December 30, 2021
Cybersecurity is an ever-important and ever-evolving conversation. As technology gets more advanced and integrated into our daily lives, hackers get more clever at finding ways to access your accounts to gain important personal and business-related information.
When we last discussed cybersecurity, we talked about a couple of the more common ways your information might be stolen, like phishing emails, USB drives inserted into a hotel’s computer in the business center that’s infected or opening an attachment from an unknown source.
I asked our Vice President of IT, Brian Prichard, for some handy tips and tricks on protecting yourself from these types of attacks.
It’s not just big businesses like the Colonial Pipeline getting attacked and their systems being held for ransom – small businesses are just as likely to get attacked by hackers as well. The best way to protect your business is through education. Ensure that your team members know not to click on any suspicious links, that they know who attachments are coming from, and to not download anything not authorized by your IT department. One way to make sure everyone in your organization stays vigilant is to implement quarterly training with your IT department or invite an expert to speak to your team each year.
Make sure your software is up-to-date and current with the latest security patches. Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung continuously research and look into potential security risks within their software. They will then send out updates with “patches” or fixes for those risks. Keeping your computer up-to-date (yes, even when the popup happens at the most inopportune time) will make sure that your computer has the best protection.
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is an added layer of security to make sure that your account stays as safe as possible – and only those authorized to gain access can do so. We recently updated SAGE Mobile to include 2FA, and once you enter your email and password, you’ll receive a code delivered only to you by either email or text message to log in.
Just like you have a plan in place for a fire or tornado at your business, it’s crucial to have an incident response plan in place in case you or a team member accidentally opens a suspicious link or downloads an attachment they shouldn’t have. Make sure that everyone in the office knows how to handle this situation so they don’t panic if that does happen. Have them shut down their computer immediately and call tech support – they will know the best way to deal with this sort of situation.
This one isn’t necessarily tied into ransomware but is important nonetheless! Hackers have been known to hack into computers and spy on people using their webcams to gain the information they want. Like the one below, a webcam cover is a great tool to keep your privacy safe. Webcam covers have a sliding plate so you can still access the camera if you have a video conference – and, like the ones below, you can even put your logo on them!
This branded webcam cover is great to keep your staff, your customers, and you safe! Find it in SAGE Online with the Item Number #SG-RZR-ST
Perform routine backups of your data on an external server or hard drive as a safety net in case your computer or network is hacked. If infected, ransomware will shut down access to your computer and important software, and the hackers that took over your system will then demand a ransom that you must pay to get back access to your information. Backing up your data provides not only a way for you to gain access to your files in the event your access is maliciously limited but also is good practice in case you accidentally douse your laptop with a large quantity of Dr. Pepper (I say this from experience after losing a semester’s worth of projects in college)…
The best protection against this sort of thing is being vigilant. Don’t click on anything; if you’re not sure if an email is real – ask for a second opinion! If you’re not expecting an attachment to be sent with an email, ask the sender if they sent one before you open it. And most importantly, stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the cybersecurity world so you can stay ahead of the curve.
For more information about protecting your business and yourself on the internet, check out this guide by the FBI on ransomware attacks.
Used with permission from SAGE
December 16, 2021
The Colonial Pipeline ransomware cyberattack in May of 2021 was one of the most significant ransomware attacks on a United States-based company ever. The cyberattack infiltrated the internal computer systems of the Colonial Pipeline Company, and as a result, the company halted all operations to try to contain the attack – causing people to panic buy gasoline and a regional emergency declaration for 17 states and Washington DC. With the help of the FBI, Colonial Pipeline ended up having to pay 75 Bitcoins or 4.4 million dollars (kinda kicking myself for not investing in bitcoin when I had the chance, honestly) in ransom to get their systems back online and get fuel moving again.
Cybersecurity and all the terms that go along with it can be really confusing, especially with words floating around like ransomware, malspam, malware, Trojan horse, bots, and more. So, I asked our Vice President of IT, Brian Prichard, for a little more insight into the matter and advice on how you can protect yourself and your business from these sorts of attacks – because big companies aren’t the only ones getting targeted.
According to Brian, being knowledgeable about how you could be opening yourself up to these viruses is the most important factor and is key to the prevention of these types of attacks – after all, the most common method to spread malware is through email – and that’s where the weakest link in information security comes into play: human error.
First, let’s go over some of the more common, everyday terms you might hear.
Remember what Brian said about email? Malware Spam, or Malspam, is a spam email that delivers malware – and is typically the most common form of delivery for these types of programs to get into your system. Usually, these include infected attachments, phishing messages (messages usually with links looking for you to enter your username and password on a fake website), or malicious URLs. You can even receive malspam through an unsecured, infected website (you can tell if the website you’re visiting is secure or not by checking to see if there is a little SSL certificate lock icon next to the web address – all SAGE websites have one!), removable devices (like a USB), downloading suspicious files, and downloading infected pieces of software.
In fact, malspam is getting so sophisticated, it’s getting tricky to see what it looks like! So, I pulled a few examples from my own personal email to show you.
This is my junk inbox – beyond our regular inbox borders, we must never go there, Simba. As you can see, there are some obvious phishing emails in here – like the ones with different characters in the subject line or fancy font. But let’s take a look at this one from Venmo – it looks innocent enough from the subject line (and who doesn’t want $500?).
Inside, we can see that something is definitely weird – the formatting is off, it looks like it was optimized for a desktop rather than my phone. Let’s take a closer look to see how we can tell that this is a fake email.
The first thing that I notice (and maybe that’s because I write for a living!) is that the spelling and grammar are incorrect in a few spots; the biggest ones are that both “congratulations” and “here” are misspelled. There is also inconsistent capitalization and punctuation – Venmo is a very large company; they will ensure that their grammar and spelling are correct before sending out an email like this.
