Lessons Learned from Downton Abbey: How to Present Your Way to Success

Recently I was catching up on the final season of Downton Abbey when it hit me. One of the reasons I, and millions of others around the world, love this show is the dedication to presentation. Dinner is an event, complete with formal attire, real linens and fine china. When the meal is ready, the family is called into the dining room, where an impressive scene awaits. It’s a far cry from throwing a frozen meal into the microwave, isn’t it?

Presentation is crucial in business too, yet it’s often overlooked. How is your product packaged? How are your giveaways and prizes displayed at a tradeshow, meeting or other event? Paying attention to how you’re presenting yourself to clients, employees and the world can make a big difference.

For example, imagine this scenario: You receive a package from a client during the Holidays. Upon opening it, you find a glossy black box tied with a satin white ribbon. Impressive! Inside the box are three delicious Maple Ridge Farms treats, specifically Double Chocolate, Chocolate Pecan and Chocolate Butterscotch Coconut brownies. While the brownies are as incredible as they sound, what really stands out to you is the presentation involved in this mailing.

Would you have been nearly as impressed if three brownies had been thrown in a padded envelope and smashed en route to you? No (even though you would have still eaten them). You would not have taken a picture, uploaded it to your business’ Facebook page, tweeted about your impressive (and scrumptious) delivery and told numerous people, including potential customers, about it. While you would have been grateful to your client, you wouldn’t have been nearly as impressed.  

So how will presentation help your business?  

  • Catch the attention of your audience
  • Increase the value of your product or service to buyers  
  • Strengthen relationships with customers, prospects & employees
  • Create a positive, lasting image of your company or brand

While presentation does directly affect your bottom line, it doesn’t make up for a bad product, poor service or a dishonest company. However, it will enhance your product or service in the eyes of your audience and help your brand stand out in a sea of competition. Even Lord Grantham, the ill-suited ruler of the Downtown estate, would be happy with that.

How do you present your products or services to enhance their value?

Who’s your favorite Downton Abbey character?

Time to Show You Care: 4 Ways Promotional Products Work for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day is a perfect occasion to show customers and employees how much you care!

Valentine’s Day is a perfect occasion to show customers and employees how much you care!

Time is ticking away in 2016, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. When we think of holidays for which promotional products work we may automatically jump to the fourth-quarter, but Valentine’s Day is also a perfect match!  It’s not a secret that it’s never too late to show your appreciation to your customers and employees – and branded items are much more memorable than dime-store chocolates and trinkets.

Here at Maple Ridge Farms we love any excuse to indulge in gourmet goodies. And since we also love to share, here are 4 ways that promotional products (such as delectable chocolates, nuts, and savory cheese and sausage) work perfectly for Valentine’s Day:

 

Best Tradeshow Giveaways 2016 – Food!

You wouldn’t go fishing without bait, right? So why go to a trade show without offering an incentive to stop at your booth? At a

Don't go to a tradeshow without an incentive to stop at your booth.

Don’t go to a tradeshow without an incentive to stop at your booth.

recent nationwide trade show, PPAI Expo, we had people lined up to sample our English Butter Toffee and Sea Salt Caramels. Chocolate and other treats are sure showstoppers! We know firsthand that food pulls people into a booth. In fact, after a few years of offering samples of our food at trade shows we decided to offer the same experience to our customers and their clients. You won’t have potential customers passing you by, not making eye contact, when you offer them high quality, tasty food items.

We all know that at industry shows and conferences, the booth with the best giveaways sees the most traffic. And the more traffic, the more brand awareness accomplished.  Every time you showcase your business at a trade show, you are investing time and money into your brand.  You are also competing for the time and attention of qualified prospects attending the event.  Make sure that you are giving them a reason to stop by and check you out! Food encourages prospects to stop at your booth, which gives you the chance to talk about your products and services.

Using a high-quality gourmet treat branded with your logo or information is a great way to spark an impression and generate goodwill.

