Goal Oriented

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Every year around this time I start thinking about resolutions—making them, breaking them and forsaking them. I often threaten to forgo making New Year’s resolutions altogether because they are so dang difficult to keep. But every year I cannot resist the urge to better myself and I make at least one or two. And come February, I find myself flailing. I fall off the diet wagon, find excuses not to exercise or pull out the credit card to pay for the latest must-have techie gadget and I feel…defeated. I have to admit to myself that, once again, I have failed to keep the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year. I beat myself up, pound my pillow and resolve to do better next year. And therein lies the problem. Why wait until next year? Why not next month, next week or better yet, the next day? Why not forgive the falling off of the wagon—be it exercise, food or some other vice—and get back on the horse and try again? (Clearly I failed in my attempt to stop mixing metaphors.) I think the problem with keeping resolutions stems from the word itself. It sounds so serious, has such gravitas, that to fail to keep a resolution is to fail as a human being…or so it seems.

So this year I am changing the game—or at least the name of the game—and, instead of making resolutions, I am setting goals. A goal is something you can accomplish little by little and that you are allowed to make mistakes at on the way to achieving. Goals are manageable and attainable and aren’t quite as loaded as resolutions. It may just be semantics, but for a dictionary diver like myself, words are everything and I have resolved, once and for all, to NOT make a single New Year’s resolution in 2009. Instead, I am going to set challenging, yet achievable, goals for myself and give myself permission to fall off the wagon every once in a while. After all, nobody’s perfect, not even a guru.

I’m off to work on my goals for 2009. I like to jot them down in my Icon Prism Journal Book so that I can track my progress. In fact, a journal is a top-notch gift for important clients, employees and even your friends. Even if they don’t go in for “journaling,” most people can use a spiral bound book to jot down appointments, write up project notes or just to doodle in while they pretend to listen in on their weekly conference calls. It’s a great way to start the New Year off with a bang.

As my dear friend Oprah so wisely said, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Indeed, Miss Winfrey. Indeed.

Ah-chooo!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Cold and flu season is upon us and, if you haven’t gotten your yearly flu shot, you are probably nervous about shaking of another kind. The chills, sore throat and fever that accompany most winter illnesses are no fun but you can find some comfort in the fact that most last no more than ten days. There are ways to avoid getting sick when the weather turns chilly, and none of them involves wearing a sweater. My doctor was kind enough to share her favorite ‘stay well & get well’ tips with me so that I could pass them on to you. After all, if you’re too sick to read my blog—you’re too sick. Or something like that.

• Get a flu shot—many docs give them for free, or for a nominal fee. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
• Wash your hands…a lot.
• Eat right and exercise—staying strong is a great way to bolster your immune system.
• Sleep…at least seven to eight hours a night. You don’t have to tell me twice.
• Relax! Stress is a killer, not only can it keep you up nights, it can make you sick as well. Find a way to reduce your stress like yoga or meditation.
• If you do get sick, sleep as much as possible and drink lots of warm liquids like tea, chicken soup and hot water with lemon.
• Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for aches and fever.
• Use cough syrup and cough drops to reduce coughing and soothe a sore throat.
• Ease your stuffy or runny nose by using saline nose spray and use a humidifier at night.

I hope you find these tips useful and that you pass through the winter cold and flu season with your health intact. To show your clients and employees how much you care, give them a gift that helps them regain their health in the event they aren’t so lucky. The Travel Pill Box from Rush Imprint is sure to come in handy when you have to medicate on the run. Naturally, there is a large imprint area for your company logo or other message so your employees and customers will remember that their well-being is important to you.

Well, I’m off to pick up my daughter from school. She is grounded this week and can’t use the car. Sometimes I wonder who is punishing whom around here. Until next time, remember, “Health is not valued till sickness comes.” ~Thomas Fuller