The next red flag is where it reads “this message was sent from a trusted sender” at the top – this is most likely to trick whoever opens this email into a false sense of security. I know, however, that most applications, whether it’s Outlook, Gmail, or Apple, will not have this at the top of their emails – if they do, it will not be in the body of the email.
Lastly, and maybe this is just me being weirdly observational – but typically, in an email like this, the header would not have the name of a large company just typed out – they’ll have an official logo.
But what if we’re not sure about an email – because it looks legit? We can check the email address. In this case – once we go into the contact page, we can see that this is definitely not an email from Venmo. An official email from a legitimate company would absolutely not have a string of random numbers and letters as their email address or domain.
Let’s compare it to a real “money received” email from Venmo. I asked the excellent Caitlin, one of our marketing coordinators here at SAGE, to send me a $1 because while I have Venmo, I don’t actually use it all too often. But we can already see a big difference in the subject lines. For starters, there is more information – like who is sending me money and the time it was sent.
No, I don’t want to talk about how many unread emails I have in my inbox.
When we open the email, we can see that again, there is a lot more information. Venmo deals with money – so there is a lot of legal jargon and contact information included in this email that’s missing from the fake email. I also didn’t notice until the emails were side-by-side on my computer screen that the shades of blue are different. Of course, the logo at the top of the official email is centered and not just typed in.
When we look at the email address, we can see that it’s not just a stream of numbers and letters but actually does come from an official email.
Additionally, these types of hackers will often use scare tactics and try to trick you into thinking something is wrong with your account, ticket, reservation, or order. Some of these include:
If you’re still not positive whether an email is real, ask for a second opinion and go to your IT department! If you receive an email like this, the best way to see if it’s legitimate is to physically go to that company’s website yourself by opening up your web browser and typing in the URL manually to log in. Don’t click on any links or buttons in the email itself.
The same goes for opening attachments in emails – if you’re not expecting one, don’t open it. Double-check with the sender that they genuinely meant to send it, and if you’re still unsure – always check with your IT department.
BUT, what do you do if you accidentally click on a link and quickly realize you aren’t sure of the legitimacy of the email? Brian says to shut down your computer immediately and call your technical support – they will know the best way to deal with this sort of situation.
And that’s where we will pick back up for part two of Cybersecurity Awareness, where we talk about prevention, how to speak to your team about cybersecurity to make sure they’re aware of the dangers, and more. Keep an eye out for it right here on the SAGE Blog – subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!
For more information on protecting your business and yourself on the internet, check out the FBI’s guides on business email compromise and how to protect your computer.
Used with Permission from SAGE
Are You Color Blind?
Trends for 2022
1/18/2022 | Joel Schaffer, MAS, The Take Away
Listen To Article
Kermit the frog, a dollar bill and my first kitchen once married. You will never find a common denominator to this unless you recently read about the color of the year for 2022. What is even more interesting is that those who, without any supreme or Divine authority, determine what the colors of the year will be. Our paint companies make that call. In a rare, if not first-time occurrence, Behr, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and PPG have all declared tints of green as the 2022 color. This news and the indication that other businesses are also calling the green hue trending was a news flash in Parade. For those under 50, Parade is an insert in newspapers nationally. Newspapers can be seen in museums and on the history channel.
There is an axiom long standing in our industry that we follow retail trends by a year. However, adept promotional marketers right this very minute should be preparing their style issue of their newsletter with this factoid as their central theme. By marketers, I include suppliers and, of course, distributors. Suppliers market through you and you are their eyes and ears to what buyers want, need and wish for.
Suppliers should focus attention towards personal and household products in this color range that seems to run from sand and cream to olive and seaweed green.
Distributors should focus attention on this trend, convince clients they are up to date on trends and have a creative flare for style. Any external communication should include a quick compilation of apparel in this color group. It is not difficult to right click on the image in your favorite apparel brands and add the illustrations. In column after column l implore distributors to get flip book/zoom catalog software to be able to make spontaneous catalogs in minutes. If doing this yourself frightens you, try www.issuu.com.
As true consultants, creative gurus and branding experts, we need to follow the news, influencers and changing times. Besides ingesting this information, it is good marketing practice and personal/business brand building to play it forward. While I won’t call it a trend, one of the most significant changes in our workplace is working from home. A huge change on the horizon is AI - artificial intelligence. A growing initiative is in food and the movement away from animal to things that are grown. People are dreaming of a trip on SpaceX. They are interested in robotics more than ever. People are once again cocooning. These are just some of the changes and trends that should be considered in what we as consultants sell and develop. In the midst of political unrest and pandemic worries, personal/family safety is of concern. There are many ways to comfort people without providing guns and many promotions to build. Planetary stress for the inhabitants of America and the world is at a zenith. That brings on the opportunity for indulgences such as a box of chocolate or soothing massage in a relaxing aroma bath. Oh boy, has buying changed and it continues to do so precipitated by supply chain issues and now inflation. We can’t make promises and JIT is dead for now. Hence, adjustments must be made in buying (order early, be flexible and have a few backup choices) and selling.
Trends give us opportunities and uncover new, reasonably untapped markets. I have promoted the wellness market for 15 years. The 2022 budgets from government to private enterprise is beyond huge. Listen to my webinar in the PPAI library. That is where you can mine for gold in the year ahead. Covid has stimulated the wellness market to react. It is way beyond masks. Think outside the box, do your research, your external communication and do not lament business and customers lost over the chaotic past few years.
