Fast Forward: October 2017

 

The Power Of Evolution
USB changes are coming. Get plugged in.

Apple turned the wireless world on its head when it eliminated the jack for earbuds from the iPhone. In September, another connection revolution was taking a turn around the sun with the introduction of the USB 3.2 standard. So, what’s the big deal about upgrading USB technology? It’s all about speed and compatibility.

USB 1.0, when it was introduced in 1996, transferred data at 1.5 Mb per second. Fast forward to today’s version, 3.0, and data is transferred at a whopping 10 Gb per second. The star feature of 3.2 is the ability to run data at two speeds simultaneously, thanks to extra wires housed inside the cable. This means faster writing and reading of data, as well as quicker charging times.

USB ports and connectors have also changed size and shape. The original USB port, or USB-A, is mainly at home on devices such as computers and game consoles. Connector versions 1.1 through 3.0 have an A design on one end, allowing a 3.0 external hard drive to be plugged into a 2.0 port.

On the other end of a connector (a cable), you’ll find USB type B. It’s this end, which attaches to devices such as cameras, phones, desktop printers and scanners, that boasts a variety of shapes—for brands such as Samsung and Apple; the B side features a 30-pin or lightning connector.

Two years ago, the tech world welcomed USB-C. This version redefines device/cable compatibility with identical connector ends, shaped so they fit into ports no matter how they’re oriented (no more flipping the plug to fit the port), and allowing for bi-directional power. This means peripheral devices can charge the host devices, not just vice versa. If you have a Samsung Galaxy S8, Moto Z or LG G6, you’ve got a USB-C.

With one port, one cable and faster data transfer, the days of multiple connectors may soon be behind us. The USB Implementers Forum, a group of tech leaders who are behind the development
of USB, intends for version C to remain compatible with future versions.

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Beyond The Box
Design firms elevate humble cardboard with innovative, sustainable pieces

When you look at a cardboard box, what do you see? Laura Maldonado and Edgardo Rodriguez, the husband-and-wife team behind GOKARTON, see nothing but possibilities. From office furniture to pop-up displays to exhibition booths—and even theater stages—GOKARTON is giving corrugated cardboard a new purpose.

The properties that make corrugated cardboard an ideal material for sturdy packaging, say Maldonado and Rodriguez, are the same ones that make cardboard an eco-friendly alternative to standard construction materials. GOKARTON’s designs are portable and light, easy to store as deconstructed pieces, and ultimately much easier to recycle than traditional booth materials or office furniture.

GOKARTON is just one of many companies that is thinking beyond the box. Design firm KARTON (no affiliation with GOKARTON) and Chairigami are among a handful of companies building furniture out of cardboard for home and office use. But even when it’s still being used as a box, cardboard is becoming a vehicle for storytelling.

Mary Dobsch, president of supplier The Chest in Washington, Missouri, says the right packaging distinguishes the giver from the competition. “You have the edge,” she says. “It’s not just a pen, but instead a promotional product inside a marketing piece.”

Companies that adhere to principles of sustainability can reinforce their messages with recycled or recyclable packaging, she says. “If the package is necessary to the delivery system, make the package reusable so it will have an afterlife, and not go to the landfills.”

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FIVE MINUTES WITH David Schneiderman, Something Inked

The Ball Is In Their Court
David Schneiderman of Nashville, Tennessee-based distributor Something Inked discusses the fast-paced work of providing custom items for professional sports teams.

PPB  When you first began providing apparel for teams, what challenges or caveats did you run into, and how did you address them?
David Schneiderman  
One of the things that we quickly learned is that clients in this industry need things very fast—often in as little as 24 to 48 hours. Even the most difficult jobs, with multiple color imprints and multiple locations, require a turnaround of a day or two at times. So to not leave ourselves at the mercy of others, we started our own decorating and finishing operations to help meet those demands and ensure timely delivery. As we continued to grow, we took on print partners to assist but always kept the more difficult jobs in-house. Now we’re moving into a new facility that’s 57,000 square feet to accommodate more machines, packaging, inventory and offices, all to raise the level of service that our clients already expect and get from us.

PPB What characteristics or business practices do you look for in partners to ensure a quality finished product that’s delivered on time and as requested?
Schneiderman 
We look for partners that operate under a model and mentality like ours; we never try for a one and done, it’s about a long-term relationship. A give and take, but ultimately all of our partners have an “anything it takes to deliver” mentality. No matter what it takes, we will figure it out. To that end, we even started our own logistics company, so we are prepared to deliver no matter what method or timeline we are handed.

PPB Is there a typical ‘average’ number of pieces you provide in a year for your customers, or does it vary greatly based on your clients’ success throughout the season? 
Schneiderman 
There are two seasons in the professional sports world that we serve: the regular season, where you have more time, and the playoffs. That said, while baseball teams may make plans for promotional needs months in advance, in hockey and basketball there is usually less of a plan and more urgency. In that case, you could be providing a year’s worth of products to a team while hoping they go to the playoffs. When that happens, one game could require as much as a whole season did from that team. Our business is all about service. We don’t look at the numbers or volume of orders from specific clients, we just work to make sure that whatever is needed is handled and delivered.