Dim Sum and Then Sum

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Ever since our little adventure to the Vietnamese restaurant last month, Mrs. Winston and I have decided to broaden our culinary horizons and try new things. So on Sunday, we packed up the kids and headed out for dim sum. Dim sum is the name for a Chinese cuisine that consists of a wide range of light dishes served alongside Chinese tea. It is usually served in the mornings until noontime and is often thought of as the Chinese equivalent of brunch. Dishes come in small portions and may include meat, seafood, and vegetables, as well as desserts and fruit. The items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Chinese families typically like to gather at Chinese restaurants for dim sum on occasions such as Mother’s Day or Chinese New Years but you’ll find foodies of all types there just about every Saturday and Sunday.
As I quickly discovered, one of the best things about dim sum is the rapidity of service. You literally sit down and food arrives at your table. Steam carts piloted by mostly smiling Chinese women, cruise by your table while the servers lift lids and describe the dishes. The adventure comes from not always understanding exactly what is in a particular dish. For example, I bit into what felt like a raw meatball and found it less than delightful but a steamed pork bun quickly replaced the memory of that bad bite. Sweet meat and dough can cure almost anything. My wife’s favorite was the pork shaomai and the kids gobbled up custard filled buns like it was Christmas. As for me, I liked it all—the pork buns are hard to beat but I also loved the har gow (shrimp) and the bok choy swimming in gravy. We had such a good time, we decided to make dim sum a monthly Winston tradition.
Since I particularly enjoyed the Chinese tea—we drank pots and pots of it out of tiny cups—today’s offering from Rush Imprint is Instant Iced Tea. It’s not exactly traditional and it’s not Chinese, but it is the perfect refreshing addition to a customized gift basket. Your logo or personal message is imprinted on your choice of silver or gold foil packaging to make it an ideal promotional gift.
I’ve got to get ready for my next speaking engagement—my son’s school is having a “Bring Your Parent To School Day” and six year olds can be brutal. As a famous Chinese proverb says, “Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil,” and as my dear old dad says, “Give good promotional gifts, reap good clients.”

Bah! – December 21st is Humbug Day!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Unless you have the patience of a kindergarten teacher, the saintliness of Mother Theresa and the bank account of Oprah Winfrey, you are probably feeling the pressure that often accompanies the Christmas season. The realization that December 25th is just around the corner and that there are still stockings to be filled, hams to be glazed and bikes, dollhouses and train sets to be assembled, can leave you feeling a bit grumpy. And that’s okay, because December 21st is Humbug Day. The creators of this day did so in order to allow everyone preparing for Christmas to vent their frustrations. It is a day especially created for grumps, grinches and disgruntled elves to complain about everything from the high price of video games to the arrival of the in-laws. So, if you are feeling stressed out about what to buy your picky boss, having to attend the neighbor-who-borrowed-your Allen-wrench-nine-months-ago-and-still- hasn’t-returned-it’s annual eggnog get together, or the arrival of your in-laws, December 21st is your day. So go ahead and gripe, whine, complain, moan, cry and have a fit…all day long. It’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s more than okay; it’s preferred—at least by the fine folks at wellcat.com who came up with the day in the first place. Just remember that at 12:01AM on December 22nd, the pity party is officially over and it’s time to get back into the holiday spirit.
I can help you feel the joy of the season by offering up a few top-notch last minute gift ideas for your persnickety boss. If he (or she) is the type who works wherever he goes, the High Sierra Tahoe Computer Travel Set is the perfect companion for the busy executive on the go. Since each set includes a 1-piece High Sierra gift box, your presentation will be as good as the present. If your boss likes to roll up his sleeves, then the WorkMate Home Tool Set is the ideal gift. This nine-piece tool set includes a zippered case, fiberglass hammer, bit holder with bit set, torpedo level, 10′ tape measure, utility knife, pliers, wrench and hex key set and is perfect for small repairs or projects. Finally, if the person who signs your paychecks likes to do so with a fine writing instrument, the Sauvage Ivory/Python Pattern Ballpoint Pen with an engraved monogram is the only present you’ll need to impress the higher up on your list.

Now, please excuse me while I go fill my kids’ stockings with coal and eat the cookies my wife baked for Santa. Until next time, remember the words of the man who invented Humbuggery in the first place, Mr. Charles Dickens, who said, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Indeed.

Hurray for Hanukkah!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Hanukkah (Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday which is traditionally observed by the kindling of the lights of a special candelabrum, the Menorah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The lighting of the candles traditionally happens thirty minutes after sundown and is the most significant of the holiday traditions which also includes eating foods fried in oil like latkes and sufganiot (doughnuts) and playing with the dreidel. In today’s world, it also means that Jewish children can expect to receive gifts for each of the eight days of Hanukkah. I’m not Jewish myself, but I can’t find anything not to like about a holiday that lasts for eight days and includes eating fried foods. So, in the spirit of giving, and as a nod to Jewish tradition, I am offering eight gift ideas for your co-workers, clients, prospects, members of your networking group, neighbors, your children’s classmates, teachers and anyone else on your holiday list. I’ve included offbeat items with creative flair, traditional holiday fare and a few of my favorite things (move over Oprah). Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 21st, so there is still time to make everyone on your list happy.

