Chris Vernon, MAS, CEO and President of The Vernon Company, has been recognized among the Counselor’s Power 50, the annual ranking of the most powerful executives in the $25 billion promotional products industry. This is the 14th consecutive year he has made this prestigious list. Mr. Vernon is the only Iowan represented on the Power 50 ranking.
The ranking is determined by a panel of editorial experts at ASI’s Counselor magazine, “the voice of the industry,” and is based on factors such as nominees’ achievements, industry influence, corporate revenue and the overall health of their respective companies.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized among so many of my industry peers,” said Vernon. “I consider myself lucky to work alongside a highly engaged and customer-centric team here at Vernon. We constantly strive to bring our clients great brand-building ideas, value, and service. I really feel like this recognition is more of a reflection of the way we work together as a team. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Winter is here and along with it comes flu season, weather
delays and all the extra commitments that go along with the holidays. It is no
surprise to hear that winter can affect how a business is run, creating distractions
by hindering projects, delaying deadlines, and impacting overall communication.
So, just like many people who get their annual their flu shots, winterize their
vehicles and request time off for holiday fun, now is the time to make sure
that winter doesn’t freeze your business this season.
If you or anyone you work with is feeling sick, they
should stay home to keep from spreading illnesses. Office environments can be
havens for airborne illnesses like colds and flu. Charles Gerba, a professor of
microbiology at the University of Arizona, found in his study that after four
hours, bacteria on the front door knob at an 80-person office spread to about
50 percent of commonly touched areas (like the centrally-located coffee pot).
Ew. So do everyone a favor and stay home – where thanks to technology, you can
still be productive! Consider using video conferencing or simple phone-only conference
calls to continue conducting business from home. These are also great tools to
use to avoid having people drive in inclement weather just to attend a face-to-face
If you’re lucky enough to have a support team to lend a hand (like
Vernon Account Executives do) lean on them to assist with product research, pricing,
order follow-up or even working with customers on your behalf. Having others to
rely on can be reassuring when you’re not feeling your best or when the weather
isn’t cooperating with your sales plans.
In regards to bad weather, there is some data supporting the
notion that bad weather can actually make us more productive. It might sound crazy, but unpleasant weather is thought to improve concentration and
productivity, in part because a rainy day or snowy day kills the potential for
leisure time outdoors. Of course, that makes perfect sense – if we aren’t
distracted by the sunny possibilities outside our window, we’re able to focus on
the business at hand.
Rather than try to hunker down and wait out the winter, you can keep your business moving even when bad weather and runny noses try to slow you down.
I reached into my archives for today’s topic. Why is it that
with all the improved technology and organizing tools at our fingertips that
most everyone that I speak to says that there just isn’t enough time in the day.
It should be just the opposite. Right?
We should be golfing or going to the spa three afternoons a
week, because we have accomplished so much!
Now I don’t know about you, but I would have a hard time
finding the golf course or the spa, because it has been so long since I have
been to either. Shame on me.
I am beginning to come around to the concept of making sure
that I set aside some “me time” in order to avoid burn-out. If you are anything
like me, this is a really tough thing.
As I sit here on a Friday morning, I am thinking about the vacation that I have coming in less than two weeks. This is my first real vacation in quite a while. Whew, vacations take a lot of planning! To be honest, I am not really spending any time planning the vacation however I am planning my work schedule leading up to the vacation and then also planning the time when I return from the vacation. Seems kind of funny, but this is what I am doing today!
The bottom line is that I hate the feeling that I do not
have enough time to do what I need to get done. Why is that? Some recent
analysis (it isn’t that hard to figure out) has proven to me that this feeling
comes from spending inordinate amounts of time on things that are not your top
priorities. I start every day with my list of things to do. I am very
disciplined about this. I hope that you are as well because this is very
important in business today. So far, so good…right?
This is where my strategy starts to go awry. At the end of every day (not until the end of the day) I realize that I was busy as can be, but I did not accomplish any of the things on my list. How can this be? I just told you that I am very disciplined. Well, it appears that I am disciplined until I walk into my office at work, until that first email that I was not expecting arrives, until the phone rings, until someone brings a problem to my desk, until…you get the point!
My disciplined approach was not disciplined enough. I have
come to the realization that I need to set aside pre-defined time blocks. Small
time blocks should be set for the less important things. The larger time blocks
taking up most of the time, MUST be set aside for the things that will really
make a difference! Seems simple, doesn’t it?
If anything on your list needs to get bumped from Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursd (does anyone ever do this?)…we must make sure that they only include the less important function or tasks.
Experience should be a great teacher for all of us! Common
sense must prevail if we are to succeed. It is ironic, but sometimes we must
all slow down to figure out how we can be more effective with our time.
My final thoughts for the day reveal some quick easy tips
(for anyone) to follow to be more productive. Here is the scenario: I have one hour to kill, perhaps late on
a Friday afternoon, and I am not sure how to make the best use of my time. What
can I do?
