The Image GroupThe Image Group

By The Image Group

Why Customer Retention Matters

Most business experts agree that selling to existing customers is far easier – and considerably less expensive – than cultivating new prospects. Indeed, one estimate suggests that 80 percent of a company’s future business will come from a mere 20 percent of its current customer base. With statistics such as that, it makes sense for organizations to target retention as a growth tactic.

But, it turns out, that’s rarely the case. Research shows that 44 percent of companies admit to having a greater focus on acquiring new customers than they do on fostering retention, with another 40 percent devoting equal emphasis to acquisition and retention. That means less than one in 5 companies are concentrating sales strategies on retaining their existing relationships.

To fully appreciate retention’s benefits, consider a marketing metric that experts call Customer Lifetime Value. CLV is a way to forecast the total financial value a client will provide a company over an extended period. Connecticut business owner and CLV proponent Chris Zane explains the concept this way:

“We recognize that multiple transactions over a period of 20, 30, or 40 years are going to generate tremendous revenue and great opportunity for profit. Whenever someone walks through our door, we don’t see [that person] as a $1.69 energy bar customer, or a $6 tube customer, or a $25 pump customer. Instead, they’re a $5,600 profit opportunity.”

Of course, the key to any retention growth strategy is – you guessed it – retention. Vital to retention, according to Zane, is engaging customers “in such a way that the next time they think about the products we offer, they have a positive feeling and they want to come back to us.”

And engagement involves more than just customers. Companies “have to engage the people who work there,” says Zane, “by empowering them to do what’s right for the customer.”

Next time you’re interacting with a client, resolve to consider that relationship’s long-term worth. When you’re mindful of each customer’s lifetime value, retention and growth should be easy.

By The Image Group

Four Simple Words

In his book, The Shape of Design, designer Frank Chimero relates an often-told story about advertising pioneer David Ogilvy. While walking to work one late-April morning in New York City, Ogilvy happened upon a man begging on the street. The poor man held a makeshift sign that read, “I am blind.”

Stopping to drop some money into the man’s cup, Ogilvy noticed that the container was empty. Explaining that he specialized in advertising copywriting, Ogilvy offered to modify the man’s sign in hopes of generating more donations.

On his way home later that day, Ogilvy encountered his new friend again and couldn’t help wondering whether his copy changes had improved his fundraising success. Indeed, the fellow’s cup was overflowing with donations.

How did Ogilvy alter the sign? He added four simple words so that the sign read, “It is spring and I am blind.”

Passersby who had previously ignored the man while hurrying past in the springtime splendor could no longer help empathizing with his situation. It took Ogilvy’s added text to remind them of their own good fortune and tap their inner generosity.

Good copywriting is critical to the success of any marketing project. If you want prospective customers to respond to your call to action, you must connect with them emotionally first. And that’s what effective copywriting does.

Let The Image Group write – or perhaps rewrite – your copy and improve your overall marketing results.

By Jim Walrod

The Problem With Rules

When I joined The Image Group in 2005, the company’s Employee Manual contained a dozen or so pages at most. Today, it is only slightly thinner than my college copy of War and Peace. Before you jump to conclusions, I am not the reason for all the added rules (however, please don’t ask me to discuss our recently implemented travel and entertainment meal per diem). It’s just that, as most companies do, we update our workplace policies to keep up with a changing world.

While I consider myself a law-abiding employee, I’ve been known to question some written and unwritten company rules from time to time. Heck, I’ll even bend some.

For example, the rulebook states that our office hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Those who know me well are familiar with my aversion to being in the office. Why? As a salesperson, my job is to be where my customers are. And the last time I looked, there were zero customers in my office. Mobile technology allows me to stay connected to the office wherever work takes me – and work takes me wherever my customers need me to be.

Here’s another rule I consider “flexible.” Our standard lead-time is five business days. When customers place promotional product orders with The Image Group, it takes us time to process the paperwork, prepare the artwork, receive and decorate the blank items, and ship the finished goods. If all goes according to plan (when does that happen?), it takes an average of five days from start to finish. But customers don’t always have that long to wait. When that’s the case, I’ll find every shortcut I can to speed up the time it takes to get my customers’ orders out the door. Luckily, I know several like-minded rule benders here who can help pull off a rush job.