1) Knit Beanie Cap This cotton/acrylic knit cap will fit just about everyone on your shopping list and keep him or her warm to boot.

2) Garrity 2D Glow Lite – F5 Keep a brand shining with this glow light which is not only practical, but also ties in nicely with the holiday’s theme.

3) Translucent Colored Rulers These brightly colored measurers are a great gift for your favorite teacher and reasonably priced enough to give to you child’s entire class.

4) Round Promo-Spring It’s not as traditional as a dreidel, but this fun item modeled in the spirit of the Slinky® will surely infuse the recipient of it with childlike joy.

5) Burgundy Gift Box with Gourmet Cookies Traditionalists and economists alike will appreciate this affordable burgundy box filled with gourmet cookies—it’s stylish and delicious.

6) Recycled Lynx Sport Bag The perfect present for the gym rat who loves the planet almost as much as he loves his biceps.

7) Glen Oaks Golf Kit Almost everyone has a golfer or ten on their list and this high quality set will ensure they swing into the new year with perfect form.

8) Hanging Shower Radio Give the gift of music while helping your best clients clean up.

Well, I’ve got to go—Mrs. Winston has decided to try her hand at making potato latkes and I don’t want to be late for dinner. Until we meet again, I leave you with the musical words of Adam Sandler, “Put on your yarmulke / Here comes Chanukah / So much funukah/ To celebrate Chanukah / Chanukah is the festival of lights / Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights.”

Blissful Thinking

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As you may or may not know, National Chocolate Covered Anything Day is just around the corner—December 16th to be precise—and I, for one, am pleased as punch. After all, what better day to indulge, binge, pig out, and otherwise consume to excess, my favorite food….chocolate. And by chocolate, I do mean the brown stuff. No matter what Godiva or Hershey says to the contrary, white chocolate is not chocolate. Period. I don’t mean to nitpick, but I am a stickler for the real deal and I simply cannot stand by and let a second rate sweet masquerade as the delightful treat I have loved since first bite.

The timing of this hallowed day, during the holiday season, couldn’t be better. As a proud chocoloaholic, I don’t actually need any added incentive to enjoy the dark, creamy treat, but I am happy to have an excuse to go overboard—even for one day. Last year, my wife and I celebrated by visiting the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco. I single handedly consumed over five pounds of the stuff and was so wired, I ran back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge three times. Which is a good thing since I consumed enough calories that day to feed my entire family for a year. Chocolate also has the happy side effect of creating feelings of bliss, so Mrs. Winston and I enjoyed each other as much as we enjoyed the chocolate. Who needs marriage counseling when you have truffles? It was a wonderful day indeed. This year promises to be a bit tamer but I am sure we’ll find a way to indulge our sweet tooths and follow our bliss. We always do.

In the giving spirit of the holiday season, make sure to share some of your favorite chocolate covered treats with friends, co-workers, clients and if you’re smart, your wife. Rush Imprint has a variety of delicious chocolate confections that will express your love of chocolate perfectly. So, what are you waiting for? Pick out a few treats, imprint them with your logo and a sweet message and reap the rewards that only giving provides.

Well, I’m off to visit my favorite Chocolatier to place a special order for my special lady. Until next time, remember the sage words of Charles M. Schulz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Home Spun

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

There’s no denying it, America’s economy is on shaky ground. You can’t pick up a newspaper, flip on the TV or tune into talk radio without getting a whiff of sour financial news. We’re hopeful, but our hope is tempered by news of proposed layoffs at GM and more bank bailouts. At least gas prices are falling. Sadly that doesn’t distract us from the fact that the housing market is falling just as fast. As with all bad news, there is a silver lining for potential homebuyers who face a friendlier market—provided their credit is good and their income verifiable. And while it may not be the market it once was, homes are still being bought and sold every day, which means that real estate agents and mortgage lenders are still in business.

My neighbor has been an independent real estate agent for over thirty years, so this is not the first downturn she’s seen and, as she is fond of saying, “I’m still here!” Doris still puts on her “show clothes” and “war paint” to host open houses where she serves coffee, tea and homemade cookies to sweeten the deal. Doris is a smart lady and knows that now is not the time to pull back—she is as gung ho as ever and seems to thrive on adversity. She proudly lives by her mother’s motto, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” As I watch her heft ‘For Sale’ signs into her car, I can see that she is very strong indeed. I am pretty sure I won’t find her knocking on my door asking me to open a jar of pickles. That woman’s biceps are bigger than mine and her will is even stronger.