Here are some things that will make a difference.
Order FREE Spec Samples for your customers. Many suppliers will produce these at NO COST.
Create a selection of flyers to send out weekly…use such headings as Exciting Trade Show Ideas, Hit ‘em straight with these Golf Promotions, Top Gifts for your SPECIAL customers, etc.
Make up some virtual spec samples for some of your key customers. Many suppliers offer these for FREE!
Order and Create embroidery tapes for your key customers so that you can produce some apparel samples as gifts.
Send out Thank You cards.
These are five simple things that
can help you to increase your business today. Of course, you hold the key
because you need to act.
Where have all the gestures of gratitude gone? The small things. The personal touches. Random acts of kindness? They say it’s just a sign of the times, but is that really true? We can’t blame everything on technology. Just because we use the internet to communicate, doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of making phone calls or sending snail mail. We choose not to. We’ve stopped making an effort- stopped taking the time. If we want to keep our business relationships personal by offering more than a website can offer, then we need to make them personal. Whether we’re the ones selling or being sold to, it’s NOT just business, it IS personal.
Notes & Messages
It takes little time at all to write (with an actual pen or pencil) a little note and drop it in the mail. Aren’t our best customers and business acquaintances worth 3 minutes and 55 cents? Most of us spend far more time and money than that standing in line for coffee every day. A handwritten note is one of the oldest and most sincere gestures of kindness and it’s such a lost art that people are extra tickled to find an actual note in the mailbox these days. And have we become so busy (or lazy) as a society that we cannot be bothered to spell words? Must we speak in acronyms? If you must text your sincerity, you must also spell it. Would you rather receive a “TY” text message or a very sincere; “Thank you for your business.”?
Whether you’re thanking a customer for their business or thanking a salesperson for going the extra mile, make it personal.
While some of us have an old school planner and some of us prefer to “sync” our life schedules, most of us keep a calendar. Making a note to remember important client birthdays and anniversaries is just a pencil mark or click away and it means a lot to be remembered on a special day. Birthdays, anniversaries, and grand openings all deserve some attention. Try sending a message the night before so they know you were thinking of them after work hours. “I hope your promotional products make a lasting impression at your Grand Opening tomorrow!” And don’t fret if you’re a day late, your greeting will stand out from the multiple timely messages your client received. “I’m so sorry I missed your birthday yesterday! I hope you had a wonderful day!” This sort of message makes you seem human, yet sincere. Definitely not an automated message.
Allow your calendar to be your personal assistant by sending you reminders while you add the personal touch.
Whether it’s a survey or a personal phone call, courtesy goes a long way. It means you care about the service you’re providing beyond the monetary transaction. This is beneficial to both parties. The client feels cared for and the business or salesperson receives valuable feedback and one more opportunity to connect. This is a two-way street. If you loved a product or service, follow up with your salesperson. Let them know that the product they recommended was a huge hit and you look forward to working with them again in the future. If you truly care about your client, ask them if they received their product on time and if they were satisfied with the quality. Even if the product was just mediocre, your service will still get a gold star.
If you think to follow up, then take the time to actually do it. Good customer service never goes out of style.
Be sure to like and follow both your clients and the companies you do business with. Not only is social media an excellent way to connect, but it’s also a way to keep up to date on promotions and important dates. Although not as personal as a phone call, a social media message is the next best thing. A moment out of your regular day to just check-in or send well-wishes. If you see an event coming up, recommend products. On the flip side, you might see special offers or discount codes that are only available on social media.
Don’t be afraid to use social media as a marketing tool. Just keep your personal life and your professional profile separate.
There is no better way to show appreciation than a gift. And there are no better gifts to give clients than promotional items. The tricky part is giving your clients a gift they will use and appreciate while it represents your business. Lucky for you, all you need to focus on is the client because once it has your logo on it, it represents your business! Regardless of your budget, there is a promotional product for you. From the small gesture of a pen to the large gesture of a barbeque grill, all gifts are appreciated. After all, it’s the thought that counts. Right? Just be mindful of your clientele. Just because you like it, doesn’t mean they’ll use it so spend your money wisely. Don’t assume everyone would like a cat magnet just because they frequent your veterinary clinic. It’s very possible that they’re “dog people”.
Keep it less personal to you, and more personal to them. Get your brand on the right product, and your token of appreciation will be appreciated!
If you want to keep a business relationship personal, you need to make it personal in a way that the internet can’t compete with. So it might be just business, but it’s still personal to someone.
Business is a roller coaster. It will be up and down with twists and turns all along the way. But it’s your choice to close your eyes and scream or jump in the front seat and enjoy the ride. The ticket’s been punched, you’ve waited in line, now it’s time to make the most of the business roller coaster!
