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Food for Though – Let’s Talk about your Next Big Promotion!

Did you know that food gifts, also known as business gifts or executive gifts, are one of the least understood and under-utilized categories in the promotional products industry?  For many years food has ranked below the “other” category in the PPAI annual survey of product categories, accounting for only 1.55% or $300 million in sales.  As a whole in 2015, our industry did about $20 billion, so food sales accounted for a very small piece of the pie.
Sales Pie Chart
Out “there”, the mail order food business is bigger than our entire industry! According to a report in Food Engineering, the retail food gift business hit an estimated $21 billion in 2014, up 5% from the previous year. And it continues to grow!

The sad part about these numbers is, it’s your customers who are buying food (not from you) to give out.  So think about this simple correlation – if our industry did $20 billion, and the food industry did $21 billion the year before, is it possible for you to double your sales in one year just by going after the food business that’s already out there with your customers, who are buying direct?

It could be possible!  The biggest problem is that your customers don’t know that getting food gifts through their promotional products distributor is even an option.  In my observation of 26 years in this industry, most salespeople are remembered by the first thing they ever sold to that customer.  So in one customer you might be known as their pen guy.  Another customer might know you as the lady who sells them mugs.  But how many of your customers actually think about you as the sales professional who takes care of all of their business gift needs at the end of the year?

In selling food, the first step is to identify your customers who have the opportunity to use food.  Within every one of your customers there are three opportunities – there are executive gifts, which the President, CEO, etc. gives out to their circle of friends, golf buddies, or Board of Directors.  The second sale comes from Human Resources and that’s gifts for employees.  The third sale within every one of your customers is in Sales and Marketing for customers.  In some small companies this may be the same buyer; in larger companies there may be multiple departments that would buy food.  For instance purchasing might even buy something to send out the vendors. (As an interesting aside, I have actually gotten back my own products as a gift from some distributors who sent them out to their preferred vendors!)

L1021_NoBkgdMy belief is that the best time to start getting food catalogs out to your customers is in the month of August.  As I mentioned above, your competition is not the other distributors in town; the real threat is the mail order food vendors.  And they are already bombarding your customers with catalogs every 2 to 3 weeks.

Once you’ve made your rounds with the catalogs, by the end of August to the first part of September, you need to start going out with samples.  Giving out free samples to your customers will convince them on the quality of goods you are selling.

Chocolate Covered NutsThis method is tried and true, I know this process works!  Just last week I did a tabletop show with a distributor at a Counter meeting.  We placed multiple boxes of chocolates and nuts on the tables and began the presentation.  At the end of the meeting I went back around the tables to pick up any unopened boxes.  Not only were there no unopened boxes, there were no boxes period.  People at the table had taken the boxes with them as they left.  This is when you know you have a powerful promotion on your hands that reached prospects and customers with your food gift!

Once you start to see that customers are responding to your samples, it’s time to do the trial close.  Sit down and talk about budgets.  Ask them how many people they want to reach.  Ask them if you can handle the direct mailing for them.  Would they like to include something inside, such as a thank-you card or a brochure?  These are all items that can be handled for that customer, to take all of the pre-Christmas stress out of their hands.  Of course you don’t have to ship those orders immediately; orders can be delayed, but I always recommend that you ship food gifts to be delivered before Thanksgiving.  Two reasons for this: The first is that people always remember the first gift they get, so you want to get your customers gifts into their customers’ hands early.  The second is follow-up sales.  Inevitably customers will come back to you and ask to get a smaller run of product because there were people that were missed.

Gift Boxes with FoodIf you’re still struggling to close the sale on food gift orders by late September, perhaps consider sending samples.  This is a great way to show your customers exactly how nice their gift is going to look and exactly what the final product is going to look and taste like.  When you show a customer a beautiful presentation of boxes, ribbon, paper, etc. with the food gift inside, it’s a very powerful promotion that stays front of mind.  Some customers are visual and need to see, touch, and hold the product to be convinced to buy.  This is especially true with taste, often times the end user won’t buy unless they have had a chance to sample the product.

Once you’ve done that, it’s trial close time again.  Move that customer towards the close by asking for the order and telling them that you can get it shipped out to all of their customers on their list and have it in their hands so it’s fresh and ready to be enjoyed!