Joel D. Schaffer, MAS is CEO and Founder of Soundline, LLC, the pioneering supplier to the promotional products industry of audio products. Joel has 48 years of promotional product industry experience and proudly heralds “I was a distributor.” He has been on the advisory panel of the business and marketing department of St. John’s University in New York and is a frequent speaker at Rutgers Graduate School of Business. He is an industry Advocate and has appeared before the American Bankers Association, American Marketing Association, National Premium Sales Executives, American Booksellers Association and several other major groups. He has been a management consultant to organizations such as The College Board and helped many suppliers enter this industry. He is a frequent contributor to PPB and Counselor magazines. He has facilitated over 200 classes sharing his industry knowledge nationwide. He is known for his cutting humor and enthusiasm in presenting provocative and motivating programs. He is the only person to have received both the Marvin Spike Industry Lifetime Achievement Award (2002) and PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award (2011). He is a past director of PPAI and has chaired several PPAI committees and task forces. He is a past Chair of the SAAGNY Foundation, Past President of SAAGNY and a SAAGNY Hall of Fame member. He was cited by ASI as one of the 50 most influential people in the industry.
used with permission from PromoCorner
Overcoming Client Obstacles & Objections
It starts with understanding expectations1/18/2022 | Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
In today’s business climate, there is such a rush to get things done at break-neck speed – The Amazon© Effect, and while it is true one must be expeditious in getting orders processed and requests back to clients it must be complete and thorough. Clients have different expectations than we do, it’s inevitable. The challenge becomes when we do not understand their expectations AND they do not understand ours. Without those common understandings, challenges and frustrations arise, and these issues can be avoided if you do the work in advance.
Through my years of experience, I have found, most salespeople do a inadequate job of setting the tone, tempo, and joint expectation levels with their clients, especially in the very beginning of the relationship. While is no magic pill, experience has taught me, with the right preparation on the front end, there is far less grief, angst, and stress down the road, these relationships tend to be more loyal and positive.
Identify and Overcome
Identify challenges by asking the right questions up front
In the beginning, most obstacles can and should be identified with your first meeting, they should not be avoided. Many of our initial conversations are with the business owner, marketing, HR, an assistant, or other department heads; those departments rarely, if ever, write the checks.
Go back to the first discussions prior to even getting an order from your client
I always make it a habit to interview my initial client and as we get further into the relationship, I interview all relevant parties within the company – including but not limited to, graphics, marketing, HR, accounting. In some cases, depending on the size of the company, these areas may overlap, but I do my best to ensure I have a keen understanding of all aspects and set joint expectations in all areas. Let me share an example. If you do not understand ‘HOW’ you will be getting paid, it can create tension if your expectation is one thing and theirs is another.
This is just one example; I could write for days on this one area. The only one to blame was me, I did not ask the questions, or set the expectations on the front end. If I had known those were their terms, I may have been able to make alternative arrangements, utilized a factoring source, or decide not to work with them at all; however, once in it, I was at their mercy.
Are there obstacles that keep occurring?
For the solopreneur doing everything certainly creates strife, playing good cop, bad cop, accountant, customer service, salesperson, marketer can be draining. I encourage everyone to review your strengths, build on those and outsource the other tasks
I always ask my clients, what is the best way to communicate with them - phone, email, in person. Be prepared for the unexpected.
As a consultant I have various clients, clients at all levels, recently, one of my clients told me I need to start working in ‘Dropbox’ and ‘Google Docs’ to communicate with their team. While I realize these platforms have been out for some time, I had never had the need to use them, but if I wanted this client, I needed to conform.
Do not take your customers for granted.
Just because you have created these joint expectations, things can and do change, Keep building upon the foundation, providing reasons why they should do business with you. One way is to revisit those expectations on both sides to see if they are still working. A simple review and a few germane questions to determine how communication and expectations are moving along will be appreciated by your client.
Typical Obstacles and Thoughts on Overcoming
This business can be frustrating and exasperating, but once again, the failure to communicate in detail, seems to be the root of most problems
Your client asks you for some “ideas,” you spend two hours putting together a proposal, make the presentation and you hear…
“Thank you for your ideas, now I have to get three bids…”
Frustrating, I agree, but first, assess the situation
Years back a record label called me, wanted my expertise, and wanted me to create a launch for one of their new artists. I will never forget this, as I was so excited to be working on this project. I got a few lame questions answered, artists name, theme, and budget – but I did not go deep enough. I went back to the office, started sketching, making vendor calls, overnighting in samples, making custom prototypes; three days later I made the pitch, came in three dollars per kit under budget. Client loved the concept, said he would get back, rather, he took my idea, shopped it elsewhere, did the program, my program, and I never saw a dime. Ethically it was wrong, but this challenge was MY FAULT, I failed to get clarity. Always seek clarity and ask the hard questions.
Are you dealing with the decision maker? In the beginning, ask, “Who besides yourself will be involved in the decision-making process?” If there is a committee, ask to make a presentation to the committee. The reason is to fully understand the scope of the project and the ability to answer any questions. It will help shorten the process.
I can find it “cheaper” on the internet…
A great question in the beginning, where do you typically source items you are looking for? If you know up front it is the internet, you can generally assume they are about price, if you get in that situation, you can overcome the challenge by asking
Customer/prospect wants more ideas…
When is enough, enough? How many times should you go back to customer with more ideas? What is an idea?
In all cases, have you set YOUR expectations with the client? Yes, you are entitled to, and should have expectations. These expectations should be your pillars, the bedrock of how you run your business.
A great example would be to review the general information from one of your many quality suppliers, while not all of their information listed will be relevant, it’s a great jump off point
Be Prepared. Anticipate obstacles and how to handle them, and be ready to respond
Define mutual expectations: Do not wait until there is a problem to begin defining what each other wants or needs.
Put it and get it in Writing: assumptions will kill most companies, archive conversations, safe emails,
Establish a track record. Build your chips, you never know when you will need to cash one in for a favor.