Using a high-quality gourmet treat branded with your logo or information is a great way to spark an impression and generate goodwill.

Using a high-quality gourmet treat branded with your logo or information is a great way to spark an impression and generate goodwill. Trade shows are often day-long (or even multi-day) events. A small treat can be just the pick-me-up they need! Try the Maple Ridge Farms line of Individually Labeled Gourmet Treats! Delicious home-style cookies, rich chocolates, energizing snack mixes and other gourmet treats will draw in the crowds!

As an example, a chain of medical facilities uses these items for goodie bags at trade shows, meetings, and in hospitality suites. Each food treat includes their four color imprint on a round label. Their recipients won’t forget who provided them with that great-tasting fuel to help them through the show!

Don’t limit custom-labeled treats to trade shows and company events – they are great for meetings, blood banks, job fairs and company events, too!

Solutions to Last-Minute Holiday Madness

We have over 40 holiday food gifts that can be shipped in 2 days.

We have over 40 holiday food gifts that can be shipped in 2 days.

It is the hectic holiday season and you want to make the most of the opportunity – fourth quarter holiday food gift business can significantly boost your bottom line. Historically, 20% of holiday food gift orders are placed in December, so there is still a lot of business out there. But what about that procrastinating customer that comes to you at the last minute? This is where we try to be the solution to last minute customer madness!

Our website tools can make it easier for you to quickly find the perfect gift for your customer. We’ve included some timesaver tools, such as search by price – just type in your client’s price range, you’ll see all the gifts in that price category.

Absolutely need an imprinted gift shipped in 2 days? Check out our 2 day gift section. We have over 40 gifts that can be imprinted and out our door in 2 days from receipt of complete order.

We are offering overnight shipping on our Gourmet Gift Certificates.

We are offering overnight shipping on our Gourmet Gift Certificates.

Our sales consultants are happy to discuss the various shipping options available to you. They can provide you with estimated transit times and give you a freight quote on the various shipping methods. Speaking of shipping, let us do the work for you and save you a few precious holiday crunch days. Rather than you or your client, reshipping the gifts we can ship the gifts to the final recipient, and even enclose gift cards. Just provide us with the shipping list and details of the gift cards.

Need a gift out even quicker? This might be the time to show your customer our gift certificate program! We are currently offering free overnight shipping on our Gourmet Gift Certificates. Each recipient can choose from the following:  Spiral Sliced Boneless Ham, Tower of Sweets, or Smoked Turkey Breast.

So the answer to that common question “When is the drop-dead date for my holiday gifts?” “Let’s discuss the options!”

Feeding the Troops: A History of Wartime Food

In celebration of Veterans Day we looked into some food stories that originated from wartime experiences.

Dad dining

Robert MacLaren (far right) dining out with Army friends, San Francisco, 1945

My father, Robert MacLaren, entered the Army as an 18-year-old Army infantry man. Here are some of his most vivid memories of food when stationed in San Francisco towards the end of WWII.

I was a very finicky eater, and never touched vegetables before entering the service. During basic training they would have us hiking 20 miles a day. After those hikes I would eat anything they put in front of me! One food I never could stomach, however, was the canned peas they served. They tasted fuzzy to me.

On my 19th birthday my Mom sent me an orange cake. I put the uneaten portion under my bunk in the barracks. The next day it was covered with ants! So of course I brushed off the ants and ate the rest of it! Best memory of food in the army!

Lawrence Riordan

Lawrence Riordan, United States Air Force – Cadet, 1943

My father in-law, Lawrence Riordan, told how he was desperate to become a pilot in WWII, but didn’t meet the weight requirements. He filled his pockets with some weights for the initial medical checkup. Once accepted and in flight training, they discovered what he had done. Did he get kicked out? No, they gave him unlimited access to the mess hall! His favorite meal was creamed beef on toast, which they all lovingly referred to as Sh*t on a Shingle.