Despite their reputation, food gifts are not a scary sale.  It is simply a matter of letting your customers know that you can provide an entire service for them from the gift to the delivery.  It is time to think outside of the box.  Now is your opportunity to be known as something else other than “that guy we buy our pens from”.

Author Bio

Source: This blog post was originally posted in Spark Blog from Boundless Networks.

Definition: Kosher!

The word “kosher” is Hebrew for “fit” or “proper”.

How would you define kosher?  When the average consumer answers this question, they often think that the food has been blessed by a rabbi.  However, that is a common misconception.  As the winter holidays approach, you may receive requests for kosher gifts for your customer or their recipients.  It’s beneficial to know what the term “kosher” truly means so that you can best meet their gourmet gift-giving needs!

The word “kosher” is Hebrew for “fit” or “proper” and describes food that is appropriate for someone of the Jewish faith to eat.  Kosher is the process by which food production obeys dietary guidelines set forth in the Hebrew Bible and established by rabbinical authorities.

5 Ways You Can Overcome Local Candy Companies this Holiday Season!

So, your customer usually sends someone shopping?  Steer them your direction!

So, your customer usually sends someone shopping?  Here are some tips to steer them in your direction!

As the fourth quarter rushes in, many promotional products salespeople are reaching out and touching base with their customers that order holiday gifts.  When half of all business gifts purchased for the holidays are food gifts, one of the biggest hurdles is the statement “I was going to buy from the local!”  As a promotional products distributor, there are several ways for you to overcome that sentiment:

Don’t Think Outside the Box; Be More Relevant

“What’s new?”

“What’s hot?”

Do these questions sound familiar? While we all love new and trendy items, we should be asking, “what’s relevant?”

puzzel                                                       “Putting the Puzzle Together” by Ken Teegardin via CC BY-SA 2.0

Define your objectives first, and creative solutions will follow. For example, your client is holding a summer event and wants ideas for inexpensive yet memorable giveaways to the 150 attendees. This is only the starting point; you need to dig deeper in order to provide creative ideas that will help your client achieve his or her objectives.

Why is your client holding the event? What does the company hope to accomplish?

Who are the attendees? Loyal clients? Hot prospects? Industry VIPs? Journalists and press?

What message or takeaway do you want attendees to walk away with at the end of the event?

When attendees think of your brand, what one characteristic or quality should come to mind first?

Once you understand more about the why, who and takeaway, other aspects, such as budget, will begin to fall into place.

Budget is an important question, as it should be. However, it can be difficult for your client to give you a meaningful number when you ask right away. If you dig deeper into the purpose of the campaign, promotion or event, you may end up with a higher budget once you’re able to show the value that your solution will provide.

In summary, don’t get caught up with what’s new or what’s hot. Stick to what’s relevant for your client, and you’ll become a valuable partner in the creative process.

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: New Products for 2016

This is a highly-anticipated time of year here at Maple Ridge Farms, the time when months of planning and work come together and our new gifts are ready to be announced.  Every year, we load our website and catalogs with new products, and this year is no exception.  We’ve got new packaging options, new food options, new imprint color options, and more!

The MR Gourmet Collection is a new line for us, featuring an elegant robin’s egg blue in a number of box styles.  Although its appearance evokes luxury, it’s available in our affordable Classic Treats line—as low as $12.99!  Looking for something a little larger?  We also offer it in our standard gift boxes, filled with combinations of traditional and new favorites.

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A fan of our collectible wooden vehicles?  This is a banner year for them—we’ve added not one but four new vehicles.  We received so many requests for flat bed and pick-up trucks that we have a new model of each.  We also heard your need for more specialized vehicles, and so this year we’re introducing a dump truck and a tank truck.  As always, the new vehicles are available with our traditional favorites: chocolate covered almonds and extra fancy jumbo cashews.  (We also offer them empty—just contact us for pricing.)

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Looking for a leave-behind that’s a little more utilitarian?  We’ve got you covered!  From our new slate cutting boards (complete with food-safe soapstone chalk) to tablet holders to a faux leather desktop storage swing box, there are plenty of options to choose from for a variety of price points.

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Important as packaging is, what’s inside counts just as much.  As you browse our new items, you’ll no doubt notice the addition I’m most excited about: chocolate peanut butter meltaways.  We know everyone else will love these, too, so we’ve incorporated them into gifts of all sizes and price points.  We’ve also amped up our peppermint bark, which now features a base of dark chocolate in addition to the white chocolate and peppermint bits you and your customers already enjoy.  But we didn’t stop there!  We understand the shift towards healthier food gifts and want to make sure that you and your customers have plenty of options to choose from, so we’ve added honey roasted cashews, fancy Turkish apricots, a couple of snack mixes, and more!