There are some rules I will never circumvent. For instance, we’re sticklers about product safety around here, especially when it comes to children’s products. I take our safety policies very seriously, and I will never do anything that puts our customers – or their reputations – at risk.

When it comes to providing a positive customer experience, I take our “whatever it takes” philosophy very seriously. And if that means operating within the gray areas of some standard procedures, I’ll gladly ask for forgiveness.

By The Image Group

10 Things Only A Marketer Will Tell You

QUESTION: Is advertising expensive?
ANSWER: Only when it doesn’t work.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that most companies take criticism of their marketing initiatives personally. People know what they like and, as it turns out, they really like their own creativity. Badmouthing someone’s marketing materials is akin to disparaging a person’s kids.

Truth is, there are right ways and wrong ways to do marketing. But knowing how sensitive humans are to negative feedback, most advisors are reluctant to offer constructive criticism. But marketers are different. Marketing people tend to be results oriented, and we’re likely to be blunt when telling you what will and won’t generate the results you’re seeking.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 Things Only A Marketer Will Tell You.

10. You don’t have enough followers to make social media worth your time. Marketing and social media are made for each other. If you’re not targeting customers through social media, you’re missing a fast and continuously growing advertising audience. But the effort required to develop a constant supply of fresh and relevant content will pay small dividends when you only have a couple dozen followers on Facebook or Twitter. For that reason, whenever customers ask us to help them engage people via social media posts, we suggest they first strive to build a larger follower base.

9. Get over the “call to action.” One school of marketing thought argues that every advertisement should include a call to action. Without directives to “visit our website” or “schedule your free demonstration today,” that line of reasoning asks, what are we hoping to gain from placing ads? Well, before you get too pushy with your audience, consider how the largest advertisers spend their marketing budgets. For example, flip through the first twenty or so pages in your favorite fashion magazine and see how many calls to action you can find among the elegant high-priced ads. Undoubtedly, there’s few if any. Instead, you’re likely to see a beautifully photographed model, posing in a coveted lifestyle environment, with the advertiser’s name as the only text. You see, marketing is intended to establish emotional connections with consumers. Indeed, you’ll make more emotional connections with concepts than you will with commands.

8. Your spokesperson has stopped being effective (and your mascot is creepy). If you could convince Taylor Swift to pitch your products to today’s teenaged females, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a better way to use your marketing dollars. But it’s likely that Ms. Swift’s sway over teenagers will diminish somewhat with each passing decade. Why, then, do some companies insist on using the same product spokesperson forever? Spokespeople should come with an expiration date (talk about expiring: KFC recently revived its deceased colonel in its ads – what?). While it’s true that older adults respond well to celebrity endorsements, clinging too long to one spokesperson makes your brand appear stale, and increases the risk of being linked to any unpleasant publicity associated with the spokesperson. Oh, and unless you’re selling cereal to young children, please give your mascot a rest.

7. That jingle is really annoying. There are only two reasons for having a marketing jingle: one is brilliant and the other is inane. First, if you are selling consumer goods in a marketplace crowded with similar products, a rhyming jingle can help you build name recognition. Remembering the lyrics, “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup,” comes in handy for buyers facing three-dozen brands in the coffee isle. But the secret is in the rhyme, so you can achieve the same effect with a tagline (“Don’t get mad! Get Glad!). The other reason to feature a jingle is to give your television and radio ads a low-budget, unprofessional feel. And that’s just silly.

6. We’ve all seen that stock photo before. Look, most of us can ill afford to hire the likes of an Annie Leibovitz to shoot photos for our collateral. Fortunately for us, sites such as istockphoto.com and shutterstock.com make high-resolution photos available at relatively inexpensive prices. Stock photo sites have thousands of options from which to choose, so why use the same photo everyone else is using? That wholesome family of four, smiling at the camera and wearing 1990s clothing, makes for a nice image until the exact picture pops up in another company’s ad. Spending time playing with each photo sites’ advanced search features helps locate images that are especially well suited for your needs, while improving the odds that your stock photos will appear unique.

