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Consumers like promotional products.  Data like the one from ASI’s Impressions Study have consistencly proven this, and shown that consumers tend to keep those products.  So careful management of your promotional resources to guarantee a favourable impression, is critical, but not easy.  Having it all work smoothly internally would also be nice.  When done well, there is tremendous effort required to blend product design and selection, vendor relationships, inventory management, and cost control.

In case you don’t know, online company stores operate like web-based ecommerce sites for employees, or dealer network, to order commonly used promotional products and marketing materials.  Also known as e-Stores, Company Stores, Swag Shop and many other terms.  Different names for the same solution which is all about Marketing Materials Management.  So the logical next question would be:

How do You Know Your Company Needs an Online Store?

It’s not unlike a  physician assessing the symptoms of your health. We’ve found some very typical signs of suffering which point to the need for an online store solution. Sometimes the issue is brand management, in others it’s cost or quality control. But in all cases an online company store can help, and can return your operations to better health.

1.  There’s no common look/feel – Our promotional items are all over the map.

Your sales staff may have had a conversation that sounds like this, possibly on the trade show floor: “Oh, you’ve changed your logo, again” when in fact you have not. Or the ever-popular: “I thought you were affiliated with x” when you are but there’s no sign of it on your materials.

Consistency of image has a lot to do with logo and design guidelines. What’s one unapproved product going to do to your brand when it was an emergency? That bad embroidery, misuse of logo and those creative graphics were good enough for one trade show, right? Likely not. It’s easy to lose sight of an overall look and feel when ‘as long as we have it ready in time’ is acceptable. Unfortunately, inconsistencies weaken your brand.

Using an unapproved version of your logo risks consistency. Incorrect pantone shades and fonts affect the common look and feel of your brand. Close enough is not good enough when it comes to brand protection. It’s not hard to understand how mistakes happen and inconsistencies result. If brand standards are not controlled centrally, they are open to interpretation and then error.

Having your company logo look different depending on the branch or location distributing promotional materials is probably not your intention.

Online company stores help by centralizing control of your brand image across branch networks or even international boundaries. Having a single source for promotional products or corporate apparel offers consistency in design, colour, or logo usage and controls your corporate identity. Online stores allows you to pre-approve use of your logo, preselect specific products, and control who places orders.

2. Your promotional items look bad or they are poor quality.

Back on the tradeshow floor, the question your rep is getting might sound like this: “What’s your company name, I can’t really read it?” or worse yet, “I got a pen from you last year,  I’ll send you the bill for the shirt I had to replace because it leaked.” It happens. Every single piece of promotional or branded material you produce sends a message about your company and establishes your credibility and reputation.

“IT TAKES 20 YEARS TO BUILD A REPUTATION AND FIVE MINUTES TO RUIN IT. IF YOU THINK ABOUT THAT, YOU’LL DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY.” – WARREN BUFFET

The risk with promotional items is that once it’s out there, they have a life of their own.

Managing the design, production and selection of promotional items is not a task add-on to just any job, when the need arises.  An account manager in your smallest branch might think she can handle the conversation about artwork specs, but does she understand the details of pantone, bleeds, rasters versus vectors, hi-res, placement, and show-through? And we haven’t even started to talk about merchandise quality, order volumes, pricing and delivery details.

Online company stores take back control and manages promotional items centrally. This means knowing which assets are being sent out or purchased at all times through controlled access. Certain employees would have editing privileges, others would not.

3. Sales Staff avoid using promotional materials.  The ordering process is just too slow.

You’ve probably heard this sort of thing: What do you mean the order time is 3 weeks? Why can’t we just use last year’s left-overs? Your processes might actually be encouraging staff to use older, outdated materials or to avoid promotional materials entirely.

Onerous is dangerous. Processes which are slow, particularly for those who don’t appreciate why they’re slow, tend to be avoided. The spin-off from this problem – and equally problematic – is the use of outdated materials which are no longer appropriate. Are staff using leave-behinds which are out-of-date? What sort of condition are they in?

The flip-side of this scenario occurs when staff – anyone and everyone –follow procedures and become consumed with the preparation and sourcing of promotional materials neglecting the jobs they were hired to do. Then you’re back at the do-it-yourself problem: Our graphic designer is on vacation, Bob can do it! Or can he? (See #2 above). You want your sales team to stay focused on what they were hired to do. Let’s not turn them into graphic designers (that takes a while anyhow).

A Company Store eliminates these dangers. Your company’s online store becomes a catalog of branded promotional choices. Sales and marketing staff can discover with ease what’s available, because it’s pre-approved.  If your employees can’t find what they need, order it in time, or rely on it being in inventory, an online store will help.

4. You have inventory-itis.

That Under Armour shirt might be $80 when ordering 12, but only $70 for an order of 100 or more. So you order the larger volume. You’ve just produce storage and tracking headaches, and the risk of obsolescence. Generally speaking, inventory issues look like these:

  • Nobody has the big picture: what’s in inventory and where it is housed?
  • You order small volumes and pay top dollar.
  • You have no idea who ordered what across offices, partners, or from year to year, nor what they paid for it.
  • You avoid buying higher quality merchandise because you can’t house the volume required for volume discounts.
  • You have leftover promotional materials that are dated, or obsolete.
  • materials in inventory we will never use; they’re obsolete.

Online stores opens up a buying network, often at the lowest published price even for the smallest quantity. This is a huge advantage for clients who would otherwise have no buying clout on their own. 

Add to that, the benefit of a single, centralized knowledge-centre for inventory, and cost-effective distribution. Single, larger orders can be coordinated across locations and an online store can even eliminate the need to keep inventory at all.

5.  You are over-budget on Promotional materials…again this year.

Maybe you had an ‘emergency’ last year. Perhaps you forgot to consider shipping in your estimates. Then there was the re-order because vendor A’s merchandise was sub-standard. Spending on promotional products is like any other cost: it needs planning and control. If spending is not managed centrally, and reported on regularly, controlling a budget for promotional materials is almost impossible.

We’ve already mentioned that having one source for all branded merchandise permits volumes to reduce costs, but there’s a secondary effect: real time reporting for all of your promotional spend. .

A company store can be set up as a permission-based tool for ordering, reporting and paying for products. There are centrally-controlled promotional budgets allocated to departments, branches or partners. And behind the scenes is a single software platform as the foundation.

 

WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?

The high recall, and repeated exposure benefits of promotional products makes them a key part of the marketing mix. Unfortunately, your branded materials and the processes around their management might be suffering from:

  • A lack of consistency in images and branding
  • Quality issues with either imaging or the products themselves
  • Ordering processes with excessive timelines
  • Inventory issues
  • Escalating, or unclear costs

Promotional materials cannot create the value you hope for if they don’t represent your brand as you intend, or if they’re a drain financially. Company stores can ease these pains and ultimately maintain your brand’s good health!  Explore how online company stores can become an extension of your marketing team, and how our creative ideas can bring your advertising to life.

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