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Peanut Butter Meltaways on Dish

Peppermint Bark Pile

For almost as long as we’ve offered our wooden collector’s boxes, they’ve come with a firebranded imprint.  This year, we’ve added foil-stamping in four colors—black, blue, green, and red.  If that isn’t enough, we’ve also begun offering full-color imprinting on select gifts, including the wooden collector’s boxes, designer tins, and two styles of white boxes.  The pop of color is sure to make an impact!

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This is just brushing the surface, of course—we’ve got new box colors in other styles, new tower configurations, and more.  To view all of our new items, check out the New Products section of our website.  The perfect gift may be waiting for you there!

Infographics: Every Picture Tells a Story

  • What are infographics and how are they used?
ASI's report Global Specialties Impressions Study, 2016 contains over 40 infographics.

ASI’s report Global Specialties Impressions Study, 2016 contains over 40 infographics.

The term infographics evolved from the words information and graphics. Infographics are visual representations of complicated data, information, or knowledge presented in a simple way. They take advantage of the brain’s ability to process images faster than text. Infographics have taken a huge up-tick lately due to the number of tools offered to create them, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, that have spread their reach.

  • How you can make your own infographic?

You don’t need to be a graphic artist, or have Photoshop to create an interesting, informative info graphic. All you need is a clear plan on what message or information you are trying to portray, and what facts and statistics are necessary to get that information across. For help in creating a powerful, and sharable infographic check out The Anatomy of a Winning Infographic and The Anatomy of the Perfect Infographic. Luckily there are a number of free tools for creating infographics. The Creative Blog Staff at Adobe has written an article entitled: 10 Free Tools for Creating Infographics. Some of the tools listed are a bit content specific, but others such as Piktochart and Venngage can be used to create interesting, innovative marketing infographics covering any topic or media.

  • Why use infographics in your content marketing strategy?

These graphical tools can present your brand’s content in a visually appealing, concise, and easier-to-digest form. Hubspot blog presents the following compelling statistics concerning infographics as a content marketing tool:

  1. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.
  2. Infographics were the B2B content marketing tactic with the biggest increase from 2014 to 2015, up 51% to 62%
  3. Visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

After all we are trying to get as many eyes on our content as possible. Why not give this content form a try?

  • Infographics in the Promotional Products Industry
Check with your suppliers for infographics that you can use for marketing purposes.

Check with your suppliers for infographics that you can use for marketing purposes.

ASI’s report, Global Specialties Impressions Study, 2016 edition, is predominately information presented in the form of infographics. Many of these infographics can be used in your email marketing efforts to visually convey the power of promotional products. Check with your individual suppliers for eye-catching pieces to send to your clients to help promote the products you have in your sales arsenal. Be sure to check out Maple Ridge Farms infographics such as “Why Maple Ridge Farms?”, for one of our infographics which portrays the power of food gifts.

8 Ways to Use Gourmet Gifts for Incentive and Thank-You Gifts

Food gifts make great mortgage closing gifts.

Food gifts make great mortgage closing gifts.

In our last blog article, Case Histories: 4 Stories of Gourmet Gifts Working Outside of the Holidays, we shared ways to use gourmet food gifts for anniversaries, reunions, and parties. In today’s post we will expand on non-holiday situations where gourmet gifts work well as incentive and thank-you gifts.

  1. Every year, we have numerous orders from distributors on behalf of car dealerships for gifts with purchase. Every time a car is sold, the buyer leaves the lot with a food gift in a beautiful package with the dealer’s imprint. Set up as a release program, we ship throughout the year to meet the client’s needs.
  2. Financial institutions send out a Maple Ridge Farms food gifts for every residential and commercial mortgage closing.
  3. Banks use Maple Ridge Farms as a welcome gift for new corporate clients.
  4. Food gifts are popular with insurance companies as thank-you gifts for new accounts.
  5. Real estate firms remain top-of-mind by sending a closing gift in the form of a cheese package, with a cutting board imprinted with their name. The cutting board is used daily in the kitchen as an all-important reminder for the new homeowner to tell their friends and new neighbors about who helped them buy their house.
  6. Food gifts are great for new product launches for everyone from the entertainment industry to manufacturers. Even food companies are a great source for cutting board sales to promote new food launches.
  7. Referral gifts are great repeat business, popularly used by recruiters, the medical industry, and tech firms.
  8. Hospitals use food gifts for their doctors, nurses and volunteers throughout the
    Hospitals use food gifts for their doctors, nurses, and volunteers throughout the year.

