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Salespeople Know the Power of
Custom Imprinted Ad Specialties

 The Ad Specialty/promotional products industry (i.e.: custom imprinted pens, caps, T-shirts, calendars and the like) has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. While no one company accounts for more than 5% of the industry, in the past ten years, some companies have grown ten-fold through traditional marketing efforts and acquisition. Even in tough times Ad Specialties outperform more traditional forms of promotion such as advertising and public relations.

 What’s fueling this growth?  Companies of all kinds today, look to drive their message and increase visibility in this highly competitive economy.  The use of creative and memorable products is helping them achieve that goal. Companies like McDonald’s® and Burger King® use promotional products with corporate logo’s and themes to launch new marketing programs.  Businesses and organizations of all sizes are utilizing custom imprinted products to promote employee incentive and recognition programs. Others use Ad Specialties to build customer loyalty or as a simple “thank you” to customers for their business.

 One of the most popular uses for these products is sales promotion - -  and salespeople know their power. Here is an example of an experience that I had while working with an ad specialty distributor 15 years ago.

 I was asked to close a large calendar order that another salesperson had handled before leaving to work for a competitor. I called the manufacturing company and scheduled a meeting with the marketing person responsible for purchasing the calendars. Upon entering the company’s building for the first time, I was asked by the receptionist to take a seat. I usually pass out several different items when making a sales call, not only to the person I am visiting, but also to anyone else I think could help me in my efforts.  I got up from my seat and approached the receptionist. I held out a small gift type box and said, “perhaps you could use this”. It contained a small folding make-up mirror with my name and phone number imprinted on the top lid. Instead of taking it, she just sat there and didn’t make a move.  I ignored her indifference, calmly put it down on her desk in front of her, and went back to my seat.

 I was called into my meeting. It went well and I was asked to call in two weeks for their decision. As I left and passed the receptionist, I noticed the box with the mirror was still sitting in the same spot were I had left it. She hadn’t touched it. I smiled as I passed her. When I phoned two weeks later, I was asked to stop by later that week by the marketing person I had met with.

 What happened next open my eyes to the power of ad specialties.  There are two sets of glass doors at the front of the building to pass through. One set and then a small seven or eight foot space followed by the second set of glass doors. As I walked up to the building, I could see the receptionist through the doors. Her back was towards me and another salesman was standing by her desk. She appeared to be taking a call or finding out if the other salesperson’s appointment was ready for him.

 As I opened the first set of doors, she turned around in her chair to talk with the other salesman.  The movement of the door I opened caught her attention. She looked over at me and we made brief eye contact. She then swung back to the phone panel.  As I opened the second door and began to step inside, she turned back around, looked directly at me and said “you can go right in Mr. Clifford”.  I never broke stride. Keep in mind, I had only met this receptionist once before, but for the past two weeks, she had evidently been using my mirror probably several times a day. She remembered my face and she knew my name. I also got the feeling she knew I was coming that day which meant that there had been conversations about me. That is powerful.

Sales protocol is that you don’t cut in front of a fellow salesperson to get to your appointment, at least not intentionally. As I passed the receptionist, she smiled. I returned the smile and made an apologetic nod towards the other salesman. He had a stunned look on his face as if to say, “what just happened”.

 I got the order and as I passed the receptionist upon leaving she said “I love your make-up mirror”.  I replied, “I’m glad”, and reached into my jacket pocket to retrieve a couple of Sheaffer® pens for which she readily thanked me. 

Salespeople know the power of ad specialties. In relationship selling, one of the most important things a salesperson must do after the initial introductions or greetings is to establish a positive rapport. Sales people who use ad specialties know that, handing a gift item to a customer can set a tone for the rest of the meeting. Almost every time, if the item or items are presented properly, customers and prospects respond with a big thank you and a smile. The atmosphere becomes friendly, relaxed and conducive to doing business.

One of my best customers, a major supplier of electrical and electronic parts knows the power of promotional products. They have a reputation for providing outstanding service to their customers. They are innovative marketers with a progressive sales program. Twice a year I will get a call, “Herb we need some more of those Quicky letter openers, our sales people are almost out”. As part of their integrated marketing efforts they have used numerous different promotional products in several ways to build customer loyalty and facilitate sales.

 Another of my clients in the business of commercial trash collection told me a story that opened my eyes even wider to the power of these products. Once in awhile he would arrive late to pick up a customer’s trash.  He would make a point of seeing the owner of the company or the person in charge and hand them one of his custom imprinted pens with his apologies.  It was a good quality writing pen with a domed top that featured a picture of one of his trucks and had his companies name and phone number printed on the barrel. As I was meeting with him to renew his order one year, he said, “You know, if I handed my customers two or three bucks for their inconvenience, they would think I was a cheap son of a gun - - but I give them one of these three dollar pens and most of the time they can’t thank me enough”.

 Over the years, I have heard countless stories from salespeople and company owners about the power of Ad Specialties.  Whether it is turning negatives into positives, strengthen relationships, increasing recognition or rewarding achievement, ad specialties have become an important part of many marketing programs.

Herb Clifford is the principal of Clifford Marketing, a sales and marketing consulting firm. He has been affiliated with the ad specialty industry for more than 30 years and is an independent sales associate of Geiger, one of America’s leading suppliers of ad specialties.


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