‘Tis the Season . . .

I don’t know about you, but when Christmas decorations began appearing in the stores during October, I figured I would be in Christmas overload by now. But, no, I’m still feeling the spirit. Or, as a colleague asked yesterday, “is the bell still ringing for you?”

His question was taken from “The Polar Express” and the exact phrase is as follows.

At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Even as an adult, this season holds so much meaning for me. My personal belief is that Jesus Christ was born today, which makes the day really important. But, even if you don’t hold the same belief, the Christmas season seems to be magical.

Maybe it’s the decorations, lights, tree, brightly wrapped gifts, holiday dinners with family and friends or Santa Claus sitting patiently while children are plopped in his lap to divulge their deepest desires.

Maybe it’s the smell of Christmas cookies baking or a kiss snuck under the mistletoe. Or, it could be the opportunity to ring the bell for others less fortunate that are supported by The Salvation Army. Christmas carols, the smell of pine needles and for those of us further north, the beauty of snow-covered trees and hillsides.

Candle-lit church services, velvet dresses and patent leather shoes, a red silk scarf wrapped around your neck or the opportunity to watch an old Christmas movie all evoke feelings of joy.

A friend was so excited earlier this week because the person in line ahead of him at Starbuck’s generously paid for his coffee. People seem to be more generous this time of year. No matter how little we may have, we realize that we have more than many around us. It’s a season of hope and a season of believing.

You may not share my religious beliefs, or believe that there really is a Santa, but I’m hoping that you are feeling the magic. This season makes me believe in people and in a better future. Maybe it’s because New Years is coming, which is a time of reflection and resolutions – a time for a new beginning.

Whatever the reason, I love this season! Yes, the bell still rings for me and my hope is that it still rings for you! I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or Happy Kwanzaa.  May you be surrounded by love, peace and joy during this season!

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Looking Ahead

Here at Multi-Craft, this is the time of year when we are focused on the upcoming year. We are setting goals, developing strategies and looking at trends.

So, what can you expect to see in the world of marketing in 2015? Here are 10 predictions:

  1. Content marketing will continue its popularity as it is one of the top 3 reasons that people will follow you on social media. However, marketers are still challenged to produce the quantity of high-quality content needed, as well as attempting to measure the effectiveness of their content.
  2. Data and marketing automation. While it is still a challenge in many organizations to merge data from sales, marketing, customer service and IT, it is most important that they find a way to do just that. Having access to useful, relevant and updated data is key to the marketing department’s success. Also, marketing automation will drive the integration of all marketing channels.
  3. Video. Seeing how your product or service works has far more impact that just reading about it. Salesforce.com reports that they increased conversion rates by adding a video to their homepage that explains their service (Wheelhouse Advisors).
  4. Mobile. With 85% of people stating that their mobile devices are a central part of their everyday life (Mobile Behavior Report), it’s more important than ever that your websites are optimized for mobile viewing. Make sure they can adapt to different screen sizes and resolutions.
  5. Wearable Tech – Google Glass, Apple Watches, smart jewelry and healthcare sensors  are all predicted to have a big impact 2015.
  6. Google Plus is predicted to fade due to the failure of Google Authorship (Forbes).
  7. Ello, a new social platform that is predicted to compete with Facebook, is currently in beta testing. We’ll just have to wait and see who ends up on top.
  8. Micro-targeting. We have plenty of data so now all we have to do is use it to super-segment with timely and relevant offers on a micro level.
  9. Smart objects. Thermostats, lighting and security cameras will all be connected to your mobile for remote control.
  10. 3D Printing, or additive manufacturing. This technology gives us the ability to produce dimensional objects by layering material.

Like every year, we see things predicted that are likely to occur and those that will not. However, one thing we know for sure is that marketing is a moving target and the pace of change will continue to increase.

Hoping that you have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a wonderful holiday season!

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Give Thanks!

We are 6 days away from Thanksgiving 2014. I love this holiday because of its simplicity. It’s all about tradition, family and friends. OK, it’s all about food, too!

Just the name of the day gives me pause. I can’t hear the word Thanksgiving without thinking of all of the things in my life I am grateful for. Is life perfect? No! Could it be better? Yes! Are we ever satisfied with the status quo? No!