PPB Your method of keeping track of clients’ potential needs during post-season play is somewhat ‘old school’; why use whiteboards rather than a spreadsheet or CMS?
Schneiderman We each have a whiteboard in our offices: Todd Schneiderman [his son] has a sales board with certain needs, dates, timelines, etc.; I work on the vendor negotiations—certain products are always needed, and each year we also introduce new things; Jason Rockhill handles quality control and delivery, which is often a full-time task at certain times of the year; Bill Feldberg handles the guts of the development and marketing; he works on increasing our client base, deciding on prospects—romancing the customer so to speak; and Oliver Landry helps keep all of the pieces together and going in the right direction with our operational support departments. It is truly a team effort from beginning to delivery.

During playoffs, those boards are constantly changing; it’s like having a third screen for your computer. The changes can happen in a heartbeat. As an example, one season the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets both ran with red apparel. And though they didn’t play each other, when they advanced, the Clippers changed to handing out blue items so the Rockets could keep the red. In the playoffs we generally have just 48 hours to print, ship and deliver. In addition to our operations, we also use other screen printers across the country that operate the way we do—again, those that have the “anything it takes to deliver” approach, we are glad to work with. We know we aren’t the easiest to work with at times but it’s the nature of the beast.

PPB Have you ever anticipated a client’s need, only to have it turn out differently? If so, how did you adapt?
Schneiderman Every single day. We have a large sports client base, and we also have a large music client base—traditional promotional products, souvenirs, etc.; lots of different needs, and just when you think you have it all figured out, somebody throws a curveball. But having a large client base allows us to use products elsewhere, so we’re not holding onto inventory. You have to be able to anticipate needs but at the same time always have a plan B and C. We have a loyal customer base because we take care of them and always put their needs ahead of our own.

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Table Those Labels
Clinging to generational stereotypes can hinder employee growth

Many employers are eager to bring Millennials into the fold, hoping to capitalize on their digital-first mindset and relational approach to conducting business, both as clients and service providers. But, while Millennials proudly own many generational characteristics not seen in previous groups—we’re looking at you, Baby Boomers and GenXers—other stereotypes placed upon them in the workplace may do more harm than good.

Rachel Weingarten, a marketing and brand strategist who serves as president of 729.marketing, says generational labels can be detrimental in part because they are at risk of being misinterpreted. Though the oldest Millennials are generally thought of as individuals who graduated high school in 2000, the younger and older members are still vastly different because of the political, social, cultural and economic influences under which they grew up; even Baby Boomers and GenXers feel the strain of differing experiences over a span of five to 10 years.
Negative labels such as poor work ethic, codependency, short attention spans and a need for instant gratification can morph into self-fulfilling prophecies for employers who paint all their Millennial employees with the same brush.

If you don’t think a Millennial will demonstrate a strong work ethic in the style of a Boomer, you may be less inclined to let them shoulder any responsibility in a team environment—forcing other employees to bear more of the workload. Conversely, if you pair the Millennial drive for recognition and approval with a critical role in meeting a company-wide goal, they will recognize the opportunity to earn those accolades by taking on more tasks and collaborating with coworkers to achieve success.

Rather than using stereotypes to create age silos in the workplace, encourage a collaborative environment that turns the abilities and perspectives unique to each generation into tools for teamwork that produce positive results for everyone.

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Manage Your Marketing Missteps
Uh oh. The marketing strategy you launched with fanfare and fireworks has ended up fizzling. If you aren’t seeing the results you anticipated, either in hard numbers or anecdotal feedback, rather than scrapping the whole plan, consider making these changes, from Entrepreneur contributor Jayson DeMers, to get your efforts back on track.

Wait a while. Some strategies take more time than others to produce results. Investments in launching a revamped brand image, or a decision to use inbound marketing to boost client numbers, are a long game.

Stand out. Differentiation is the name of the game. Does your marketing strategy emphasize those characteristics or services that elevate you above the competition? Cut through the noise with eye-catching design and straightforward language that clearly states your unique value proposition.

Offer More, Or Better, For Less. What’s your end game? What outcome are you anticipating from the implementation of your marketing strategy? If you’re not seeing the desired results, change up your offer. Make it worthwhile to your audience to engage in whatever action your strategy is proposing. Whether it’s a free gift or a limited-time offer for a select number of respondents, the carrot you dangle should be tastier than the ones your competitors are offering.

Adjust Your Sights. While a broad audience category seems appealing at first, sometimes you’ll see a bigger payoff when you refocus your efforts toward a smaller, more select group of prospects. Dive into some research on a targeted demographic and use that knowledge to tweak your message for a custom fit. 

 

 

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