5. You don’t write as well as you might think. Our in-house copywriter made us include this one. You know the type: keeps a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition, of course) next to his keyboard. As a matter of fact, good writing is critical to good marketing. It’s important to know the difference between there, their, and they’re, when to spell out a number in words, and whether or not to use a serial comma (obviously, we prefer it). Poor writing can negatively influence the perception of your marketing materials, as well as the perception of your company overall. Granted, most people never notice that something is written well. However, many people do notice when it’s written poorly. So, please, appease our copywriter by paying closer attention to this detail.

4. Your inexpensive neighbor the “designer” is a hack. Everyone, it seems, knows an up-and-coming or soon-to-graduate graphics designer. Not surprisingly, all those budding designers are less expensive than the experienced professionals agencies employ. If you want to provide portfolio-building opportunities for your cousin’s kid, we applaud your bigheartedness. If you simply want to save a few bucks, you deserve the quality you get. (DISCLAIMER: We’re a little biased on this point.)

3. The worst time to reduce advertising spend is when business is slow. Henry Ford is credited with saying, “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” Ford’s point is that advertising stimulates revenues; therefore, trimming your advertising budget in down business cycles practically guarantees your company a decrease in sales. We can see how you might consider this advice self-serving on our part. But, in reality, advertising when others are cutting back portrays your company as stronger and more stable than your competitors – something consumers value in tough economic times. Not to mention you can get some great deals on media buys.

2. You’re blowing a marketing opportunity on your packaging. If you’ve ever purchased an Apple product, you probably noticed the company’s beautiful packaging. It’s no wonder our creative department’s closet contains iMac boxes we can’t bring ourselves to discard. As in Apple’s case, a product’s packaging speaks volumes about the company that sells it. And if done correctly, packaging gives customers the opportunity to speak back to you. For instance, a QR Code on a box makes it easy for buyers to click through to your website and complete a satisfaction survey; while there, they can sign up for your newsletter. Before you know it, your clients are actively engaged with you. Packaging provides valuable real estate that reaches the best demographic you can get: people who have already done business with you.

1. You know what you like. But we know what actually works. We once asked a larger advertising agency how they deal with clients who second-guess their creative work. The answer was straightforward: “We tell them it doesn’t matter whether they like or dislike our concepts. All that matters is that they work.” You might not particularly like the color combination we recommend for your logo redesign; but the psychological science and reproductive practicality behind the colors should outweigh your personal preferences. Maybe you favor websites with limited homepage scrolling; but if we tell you scrolling gets people to linger on the page longer (in other words, engage with your site), perhaps you should trust our experience. Bottom line is we do this for a living, and our goal is to deliver marketing ideas that generate results. And we know you ultimately want the same.

By The Image Group

Curiously Creative

When it comes to workplace creativity, curiosity plays an important role in innovation. But recent research shows that most American workers believe their employers actually discourage them from being curious.

A Harris Poll sponsored by Merck KGaA surveyed over 2,000 U.S. workers to measure attitudes toward curiosity. The pharmaceutical and chemical company hopes their resulting “State of Curiosity” report will stimulate conversation and cultivate inquisitiveness at work.

According to the poll, only 22 percent of workers consider themselves curious. Furthermore, employees are more likely to describe themselves as organized (62 percent), detail-oriented (61 percent), and thoughtful (46 percent) – traits they believe their companies truly value.

Why would employees sense that their bosses appreciate other traits over curiosity? Largely because of obstacles they face when asking questions. Two-thirds of respondents indicate their organizations put up roadblocks preventing questioning, including top-down decision-making, unwillingness to financially support new ideas, and limiting time for creative thinking.

“A culture of asking questions – the really big ones and the seemingly small, incremental ones – is critical for innovation,” said Merck KGaA CEO, Karl-Ludwig Kley.

As it turns out, nearly 90 percent of employees recognize that it’s curious people who generate the most ideas. What’s more, 74 percent say they prefer to be personally known as idea generators.

“Curiosity is the springboard to innovation and discovery,” says Todd Kashdan, author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. “If you want great work, and not just good work, encourage leaders and workers to foster all dimensions of curiosity when confronting the unknown.”

