us who take advantage of the technologies available to us will be all the better for it on the other side of this all.

To quote Jack Welch, “Technology will not replace people, however people who embrace technology will replace those who do not.”

 

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.

Technology in a Post COVID World

There are moments or events in one’s life that leave a permanent impact or cause a permanent change in their life. There are even fewer moments or events that leave an impact or change on EVERYONE’s life. But COVID-19 is one of these events and one has to wonder just how things may change when all is said and done and the answer is simple: technology. Our biggest asset throughout this global trial has been our link to technology, whether it’s used to map out the impact of the outbreak, or simply keep us together through cyber space. This and other similar technologies have been one of the positives to come out of this lock down.

While it was already commonplace, well before COVID became known, digital face to face communication has become much more meaningful and used during lockdowns. It has always helped to keep friendships strong over great distances. But now this technology is being used for much more than that, businesses have been using these digital face-to-face technologies to keep their businesses operational. From launching new product lines to making virtual sales calls and setting up team conferences, businesses are up and running. Mastering these technologies to compete in the new digital age of sale and marketing as well as managing a team working remotely will be critical to success and survival as we move into the new post CCOVID 19 world.

A key thing to remember with all of this is that even if one doesn’t fully understand all the aspects that go into a more digitally run business, the resources are out there for one to learn. Online instructional videos for various tech applications were already commonplace long before the lockdown began, and more sources have continued to come out since the lockdown began. Anyone can acquire an understanding and skills to work in this ever-changing digital world. The earlier one starts this process, the bigger advantage they will get once the world begins to open up again.

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.

Where Do We Go From Here?

As summer nears, and our restrictions begin to hopefully lift on being stuck inside, one may wonder how things have changed after all of this. Suffice it to say that no matter how you look at it, the world we step back out into after this will be very different than when the lock downs began. People may look sideways at someone because they coughed, but we will get over that eventually. But how should you do things differently now? Let’s take a look at some things that will have changed when we all finally step outside again.

The most noticeable change will be in jobs that have a mostly digital element to it. There is a very good chance that many jobs will now be able to done at least part time from home, thus limiting what a business may need to physically support in a building. Another aspect about work that may change again is for those who have someone at home, such as kids or a pet, who have suddenly gotten used to you being around a lot more and may wonder why things have changed again. This is especially true for pets who may become anxious upon seeing you leave after being there for so long. Consider taking some time to get them used to the idea of you being gone during the day again.

Going back to the topic of physically going back to work, things will likely be different at work as well. People will be less likely to go out for lunch, rather opting to bring their own lunch in to avoid going other places. Communal coffee pots will likely no longer be used, with everyone preferring to make their cup of coffee being seen as a safer method, the good news with this means you don’t have to worry about someone ruining a pot of coffee by making it too strong or weak.  You will likely see office spaces more spread out, putting more distance between people, but it is important to remember that while these changes will be jarring, you will likely find yourself happy to be back in the office. While working from home has its perks and many may still switch between coming in and working from home, you cannot replicate the culture and social interactions of the office in your own house, your pets and kids do not make for those kinds of substitutes.

Digital changes will likely continue to influence the work environment as well, you can easily expect many more meetings to occur via an online method rather than a face to face meeting. Even if a face to face meeting does occur, don’t be surprised if people stop trying to shake your hand, don’t worry it won’t be anything against you, it is simply just one of the many health practices we have picked up in our time in lock down.

Speaking of one’s health, another to consider is your health and safety, this isn’t something you should get scared over or anything. Much more strict health practices have been put in place and will continue to be put in place after this is over. You may even find yourself going outdoors to exercise by jogging or working out at home as opposed to going to a gym, so that expensive membership may not be needed anymore! The best thing you can for yourself is simply keep up the habits you began when the lock downs first started. This will pass, but in no way will this be the last time something like this happens, but do not let that make you afraid to go outside. There is much we have missed these last few months, and soon it will be time to go out and make up for all that lost time.

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!

Staying Secure Online

Back during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, computer technology was a lot simpler than it was now, and being proficient with Paint or that old pinball game qualified you to be considered “skilled” with computers. In 2020 things are infinitely more advanced and complicated than many probably thought possible, and as things get more complicated, so to do attempts to steal information from others. But there are several tips you can follow to help minimize your risk of being targeted or taken advantage of online.

These days everyone has a smart phone, and while smart phones have their own security tools such as facial ID and finger print scanners to unlock said phone, computers and online accounts do not use these. But there is one thing you can do with your phone to help tighten your security online. Mobile Authenticators are becoming much more commonplace, and their purpose is simple; to tie your phone number to an account and allow to phone to verify certain details about your account. Linking your phone to your accounts can grant you the ability to get text notifications about security codes, or if a possible breach attempt has been detected. Phone’s linked can also help you to reset your password should you forget it. You can also download mobile authenticator apps that allow you to generate various security codes for different app accounts. A similar type of authentication is known as Dual Authentication, aka two-factor authentication. (2FA) This is similar to using a mobile device but it is not always tied to a mobile device, it can be tied to an email account or other method of verifying your account info. This is commonly used with banks but it is being quickly adapted by other services.

