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


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!

Gourmet Food Gifts: 4 Ways to Drive Repeat Sales

Welcome your customers back time and time again by providing opportunities for repeat projects.

Welcome your customers back time and time again by providing opportunities for repeat projects.

During our last blog post, we discussed 5 Easy Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty and keep them coming back. Well, there is a second side to the “Repeat Customer” coin! By educating your customers on various order programs and situations offering gourmet food gifts, you are helping them meet their marketing and promotion needs while creating a situation where you can look forward to continuous orders! Let’s take a look at a few ways to make that happen.


Keep Them Coming Back! 5 Easy Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty

Increasing customer trust and loyalty will keep them coming back for more!

Increasing customer trust leads to loyalty and keeps them coming back for more!

When living into today’s age of technology, consumers have access to product information available 24/7. Whether it’s product selection and availability, pricing, customer reviews, or more, the internet has made it imperative to establish your place in the market. Customers are less likely to utilize your business if you haven’t earned their trust. And once you have earned it, it’s just as important to retain it. Once trust has been broken, it can be near impossible to repair it.

From the moment a customer is aware of your brand, you want them to think of you as reliable and dependable. Here are a few key ways to establish and maintain customer trust and loyalty: 

Finding a Needle in a Haystack: Why You Should Consider Setting Up a Holiday Store

HeadacheIn the past, we’ve covered the basics of Company Store programs. Many times, however, what works year-round just doesn’t work for holidays; popular holiday items get lost in the crowd, which means fewer orders for you. What can you do to drive those holiday-shoppers to the recommended items?

Set up a holiday store!


Hot Out of the Gate: New Products for 2015

It’s that time of year again: a time for barbecuing, beach trips, and picnics, but also for Maple Ridge Farms’ new products! We’ve expanded almost every aspect of our line, from smaller, more economical gifts to towers and tubs—and everything in between. There’s something different for everyone this year, and we’re excited to show our gifts off.

Our small gifts are always popular, and this year we’ve added a couple of new options. We’ve still got our popular Premium Delights (the ivory version of which is now also available with a four-color label) and Classic Treats boxes, but added Gable Top Gift Boxes (available with a gold or silver top and imprint) and Black & White Triangular Gift Boxes. Both of these are filled with a wide selection of our gourmet chocolate and nuts, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

At a slightly-higher price point is You’ve Got Mail! These stylish envelope-style gift boxes are available in a classic navy and white pattern with white imprint—sure to generate rave reviews for the unique packaging wrapped around the delicious treats.

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We’ve also revamped our red and navy Magnetic Boxes. They’re now offered with a gold or silver ribbon (to match the imprint) wrapped corner to corner for a fresh look. These are available in both our rectangular and larger square box sizes, with a wide array of deliciousness contained in each.

Our desk accessories line offers a classy, elegant look to enhance any desk. This year, we’ve added a three-compartment Faux Leather Desk Organizer, perfect for holding that errata that always seems to end up everywhere. It’s available with the imprint foil-stamped in white or debossed on the front of the organizer to create a lasting reminder.

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This is a big year for towers, too! In the past, we’ve offered decorative towers for a unique flair when entertaining, and this year we’ve revived the line with our Majestic Nutcracker Tower. He’s over a foot of charm and an excellent centerpiece once the treats inside have been enjoyed. We’ve also added lovely Silver & Navy boxes with a different look for our standard towers, to provide even more options vis à vis our traditional patterns.

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There is, of course, plenty more to discover! Our 2015 catalogs are mailing soon, so keep an eye out for yours. (If you’re not on our mailing list or would like extras, just contact a Maple Ridge Farms Sales Consultant.) Don’t forget: you can also view all of our new products in the New Products section at

Which new products are you most excited about?  Let us know in the comments!

6 Food Trends for 2015 and What Makes a Good Business Food Gift

candybubbleSpring is a fun time for foodies. Major food shows are held such as the Sweets & Snacks Expo, National Restaurant Association Conference, and the Fancy Food Show. After all these shows, there are always new food trends that emerge, and this year’s food buzz has not disappointed us!

Here are some of the reported trends in the Food Industry:

Artisan Donuts are hot in the influential California food culture, and heating up in Chicago and New York City. These are not your basic glazed versus powered or jelly filled, these donuts include Apricot and Sour Cream, Country Ham and Eggs, Vegan Pistachio with Raspberry Hibiscus, and Cointreau Crème Brulee.

The hottest new flavors to hit the foodie scene include those that draw inspiration from breakfast staples, exotic fruits and nostalgic treats. Some of the top flavors to inspire new confections are maple syrup, bacon, blueberry muffins, Meyer lemon, blood orange, S’mores and birthday cake.

Tea is timely! Especially artisanal loose teas and flavored ice teas. In addition to new flavors (cinnamon toast, for example) there are new innovations in caffeine levels, such as tea with higher caffeine levels than coffee.

Snacks are hot, and leading the pack are customized, or some assembly required. Lots of new offerings where you have to make a portion of it yourself, whether this is dipping it, spreading it, or decorating it.

Olive oil has been in the limelight at food shows for quite some time. What is changing is how sophisticated it is becoming. Olive oil has slight varieties in flavors, how it is pressed and processed, and regional variations. Bay Area Biztalk says, “Olive oil is almost as complex as wine.”

Chocolate is as popular as ever. The demand is up and the recent crop of cocoa was excellent. Some new flavors reported include Kaitaia Fire Chili Pepper Spice, Strawberry Waffle, and Butter Toasted.

While we celebrate all things food, we recognize that there are some basic requirements of a successful business food gift. Trends come and go but the basic tenets of a good business food gift remain the same.

