Get Your Vote On

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Everybody knows there are a few topics that are verboten during polite discourse—politics, religion and my mother-in-law’s peculiar proclivities. For the last several months, however, politics has been a tough topic to avoid. It’s seems that the newscasters, pundits, bloggers and even my Aunt Mabel can’t seem discuss anything else but the upcoming elections. And why not? This year’s presidential race is historic—no matter who wins, the outcome will be unprecedented. Even with the economic turmoil, campaign mudslinging and general uncertainty, there is no doubt that it is an exciting time. On November 4th, either the first African American President will be elected, or we will have elected a woman to the second highest office in the land…which ever way it turns out, history will be made. And that, I believe, is the point.

As a responsible marketer, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the election is the perfect time to show your true blue colors when it comes to marketing your business. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your patriotism (without tipping your partisan hand), by choosing promotional items that say, “I love America,” without offending either side of the political aisle. You can encourage people to vote, while simultaneously reminding them of the great service you provide by gifting loyal customers and potential clients with the Patriot pen; or pack up customer purchases in a red, white and blue Flag Bag. Both have plenty of room for your company logo, so no matter which way the vote swings—you win.

The lesson today is simple, Fourth of July is not the only time to get your stars and stripes on, November 4th is an ideal time of year to purchase patriotic promotional products to productively promote your profession. Also, alliteration is fun…but I digress. Until next time, remember what a pretty good writer once said. “Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ‘Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Wordy – October 16th is Dictionary Day!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Fellow vocabulary aficionados know that October 16th was Dictionary Day—a sacred holiday that should be celebrated with reverence and gratitude for the late, great Noah Webster. And in the Winston household, it was. For those of you who are ill acquainted with my favorite holiday and have not yet realized why it should be enthusiastically celebrated, Mr. Webster was born on the sixteenth day of October in the year 1758 and is widely considered to be the Father of the American Dictionary. He began writing his dictionary at the age of 43 and it took him 27 years to complete. Now that’s a man who understood the value of patience. The objective of this revered day is to emphasize the importance of dictionary skills and to encourage good vocabulary.

I started the day by reading a couple dozen pages from my well-worn dictionary and memorizing at least three new words, which I worked into every conversation, email correspondence and IM I had that day. After breakfast, I played Scrabble online for a few hours to get my word juices flowing and prepared me very well to play a few live games with the kids when they got home from school. While I waited for the school bus to arrive, I worked two and a half crosswords—and not the easy ones—the NY Times Sunday crosswords are my favorite. When they finally arrived, we played Scrabble—tournament style—and then, at dinner, everyone chose a “favorite” word to expound upon. Whoever’s word is deemed ”the best” wins a special prize. This year, I had a special Organic Cotton Washed Twill Cap imprinted with “Lord of the Words.” I can’t wait to wear it to my next crossword contest!

I hope all of my readers had as much fun celebrating Dictionary Day as we did, and if you missed it this year, then mark you calendars for next October 16th. Until next time remember, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away, but a word a day will keep stupidity at bay.”

Rock & Roll

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you have never had the good fortune to travel by private jet, and aside from rock stars and presidents—few of us have, I can tell you, not from personal experience, that it is the ultimate luxury. And it ought to be luxurious—a private flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas runs about eight grand (that’s $133.00 a minute), so even big time celebs usually reserve those trips for when the “company” is paying. I recently moderated a car dealer meeting for a major auto manufacturer that hired some A-list talent to perform after the business meeting. Judging by my paycheck and hotel accommodations, I know I was “C” or “D” list at best, so I was picked up by a town car at the airport and driven to the venue, while my rock star counterparts jetted in on private planes, were whisked into Escalades waiting on the tarmac and chauffeured to the backstage entrance. All I could think, as security ordered me to stand back, was that it must be nice to live the rock star life.

Experience tells me that I am not alone—most people would jump at the chance to live like a star, if only for a moment. While most of us can’t actually live a rock & roll life, we can travel in style. Why not offer your clients a little bit of luxury by gifting them with something that makes business travel more of a pleasure? The Comfort Travel Set contains everything they’ll need to make traveling commercial feel a little more relaxing. The wrap case includes an inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs and travel alarm clock, and of course has plenty of room for your company logo. Your customers will appreciate your thoughtfulness and remember you every time they insert the earplugs that mercifully drown out their seatmate’s dissertation on why whole life insurance is superior. Believe me, they will thank you for it!