One popular food innovation from WWII was M & M’s. During the Spanish Civil War Forrest Mars, of the Mars candy company, met soldiers eating small chocolate beads covered in a hard sugar shells. Mars jumped on the idea of making chocolate heat-resistant and easy to transport. The chocolate candies were covered with a brown, red, orange, yellow, green or violet coating. Once the United States entered WWII, M&M were only sold to the military for the duration of the war. Perfect for taking out in the field, and they did not leave chocolate residue on the soldiers’ equipment.

On the home front in the 1940s, wartime-food shortages changed meals. New recipes were developed around food readily available on rations. One popular food that was developed due to war time shortages is the Hostess Twinkie. Originally the sponge cake was filled with strawberries, but due to limited seasonal availability, replaced by bananas. Once the war started bananas, an unnecessary import, were strictly rationed. Hostess then filled the sponge cake with vanilla cream filling. People loved it, sales exploded, and the iconic Twinkie was born.

An industry veteran, Don Edwards, was with the military police in the Korean War securing railroads that transported troops and supplies between Seoul and Busan. He had the night detail and was fed C-Rations. Don said it was surprising how good and creative meals in a can were. He particularly remembers the cold hamburgers! He preferred them over the Korean national food – Kimchi which most of his service mates couldn’t stomach.

My brother-in-law, John, had the opposite reaction during the Vietnam War. They traded their C-Rations with the Koreans for their kimchi. “We really liked the Kimchi – it was something different for us. The meals in the mess halls were pretty good. They put on a great spread over Thanksgiving and Christmas with turkey and all the fixings. You really remembered those meals! Most of our time was spent out in the field, however, and it was C-Rations. We would dive in to the 24 case to get to the Franks and Beans. Those were the best!”

Today’s military food is more nutritionally conscious. The easy-to-transport M&Ms have been replaced by the HOOAH! Bar (commonly called Soldier Fuel.) It is a dairy-based calcium-enriched performance bar created by the United States military. These bars are now available to the everyday consumer as well.  

My nephew, Rob, who was with the Army Rangers, said the Army rations in Iraq and Afghanistan were very delicious, but food from home was always welcome. He said in particular the Iraqi chocolate milk was great, very different from what we get here. At Christmas we sent him 24 Maple Ridge Farms wooden collectors’ boxes imprinted with the army logo, filled with mixed nuts as gifts for his army-mates at Christmastime. They were a big hit!

We would love to hear about any stories you may have about wartime food in the comment section.

 

5 Questions to Shorten Your Fourth Quarter Sales Process

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You can ask five simple questions to help narrow your customer’s gift-giving needs!

It is official – The fourth quarter is well underway, and crunch time for holiday gifts is fast approaching. We have 5 simple questions that will help you and your customers shorten the gift selection process.  Being proactive when sitting down to discuss their upcoming orders can help to get their minds in decision-making mode and streamline the process.

Think about these simple questions, and pose them to your customer to get started:

The Often Asked Question… What is Kosher?

Old testament

This week we take a look at what “Kosher” means to you and your customers.

When customers think of fourth quarter gift-giving, they are often interested in sending gourmet food gifts to those on their shopping list.  Remind them that you are their best source to fulfill this need.  Having a large selection of delectable treats is an important key to your customers choosing you over a big-box or mail-order company.  It’s also beneficial to offer the option of Kosher food items.  But what does Kosher mean?  What makes something Kosher certified?

According to the Orthodox Union, the world leader in Kosher certification, the word Kosher means proper or acceptable.  With the origins in the Bible and detailed in the Talmud, Kosher laws have been applied through the centuries and remain today.

Although the kashrut laws are meticulous and complex, the fundamentals can easily be understood.  According to the Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, food in general can be grouped into three broad categories:

Innocuous:  A number of foods are consistently considered as Kosher.  Foods that are not further processed, such as fruits and vegetables, are generally considered innocuous.

Never Kosher:  Some foods may never be Kosher, as a result of the kashrut laws.  Examples of these foods include pork, catfish, and all shellfish.