Continue to reinvent yourself. Keep giving new reasons why a customer should be doing business with you. Having solid joint expectations is one of them.
With joint expectations laid out in advance, the relationship flourishes, stress is lessened, loyalty is increased, and you can comfortably do what you do best, provide amazing solutions and run a successful business!
Until next time, continued good selling - CQ
For nearly 40 years, Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, with his company, Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been speaking, coaching, training, and consulting both nationally and internationally to associations and small business groups, on more effective ways to market themselves, their products, and services; as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid Award over 30 times, the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times, and Regional Association CPPA’s Peak Award 3 consecutive years. Cliff has coached countless others with the same result. Cliff received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years; and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100", as having a significant influence in education in our industry. He was recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content. Cliff’s most recent book, 30 Seconds to Greatness, is available on his website www.QuicksellSpeaks.com Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cliff@QuicksellSpeaks.com
Cliff will be launching his 30 Minutes to Greatness PODCAST in the next couple of months geared specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurship. Connect with Cliff to get connected to this free podcast.
Used with permission from PromoCorner
Interview With A Marketer
A chat with a recent Marketing Graduate1/20/2022 | Jessica Onions, Designer Patch
I sat down with Halle Moore, Marketing Assistant at PromoCorner and a recent graduate from Umass Boston to discuss some principles of Marketing. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Management and a concentration in Marketing, Halle studied the dynamics of various marketing types, how to interpret and utilize marketing data, and how to determine which type of marketing is best for assorted demographics.
With the variations of marketing you studied, which one(s) would you say our industry can benefit from the most?
For our industry, I think all things digital is a huge benefit. People are on their phones and computer all day long and having access to market to people directly on those things is huge.
Analytics are huge, but a lot of people don't know what to focus in on. Once upon a time what we looked at is now classified as vanity metrics. What do you consider to be the most important piece of data that should be collected and analyzed from a marketing campaign?
The most important thing to consider when running a marketing campaign is why are you doing it. You should have a goal in mind and implement things that will help you achieve that goal.
As we all know, content is king and social media is leading the way. What are the top 3 tips you can share to help people best position their brand in an oversaturated world of content?
1. Put out content that you would want to watch or learn more about. If you aren’t interested in what you're doing neither will your audience.
2. Don’t be afraid to try a different approach, not all pieces of content will work out or be a hit but you can learn from where they went wrong.
3. Be unique and relevant with your content. Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean you need to but if you believe you can do it in a fresh way, go for it.
What is the top mistake you’ve seen made time and again in Marketing and how do you suggest it be fixed?
Not having clear goals in place. You really want to know why and what you're marketing. Sitting down with your team and coming up with a clear game plan will not only help any current marketing campaigns but also future ones.
I started in the Promotional Products Industry in 2010, right when the usage of Social Media for business began - at least in our industry. I lucked out to be working with Dana Zezzo at the time because he saw the tremendous value of this new way of marketing (#GetSocial) and how it acted as an extra touchpoint with customers and a way to stay top of mind. Fast forward 12 years later and marketing on social media has become the norm. What are some best practices you were taught to leverage social media for brand marketing?
Finding the perfect balance of how much you should be posting. You don't want to overwhelm your follower's feed, but you want to make sure you're posting enough to keep high engagement and not let people forget about you.
How do you think the digital marketing landscape will change in the next few years?
I believe we will see a pretty big change in digital marketing in the next few years. Technology is changing faster than ever and with that, new marketing approaches will be created to fill this new technology.
Before you dive headfirst into your 2022 marketing make sure you set up clear goals, create relevant content, and take advantage of the numerous opportunities with digital marketing.
Jessica is the Art Director at PromoCorner and has been in the promotional products industry since 2010. With a degree in Graphic Design, she has been working in Marketing since 2006 creating advertising of all sizes; from social posts to billboards. Jessica shares her passion for design in her monthly blog, Designer Patch. She can be reached at email@example.com.
No matter the field, talent and natural ability are only responsible for so much of our outcomes. What separates a repeat champion like Tom Brady from 31 other starting quarterbacks in the NFL? It’s not his arm strength or quickness, but his mindset, focus and mental strength.
In that spirit, refining the mental game was the subject of this week’s Distributors Helping Distributors webcast, hosted by co-founders of TheSwagCoach.com Michael Mahoney and Josh Frey, the sales columnist for PPB.
Frey and Mahoney, who coach and consult promotional products distributors to help them reach their sales goals, began the discussion with a simple thesis: If you want to reach key revenue milestones in 2022, you need to be in the right headspace, with the right mindset, which starts by silencing your inner critic and elevating your mental and emotional well-being.
“If you’re like me, there are some days when you don’t have your mojo, and some days that you do, and that’s just human,” Mahoney said. “I personally have found that consciously working to put my mind in the right place can make a difference in my attitude and how I’m able to perform at work…. As I’m talking to distributors around the country, I hear that maybe they feel stress or overwhelmed with constant work demands, they’re overbooked, there’s anxiety, fear, not having time for themselves.
“We’re all small-businesspeople, we’re entrepreneurs…. It’s hard to separate the personal from the business, so it’s really important to get our heads in the right place.”
The duo were joined for the webcast by well-being strategist and mindfulness speaker Oksana Esberard, author of the book Next Level You: How I Transformed My Life With Mindfulness and Meditation. Much of the discussion centered around a classic topic and personal and professional development: positive thinking.
“If something didn’t happen, let’s say a sale didn’t go through, I just say that it doesn’t mean for me that something better is not coming,” Esberard said. “Self-worth: I think we get associated so much with all of the losing in sales, in us losing something…. It’s work to stay in the zone, or balance, to not take it personally.”