Well, I’m off to the bike store—I’ve decided to go green, save some gas and get some exercise, so I’m switching to two wheels. Remember, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might just find, you get what you need.”

Nailed It!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I woke up this morning to the sound of my wife yelping in pain. Fearing the worst, I leapt out of bed and prepared to defend my beloved from the masked intruder that must have circumvented the alarm system and broken in to our bedroom. Once I was alert and out of bed, the yelping stopped and I discovered that we were alone in the room. No one had broken in to steal my wife’s jewels or my lanyard collection. I breathed a sign of relief and fell back into bed only to be shaken awake by my perturbed wife. Apparently, the yelping was induced by my talons (her word) scraping against her delicate legs. Okay, so maybe I had let my toenails get a bit out of control but I think her reaction was a tad overblown. I tried to tell her that she was overreacting but she refused to listen and promptly made an appointment for me at her favorite nail salon.

Two hours later I found myself sitting in a vibrating chair, feet soaking in a vibrating tub of warm water with an angry sounding Asian woman leaning over my feet and shaking her head. As she examined my toes, she yelled something I didn’t understand to the woman next to her and the two broke into a fit of giggles. I was fairly certain they were making fun of me and I was about to leave in a huff but she started massaging my pups with scented lotion and I fell back into the chair. For the next twenty minutes, she clipped, filed, trimmed, scrubbed and scraped my feet into submission, and I have to admit, my feet have never looked better—and they felt fantastic—soft as a baby’s cheek.

I realize that not all men are as open minded as I am and the thought of getting a professional pedicure is about as far fetched as getting a facial or taking a Pilates class—and that’s fine. The nail salon is not for everyone, but the Illusion Series Manicure Set is something everybody can use. The set includes: stainless steel tweezers, knife/cuticle shaper, nail clippers, nail file, scissors, and a cuticle trimmer. It’s a great, unexpected give away for customers, friends and employees that ensures you will be remembered while the recipient is taking care of business.

Well, I’m late for Pilates so I’ll leave you with a little wisdom from my dear old Dad, “Marriage is like pie, eat the whole thing, and you’ll end up with a stomach ache.”

K.I.S.S.

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As my Nana Winston used to say, “Keep it simple, Stupid!” The old gal was not a charming conversationalist, but she did know how to get her point across. Come to think of it, she wasn’t the soft hearted Nana a lot of folks were fortunate to grow up with—for example, she was fond of using the word, “Dummy!” when referring to one of us kids doing something, well, dumb. She never let me win me at Scrabble, made me help with the dishes and her idea of a bedtime story was reading my brother and I excerpts from the true crime novels she loved so much. But, I digress. The point is, she was a smart lady and, when it came to getting things done the right way, she knew what she was doing. Nana realized that overly fussy throw pillows and fancy doilies were a waste and believed that apple pie was a better dessert than a pomegranate soufflé.

The same applies to your promotional marketing plan. I’m not one to call names, so I’ll just say that sometimes simplicity is the smartest thing you can do for your company. Don’t over think your promotional plan; sometimes the best course of action is right there in front of you. We are smack dab in the middle of football season, so why not develop a promotion around America’s favorite sport? There are many things you can do to capitalize on the spirit of the season—sponsor a local peewee football team and parents and fans right in your neighborhood will see your name every game day. Or, you can plan a fun give-away around football. Show clients, employees and prospective customers that you can play with the big boys by gifting them with a game of Football Paddleball. If you have a storefront, consider creating a game day promotion for customers who enter your store . You can give away Colossal Football Twist Pens imprinted with your company logo to the first 100 people through the door. Offering an incentive will bring clients in, and offering a great take-away that includes your company’s logo will ensure that your name will go out into the world when they leave.

Tom Brady may be out for the season but you have plenty of opportunities to score for your company. So, get out there and play to win. I’ve got to go help my son with his Columbus Day school project—we’re creating buttons imprinted with Christopher’s picture to hand out to the class. Remember, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me—at least not for very long.”

Dollars and Sense

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I went to my favorite coffee shop the other day and ran into my stockbroker, gulping a triple espresso and looking like he hadn’t slept for days. I reluctantly asked how he was doing and he launched into a tale of woe, the likes of which I haven’t heard since Nana told us stories about living through the Great Depression. The guy was a wreck. I reminded him that historically, the market corrects itself and that even though the current landscape was bleak, it would get better. He shook his head, smiled weakly and ordered an extra large piece of chocolate walnut cake to go. Apparently, the pressure was getting to him and he had taken up stress eating.