Kosher When Supervised:  These are the foods that are of most concern to suppliers and distributors looking to offer Kosher-certified food gift options.  Contrary to common belief, a Rabbi does not “bless” a food to render it Kosher.

Foods may be considered Kosher if all ingredients and processes used meet Kosher definitions and standards.  This includes insuring that all components’ ingredients are Kosher-certified, as well as all processing aids that come into contact with the food.  All equipment used for processing the food must also be Kosher.  The process must be supervised by a reliable Kosher authority for certification.

In addition, all Kosher foods can be grouped into three categories – dairy, meat, or pareve.  Diary products such as milk and cheese must come from Kosher animals.  Only meat from Kosher species of animals are permitted, and then only if they are slaughtered by a specially trained shoshet (a person officially certified to slaughter in a manner prescribed by Jewish law).  Kosher law prohibits the mixing of meat and dairy, both in preparation and consumption.  Pareve, or neutral, foods are those inherently Kosher in their natural state.  These are often the innocuous foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains.  These may be eaten with either dairy or meat products.

The Orthodox Union reports that over 60% percent of America’s produced foods are certified Kosher, and that over $150 billion of Kosher certified products are consumed annually.  What does this mean for promotional food gift options?  Many companies, such as Maple Ridge Farms, offer a variety of gourmet treats that are certified Kosher.

A very popular gift for trucking companies is our 1950’s tractor trailer with Milk Chocolate Almonds and Jumbo Cashews

Our 1950’s tractor trailer is available with Milk Chocolate Almonds and Jumbo Cashews. Both gourmet treats are available Certified Kosher upon request!

At this time, Maple Ridge Farms is happy to offer over 20 different gift components, and over 120 individual gifts, which are available certified Kosher.  If the gift your customer is interest in is available Kosher (as noted in our catalog or on our website), simply be sure to request “Certified Kosher” on your purchase order.  We can even build custom Kosher gifts with minimums starting as low as 24 pieces.  Contact a Gift Specialist for more details.

Recently, we were fortunate to have a representative from the Chicago Rabbinical Council visit our Mosinee headquarters.  Rabbi Dovid Oppenheimer, Rabbinical Coordinator, toured our facility and met with Andy Witt, CFO at Maple Ridge Farms.  Rabbi Oppenheimer left with a better understanding of how our business operates in the promotional products industry and how their Kosher certification can provide a competitive advantage to our distributors.

Keep the lines of communication open and, if you are unsure, simply ask.  Chances are your suppliers are familiar with the certification process and can direct you to items in their line that will fit your customers’ needs.

We have put together an end user safe video featuring our Kosher Gifts. The video does not mention Maple Ridge Farms, so it is perfect for you to send to your clients to let them know that you are their best source for kosher gifts.  Check it out at:  Kosher Gifts.

The One-Two Punch: How to Compete with Big-Box Companies and Direct Sellers for Holiday Sales

The winner

Education and salesmanship will help secure more 4th quarter food gift sales!

The fourth quarter is quickly approaching, and chances are your clients are already starting to think about their year-end holiday gifts. Approximately, 50% of all businesses purchase food gifts for the holidays. Unfortunately, the promotional products industry gets less than 10% percent of the business food gift purchases for two reasons: First, most business gift buyers are unaware that they can purchase their food gift programs from their promotional products distributor. Secondly, most distributors do not present food gifts to their customers for the holidays.

Cool Drink on a Hot Day – Adding Value

sweat

When I need a new air conditioning unit, what do I get in value from my vendor?

Our air conditioning unit went out during the most humid week of the summer…a steamy 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with 100% humidity.

Our Heating and Cooling team has been there for us for almost 10 years, and any hour of the night I call, he comes. He gets the job done! We called, he came. This time, he assessed the problem, and handed me the estimate. I asked my typical list of 20 questions and asked for images of systems and graphs to show me the data and he answered the questions with pretty much the same answer for each question. He knows us and what it usually takes to make the sale. But this time there was shift in my needs and unfortunately he was not meeting them.