However, next Thursday when I am gathered with my family, I will be thankful for their love and support. When we arrive and there are hugs and kisses waiting, I will be thankful for the gift of touch. When all of my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews continue running around, screaming, crying and laughing hysterically, I’ll be thankful that I have ears to hear them and eyes to see their joy.

When the turkey is carved and the potatoes mashed, I’ll be thankful that I can taste my sister-in-law’s culinary skills and the gift of smell – what wonderful aromas!

This time of year is a period where many of us are looking back, while at the same time looking forward. We’re taking stock of the past 11 months and planning for the next year. It can be a time of both happiness and sadness. Sadness over the things that didn’t go as planned, but hopeful that the coming year will exceed our grand expectations.

God has blessed our family with many wonderful gifts, and He has seen fit to give us some troubling times and burdens to carry. It is those burdens that make me appreciate, even more, the wonderful things He has bestowed. It is for those that I will be giving thanks on Thursday!

It is the time of year where I think of all of our clients. Without them, Multi-Craft would not exist. So, please accept our thanks for entrusting us with your projects and your visions. We are always focused on being a great resource for you and your organization. We may not be perfect and sometimes mistakes happen, but know how much we value your business and your trust in us. Know that we’ll work hard on your behalf and we are thankful for the opportunities that you give us.

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Fired!

Yesterday was Election Day and there were many legislators who received their pink slips. There were also legislators that became new employees of the people. What a wonderful country we live in, where each individual citizen can have a voice in determining those who are charged with running our country.

I always wonder if those that receive their walking papers realize that they were fired based upon how the citizens perceived their efforts. They were looked at as being ineffective and not representing the interests of the voters. While those newly hired were done so based upon the promises they made.

Is there a lesson for the business community in our political election process? I think so!

Our prospects are willing to listen to us and some even hire us to execute what we say we can do for them. If we fail to deliver what has been promised, it’s likely that new customer will not use our services again. They will fire us!

This also brings to mind the phrase, “under promise and over deliver”. While that may seem to make sense on the surface, it appears to be a trick we plan to play on the customer. I don’t think our customers want to be the recipient of tricks. All they expect is what we’ve told them we will give.

Business is business and should be conducted in the proper manner, and we should expect our politicians to operate with the same business principles:
• Understand who you represent, or want to represent in the future
• Talk to them to discover what their needs are
• Determine if what you have, or do, will satisfy those needs
• If they do, ask them for their business – or their votes
• Deliver what you promised

After you’ve been in government service for many years, I think it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re there, which is to serve the citizens who elected you. You expect them to re-elect you, year after year – even after you’ve failed to deliver what you promised.

The same can be true for business. Often, our loyal long-time customers are overlooked. We’ve come to expect their business and just assume they will continue to be a loyal long-time customer.

Maybe this election season is a good time for our elected officials to take stock of who they represent and the promises that they have made to those voters. In the same vein, we business people need to remember that we are here to serve our customers and keep the promises that we have made to them.

None of us want to hear those words – you’re fired!

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I Love Our Clients!

You might think this headline is all too obvious. After all, what organization does not love those who make it possible? As a side comment, I personally, think there are many organizations who forget that it is the customer who makes paychecks a reality. Too often, customer calls and requests are treated as interruptions to the day, instead of being the real purpose of the day. This is not true at Multi-Craft – we know who signs our paychecks!

But, the reason I love our clients goes beyond the fact that I know they are the ones who make our company a reality. And, without them we wouldn’t exist. It extends to the fact that they value us for what we bring to the party – our ideas, our strategies, the execution and feedback.

They want our crazy ideas and encourage us to think outside the proverbial box. We love when they challenge us with statements, such as, “I know this probably isn’t possible, but could you _______.” You can fill in the blank.

Doing what we do, day in and day out, can get boring at times. After all how many ways can you produce a direct mail piece? But, our clients’ challenges and ideas, placed at our doorstep, excite us and allow us to expand beyond what we are currently. We really do believe that if we’re not growing, we’re going backwards. And, backwards is not somewhere we want to go!

So, bring us your ideas. Bring us your challenges and your “what if’s”. Let us help you make possible those marketing strategies that will allow you to stand out from your competition. Our goal is to help you sell more of your products and services!

