Sales: Stepping Back For A Closer Look

Like many companies that work at engaging clients and prospects, one of our clients used to fly by the seat of their pants when it came to marketing. Their unplanned, unintentional approach at blasting their brand through disconnected communications made them feel like they were pushing a rock uphill and missing the mark. But what they were really missing was a thoughtful, strategic plan for connecting their audience to the company and its messaging. 

From Helter-Skelter To Laser Focus

Our client—a provider of consulting and software designed to help financial advisors achieve success—recognized that quantity alone was not effective in communicating with their clients and prospects. They created “Surround 360,” a strategic year-round engagement plan with multiple touchpoints designed to strengthen the client/prospect experience.

The client realized that their old way of searching and procuring items from an assortment of providers who knew very little about their business wasn’t producing results. Our company was invited to share its knowledge of communication channels and to help this client with timing, messaging and product selection to reinforce the program’s goal of “creating momentum for advisor success.”

After categorizing the audience into three tiers based on current and potential revenue, we developed a calendar of specific touchpoints for each tier that included email, video, direct mail, a meeting, a meal and more. Product promotion was an important element of this plan, providing the power of tangible items to bring the messaging to life and permanently convey brand value.

Intentional Communication With A Touch (Point) Of Fun

While communication is a critical element of any strategy for engaging prospects and clients, products are a valuable touchpoint for keeping a brand top of mind. This client challenged us to find an affordable product that would pack a punch with all audience tiers.

We chose a custom metal spinning top because it reinforced the program’s mission to generate momentum. The item was shipped to recipients with a custom card stating the company’s brand promise—“software and services that accelerate advisor success” (by improving advisor effectiveness, providing more consistent client service, enhancing advisor leadership and achieving strategic success).

In addition to the strategic product selection, we provided design services to customize the item beyond a logo. The logo simply punctuates the message and boosts the connection between sender and recipient. We went a step further and incorporated design elements into the product to further convey momentum.

The importance of understanding your client’s intention can’t be overemphasized when you are guiding product recommendations and advising on product customization. Ask your client these questions: Is the product being used to generate brand awareness, to express gratitude or to recognize a milestone? What messaging should be included (either on the item or in an accompanying card) to achieve the intended result?

Proof Of Success

The primary goal of any package (product/customization) is to resonate with recipients so they want to keep it. You know a package hits the mark when recipients display it on their desk instead of re-gifting it to family members or sending it to the circular file.

Comments from our client’s prospects and customers let us know we had chosen the right product. One recipient wrote: “Thanks for the very cool spin top. It’s a fun toy to fiddle with on long conference calls. You are always top of mind; your platform is awesome.”

What’s more, by incorporating strategic product selection into this program, our client reallocated their budget to achieve a more holistic approach to customer engagement. Although the actual amount spent on promotional products decreased by 14 percent, we picked up about that much in revenue by supporting the client in message creation and providing additional content ideas for touchpoints, packaging and fulfillment of products. Those things are harder for competitors to replicate so they became an advantage.

Having a dedicated distributor partner who has deep knowledge of the brand and messaging has enabled this client to achieve focused, strategic product selection and customization. And using fewer but more strategically placed products has saved the company money. Even though some items may cost more per unit, we often send fewer items based on the tier arrangement.

In the area of promotional marketing, companies can become too close to their products and services and get stuck in a bit of a rut in their attempts to engage clients. Bringing in a promotional professional with an external perspective can educate and introduce them to new approaches that generate financial and engagement benefits.

Harnessing The Power Of Promotional Products

Here are a few considerations for choosing products that will continuously engage clients and prospects:

1. Audience: How will the item make recipients feel about using/displaying it?
    Does the item help recipients in their work routine?

2. Business objectives: What objective is the item designed to achieve
    (i.e., introduction for a warm call, maintaining sales cycle momentum)?

3. Strategic plan: Where does this touchpoint fit into the bigger picture?
    What touchpoints precede and follow?

4. Messaging: Does the item connect the dots between the company and the recipients?

5. Budget: How does quantity affect pricing? Does the estimated result justify the expenditure?
    (Note: Success is not proportionate to the expense of an item; the value is in the connection between sender and recipient.)  


Hillary Feder, MAS, is president and founder of distributor Hillary’s, Inc. in Hopkins, Minnesota. For more than 30 years she has been a leader in strategic plan design, program planning and branded product design to support enterprise engagement initiatives. Her innovative, analytical and practical approach shapes company cultures that demonstrate recognition and appreciation in meaningful, relevant ways and that closely align with a company’s values, brand and business objectives. 

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