By Brian Kingsmore

Who Makes Your Promotional Products?

Question: Do you know who makes the promotional products you buy? In all likelihood, you don’t. But the people who sell them to you better know.

That’s one of the reasons we ask our suppliers to confirm their compliance with safety and social standards by signing our Commitment to Ethical & Responsible Conduct. Patterned after the PPAI Code of Product Responsibility Conduct, the form includes statements on the vendor’s environmental, safety, and quality commitments. But by signing the commitment, suppliers also attest that they do not abuse labor in any way.

I find it hard to believe that, in 2015, promises to refrain from employing underage, indentured, or slave labor are still necessary. And yet, there are manufacturers whose unscrupulous factories require employees to work long hours at unfair pay and in unsafe conditions. According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, nearly 21 million people are victims of labor abuse worldwide.

Common types of labor abuse sound like something from a Charles Dickens novel:

Forced Labor is work performed by someone who has not offered his or her efforts voluntarily. Forced labor, or slavery, is most often extracted by use of physical or emotional threat.

Child Labor involves the exploitive employment of kids between the ages of five and 17. Alarmingly, 11 percent of the world’s children in that age group are victims of child labor.

Debt Bondage, or bonded labor, includes forcing people to work to pay a financial obligation – such as accepting employer-provided housing or food – often with open-ended terms. A family’s debt bondage is sometimes passed from one generation to the next.

Fraudulent Contract Labor refers to requiring individuals to sign a work contract with misleading or hard-to-understand legal terms. The contracts often restrict employees from working elsewhere until their alleged commitments expire.

To be sure, most companies who purchase promotional products never consider the possibility that the items they buy might have been manufactured using forced or child labor. But when problems occur, not knowing about labor abuse carries little weight in court – or among public opinion. That’s why it’s important to do business with a company that thoroughly vets its suppliers.

So even if you don’t know who makes the promotional products you buy from The Image Group, rest assured that we’re taking steps to make certain that our vendors meet all international labor standards.

By Vicky Brymer

Call Me Last

Here’s a true story. A client of mine called one day and requested a meeting to discuss an upcoming project. The company was quietly planning for a big announcement and wanted a special promotional product tied to the event. The customer was calling me, she said, because she trusted my discretion and valued my creativity. For those reasons, ours was the only company being given the chance to work on the secret project.

Over the next few weeks, I worked closely with the client to find the perfect item. I spent hours on research and provided custom samples of several products. The customer finally selected a product and promised a purchase order was in the works.

A couple days later I followed up to check the status of the PO and learned that the company had bid out the project after all. They gave my competitors the information for the exact product I had suggested. In fact, they even showed them the spec samples I provided at my expense. With little time, cost, or effort invested in preparing a quote, a competitor under bid me and got the sale.

Anyone in sales can probably relate to this story. I’ve been selling for most of my career and been hoodwinked this way more often than I care to remember. But the occurrences are increasing, which tells me more and more clients are measuring the results of their marketing efforts by cost rather than by success.

Here’s the problem with that approach: Cheaper is not always better. For example, if the promotional products you select are not meaningful to your target audience, the campaign will ultimately fail – and whatever amount you paid will have been too much. A successful campaign is one that achieves your desired results.

At The Image Group, we pride ourselves on giving customers great service, high value, and the benefits of our creative experience. We put in a lot of time, thought, research, and – many times – dollars to make product recommendations that fit each specific project. What matters is return on investment, not how much or how little you spend. The only goal should be getting your message conveyed and influencing your buyers’ behaviors. When dollars are tight for a particular project, we have products at every price point to fit your budget. But let us find the very best product at your price that will maximize your potential return.

Look, I get the whole let’s-negotiate-like-we’re-Wal-Mart philosophy. But if you’re simply shopping for the cheapest price, please call me last. Especially when there’s no creativity or resourcefulness required, I’ll likely beat your best price every time.

But if you value true ROI, you’ll get your money’s worth with me. And I’ll be the last marketing supplier you’ll ever need to call.

By The Image Group

Do Customers Care If You Are Socially Responsible?

