Connect (and Stay Connected): Using Marketing Tools to Reach Your Fourth Quarter Customers
As members of the promotional products industry, we all know that the products we represent, both as distributors and suppliers, are great tools for exposure and marketing, as well as generating goodwill. With the year quickly approaching the half-way mark, it’s time to start thinking about what tools we have at our disposal to connect with our customers moving into the hectic fourth quarter.
Uncertain of what is available or most effective?
The number one sales tool remains a simple one…Catalogs! ASI findings reveal that 91% of recipients take action as a result of a product they noticed in a catalog, with nearly half purchasing an ad specialty item. Furthermore, over 60% of those surveyed noted a strong user preference for paper catalogs over e-catalogs or digital versions. (The new 2012 Maple Ridge Farms catalog is currently at the printer and will be available on July 1st!)
So, what does this mean? Getting catalogs into your customer’s hands is the best place to start. Here at Maple Ridge Farms, we recommend ordering two catalogs for every company on your “A” list in July. You’ll want to give them one early in the season (usually August and September), but odds are that you may need to get a second copy in their hands by November when the majority of end-users are ready to place their orders.
(Tip: Check in with your suppliers. Like Maple Ridge Farms, some offer their catalogs with your contact information imprinted on the covers. This helps your customers remember who to call when they have questions or are ready to order).
Catalogs are the perfect first step, but they won’t do all the work. Follow-up is always key to staying connected with your buyers. Samples, mailings, and special pricing offers are great opportunities to remind your customers that you are the best source for their year-end needs.
As members of the promotional products industry, we can offer the end-users something that the “big box” stores and online markets don’t…Samples! Recent PPAI research shows that orders fairly often result from the use of samples. No matter what approach you think may work best for your customer, there is a sample-type to meet your needs. Most suppliers offer Random Samples, Spec(ulative) Samples, and Virtual Samples. Some companies (like us here at Maple Ridge Farms) even offer various tasting samples of the gourmet treats sold. Often offered at little or no cost, these allow you to put actual product in front of a buyer and can be the best way to “seal the deal.” And don’t forget about using the same promotional products as your own self-promo and holiday gifts. You are your own best point-of-reference, after all.
We have found that August is a great time to start ordering samples. So much so that we have even put together a program where we direct ship a small sample pack of gourmet treats to your customer (and we include a note card, your business card, a mini-catalog, and an offer for special savings in each one). Our “One Taste is All it Takes” program has been a proven success and offers a chance for our distributors to reach twenty or more of your best prospects early, and at a great low cost! Simply follow up after the samples ship and get ready to start writing orders! (Contact Maple Ridge Farms Customer Service for further details on this great marketing tool.) Check in with your suppliers to verify what type of sample and self-promotion programs they offer.
By September, with catalogs and samples ordered and at the ready, it’s time to really start connecting with your customers regarding their fourth quarter needs. Start delivering catalogs (in person, if possible), send “teaser” mailings and e-blasts, and don’t forget to schedule “Tasting Sessions” with your prospects. It’s also a great time to remind them to take advantage of special early order pricing offered by some suppliers.
Early October is a great time to reach out to those customers who have not yet placed their order. Making sure they have a full-line catalog by the end of the month is key, and if you are mailing them, be sure to include a personal note.
Half of all holiday food gift orders are placed between November 10 and December 10…just thirty days’ time! This is the moment to begin an aggressive follow-up phone campaign to everyone on your “A” list. Remind those who haven’t ordered that they can avoid nasty air freight charges if they act quickly. Stay informed regarding your suppliers’ “Quick Ship” offers and rush service with faster production times. For example, as we get later into the season, Maple Ridge Farms offers items that can ship as quickly as 1-3 days after receipt of the complete order.
Communication is important when reaching out to your customers all year long, and it is vital moving into the second half of the year. The market will be flooded with options for year-end gifting and programs. Connecting with your customers early and often will remind them that you are indeed their best source to fulfill their needs!
For further tips, sample and literature options, and a great Marketing Calendar from Maple Ridge Farms, contact our team of Gift Specialists.