He’s definitely not alone—times are uncertain and many of us are feeling the strain of the shaky economy. While it’s no fun to worry and wonder, stressing out will not help the situation. In fact stress, defined as “a mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression,” can be harmful to our mental health, as well as our physical health. I find yoga and plain old deep breathing helps quell my own anxiety but nothing calms my nerves more than a good belly laugh.

Sure it’s a cliché, but laughter really is powerful medicine and, although I’m not a medical doctor, I recommend you indulge as frequently as possible. In fact, think about injecting a little levity into your marketing campaign. Whether you are in the financial services or any other industry, your clients could use a chuckle. Rush Imprint offers a wide variety of Money Stress Relievers that will bring a much-needed smile to your customer’s face. Add your company logo and a clever message, and you will instantly be associated with relieving stress…rather than causing it. You know what they say, “if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Well, I’m off for a double session with my yogi—his business is booming—so I’ll leave you with the wise words of Tom Rataj. “When stress is at it’s highest, just know it can only go down.”

Customer Service

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Everybody knows the importance of providing good customer service, but not everybody provides it. In fact, just last week I experienced the type of customer service that made me want to reach across the counter and strangle a person. But, being the reasonable, levelheaded type, I kept my hands in my pocket and let my closed wallet do the talking. That’s thing about bad customer service—unless you are a cable company, treating your customers poorly will eventually hit you where it hurts. Since you can find almost anything on the Internet, even companies who used to be the only game in town have had to step up their client relations or lose business. Frankly, that’s the way it should be. Competition makes everyone better—even when large conglomerates can undercut prices, smaller companies can offer a superior level of customer service to clients who appreciate being appreciated.

But what about the folks at your company who are responsible for providing great service to your customers? They need love too. That’s why, in 1992 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, devoted to recognizing the importance of customer service and honoring the people on the front lines of the service revolution. So, while we all know what good customer service is and is not, you are wise to also remember the people who help you provide it. Since Customer Service Week begins October 6th, you still have just enough time to acknowledge the VIPs in your organization. Be a sport and get them something to let them know you value their hard work. The Clear Slant-Top Paperweight can be engraved with your company logo and the recipient’s name and accomplishment, and is an affordable way to show your appreciation for your whole team. For the superstars of your organization, go the extra mile and give them special recognition with the Medium Shooting Star. It’s made of made of 24% lead crystal and comes encased in it’s own gift box. The bottom line is, everyone likes to be acknowledged for doing a good job and giving well-deserved kudos will ultimately serve you well.

Well, I’m off to buy my assistant a well deserved gift and I can promise you two things: 1) I’ll put my name on it and 2) I won’t buy it at the sorry excuse for a store I visited last week. Until next time, I leave you with wise the words of Voltaire, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

It’s My Month

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I walked in the front door after my morning constitutional to find a giant bouquet of flowers—and my wife standing behind them, arms crossed. I froze in my tracks as I quickly went through a mental checklist of all the important dates I may have missed. Our anniversary had passed, my wife’s birthday was months away and Mother’s Day was a distant memory. I was in the clear! Or was I? “They’re for you!” were the first words out of Mrs. Winston’s mouth and her accusatory tone told me she wasn’t pleased. Flowers for me? Who on earth could they be from? I was stumped. Blushing like a schoolgirl, I opened the card and laughed out loud when I saw that the bouquet was from my Publisher. He sent them to me in honor of “Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month.” I was touched by his kind gesture but utterly thrilled that my wife of over 20 years thought I still had enough game to receive flowers from another woman.

I told her exactly that as I ushered her into the bedroom for a “nap.” I’ll have to call my Publisher to thank him—not for the flowers, but for the little bout of jealousy they inspired in my still beautiful as ever wife. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of work done today but I did learn an important lesson. A little jealously goes a long way. Also, I am allergic to lilies, but that’s beside the point.

I encourage you to incorporate a little jealousy into your marketing plan. How? That’s your job—I’m just an idea man. Besides, the month’s not over yet and I plan to take it easy. If you are really stuck, take a few moments to peruse Rush Imprint’s impressive collection of Cross Pens. They will make your corporate logo shine and are sure to inspire a little healthy jealousy.

Incidentally, September is also “Marriage Health Month” so Mrs. Winston signed us up for a couple’s clay throwing class meant to encourage pair bonding. I tried to explain that a clay throwing class was in direct conflict with “Be Kind to Editors and Writers” month but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Remember, “marriage is sometimes hard but at the end of the day you end up throwing clay.”