Consumers around the world believe that companies have a responsibility to impact social change. According to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study, 91 percent of consumers expect companies to do more than simply make a profit for shareholders – they believe businesses should actively address social and environmental issues.

Cone Communications, a Boston-based PR and marketing agency, partnered with marketing analytics specialists Ebiquity on the study, which involved surveying 9,709 global consumers and gauging their opinions and perceptions about corporate social responsibility (CSR). Cone found consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about CSR, as well as personally engaged.

“Global consumers have officially embraced corporate social responsibility,” says the report, “not only as a universal expectation for companies but as a personal responsibility in their own lives.”

In a way, spending provides consumers with an avenue for demonstrating personal social responsibility. Among respondents, 84 percent say they prefer buying socially or environmentally responsible products and services, and they will switch brands to do so. Consumers also report a willingness to pay more – or buy less – if those actions can positively impact society.

Nine of 10 consumers are looking for more opportunities to purchase responsibly, which creates opportunities for companies to leverage their CSR efforts into a competitive advantage. But companies must give CSR more than lip service. Two-thirds of respondents say that only extraordinary CSR efforts get their attention – and earn their business.

Cone points out that companies must openly talk about their CSR progress. Unless they hear how you are addressing CSR, 52 percent of consumers assume you are not acting in socially responsible ways.

By Jim Walrod

The Importance of Marketing Goals

When I was a junior golfer in high school, I came home from a tournament one day disappointed in my play. I don’t remember where I placed in the competition, just that my score was higher than I had hoped. So I set my mind on becoming a better golfer.

I jotted down a score I hoped to shoot someday (33 for nine holes). I folded up the paper and stored it away in my wallet and, for the next several weeks, I carried that goal with me wherever I went. And with my aspiration ingrained in my mind, I focused more during both practice and play. It wasn’t long before I shot my target score.

Today, I use personal goals to inspire my work as a salesperson. For one thing, I set a target sales number at the beginning of each year and strive to achieve it. I credit goal setting for my success at The Image Group, where I’ve been named Salesperson of the Year three years in a row.

I firmly believe that companies can similarly benefit by setting goals for their marketing efforts. By that I mean they should determine specific outcomes they hope to get, and then measure their results.

For example, when customers tell me they need advertising to increase their sales, I ask what exactly they require to grow sales. Do they need more foot traffic in their stores, or more visitors to their website? Do they need higher name recognition to stand out in a crowded marketplace? Do they need to reach a certain age demographic?

With answers to questions such as those, I can help clients establish measurable goals for their marketing. Then I can recommend advertising approaches aimed at achieving those objectives. Finally I can help them allocate their marketing budgets effectively.

Renowned chemist F. Albert Cotton said, “The most important thing about having goals is having one.” If you need help setting – or achieving – your marketing goals, I’d be happy to help.

By Brian Kingsmore

How Sticky Is Your Marketing?

In his bestselling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses a concept he calls “the stickiness factor.” Simply put, stickiness refers to a way we remember things, whether it’s learning the alphabet as small children or becoming interested in brands by seeing television commercials over and over. Gladwell points out that, in both cases, repetition plays an important part.

I happen to be a big Gladwell fan, and I couldn’t help thinking about promotional products while reading about the stickiness factor. Research from our industry shows that promotional products have a built-in repetition feature.

Take logoed bags as an example. During the two years the average recipient keeps a branded bag, he or she typically uses it nine times per month. While carrying the bag, the recipient has contact with 111 other people. That equates to 5,700 logo impressions over twenty-four months. How sticky is that?

When it comes to price, promotional products have a lower cost-per-impression than television commercials, newspaper ads, and radio spots. And branded merchandise has a recall rate between 15 and 50 percent higher than TV, print, or online ads.

It seems clear to me that promotional products can tip your marketing in the right direction.

1 2 3
Why Customer Retention Matters
Four Simple Words
The Problem With Rules
10 Things Only A Marketer Will Tell You
Curiously Creative
Who Makes Your Promotional Products?
Call Me Last
Do Customers Care If You Are Socially Responsible?
The Importance of Marketing Goals
How Sticky Is Your Marketing?