    Hospitals use food gifts for their doctors, nurses, and volunteers throughout the year.

    year. Don’t forget blood banks for our individually wrapped gourmet treats. One hospital uses a birthday program to cultivate goodwill among physicians. Maple Ridge Farms ships a gift to arrive a day or two in advance of the doctor’s birthday.

These are just a few ideas from our recent survey of our distributor clients on off holiday season sales. If you have a great story, we would love to have you share!

 

Case Histories: 4 Stories of Gourmet Gifts Working Outside of the Holidays

Squadron reunion gifts are a great opportunity.

Squadron reunion gifts are a great opportunity.

This blog article is dedicated to sharing case histories with you, so that you can either approach an existing customer with a great idea or target your efforts to the development of new accounts with prospecting tips.

For this week’s blog post let’s look at anniversaries, reunions, and parties as applications for food gifts. Here are four non-holiday situations where gourmet gifts worked!

1. Think of this… how many written invitations have you ever kept? Not many, I bet. Well, here’s a fresh invitation idea to present or just a way to make a celebration more exciting. A 25th anniversary college class reunion had the invitation printed directly on a pencil cup. The time, date, place, and college logo were all fire-branded in a crisp and clean presentation. Inside, the pencil cup was filled with fresh-roasted Fancy Cashews and a special RSVP card was inserted. Long after the party, the pencil box served as a reminder of the event.

Great table favors, foil stamped with the company logo and a message from the president.

Great table favors, foil stamped with the company logo and a message from the president.

2. A financial firm used  truffles as a table favor at the company’s annual party. A thank-you message from the president of the company was foil stamped on our black and white triangular gift box filled with Cocoa Dusted Truffles. To make the gift even more exciting, one lucky winner opened their box to find that they’d won a grand prize for the night: a new iPad. Maple Ridge Farms can insert more than candy or nuts in a box, and thereby make whatever program you’re trying to create even more personalized.

3. The military market is perfect for prospecting; squadron reunion gifts are a great opportunity. One of our favorite case histories was a photo of an Air Force jet inserted in a Faux Leather Photo Frame Keepsake Box, with the squadron logo imprinted on the inside lid.

4. Our final case study for today is an industry one. A distributor’s daughter was getting married, and asked for some of our chocolate packages for her table favors. She remembered the flavor of our chocolates from invading her father’s self promo stash!

The beautiful couple’s names were be foil stamped on one of our elegant boxes, filled with our delicious chocolates.

These are just a few fun ideas to get you thinking about other applications outside of holiday gifts. Stay tuned for other case histories!

If you would like some ideas on the type of customer that might be most receptive to food gifts, read our past blog articles: Anatomy of Food Gift Customers .

We’d love to hear about any success stories you’ve had selling food gift programs outside the 4th quarter!

7 Ways to Stay in the Know

Knowledge Empowers You Acronym

We try to make it easy for you to keep up.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”  – Benjamin Franklin

It takes time and effort to stay educated about all the new products, promotions, and selling tips. With a variety of lines, you have to be on top of a lot of information. Food gifts are an easy sell, but differ in a few key ways from other promotional products.  We try to make it easy for you to keep up!

  • Webinars – Every July we start a webinar season where we put together our best tips, sales strategies and techniques to sell food gifts. Included in our line up are seminars on “6 Surefire Tips for Writing More Food Business” and “Food Fight! How to compete with direct sellers like Harry and David, Hickory Farms, and Mrs. Fields.” Missed a webinar? No worries, we have recorded versions to watch, or listen to when you have a spare 20 minutes.
  • Emails – We are often told we are the king of marketing emails. If you aren’t receiving our special offers you can sign up for them on our website, or simply shoot us an email at ecustomerservice@mapleridge.com.
  • Maple Ridge Blog – Since you’re reading this, I know you are familiar with our blog! If you aren’t seeing the information that you want, contact us and pose a question. We are always looking for topics to write about!
  • Social sites – Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and commonsku. They’re great places to keep up with new product releases, specials, how to’s, and case histories, as well as a great place to ask a questions.
  • Videos – We have a growing line of videos, some designed for you to share with your clients, others with a distributor- targeted message. Check them out at our Vimeo or YouTube channels.
  • Our friendly, helpful staff – We’d love to chat with you, so pick up the phone, or hit that keyboard and contact us. Our inside sales staff will work with you to find the best methods, products, and packages to meet your needs and the needs of your client.
  • Website – We have a distributor only section of our website that serves as a place to download or view most of our flyers, videos, and educational materials. If you don’t know the password to this protected section – contact us and we will get you in the know!