I want to thank all of our valued clients for entrusting us with their marketing collateral. We love the faith you have in us and welcome your phone calls, emails and challenges – no matter how busy the day is!

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Trade Show Success

For some of you, exhibiting at trade shows is a critical part of your marketing strategy. For others, you may be thinking of participating in the future. Hopefully, I can provide some helpful information to make your experience beneficial.

There are some real benefits to trade shows:

  1. It is economical – it costs approximately $350 to get someone to your booth and to enter into dialogue with you. Compare this to the over $700 it costs to generate a prospect from the field.
  2. It provides a visual and experiential experience for attendees through hands on demonstrations that have the ability to engage all of the senses.
  3. Currently, trade shows are seeing a decrease in attendance, but those attending tend to be decision makers.

Trade show exhibiting can be very expensive, so it’s important that it not only be a tactic of your overall marketing strategy, but that you have a strategy specifically for trade shows. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Exhibit for the right reasons. Are you looking to find new customers, sell more to your existing clients, introduce a new product or service or reposition your brand?
  • Evaluate past shows. What were the results? Were the demographics of the attendees the same as the demographics of your ideal client? Was the traffic what you expected? Did you generate revenue?
  • Space is important. Booth size needs to have sufficient space to accommodate staff, the physical exhibit and booth visitors.
  • Invest in your booth. It needs to be a magnet to draw people in, with great graphics that communicate who you are, what you do and what your offer is. A great booth can actually help to pre-qualify attendees. In addition, your booth should reflect the benefits you can bring to visitors – increased productivity or competitiveness, efficiency or increased profit.
  • Consider setting appointments, pre-show, using integrated direct marketing (mail, email, microsites, social media). This can help you determine how much staff and marketing collateral will be required during the show.
  • Staff is critical. Those manning the trade show booth should be approachable, friendly, confident, intimately know the company’s products and services and be a great communicator.
  • Engage top management in your planning. Consider giving them a specific role at the trade show, such as meeting with VIP customers or high level prospects.
  • Focus on collecting good information so that your follow-up staff has the facts to effectively move an interested prospect into becoming a customer. It’s also important to make sure your sales staff, or follow-up team, is sufficient to respond within 7 days to A-level prospects. If your staff isn’t sufficient, consider outsourcing.
  • Measure! It’s important to know if the trade show was worthwhile. Did it generate quality leads? Did it provide A-level prospects? Were the demographics of attendees the same as your target demographics? Was attendance what you expected? Was your booth and messaging effective? These measurements can help you determine if attending this trade show in the future will be worthwhile.
  • Be open to new trade show opportunities. Consider new trade shows, particularly if you are entering a new market or have developed a niche market.

Exhibiting at trade shows can bring opportunity, but you must be prepared with a strategy to make that opportunity pay off! When you’re ready to put your trade shows ideas in motion, we’re here to help.

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Collaboration or Confrontation?

For those of you in volunteer leadership positions in your community, I’m hoping you are in an atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation. A place where everyone is working for the good of the community at all times – never forgetting that a rising tide will raise all boats.

Over the last year, in my volunteer leadership position, I’ve had the honor of working with many leaders who were all focused on collaborating for the good of the community. Unfortunately, I also experienced a few who were more interested in confrontation than collaboration. I understand that everyone has an opinion. I also understand that while we may all agree on the end goal, we will have different methods of getting there. Not wrong – just different.

What I don’t understand is the posturing, negative commentary and hostile environment that some feel they must create in order to defend their turf or pound their chest. Do they think that if the goal is met, it is due to their sole efforts? That’s not likely. Anything important that occurs in a community is usually because of the joint efforts of the leadership in that community. Why do we keep forgetting that?

Let’s use a basic example: We all agree that we need transportation, infrastructure and quality educational institutions in our communities. So, why would we continually shoot ourselves in the foot by arguing about the journey we need to take to get to the results we want? To make it worse, we do that arguing, and name calling, in the public media. So instead of presenting a united front where we can accomplish that end goal, we present a divided region that continually is left with the crumbs.

Why can we not sit down, discuss, debate and come to agreement on a plan of action that incorporates the best of all of our viewpoints? Once that plan is developed, we can then all work toward it – according to the action steps we’ve defined. I’m betting that we would get more of what we want instead of less than what we need.

Just some food for thought!

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