Just last week, Doris ordered 250 Translucent House Banks imprinted with her company logo and the message, “Don’t Stop Believing (or Saving)!” She plans to distribute them to all of her clients and potentials as a reminder that buying a home is not out of reach. She also placed an order for 500 house shaped Oz Stress Balls because she knows that both sellers and buyers have more than the usual amount of stress to deal with these days and she wants to remind them that she is here to help. The point is, Doris refuses to give up or be defeated and continues to persevere as she has for thirty some odd years…with a smile on her face and a pithy saying on her lips.

We can all take a lesson from my entrepreneurial neighbor and, “Laugh through the hard stuff—it doesn’t make it any easier, but you’ll have a lot more fun.” Well, I’m off to the gym—I don’t like it, but I’m going to smile anyway.

Top 10 Things I am Grateful For This Thanksgiving

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

#10 I’ll start with the obvious. I am exceedingly grateful for my beautiful wife. I would say it goes without saying, but if I didn’t say it, I might end up being grateful we have a comfortable couch in the den.

#9 Next up, my charming children—and while they are all wonderful, I am particularly thankful that my youngest is turning out to be a chip off the old block and will someday take over the mantel of marketing guru.

#8 I am also thankful for “Law & Order” reruns—what can I say? I’m a purist. The new shows just don’t do it for me.

#7 The Good Book, otherwise known as the dictionary, has been my closest companion on the sleepless nights I often endure due to my incurable insomnia.

#6 Cheese—Hands down, it’s my favorite food. I love it on pizza, on pasta, in salads, over eggs and all by it self. It’s a perfect food and I’d eat it every day if my waistline would allow it. I know I’m not alone in this and if you want to show your gratitude to important clients, top performers in your company or even your friends and family, the Wisconsin Variety Package is the absolute ideal way to accomplish that. This cheese package includes half-pound blocks of medium and mild Wisconsin cheddar, a 5-ounce stick of beef salami and a 5-ounce stick of tangy summer sausage. Your logo or promotional message is fired-in to the black walnut and maple cutting board. A handy cutting knife completes this gift set that is sure to be appreciated by all who are lucky enough to receive one.

#5 Platinum Status—This one must be experience to be appreciated. I cannot count the times I have been late to the airport and thanked the travel gods for being able to go through first class check-in on a coach ticket. Plus, since I usually travel with a whole suitcase filled with promotional products, I really appreciate the free checked baggage and my long legs are always grateful for the exit row seat my status affords me.

#4 I am also indebted to my book editor, without whom my marketing books might never be read.

#3 Strong coffee—let’s just say I single handedly keep Starbucks, Peet’s, Seattle’s Best and the Coffee Bean in business.

#2 My blue Bic—a writer is nothing without his favorite pen.

#1 And finally, the number one thing I am grateful for (insert drum roll) is…promotional items! After all, marketing is my business and my passion. It’s fair to say I live for marketing. This month, my favorite promotional item is the Turkey foam stress ball. It’s a fun way to promote your company, organization, hospital or school, while also helping everyone who receives one squeeze away the stress of everyday life.

Pilgrimage

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

For the first time in recorded history, the Winston’s are going to celebrate Thanksgiving away from home. I was recently invited to take part in the official 2008 Lighting Ceremony of the Pilgrim Monument at the Provincetown Museum. It promises to be an exciting day and, as it is touted as “Cape Cod’s most beautiful tradition celebrating the Pilgrim’s First Landing in America at Provincetown,” the whole family is looking forward to the trip.

Even though I am a proud American, I must admit that, before being asked to participate, I didn’t know a whole lot about The Pilgrim Monument. The 252-foot tall campanile is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States and was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landfall of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the signing in Provincetown Harbor of the Mayflower Compact. As you probably remember from history class, the Pilgrims spent five weeks exploring Cape Cod before they sailed to Plymouth, MA. After spending weeks at sea, the pilgrims would not set foot on land until writing and signing the Mayflower Compact, the first instance of a democratic society in the New World. In 1907 the cornerstone was laid by President Roosevelt, and so began the building of the 252-foot all granite tower. The Monument was designed by Willard T. Sears and inspired by the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy designed by Arguolo and Agostino in 1309.