Celebrate the Magic in Everyday Moments

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

-Dr. Seuss

Our lives are filled with millions of seemingly mundane moments, everyday occurrences that we won’t remember tomorrow. We get through each day while looking forward to the big moments: family vacations, friends’ weddings, the arrival of children and grandchildren, promotions, retirements and so on. These milestone celebrations are indeed fabulous, but then we turn back to our normal, everyday lives.

What if we celebrated the magic in those everyday moments?

From nontraditional holidays to important dates for you or your customers, you can bring more joy and happiness to every day with a little foresight and creativity.

May

  • Throw a BBQ (or cookout) for National Barbeque (or Hamburger) Month.
  • Recognize nurses, police officers or emergency medical services personnel during their weekly celebrations this month.
  • Give employees “a penny for their thoughts” on Lucky Penny Day (5/23) to encourage feedback and open communication.

June

  • Host a Start of Summer Blowout for clients and prospects! It’s a subtle reminder that business doesn’t go on vacation and a lot of fun at the same time.
  • Invite your employees to bring their furry friends to the office on Take Your Dog to Work Day (6/24).
  • Partner with a local farmer’s market or bring in a healthy spread to celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month.

July

  • Throw an old-fashioned Ice Cream Social (with all of the toppings) to recognize your employees’ hard work. It is National Ice Cream Month after all!
  • Hold walking meetings or encourage all employees to take a stroll on Take Your Pants for a Walk Day (6/27).
  • Reward employees and/or say thank you to clients on National Milk Chocolate Day. (We have some ideas…)BTB143_NoBkgd-DS

August

  • Throw a picnic to celebrate National Watermelon Day (8/03). Your staff will enjoy getting out of the office on a beautiful summer day.
  • Hold your own Opening Ceremonies or Olympic-style competition to celebrate the Summer Olympics (8/05-8/21) in Rio!
  • Toast marshmallows over a campfire (or get creative) to celebrate National Marshmallow Toasting Day (8/30).

September

  • Recognize your employees in honor of Labor Day. Plan festivities, recognition and events during an Employee Appreciation Week.
  • Looking for fresh ideas? Hold an Ideas Swap on Swap Ideas Day (9/10).
  • Hold a festival to celebrate the arrival of Autumn! Encourage departments to set up booths to showcase what they do in a fun way.

October

  • Smile! The first Friday of the month is World Smile Day, a day to perform acts of kindness and make others smile.
  • Go nutty on National Nut Day (10/22)! Celebrate with a nut tasting party or ask employees to bring in their favorite nut-inspired dishes.
  • How can you not love Halloween? Encourage employees to dress up (individually or as departments) and to add a little flair to their work areas. Don’t forget the tasty treats!K102_NoBkgd-DS

November

  • Celebrate democracy by encouraging employees to vote – at the national polls and at your own election. Casual day vs. catered lunch? Let your employees decide.
  • Help employees quit smoking on Great American Smokeout Day, the third Thursday of November. Offer resources and ask former smokers to share their secrets to success.
  • Surprise your staff with scrumptious French toast on French Toast Day (11/28)! Offer all the toppings and encourage employees to dine together.

December

  • Get employees in the holiday spirit with delicious brownies on National Brownie Day (12/08)! Wash them down with a cold glass of milk.
  • Have fun on the shortest day of the year! Enjoy hot cocoa and share your favorite winter activities on the Winter Solstice (12/21).
  • Count down to the New Year with your favorite moments of 2016! Have an early New Year’s party to celebrate everything you’ve accomplished this year.

We hope our ideas have made you realize that there’s always a reason to celebrate. Don’t wait for a special moment or milestone; celebrate the magic in everyday moments!

We’ve shared our ideas; now share yours. What everyday moments do you celebrate?

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