Anatomy of Food Gift Customers

Sales of MRF products by industry Pie ChartFood gifts can be a tricky sale for a simple reason: a large number of clients don’t realize that they can get their food gifts from you as a promotional products distributor.  Instead, they buy direct from mail-order and internet companies, or big box stores.  Food gifts are a multi-billion dollar annual business, but only a fraction of that goes through the promotional products industry.  Often, it’s up to you to educate clients on the availability of food gifts, but where do you start?  Whether you’re working with existing or new clients, there are some industries we’ve found through years of analysis of Maple Ridge Farms orders to be more apt to purchase food gifts.

Consistently, financial services are the top purchasers of food gifts, with approximately 28% of sales.  Of these, banks take the top spot with 15% of sales.  Don’t limit yourself to banks, though!  Frequent buyers also include credit unions, investment funds, financial planners, brokers, and title companies.  There are countless opportunities for these clients to utilize food gifts—they’re not just for holidays!  We frequently hear of these clients using food gifts for a closing gift, as an appreciation gift (whether for years of services, continued business during inconvenient circumstances, or a new account), or a gift in gratitude for referrals.

Healthcare services are also a top performer, at around 11% of sales. This covers everything from hospitals to medical equipment providers, from dental services to insurance companies—and more!  Many healthcare providers are subject to federal regulations regarding the acceptance of gifts, but food gifts—especially if they’re to be shared in a department—are generally an exception, making them a great option for those tricky situations.  There are also many special days of appreciation and awareness that provide opportunities to present food gifts, including Doctor’s Day, Health Day, Nurse’s Week, and Chiropractic Health Month.

Trade contractors such as construction, electrical, or plumbing companies account for another 8%.  Referral gifts are great for these companies, but we also find that gifts for new home owners on the first day in their new house are a popular option.  Best of all, these can be sent as-needed by Maple Ridge Farms—contact a Gift Specialist about our release programs for more information.

Freight and transportation companies come in at 8% of food gift sales, and oil-related companies at 6%.  Our line of collectible wooden vehicles is extremely popular with these companies, whether as holiday, referral, or thank-you gifts.  We add new vehicles every year, so be certain to check our website or keep an eye out for our 2015 catalog around the beginning of July for new options!

Manufacturers come in at 7% of sales.  We’ve found that incentive gifts are particularly popular with these clients, such as a reward for meeting a quota.  Food gifts are also great as room gifts for tradeshow attendees, and as gifts for employees at sales meetings or company parties.  Don’t forget our line of custom-labeled individually wrapped items for tradeshow hand-outs, too!

Finally, property management companies account for 4% of sales.  These offer many opportunities for a variety of orders, particularly resident gifts.  Generally, property management companies have multiple buildings with many clients at each, whether residential or commercial.  In addition to holiday gifts, food gifts make great welcome gifts for new tenants.

This isn’t to say that food gifts can’t be sold to other industries, of course—there is still a hefty chunk of sales in other industries that don’t factor into these.  We’ve simply found that these historically are the most frequent buyers, so try these companies if you’re looking for somewhere to start selling food gifts!

Have you found that a particular industry or company type buys more food gifts through you?  Let us know in the comments!

Sense and Sensibility – Using All 5 Senses to Promote Your Brand

Using all 5 senses in your marketing strategies helps your customers to truly connect with the product and ensure longer lasting brand recognition.

According to Merriam-Webster, sense is defined as “one of the five natural powers (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) through which you receive information about the world around you.” And sensibility as “the kinds of feelings that you have when you hear, see, read, or think about something”.

The use of promotional products in conjunction with standard multi-media is the only way to evoke all five of those powerful senses, and extend the upper-hand to your customers. Consumers can see and hear ordinary advertising. But can they feel them? Smell them? Taste them? Promotional products can help do just that. Here are five ways to appeal to consumers that simply are not achievable with other advertising strategies:

The Make It Happen Industry

BrainstormingAt Maple Ridge Farms, we have a saying: We are the Make It Happen team.  It’s not just us, though—the promotional products industry is all about making things happen!  Whether it’s help with an unconventional request or keeping abreast of industry concerns, there are several resources out there to help you do just that.

Fun Facts from the Farm! – Maple Ridge by the Numbers!

BytheNumbers

Check out the 2014 Year in Review!

2014 was an eventful and exciting year.  And we have you to thank for it…  our wonderful distributors, your customers, and our devoted staff.  Together we tackled the craziness of another season, and together we were able to bring a bounty of delicious gourmet food gifts to recipients across the country.

Now it’s time to look back and reflect on the trends in product and services from the previous season, and we love to share the news.  So, what’s in a number?  Let’s take a look… 

Interview with Tom Riordan from Maple Ridge Farms

This blog article was originally posted on the commonsku blog on December 17, 2014, and written by Jen Vaughn of commonsku.

 

The future is bright as long as we continue to bring value to our customers.

What is your role at Maple Ridge Farms?

I am the owner and its President.

When did you know that you wanted to go into the promotional products industry and what was the path you took to get here?

That’s an interesting story.

We started as a local, direct sales company. In an attempt to develop national distribution, we tried commissioned reps (that failed) and direct mail (we were fairly successful but not sophisticated enough to understand that we were successful).

