Don’t Count Out the Catalog!

MagazinesA powerful tool in your selling arsenal is catalogs.  According to the Direct Marketing Association, roughly 12.5 billion catalogs are printed and mailed each year in the retail sector.  They are an integral part of any marketing campaign—not just for direct-sellers, but also for promotional products!

Don Edwards, a veteran distributor with 50 years of experience in the promotional products industry and $75,000 in food gift sales annually, practices the “three-foot rule”: when he is within three feet of a client, he provides them with a Maple Ridge Farms catalog.  This doesn’t apply only to food gifts, of course—if you feel that a particular supplier or type or product would suit your client well, be sure to get that catalog into their hands.

Here’s why it’s to your advantage to include catalogs in your marketing plan:

Webinars to Help You Sell Food Gift Programs

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These free webinars are a great way to learn new strategies for selling food gift programs.

Maple Ridge Farms is once again offering webinars to help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season.  These free webinars are a great way to learn new strategies for selling food gifts for the holidays! All webinars are offered live at 11:00 CDT. In short 30 minute sessions you will learn a wealth of information on how to profit from the estimated five billion dollar food gift industry. If you can’t attend, you can always catch an “on demand” version at your convenience .     

Changes in the Pipeline from UPS

UPS charges will now be based on the larger of either the dimensional weight or the actual weight.

UPS has announced a change in the way they are billing Ground, as well as Standard to Canada. Effective December 29, 2014: all packages will be charged based on the larger of either the dimensional weight or the actual weight. Dimensional weight enables them to more appropriately align rates with costs, which are influenced by both the size and weight of packages.

Marketing Tools at Your Finger Tips

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Website marketing tools help you easily convey information about Maple Ridge Farms gifts to your clients.

Have you had a chance to visit the newly upgraded Maple Ridge Farms website? In addition to exciting new products we have added some marketing tools to help you easily convey information about Maple Ridge Farms gifts to your clients. On each product page is an action box where you have the option to share to social networking sites, email, print, check out art requirements, and instantaneously create a virtual sample. Here’s how easy it is!

The New Stars of 2014: Spotlight on New Products

2014 Catalog CoverEvery year, we take a look at our line and ask ourselves: what could we do to make this even better?  We look at feedback from distributors and their clients, massing together the information from sales, phone calls, emails and tradeshow conversations.  We take a look at what’s out there, and strive for unique new gifts to provide a wide range of options to our customers.

This year, we’ve heard the overwhelming request and brought in many new, unique packaging options!

National Dairy Month

June is National Dairy Month.

June is National Dairy Month.

Americans love cheese!  In 1970, the average American consumed 8 pounds of cheese annually.  That number has nearly tripled as the average person now consumes 23 pounds of cheese every year.

Many of our favorite foods have something in common… cheese!  What makes a hamburger taste better?  Cheese!  What tastes better than french fries?  Cheese fries do!  What do you call a pizza without cheese?  Well, it’s still a pizza, but we don’t think it would taste quite as good.

Good Orders Gone Bad: Conflict Resolution and You

Although we all do our best to make sure that every order goes smoothly, there are inevitably hiccups.  Perhaps it’s a miscommunication about an in-hands date that results in product arriving too late for an event.  Perhaps it’s a quality control concern.  Perhaps it’s damage caused in transit.  There are countless ways something can go wrong despite everyone’s best efforts, and how you handle those situations can make or break your relationships—not only with that client, but with other current and future clients.

No one likes to deal with conflict, but there are a few things to keep in mind that may help make the resolution swifter and more satisfying:

How to Multichannel Market

Maple Ridge Farms offers customized printed materials for distributors with their contact info and logos.

Maple Ridge Farms offers customized printed materials for distributors with their contact info and logos.

It is important to reach out to people, in many different ways, to stay top of mind. Perhaps your customers spend a lot of time on social media sites. Maybe they meticulously open and inspect all email. Some people love the daily ritual of visiting the postal mail box. Many shop exclusively on the internet, others love to sit down with a cup of coffee and peruse a catalog. You get the picture! The key is to reach your customers where they are, and as often as possible.

The Business of Being Green

Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day.

Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day.

Yesterday was Earth Day—a good day to reflect about what happens to our planet which doubles as a lasting reminder to be aware of how the judgment we use every day impacts the environment. Prompted by then- Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970. After touring the oil spill devastation on the coast of Santa Barbara, Nelson drew on the idea of the popular teach-ins held on school campuses and aimed to coordinate environmental events organized at three colleges and extend them beyond the local university grounds. Earth Day has remained an important annual way to raise attentiveness to environmental issues at the local, state, and national level. Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day.