Maple Ridge Farms has plenty of delicious Milk Chocolate treats to choose from!

Quality, familiarity, and great reputation trumps the newest food trend every time!

Familiarity. If a company or individual is giving a gift to a large group of people, they want to give something with which they are familiar. There is the fear of not knowing how a particular taste or product is received. They want to make sure that the gift they are giving is a familiar food, something that they can be sure people will like. You can’t survey in advance what your recipients like, so it is best to go with something tried and true.

Reputation. English toffee, pecan turtles, and chocolate truffles all have a great reputation and everyone knows what they are. A business can be confident in how well these foods will be received.

Quality. Of course, we, at Maple Ridge Farms make sure our food gifts are of the highest quality, whether it’s the richness of our handmade chocolates, the crunchy freshness of our roasted nuts, or the exceptional flavor of our smoked meats. We’ve built our reputation on high standards of excellence. All our gifts are packaged fresh to order!

A trend might be just that a trend not, necessarily a best seller. Take the bacon craze. It was a big media hype, but has not become mainline, something the average person has tried. Quality, familiarity, and great reputation trumps the newest craze every time!

What are your favorite new food trends?

Effective Supplier-Distributor Teamwork

Trust and teamwork are imperative for the promotional products business model to function well.

Trust and teamwork are imperative for the promotional products business model to function well.

The promotional products industries business model is unusual. Just ask any outside B2B professional. Yet we know it works, and under most circumstances works well. Trust and teamwork are imperative for the promotional products business model to function well.

The topic of trust is currently debated on social media. Trust that the supplier and distributor are upholding the promotional products structure of exclusivity. The distributor-supplier relationship must involve trust to get to the strength of our industry: teamwork. I am not talking about internal company teamwork. We could not function during our insanely busy 4th quarter without a well-nurtured and honed team. Teamwork must also exist on the supplier-distributor level, and even the supplier-distributor-end-user level.

Keeping communication channels open is key in the supplier distributor team. Communication must be flexible and quick to respond and always open to possibilities. Details of a project must be well communicated within the team to keep it processing. The end-user might not be aware of what product and services are available. It can take some digging to determine what fits their time-line and price point needs.

When there is trust, the supplier-distributor-end user team is a valid approach. Our sales team partners with distributors to call on their clients with larger accounts and programs. The distributor takes the team lead position, with the factory present to supply inside information insuring  the end user of a smooth, well crafted program. This occurs via conference calls, office visits and end user shows.

There are also the smaller instances of teamwork. Here are some examples of what we can supply to our distributor team for their marketing and sales efforts:

    • education on how to sell food,
    • statistics on the most likely buyers of food gift programs
    • personalized websites, photography and graphic images
    • end-user formatted social media posts and eblasts
    • self promo programs
    • virtual, tasting and spec samples
    • turnkey end-user sample programs
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Our promise to you is to embrace the supplier distributor relationship as a true team approach.

Finally, we must recognize our important team members ‚ the multi-line reps who are often the front line of our sales team. They are often the first impression a distributor gets of our company.  They act as a good sounding board bringing back ideas to us from our distributor friends.

Our promise to you is to embrace the supplier distributor relationship as a true team approach. When invited in to the distributor end-user team, we will function as a team member to bring you success. We can’t do it without you!

Asking your Client the Question

The caveman carrying the wheels totally recognizes the opportunity for his product to be used, yet he is failing to engage in a relationship that would allow the wheels to be sold/given to the people that would greatly benefit from it.

There are times in life where we stop, listen and hear that there is the opportunity to ask a question.  However, if we are not taking the time to listen and watch, would we even know what question to ask?

The cavemen (to the right) are busy doing what they always do.  Their technique works for them, as it always has. In fact, in all honesty, they do not know anything different.  So they continue and completely pass up an opportunity of a lifetime:  The person with the product to change their world (literally)!

You see, the caveman carrying the wheels totally recognizes the opportunity for his product to be used, yet he is failing to engage in a relationship that would allow the wheels to be sold or given to the people that would greatly benefit from it.  While there are many unspoken needs going on here, it is our job to engage and extract that information from our customers.  In order for us to do this, we need to stop and ask those critical questions – questions that force us to stop, look, listen and take action.


Watch for your cue, listen for the unknown obstacles your client needs to overcome, craft the question and ask it.

This got me thinking about one of my favorite movies:  Say Anything (1989)!  Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack-the optimist), was determined to spend some time with the intelligent and gorgeous Diane Court (the Valedictorian).  When Lloyd arrived at a party with Diane as his date, a friend asked him, “Lloyd, how did you get Diane Court to go out with you?”  His iconic response was, “I called her up”.  Any objection that Diane presented to Lloyd, he was able to help her overcome it, until she realized that she needed what he had to offer.  (He is an amazing relationship builder, because of this quality!)


Case Study

Prior to making an outbound call, I did a little Google-stalk and studied up on my customer’s website and did some Social Media listening.  I proceeded to make the call and when we got to talking, I kept hearing her say “this one client who buys food”.  As we continued conversing, I reminded her that many of her clients are in the financial industry (one of the biggest buyers of food gifts).  By working with her, asking questions and listening, I was able to say…You know, I continue to hear you say “this is your only food client”; however, your customers are buying food…they are just not buying it from you.  She laughed and understood that I listened and was there to help assist her in capturing the SWAG business, from the big-box retailers and increase her sales at the same time.

Watch for your cue, listen for the unknown obstacles your client may not know they need to overcome, craft the question and ask it.

Remember how powerful those well-crafted questions are!  Go ahead, connect today and ask the critical questions that help your customers recognize the need for your services, product, relationship and expertise.



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