Learning about the origins of the Pilgrim Monument made me realize that there is quite a lot about America that I don’t know, so I decided to extend our adventure and make the trip out east a road trip to remember. The kids are going to take a few days off school (they have to turn in a report on our journey to make up for the missed days), Mrs. Winston is going to skip the annual Turkey day bake sale and we are going to hit the road, Winston style.

Of course, I expect the children to take copious notes during the journey but there is bound to be some down time. That’s why I’m bringing the Case Logic Rear Seat Entertainment Center. It promises to keep the kids entertained even on the longest of road trips. There is a flip-down 3-in-1 game board (checkers, chess and tic-tac-toe) with Velcro game pieces, a viewing platform and security harness for a portable DVD player, three storage pockets and six CD/DVD sleeves. It looks so entertaining, I may let my daughter drive while I teach my youngest the finer points of chess.

Well, I’ve got some planning to do—I wonder where the world’s largest ball of string is located? Remember, as my good friend W. T. Purkiser always said “Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

Reuse It Or Lose It

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I took my last swig of diet soda and was about to toss the empty in the trash when I was treated to an ecology lesson from my oldest daughter. She starts college next year, so I guess she is practicing spreading her wings and feels she can finally teach the teacher—as they say. “Dad!” she admonished shrilly, “Don’t throw that in the trash—it’s recyclable!” I had to smile as I pulled the offending can out of the garbage and prepared to toss it in the recycling bin we keep in the garage when she stopped me again. “Rinse it out first. Gawd! Don’t you know anything about how to recycle the right way?” I was loath to admit that apparently, I did not. Being schooled by a seventeen year old is a humbling experience so I decided to do a little research on the subject and I discovered a new holiday—America Recycles Day (ARD).

I love holidays, especially those that are a bit unusual and overlooked by the rest of society, so I decided to atone for my recycling sin by letting all my readers in on the secret. ARD takes place on November 15th and is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. Celebrating its 11th year, it has grown to include millions of Americans pledging to increase their recycling habits at home and work and to buy products made with recycled materials. On this day each year, millions of people become better informed about the importance of daily recycling and buying recycled products. After all, as stewards of the environment, we are responsible for preserving and protecting our resources for ourselves and for future generations. I think that’s why my daughter is such a stickler for recycling and doing it right—she knows that her generation will be left holding the bag if we don’t step up now.

The good news is, the nation’s composting and recycling rate It’s currently up to around 33% and last year the amount of energy saved from recycling aluminum and steel cans, plastic PET and glass containers, newsprint and corrugated packaging was equivalent to:

• The amount of electricity consumed by 17.8 million Americans in one year.
• 29% of nuclear electricity generation in the U.S. in one year.
• 7.9% of electricity generation from fossil fuels in the U.S. in one year.
• 11% of the energy produced by coal-fired power plants in the U.S.
• The energy supplied from 2.7% of imported barrels of crude oil into the U.S.
• The amount of gasoline used in almost 11 million passenger automobiles in one year.

As you may know, there are three parts to the recycling process; each essential to making the system work: collection, manufacturing and buying. In fact, the three chasing arrows that make up the recycling logo each stand for one of the three components. I just love a logo with a deeper meaning! Being a die-hard marketer, I choose to emphasize the importance of buying. In order to make recycling economically viable, there must be a market for recycled products. If people buy them, companies will be encouraged to make them, and the whole system works.

Naturally, Rush Imprint is doing its part by offering a plethora of recycled products that are ready to be imprinted with your logo and sent out into the world to promote your company in an eco-friendly way. One of my favorites is the Recycled Cardboard Jotter because it’s small enough to fit in my shirt pocket and features an innovative scored cardboard pen port stitched onto the front cover so I can use my lucky pen to jot down important thoughts. Plus, it’s as eco-responsible as you can get—the cover is made from 100% recycled cardboard and each jotter contains 100 sheets of unlined recycled paper with recycling symbol printed on each page. November 15th is right on our heels, but Rush Imprint is nothing if not speedy—sometimes it is all in the name—so place your order now and you’ll still have time to celebrate.

Well, I’ve got to go help my son make a paper-mache turkey, with recycled newspapers of course! Until next time, heed the words of my old Auntie Mae: “I love recycling! Why, just this week, I had dinner with my ex-husband, my ex-boyfriend and my ex-roommate.”