Many companies are striving to become greener, in turn encouraging their customers and employees to do the same. As individuals, many of us choose to utilize companies that are aware of their environmental footprint and act accordingly. Many promotional products suppliers are getting into the action by offering a larger selection of products that are considered green. Products created using recycled, reusable, or sustainable material are readily available throughout the industry. In addition, suppliers provide products such as reusable water bottles and tote bags to help reduce waste and energy.

At Maple Ridge Farms, we strive to do our part to help maintain the environment.

All of our wood products are made from sustainable timber, and our chocolates are Rainforest Alliance certified.

All of our wood products are made from sustainable timber, and our chocolates are Rainforest Alliance certified.

Reduce… We design our gifts to be as earth-friendly as possible. On average, less than 3% of any gift needs to be sent to a landfill.

Reuse… The majority of our gifts include keepsakes such as reusable boxes, cutting boards or desk accessories that will be used for years to come.

Recycle… We strive to use recyclable packaging wherever possible. In addition, we recycle over 50 tons of paper and corrugated annually!

Sustainable… No rainforests have been damaged to create our gifts. All of our wood products are made from sustainable timber.

Saving the Rainforests… Our chocolates can help save the rainforests! Cocoa, the principle ingredient of chocolate, needs the shaded canopy of the rainforest to grow. Nearly all of the chocolate used in our gifts is Rainforest Alliance certified, which ensures that the farms have met the environmental, social, and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network. The more chocolate we consume, the greater the need to preserve the rainforest.

That’s why we like to say…

“Save the rainforests, eat more chocolate!”

Lockdown: How to Keep Your Data Secure

Technology surrounds us.  Not many people these days have fewer than two networked devices they use for business.  In the process of giving ourselves easy access to our professional information, though, we have to be mindful of keeping that information secure.  The Identity Theft Resource Center, which has tracked data breaches since 2005, reports 210 breaches in 2014 alone (through April 2), for a total of 4,809,083 published compromised records.  Whether you’re part of a large company or running your own one-person business, there are a few simple things to bear in mind to help protect your data:

Passwords

The old KISS method does not apply to passwords; long gone are the days when people thought a password of “password” would suffice.  Similarly, you don’t want to use your child’s name, your favorite vacation spot, or the name of your alma mater—if someone can find it on social media and extrapolate your password from it, avoid it.  Passwords don’t have to be completely random, but be sure to mix things up: use lowercase and uppercase letters, substitute numbers for letters (1 for I, 3 for E, etc.), and use allowable symbols (@ for A, $ for S, etc.).  Just make sure it’s something you can remember, as you shouldn’t write it down.

Change your password periodically—some experts recommend as frequently as every 30 days, while others recommend 90.  Also be sure to use different passwords for each instance, whenever possible; don’t use the same password to log in to your computer, access your email, view your bank account, and manage your client information.  While it can seem like a hassle, a strong password system is a solid first line of defense in protecting your data.

Antivirus/Anti-Malware Software, Firewalls and Patches

Invest in a good antivirus/anti-malware program—you won’t regret it.  While free options may be tempting, most are skewed towards a specific issue or lack the support, updates, and expert knowledge of more reputable software packages.  Before downloading and relying upon one specific option, be sure to do your research to be certain that the software meets your needs and offers the ongoing support necessary to keep your data safe.

Even with antivirus/anti-malware software, it’s helpful to have a firewall; layered security cannot be overrated.  While Windows and other operating systems include built-in firewalls, many experts also recommend using a hardware firewall of some kind in conjunction with the software firewall.  Setting firewall rules to prevent unnecessary traffic from reaching your internal network is additional insurance against a security breach.

Be certain to install patches when they’re available for your operating system and applications.  While some patches improve functionality or add features, others exist to correct existing security flaws in products.    Not installing patches leaves a vulnerability in your environment that can be exploited, so make sure to pay attention to your updates and apply the patches as they become available.

Secure Your Data

We all know how easy it is to misplace things—especially when they’re as small as USB thumb drives.  Even when we think the physical device is secure, it may be compromised.  Recall the Department of Veteran Affairs laptop and hard drive that contained the personal information of 26 million veterans, which made headlines when they were stolen from the home of a VA employee in 2006.  That theft underlines the importance of protecting data for every situation, including the loss of its storage device.  Data encryption is an integral part of this, and features such as BitLocker are available to encrypt entire drives, keeping everything from documents to passwords safer.

The need for encryption applies to mobile devices, as well; mobile management security software is available for mobile devices, such as iPads, which separately encrypts and protects data.  Experts anticipate mobile devices becoming increasingly targeted in the future, as many people employ few, if any, security features.  Loss or theft of these unsecured mobile devices can be just as compromising as any other security breach, depending on the compartmentalizing and data available on them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course; information security is a multibillion dollar business, with advances and changes appearing every day.  Build your security environment carefully and be mindful of your data management to prevent breaches, and your information—and reputation—will thank you.

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