This is far from the only way to help secure an account however, a much more commonly used; as well as older method, is security questions. Security questions are commonly associated with bank accounts, but they are often used as a method of getting into your account if you forget your password. Common ones you may see would be questions that ask for a pet’s name or a city you would like to visit. It is recommended that you do not provide answers that many people know. For example, if you have a pet and love to talk about it on social media, it would be ill-advised to have one your questions be said pet’s name. You should pick questions and answers that only you would know, thus limiting the risk of someone getting into your account by reading your social media history.

Speaking of social media, let’s take a moment to consider the information you may post online. Identity thieves will often look on social media accounts that are not secure or set to private. The more information that you make publicly available, the more you put yourself at risk to be taken advantage of. So, make sure you set your accounts to private as much as you can, make sure information you post is only visible to friends, and some scrutiny to the friends you add on social media can be advised as well.

When it comes to passwords you may be tempted to reuse the same one multiple times to help you remember it easier. DO NOT DO THIS. If just one of these accounts are compromised, then very other account with that password will be just as vulnerable. Furthermore, do not make your passwords simple to guess, no matter how funny or clever you think you are; 1,2,3,4,5 is not a good password and is the kind of thing an idiot would put on his luggage lock. Have lowercase and capital letters in it, as well as numbers and special characters as well. Avoid birthdays and loved one’s names because they will be some of the first guesses some people try.

Above all else, use common sense online, as I have said previously, common sense is your biggest ally online. Use two factor or mobile authentication, don’t store sensitive info online, do not react to things immediately, take a moment and consider things before reacting. Don’t click on suspicious links, don’t give money to the old executive prince in Saudi Arabia, don’t put your passwords online, and don’t panic everything will be fine!

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.

Technology is Your Friend in These Trying Times

As the last few weeks have shown, the world has very quickly began adjusting for a world that operates online more than it used to. More people are working from home than ever, students are being taught online, and you can even have Netflix Watch parties with your friends from the comfort of your own bed! Now some of you may be a little bit new to this, and some of you may be expert binge-watchers who are ready to stream everything on the Internet. Either way, there is still plenty to learn about the technology and applications available to you from the comfort of your own home.

Probably one of the most crucial types of applications that is being used during these times are video chat applications. While many are quite familiar with Facetime and Skype, they aren’t the only apps that let you video chat your friends and family. There are many great apps out there that allow you to digitally talk with people such as WhatsApp, Discord or Google Hangouts. One thing to consider is that there is no perfect one size fits all video chat application. For many trying to quickly find a video chat app because you miss your friends and family can be daunting just for the reason of you may have never done it before. The good news is almost every video chat app is either free, or has a free plan that has been expanded in response to COVID-19 lockdowns. Read articles online talking about the pros and cons of each kind of chat app, and make an informed decision for yourself.

Now what about entertainment? Talking with friends and family is a great way to pass the time, but they won’t be able to pass ALL the time, this is where streaming can come in handy. Even people living under a rock have heard of apps like Netflix or HBO, have heard of shows like Stranger Things or Game of Thrones, all of these are available to watch on various apps, and they all have free trials! Some companies have even extended their free trials or put up content to watch that does not require an active subscription to watch! For someone who is stuck inside all day, that definitely sounds like a good deal to me.

Now all of this content available at the tip of your fingers sounds like a fantastic deal and it is, but one thing that still needs to be taken seriously is security. With so much of the world now being digital as opposed to in person, people see this as an opportunity to take advantage of those who have little experience and may not know what they are doing. There are several tips you can follow to help minimize your chances of being targeted by people with less than pure intentions online.

The first piece of advice is also the biggest, DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING. With many new accounts possibly needing to be made in quick succession for things online, it can be tempting to pick one password for everything to save time. If you do this, and just one of those accounts gets compromised, you’re going to have a bad time! Another thing to be aware of is scams, while we should always be on the look out from scams from our favorite Nigerian Prince who wants to wire us millions in oil money if we provide our banking info, COVID-19 has also brought about a new wave of scams. Popular scams often involve apparently miraculous medical items relating to treating the virus, and some can take a lot more than just your money. Another common scam is virus-linked websites masquerading as official news sources.

A lot of this may sound scary and worrying to some, but much of this can be avoided just by staying calm and using common sense. Don’t click on suspicious links, pay attention to info from only trusted sources, and think before reacting to some alert you may see on your computer. The times we live in right now are unusual, and they are admittedly a little scary, but this is not the end of the world. We will all get through this, and though the world may be very different in a few months’ time, we will all still be here ready for business.