Our banker introduced us to his brother in law, Bob Leklem, who worked for K-Promotions, a large distributor from Milwaukee. Bob told us about the “ad specialty” marketplace. Since we were branding company logos on our cheese boxes, it sounded like a good fit.

He introduced us to a multi-line rep from Chicago, Paul Rizzo, who brought us into the industry in 1982. So it was not a matter of wanting to get into the promotional products industry, it was more or less a case of backing into it.

What do you see as the future of the industry?

I think the future is bright as long as we continue to bring value to our customers.

What are some of the challenges that you have communicating with distributors and how do you think we as an industry can overcome them?

For many years, most of our communication with distributors was via telephone. That allowed for lots of things to get lost in translation. The fax machine, and to a much greater degree email, allows for more written communication. I’m a big believer in clear, succinct, written communication. Less things get lost in translation.

What does it take to bring a new product to market and how does Maple Ridge approach new products and categories?

New products are frequently driven by distributor requests. Custom products, items not found in the product line, represent about 25% of our business.

Many times, a custom item we create for a distributor ends up in our product line. An example of that is our tremendously successful line of gift towers made from pillow top gift boxes. An end buyer “demanded” that we build their towers out of pillow top gift boxes. We told the distributor why we did not think it would work. The buyer wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. We used the pillow top boxes for their order and, with the distributor’s o.k., added the pillow top towers to our product line.

Today they’re the most popular tower design we offer.
How do you know when it’s time to introduce a new category or eliminate a category?

By watching trends in retail, we can see when it’s time to introduce a new category.

For example, a few years ago, we noticed more and more mail-order companies offering fresh-baked cookies. We added cookies in 2007, and since that time have sold over 10 million cookies!

When it comes to eliminating products or categories, that’s relatively easy. We just watch the sales trends of a product or category. When you see sales of an item or category going down, not just in one year, but for a few years, it’s time to jump ship and move on to something else.

You are the largest company in America specializing in corporate food gift programs, what do you think has been most important to your company in growing and maintaining that top spot?

Three things:

  • Innovation
  • Service
  • Marketing tools

Continuing to come up with new food products and new packaging is always important. Providing our customers with excellent customer service is a given. And, developing tools to help distributors market food gift programs to their customers is very important too.

What is the best management decision that you’ve ever made?

This isn’t exactly a management decision but a management idea. In 1979 was selling wooden boxes to the cheese industry for gift packaging. I would imprint the cheese company’s logo on the lid of the wooden box. One night, while I was imprinting box lids for a large, national cheese company, I had an idea. If I put a local company’s logo on the lid of the box and filled it with cheese, I’d have a great executive gift. As they say, the rest is history!

What is the worst management decision that you’ve ever made?

Building a new 85,000 square foot facility just before the “Great Recession.”

What would you do differently if you had the opportunity to start again fresh?

I am not sure.

About commonsku:  commonsku is complete promotional products business and sales software. It has all of the software tools you need to run a modern promotional products business. commonsku is unique to the industry as it is the only community where suppliers and distributors gather to help each other close more business. Learn more at www.commonsku.com.

2014: A Year in Review

2014-in-Review2014 was a great year for innovations and new opportunities here at Maple Ridge Farms.  We introduced handy new marketing tools and expanded our product line, all while maintaining the same great service you’ve come to expect from us.  Here are a couple of things you may have missed:

Is there still time?

Clock-Closeup

Is there still time to place your holiday order? We say “Yes!”

This time of the season gets hectic for everyone, customers, distributors, and suppliers alike, and as part of the Promotional Products industry, we all get asked these questions every day:  “Is there still time to place an order?” and “What’s my cut-off for holiday shipping?”

The answers are simple:  “Yes!” and “There isn’t one!” respectively.  And here are a few reasons why those are our answers here at Maple Ridge Farms: 

3 Buying Trends for Holiday Business Gift Giving

Last minute ordering

If you have seen a trend towards later ordering of holiday gifts with your clients, you are not alone. Our experience shows that people are choosing to place holiday orders later every year. In 1999 50% of our holiday gift orders were placed after Nov. 8. In 2013 the half way cut off was November 15. How can you partner with suppliers to secure these late season orders?

Product Safety Awareness in the Promotional Products Industry

We all want to do business with ethically, socially, and environmentally responsible companies. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is good business! Doing business with responsible companies leads to higher standards in safety, quality and integrity of products, ensuring satisfied customers and employees.

Save a Step: Why Individually Shipping your Holiday Gifts Can Ease Your Holiday Stress

Holiday

With the holiday gift giving season fast approaching, individually shipping gifts directly to the recipients saves time and stress!

With the hectic schedule that most of us endure during the holiday rush, many people do not have the opportunity to take the time to hand-deliver gifts to their customers, employees, and other business associates – although they wish they could!  Have you ever come into the holiday rush season and realized that your conference room is bursting at the seams with gifts that need to be delivered or shipped?  Do your customers depend upon you to ship their gifts to their clients?

Take a moment and check in with your supplier!  Some, like the team here at Maple Ridge Farms, offer to individually ship gifts directly to the recipients, saving both you and your customer time and money.  If you haven’t taken advantage of this service from Maple Ridge Farms, here are a few reasons to give it some thought…

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