We conversed and he shared that he understood, I would receive estimates from two other places that I discussed with him and he closed with this: “You will not get a better price than what I am offering you.” I have extreme loyalty to our H&C guy, but this response really neglected to fill my need as a consumer.

Time to check out other H&C vendors!

Reach Out and Touch Someone: Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Email Campaigns

EmailEmail campaigns are an integral part of your marketing plan; almost everyone has email, and the cost is significantly cheaper than a physical mailing.  There are now many options for email marketing service companies which make it easy for you to design and send emails to a large list of recipients, including Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Campaigner.  Just using these companies isn’t the answer, though; you need to know how best to utilize them for the greatest return on your investment.

DO: Determine Your Message
What are you hoping to accomplish with your email?  Is it advertising a special or service?  Is it informational or intended to be acted upon by the recipient?  Decide what you want your message to be and convey it clearly and consistently throughout the email.

DON’T: Use Misleading or Unrelated Subject Lines
Your subject line is the first impression that your recipient has of your email.  It’s what entices them to open it, with the expectation that the contents will match what piqued their interest.  If the body of the email is unrelated to the subject line, you’re not only encouraging the reader to delete your message, but you’re also damaging their trust in you, which means they’ll open fewer of your emails or unsubscribe entirely from your list.

DO: Keep It Concise
You don’t need to keep your message stiff and formal; writing conversationally (but still professionally) humanizes your message and attracts more interest.  This is not to say, however, that you should ramble.  Get your point across in a short, easily-digested message to keep your recipients’ interest.  Readers are skimmers by habit; large blocks of text are less likely to be read, which defeats the purpose of your email.

DON’T: Assume Email Is One-Size-Fits-All
Some emails are great to blast to all of your subscribers, but you’re missing opportunities if you don’t curate your list and send targeted emails to specific recipients.  Perhaps you’d like to advertise a new offer to subscribers who have partaken of a specific promotion in the past.  Perhaps you’d like to follow up with subscribers with inactive or low-yield accounts.  Research your recipients’ needs and target them specifically as much as possible.

DO: Use Urgency
If your subject line conveys a deadline for the contents of the email, a recipient is more likely to open it immediately, instead of leaving it to languish in their inbox and ultimately be deleted.  Including something along the lines of “Limited Time Offer—Act Today” stresses the immediate applicability of your email and encourages timely opening.

DON’T: Use Spam Words
Spam filters are ever-evolving, and email subject lines that contain popular spam keywords are sure to disappear into your recipients’ spam folder, never to be read.  Familiarize yourself with these keywords and avoid them to make sure that your emails actually reach your recipients.  (HubSpot has a great list of keywords to avoid.)

DO: Time Your Blasts Carefully
If your email goes out over the weekend, it’s going to be lost in the flood of emails your average recipient receives Monday morning.  Friday is also not an ideal day for blasts, as the looming weekend means that most recipients will not be focused on your message—if they’re there to read it at all.  Instead, schedule your blasts for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, mid-morning to mid-afternoon.  They’re more likely to reach a larger, more responsive audience.  If you’re not sure when works best for your particular mailing list, test it: vary the days and times to determine which generates the best response.

DON’T: Forget to Include a Call to Action
Something as simple as social share buttons or a request to forward the email to other interested parties can go a long way to build your customer base.  They create opportunities for correspondence and interaction, and help you reach well beyond your subscriber list.

DO: Use Your Suppliers’ Tools
When you receive an email blast from your suppliers, check to see if they offer an end user-safe version of it.  Maple Ridge Farms includes links to these versions for all of their end user-applicable email blasts.  Check with your other suppliers, too, to see what tools they offer for you to use.

Email campaigns are a great way to inexpensively reach a large number of clients, and, managed carefully, can only help your business!

What do you find is the most effective method of engaging your email recipients?  Let us know in the comments!

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