Climb & Ascend
Just as the roller coaster needs to climb that first hill to convert potential energy into kinetic energy, we need to ascend our way to the top of our business. No business was ever created by snapping one’s fingers. Every business started with an idea or concept that escalated into something bigger. We need the steady scaling of determination in order to appreciate the view from the top. The reward will be so much sweeter if you actually earned it.
The climb is where we’re building our strategies, ordering products, making business plans, hiring employees, and anticipating it all coming together.
The high points of business are fun while they last but it’s up to us to conserve some of that exuberance for the next hill. It’s easy to get consumed with the high points, which is oftentimes what leads to the low points. When business is booming, we tend to be less vigilant and stop marketing as much, minimize our research efforts, and assume that customers don’t need to hear from us as often. But this is actually the time that we need to assess what got us to this high point so we can stay there.
The high is when we reflect on what got us to the top. Time for some analytics and assessments. What’s been working and why?
Twists and Turns
Just as roller coasters wouldn’t be thrilling without twists, a business wouldn’t continue to thrive without turns. Nothing ever stays the same. Ever. The world is full of overachievers and developers who are constantly forcing us to take those turns. It’s time to be susceptible to the changes that lie ahead because they’re coming whether we like it or not. Remember that day you realized that your phone replaced your laptop, which replaced your desktop, which replaced your filing cabinet?
Twists and turns are when we offer some new products or services and switch up our marketing strategies. We must stay relevant to be successful. Ride the trendy train.
There will always be stagnant times in your business; where it’s not growing, but it’s not declining either. Have you ever been on a roller coaster that has so many twists and turns that you can’t tell when you’re upside down or right-side up anymore? Eventually, you can’t even feel the anticipation of the next hill. We need that horizontal stretch to catch our breath.
The stagnant section is where we catch up on all the small things. Update your contact list, mail the invoices, stock up on supplies, and take a nap, but just a short one!
Downs and Lows
Nothing teaches us more than the low points. When we feel our business slowing down or reaching an all-time low, we know it’s time to grow. The ride down can be fast and scary. It sometimes feels like we might just crash, but we don’t. Eventually, we level off and hang out at the bottom for a while, or immediately start to ascend. You can choose to close your eyes and scream; throw your hands in the air and let whatever happens, happen; or jump in the front seat of that train and be the first to head back up!
Being all the way down teaches us to do better. Perhaps we let our guard down. Maybe we weren’t trendy enough. This is where we learn. This is where we grow. There’s nowhere to go but up!
Whether you choose to board the slightly bumpy or the fully twisted and upside down business roller coaster, you can’t get off in the middle. You must stay seated (and level-headed) for the entire ride.
It’s easy to build trust with small business owners because most of the owners are present in the day-to-day activity that surrounds their business. In fact, there isn’t much that takes place in a small business that the shop owner doesn’t have a hand in. So once they establish a trusting relationship with someone else who is an asset to the well-being of the business, they tend to keep that person in their close circle.
Try building a friendly relationship with the store owners in your home town. Make an effort to know their customers so they trust you to help make their businesses grow.
2-No hoops to jump through.
Because you are most likely working directly with the owner, there won’t be any hoops to jump through to find someone authorized to make a decision. Small business owners tend to keep decisions to a yes or a no. There won’t be any phone transfers, upper-management, or lag time to deal with.
Once you have developed a trusting relationship with a small business owner, they’ll feel comfortable to entertain your promotional product ideas and the buck stops there. They either like it or they don’t!
3-If they’re happy, they will tell someone.
If small business owners are happy with their products and service, they WILL tell someone. And if someone should ask where they got something, they WILL tell someone. Where big brand companies stick to commercials and print ads, small businesses do most of their marketing through word of mouth and social media these days. Selling trendy promotional products to one store might result in supplying an entire Main Street with promotional products.
It’s not uncommon for entire communities to rally all of their small businesses together for Shop Small Saturdays and Sip and Strolls so go ahead and encourage your customers to share your contact info for city-wide events.
4-Be along for the ride.
Don’t you want to be along for the ride when that small store becomes one of many? Every large company and corporation started as a small business! They might be ordering minimum quantities right now but that just means there’s nowhere to go but up! And if your marketing tools (promo products) have been helping their business grow from the beginning, they’ll continue to need you and your products as they grow.
If your customers are growing, you’re growing!
5-They’re small but mighty.
Small businesses might be small when they stand alone, but they’re certainly mighty when they stand together. For every US corporation, there are 1162 small businesses! Towns all across America are looking to revamp their downtowns with quaint boutiques, restaurants, and stores. While all of the department stores have made the move online, the Ma & Pa shops are keeping their doors open and their shelves full of trendy, earth-friendly, and reclaimed items.
Small businesses are as trendy as the products inside them and they provide vital revenue for our home towns. Let’s make sure we support them by shopping small and offering marketing solutions (promotional products) that fit their budgets.