Aside from rebounding from negative experiences in sales, Frey also pointed out that remaining sharp after wins is important to continued business growth.
“It took me 20 years to enjoy the journey,” Frey said. “I had this moment where I had done more sales than I had ever done in a year, I had a sales team that was crushing it… and it was just such a grind to get there that I couldn’t even enjoy it.
“That’s something I’m really focused on—finding the parts of the work that you enjoy so that the journey becomes so much more enjoyable, and freeing yourself up from the stuff that’s not.”
Used with permission from PPAI Media
I recently shared a cab with the business owner of a print manufacturer who was headed to an industry conference where I was slated to be a presenter on workforce trends and solutions. He turned to me and said, “Ok, then tell me … where the heck did everyone go? Where are the workers and how do we get them to come work for us?”
Where, indeed! Unfortunately, they have gone to a variety of places and for a variety of reasons. Some have quit their jobs because of continued COVID hesitancy, some because of ongoing childcare challenges, some have quit to take on new opportunities and the chance to earn more money and gain more workplace flexibility, and some have quit just to take a much-needed break, knowing that when the savings run low there will be ample job opportunities for them to jump back into the labor market.
What’s an employer to do? Well, it starts with a shift of mindset and these five steps:
Who are you looking to hire? Is it someone with maturity and experience? Someone with less experience but lots of enthusiasm? Someone local or someone remote? We encourage our clients to visualize the talent they seek and work to understand what their desired employees are looking for. What do they want? Too often, business leaders fail to recognize the unique needs and wants of their talent and focus instead on what they want, as employers. Don’t know what your desired hires want in their lives or in their jobs? Just ask the ones who already work for you, who are in the same demographic, what they want and like about their jobs. What are their strengths and opportunities, and how can you maximize those assets while minimizing the weaknesses and threats that they may bring with them?
How much of your marketing budget are you spending to tell your story to attract talent? My guess is very little. I have spent endless hours exploring corporate career sites and company job boards and few of them show any effort to attract talent. Instead, the marketing is often re-constituted sales material that, from a potential employee’s perspective, is redundant and uninspiring. Revamp it! Show prospective employees you understand who they are and what they want. Use videos, social media and testimonials to tell the stories of employees who are just like them. Show community. Show opportunity. Show your culture. Maximize social media. Yes, create a TikTok video! If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who does and put your marketing resources behind it.
Try this: grab your smartphone and log on to your company website and look for your career site. Is it easy to find? Next, look at your job openings. Do they look cool? Would a Gen Z be inspired to apply? Remember, 90 percent of job seekers look for jobs from their mobile devices. Next, try applying using your mobile phone. Not easy? That’s a problem because the vast majority of employees in the first 10 years of their careers are applying for jobs using their mobile devices. Keep going—did you fill out the employment application? Hard, right? Having to search for the names, phone numbers and addresses of previous employers and educational institutions, and then having to populate the application fields using your smartphone is close to impossible. Simplify your application and keep revising it until it’s easy to complete. Don’t forget to capture candidates who start job applications. If they bailed before completion, it’s likely not because they are uninterested but because your application was too hard to complete. They still may be interested in the position. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Wages are going up—fast. To remain competitive, many employers are paying more for talent than they budgeted and then they are facing internal inequities with their existing talent pool. Yes, pay is important, but so are other things. Young workers want to do well, but they also want to do good. How can you help them do that? Most young workers would take less pay for more time off. They want to travel—how can you help them do that? Who wouldn’t want a leased car or a holiday vacation rental as a perk? Stop thinking only about pay and look for innovative and creative perks and benefits that can attract and inspire the talent you want.
It’s no surprise that, after more than a year of working from home, employees want to maintain some form of flexibility. Those who cannot work from home want that flexibility, too. Survey after survey show that employees will be more loyal, more engaged and will even accept less pay in exchange for more workplace flexibility. Not sure how to do that? Ask your employees for ideas on how you can create and maintain a flexible workplace, regardless of job role.
Yes, 2022 looks like it’s going to be challenging from a hiring and retaining standpoint. With empathy, creativity and imagination, you can make it the best year yet.
Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is president of Affinity HR Group, PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner, which specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations, including PPAI and its member companies. www.affinityHRgroup.com.
No matter what side of the political arena you are on, the current presidential administration’s mantra of “Build Back Better” is timely for new year’s resolutions – who doesn’t want to make a better year for themselves, their loved ones, and their workplaces in 2022? After such an unstable year, we all want to build ourselves a better new year.
Each year, millions of people across the globe review their personal and professional situations to identify areas of desired improvements and goals to achieve. New Years’ Resolutions are critical for self-empowerment.
Most people are New Year’s Resolvers – but unlike past years, 2022, which really began building off of 2020, showcases the health of the whole self as critical.
Data analyst Katharina Buchholz at Statista explained how 2020 shaped up for Americans in their resolution priorities, based on a survey by Ipsos for Urban Plates: “For 2020, Americans are making the resolution to adopt healthy habits – concerning their finances as well as their bodies. Out of all participants who said they were making one or several new year’s resolutions, 51 percent wanted to manage their finances better and an equal amount wanted to adopt healthier eating habits. More popular resolutions for the upcoming year also circled around improving one’s health, with a more active lifestyle and weight loss being favorite answers.”
Specifically, respondents resolved to be more active (50%), lose weight (42%), improve mental well-being (38%), improve social connections (30%), learn a new skill (22%), and become more eco-friendly (22%).
This year, according to a November 16, 2021 analysis by Shutterstock AI, 2022 new year’s resolutions appear to weigh heavy on the side of self-care (beyond losing weight). Based on analyzing click-through imagery, photos and videos of people peacefully at sleep in bed have skyrocketed 29%, while images showing napping (such as on the couch) have zoomed 108% in a year. Another related area of triple-digit growth is people relaxing in hot tubs (111%). Self-care is the key theme that Shutterstock believes harbingers a newly prioritized resolution for the upcoming new year.