Vested Interest

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Regular readers and fans know that I am a vest man. Sure it’s old fashioned, but it’s my signature look and it works for me. I have over 387 vests—more than enough to wear one every day of the year with a few left over. I have caught more than my share of flack for my vest obsession, especially from my fashion obsessed teen-aged daughter who calls my look, “old man chic.” So, imagine my delighted surprise when my little Princess sauntered in to the family room wearing…a vest! I thought I was dreaming but after pinching myself several times, I discovered that she was indeed taking a cue from dear old Dad and sporting a very sharp pin striped vest. Naturally I took the opportunity to bond with my eldest child and complimented her choice of attire. My normally charming girl looked at me, looked at my vest, looked down at her vest and back at me…and promptly ran to room to change.

After my failed attempt at filial bonding, I decided to examine the roots of my vest interest. I think I got my first vest at the age of five—at least that is what my mother tells me. She showed me a picture of the five year old me dressed up in a red vest, blue blazer and polka dotted bow tie for my first day of kindergarten. That explains a lot. All through school, significant events were marked by the acquisition of a new vest. I wore a striped vest for my second place finish in my third grade spelling bee, a plaid vest the year I became class treasurer and a black velvet vest the night of my first school dance. To be honest, my little trip down memory lane didn’t yield much fruit of understanding for why I have such a penchant for vests, but it does explain all the shiners and fat lips I had as a kid. Children can be so cruel.

Not surprisingly, today’s offering, in honor of my daughter, is a Women’s Vantek Microfiber Vest made of microfiber fleece, and featuring a stand-up collar, full-zip front, front and back princess seams with on-seam front zipper pockets. It comes in several colors, including pink, and like all promotional items Rush Imprint offers, it can be imprinted with your company logo. It’s the perfect fall gift for fashion forward female clients who need a little something to keep them warm as the weather begins to get cooler, but not yet cold.

I’m off to prepare for my speech in honor of National Dog Week. I’m the official MC and honorary top dog at this year’s parade. Until next time remember, “If the vest fits, you’re still in pretty good shape.”

Culinary Adventures

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My wife and I decided to spice up our culinary lives, so we went on a little adventure last weekend. We thought it would be fun to pick a cuisine that neither of us had tried before and pick the best restaurant in which to try it. After much research on chowhound (the website for foodies everywhere), we settled on The Golden Deli—a Vietnamese joint reported to have the best Bún this side of Hanoi. We arrived at noon to discover a packed house and a twenty-minute wait—a very good sign—so we browsed the neighboring shops while we tried to ignore our rumbling stomachs. The store next door was jammed with Chinese chatchkis and we had fun browsing the racks of necklaces, prayer beads and carved animals. I was actually very inspired and came up with an innovative promotional idea based on a laughing pig. I can’t say more now, but I have a feeling it’s going to be big.

At last our number was called and we sat down at a small table for two. After browsing the long, and overwhelming, menu we decided to order the Bún (vermicelli noodles, fish sauce, vegetables and shrimp paste), since we had read so many rave reviews. I was a little worried about the shrimp paste, but the dish was delicious. We loved our meal and I was pleased to find it wasn’t as spicy as I, and my ulcer, had anticipated. The waiter even taught us a few words in his native language. It was fun to get out of our comfort zone for an afternoon and try something new. Not only did we enjoy a great meal, I was inspired to create a new promotional product. Definitely a winning day!

The lesson here is simple; in marketing, as in life, it’s good to shake things up, do things a little differently and go out on a limb. It doesn’t have to be huge—like revamping your entire brand or scrapping your marketing plan and starting over. But you can try on offbeat, unexpected way to market your services. Sometimes taking a small risk can pay off in a big way. For example, I know a personal trainer who sent chocolates imprinted with her name and the message, “Eat this and I’ll help you work it off” to every member of her gym. It paid off with 5 new clients in less than a week. I also know a pest control specialist who sent an envelope filled with rubber cockroaches to potential customers. The message said, “If you don’t want them to move in, call Pete’s Pest Control.” Risky? Sure, but it was effective…and memorable.

The point is, sometimes you have to try something new, and a little out there, to get results. Rush Imprint doesn’t carry rubber cockroaches, but they have plenty of whimsical items that will help you promote your company in a fun, interesting and effective way.

Well, I’m late for dinner—Mrs. Winston was so inspired by our meal that she decided to try her hand at cooking Vietnamese cuisine. Wish me luck. Until next time, remember, “Every day is an adventure…especially when your wife tries a new recipe.”