This is followed by the desire to eat a more plant-based diet, following consistent news reports of the health and wellness benefits plus the bevy of new plant-based food options launched in the past two years.
How Promotional Products Can Help
Knowing that self-care beyond simply getting into shape will be top of mind for most New Year Resolvers, you can help guide your clientele to deliver the most appropriate and appreciated logoed products for a new year’s campaign.
Part of the new self-care is largely about mental, spiritual, and emotional wellness, along with the idea of clean living and eating. Forget about “quitting smoking,” as a new year’s resolution, “quitting negative thinking” for many has become very important.
And there’s a promotional product tool for that. The Book Company’s A Year of Gratitude for 2022 page-a-day calendar infuses the recipient with daily reminders of how to be positive and to sustain a healthy level of gratitude. This is a great new year’s promotional product for mental healthcare, spas, rehab centers, and also for corporate team-building and onboarding activities.
Great corporate gifts for the new year include self-pampering products such as HHPLift’s Spa Day collection, Logomark’s Feel-Good 7-piece Spa Kit and Getaway 4-Piece Spa Kit in Box; WOWLine’s Sleep Mask, Promosky Gifts’ Adjustable Spa Headband, Via Kit Company’s Spa Set and Earth Spa Kit, Hirsch Gift’s Serene House Spa Kit, and more. These spa products are also suitable for physicians’ offices and travel/hospitality clients or clients that will emphasize the concept of “rejuvenation” for 2022.
Clients that want to help end-users achieve their 2022 fitness goals can choose a wide variety of yoga mats (WOV-IN) or Turkish Signature Workout Towels from Towel Specialties, Rush Service’s Yoga Circle Hip Resistance Band, and Journalbooks/Timeplanner’s Health & Fitness Journals.
Planners and journals are much-desired gifts – blank pages and new days represent opportunities for renewal, for achievement, and for growth. There is a wide variety of upscale journals, notebooks, and planners (daily, weekly, monthly) from Castelli/The Magnet Group, and Journalbooks/Timeplanner.
Perfect for your healthcare clients, Coloring Book Solutions provides Slide Charts, for cholesterol monitoring, for blood pressure monitoring, for nutrition, for physical fitness, and for calorie/carbohydrate/fat monitoring.
There are many more ways to help your clients take advantage of the new opportunities and freshly forged willpower that this upcoming new year provides. The message of supporting goals and growth will be appreciated all year long.
So, it’s like this: just like everyone else, I’m going through some “stuff”. As I’ve long said, I’m not a fan of real life. File this under “Is what it is”. Subheading: “Oh yeah? You think you’ve got it bad? Let me tell you about my problems”.
As a result of this “stuff”, it’s got me thinking a lot about planning. Planning ahead. Worst case scenarios. You know…what happens when I get hit by the proverbial bus.
Note that I wrote “when”, and not “if”. Now that’s planning. At any rate…
I realized that, as cheery a topic as it is, this would make for an interesting column to share. As I started to formulate it (if you ever want to know about the creative process I use, look up “wait until the last minute and then panic”), the concept and points were coming to me quite easily. And then I remembered why.
I wrote about this already. Back in 2017. Same concept: what happens to what we’ve built, or are in the process of building, should we get hit by that bus?
It’s nice to know that someone reads and remembers my columns. I just wish it wasn’t always me.
That column had been primarily about protecting your business. This time…let’s get personal.
I think this is an important subject which should be revisited regularly. If you followed my advice four years ago it’s time to update the plan. The tech items and services I recommended then are probably obsolete anyway. Just as with estate planning, this is a fluid thing which needs to be revisited and updated regularly.
In researching this, I just learned that the odds of actually getting hit by a bus is 495,000 to 1. I thought that was something you might want to know.
Further research shows that the average person has about 130 different online accounts, such as multiple email addresses, bank accounts, credit cards, games to which you subscribe, shopping, and so forth. If you’re as smart as I want to believe you are (after all, you read my columns), you’re not using the same password for each. You’re also not using “password” as your password. And please don’t think you’re being clever by using “passw0rd”.
I’m reminded of the scene from the lesser-classic “Space Balls”, where the King has to provide a secret combination. It turns out that combination is 1-2-3-4-5, about which the character Dark Helmet says “That’s the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage”. Don’t be that idiot…mix up your passwords.
How are you supposed to remember 130+ different passwords? You’re not expected to. Save them in some sort of document. You think that writing them down on a piece of paper is a bad idea? It’s not great…but it’s better than thinking “ah…I’ll remember it”. Keep a digital document. As it turns out, the worst possible method for saving passwords is also the most popular. Irony, you’re a cruel bus-driver.
Why are you doing this? For one thing, as we get older, we get more forgetful. For another thing, we get more forgetful. Having a list…somewhere…saves many frustrating minutes trying to (a) remember what the password is, and (2) going through the tedious, time-sucking steps of having to reset your password.
Another reason for doing this? That aforementioned bus. More importantly, you’ve got to have someone who has access to this list. Think about it: who do you trust with the keys to the kingdom? You’re gonna have to take a leap of faith here.
Look at it this way: you’re doing someone else a favor by having all your information readily available for when that time comes. It’s literally the last nice thing you are doing for that person.
I know…it’s easier said than done. I may have to follow my own advice. Because that’s worked out for me up until now.
Mike Schenker, MAS, is “all that” at Mike Schenker, Consulting, where he assists businesses entering the promotional products industry, mentors professionals, and offers association management. He is a promotional industry veteran and member of the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consumers have an unquenchable thirst for drinkware. Between mugs, bottles and tumblers, they can’t get enough. And with ever-growing environmental and health concerns, reusable drinkware is a solution that makes a statement.
From marathon runners to corporate suits, consumers are constantly looking for the perfect cup. According to industry research, as many as 78 percent of U.S. consumers own branded drinkware, and half of those people use their logoed mugs and cups between two and three times per week. When people find a favorite bottle or mug, they use it faithfully, which is why branded drinkware leads in impressions—more than 1,400 for the average item in its lifecycle. Along with this heavy usage, people tend to keep branded drinkware longer than other categories of promo items. PPAI research shows that recipients keep their promotional kitchenware, including mugs and other drinkware, for roughly four years on average. So, it’s not a question of whether end users are using branded drinkware, but if they’re using drinkware that’s customized with your client’s branding.
Drinkware is more than an everyday essential; it’s a testament to one’s lifestyle. Consumers have found an identity in the types of beverages they drink and drinkware they use. The Atlantic says coffee lovers have created a prospering coffee-connoisseur culture. According to a survey of 2,000 coffee drinkers by OnePoll, almost half (49 percent) of respondents say they have become at-home baristas during quarantine, developing their coffee-making skills during their time inside. Since the pandemic began, more Americans (42 percent) now consider themselves coffee connoisseurs.
Today, drinkware can even be a defining characteristic of a subgroup. For example, the “VSCO girl” or “VSCO kids” are always sipping from and carrying around a Hydro Flask water bottle. In 2019, the VSCO girl, named after the photo-editing app VSCO, became popular on social media and has since emerged into a youth subculture of people who post trendy photos of a similar aesthetic. This cool, carefree VSCO girl lives (and posts) a surfer-like lifestyle, wearing puka shell necklaces and hair scrunchies. While the beach aesthetic is fundamental to the VSCO girl, consistently using products, like the Hydro Flask, is also vital to her identity.
Today, drinkware is a part of self-expression. The Atlantic says that fancy water bottles have become a status symbol. Carrying a water bottle not only implies that you make hydration a priority, but also that you care about the environment. Essential to a well-functioning body, drinking water is obviously not new, but the trend of constant consumption has continued to rise in popularity over the past decade. Like other uber-popular consumer goods, major celebrity endorsements have helped to fuel this hydration fixation. The 2000s led to a rise of water brands like Évian and FIJI. In a 2005 Washington Post report, publicist Jonathan Cheban describes how he made Évian into a luxury water brand, which he achieved by strategically placing Évian onto tables at an Oscars after-party, resulting in a myriad of photographs being taken of celebrities sipping their Évian water bottles.
In 2007, Glaceau’s Smartwater joined the high-end water wars with actress Jennifer Aniston as its new spokesperson. While Aniston showcased the brand in ads, she also spoke of water as her beauty secret whenever she could. According to Paper magazine, in interviews she’d boast to drinking 100 ounces of water per day. Soon other celebrities touted the benefits of water as being similar to all-purpose beauty elixir. Beyonce told Vogue in 2012 that she drinks a gallon of water a day and Gabrielle Union told The New York Times that she does the same to maintain her “hair, skin and nails.” Suddenly, drinking water became so “cool” that it was constantly being endorsed by top entertainers and other celebrities.
Hydration is a top wellness priority for many consumers. Now marketed as a cure for many of life’s woes, water on-the-go is a must. Since 2017, bottled water has been the most popular beverage in the United States by volume, surpassing soft drinks with sales up seven percent over the previous year, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a beverage consulting firm. This love for water isn’t just based on brand name, either. According to Statistica, generic brands outsell prestigious ones. While consumers may curb their intake of caffeinated or sugary beverages, pop culture says to drink more water. So, people are drinking water all day and even carrying it around with them, bringing water on the go. Giant, even cumbersome water jugs are a new fashion accessory, according to MEL magazine.
The New York Times says that everyone’s 2020 resolution was to drink more water. As a result, this need for easy-to-use and convenient drinkware for everyday hydration and a growing focus on fitness is driving market growth. The drinkware market is following suite with sales expected to exceed $35 billion by 2025, according to MarketWatch. Global shifts toward the use of more sustainable materials are also leading to market gains. When it comes to mugs and cups, metal and silicon are leading the industry. Metal drinkware, in particular, is more durable than other materials, making it much more economically and environmentally viable, according to MarketWatch. Consumers also gravitate to design-forward drinkware that represents their lifestyles.
Drinkware gifts say, “I care about you. Please stay hydrated.” Whether it’s a water, tea or tequila, every end user could use a drink.
Styrofoam is one of the most environmentally unfriendly types of waste that exists today. According to the Green Dining Alliance, it takes over 500 years for Styrofoam to break down. Around the world, 25 to 30 percent of landfill space is filled with Styrofoam. While many types of packaging can be recycled, Styrofoam containers that held food or beverages are not recyclable due to contamination, even at recycling centers where Styrofoam is accepted. One distributor saw not just a problem, but an opportunity waiting for a solution. Chris Stumpf, MAS, CEO of Stumpies Marketing Group, also saw a marketing opportunity for one of his clients, a scout camp for kids, and stepped in with promotional drinkware to replace the Stryofoam cups being used. Stumpf explains, “Gulf Stream Council operates a scout camp called Tanah Keeta Scout Reservation in Florida. During their weeklong summer camp, they serve 17 meals to scouts. They also feed the scouts involved in day activities. There are water coolers spread around the camp for people to get water. On average, a scout might get water three times a day from the coolers and eat three meals meaning a scout would use a minimum of six Styrofoam cups per day. Just for the weeklong scout camp program, the camp would use around 26,000 Styrofoam cups.”
To save money and the environment, Stumpies Marketing Group imprinted the camp logo on a plastic stein mug from supplier CPS Keystone along with the camp’s name on the carabiner. Stumpf says, “When the scouts check in, they are given a mug with the carabiner clipped to the handle so they can clip the mug to their belt loop or backpack. When they go to meals, the only way to get a drink is to use their mug. When they are around camp and want water out of the coolers, they have to use their mug.” Not only did the mug solve a significant problem, but it also highlighted the camp’s values. “This saves about 26,000 to 30,000 Styrofoam cups from being put into the landfill. It teaches responsibility, sustainability and is environmentally friendly. It saves the camp money because they spend less on the mugs and carabiners than the cost of the Styrofoam cups. This also supports one of the 12 scout laws which is ‘A Scout is Thrifty.’ The scouts can continue to use the mug after camp is over. They can take it on other camping trips, so they don’t have to buy a cup in the future. The carabiner can also be used in other ways as well.”
Make this three-in-one tool a part of your client’s next promotion. The magnetic bottle opener coaster has a strong magnetic back that holds to any metal surface and a strong metal jaw to easily open bottles. The large imprint area gives your client maximum ad exposure.
Beacon Promotions, Inc. / PPAI 113702, S10 / www.beaconpromotions.com
Make the perfect cup of tea with the Aviana™ Cambridge Tea For One Set. Available in black or speckle, this clever set fits right in at homes or offices. Designed as a space‐saver, the silicone ring helps to keep the set neatly stacked away when not in use. With a stainless-steel infuser for brewing loose tea, this 12-ounce mug and 17-ounce teapot are top-rack dishwasher safe. Remove the silicone ring and the metal infuser before microwaving or dishwashing.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / www.gemline.com
Ideal for an office desk or a walk across campus, this 18-ounce Thermos® tumbler has vacuum insulation technology for maximum temperature retention, keeping drinks cold for hours. Its double wall, stainless-steel construction with a removable straw keeps iced coffee, smoothies and juices flowing for max enjoyment and easy cleaning. A unique exterior resists fingerprints and is sweat-proof. The cup and straw are both dishwasher-safe.
SnugZ USA / PPAI 112982, S10 / www.snugzusa.com
The Anchor™ is a universal non-tipping cup holder designed to secure your favorite cup or drinkware container and anchor it to any smooth surface. This portable cup holder will keep your drink from getting knocked over in almost any situation. To use, simply set the Anchor down and insert your favorite cup. The Anchor securely fits all popular 16-ounce to 32-ounce tumbler cup brands and most insulated water canteens.
TD Fischer / PPAI 798125, S3 / www.tdfischer.com
Leave the juggling act behind with the Hitch Bottle and Cup. This full size, dishwasher-safe water bottle has a removable, barista-approved cup hidden inside. With three ways to carry this bottle, recipients will always have a free hand. This two-in-one product with lock-in technology offers a solution for carrying hot coffee and cold water together.
The Allen Company / PPAI 113879, S5 / www.allenmugs.com
Delight recipients with the practical and visually appealing Epare Double-Wall Champagne Glass. This set of two, five-ounce double-wall champagne flutes are durable and heat-resistant. The double-wall design creates a dramatic optical illusion, prevents condensation and offers a rounded rim for comfortable drinking of chilled and hot beverages. These glasses will keep drinks cold or hot for longer periods of time, while the outer glass remains at room temperature.
Visions / PPAI 110751, S8 / www.visionsawards.com
Help clients stand out with bottle and can labels. The label is essential to the can or bottle, expressing the brand’s image and the content’s information and flavor. For those who love drinking straight from the bottle or can, a unique label will be memorable. Unique labels create a visual reference that will be instantly recognizable for repeat purchases. Businesses like breweries and wineries can personalize their seasonal drinks with can and bottle labels.
Label Works / PPAI 111141 / www.labelworks.com
This 20-ounce Viking® Nova Tumbler comes in a variety of colors and keeps beverages at just the right temperature for hours. This item features full-color digital personalization for a one-of-a-kind item that recipients can keep and appreciate for years to come. Or choose to laser-etch a design directly onto the tumbler instead. With the double-wall vacuum construction and copper lining, recipients can enjoy their beverage just the way they like it.
Crown/IMAGEN Brands / PPAI 113430, S10 / www.IMAGENBrands.com
With precision laser-engraving, this extra-large 17-ounce double-wall stainless steel Glamping Tall mug will stand out in a crowd. This mug has a durable powder-coated exterior for a soft grip and matte finish and features a clear plastic sip-top lid. Vacuum-insulated, the Glamping mug can be used for hot and cold beverages, keeping drinks hot for up to eight hours and cold for up to 16 hours. This product is Prop 65-compliant and BPA-free.
Goldstar / PPAI 114031, S10 / www.goldstarpens.com
With a sleek and classic design, the Perka® Dashing is a 20-ounce, double-wall stainless steel bottle. The powder-coated finished botted is vacuum-sealed with a copper lining that’s comfortable to hold while keeping cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours. This bottle has a screw-top lid with a form-fitting, hinged steel handle. Fitting in most car cup holders, recipients can take the bottle to work or the beach, easily fitting it into a bag, purse or backpack.
Logomark / PPAI 110898, S12 / www.logomark.com
With a stylish and functional design, this cork bottom travel tumbler is made with durable stainless steel. This tumbler has a double wall construction, preserving the temperature of cold and hot drinks longer, and comes with a clear acrylic screw-on lid with a colored slide closure to keep the contents safely inside. This travel tumbler is available in black, gray, blue and white, with a powder coat finish for a sleek matte look. Print or engrave your client’s design to create a valued gift.
Gordon Sinclair / PPAI 111537, S4 / www.gordonsinclair.com
Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.
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