What’s Popular in Promo Products

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The two leading trade shows for promotional products, the ASI Show and PPAI Expo, concluded earlier this month. But rather than try to predict what the tradeshow marketing trends for the rest of the year will be, we thought we’d review some of the more popular products and categories that have endured since last January.

Think Retail

Perhaps the biggest trend of the past year for integrated marketers was the effort to make promotional products look like they came straight off a retailer’s shelf. Even if the items don’t actually bear a well-known retail name, some of them are made to replicate the style. Marketers who can’t afford the actual brand they want can easily find one with a similar look.

Selfie Sticks

It didn’t take long for Disneyland to post signs against using selfie sticks on certain rollercoaster-like rides, then ban them altogether at the parks. The term “selfie” was dubbed Oxford Dictionary’s “word of the year” in 2013, and the practice has become a cultural phenomenon, even making a splash at the Oscars.

You can capitalize on the trend by adding your logo to a selfie stick, which would make a popular item to hand out at corporate events, parties, and any number of occasions that people might like to remember with a photo.

Phone Chargers

Computer and smartphone accessories are in great demand. Manufacturers are constantly coming up with creative new electronic promotional products that can bear your logo. We’ve previously mentioned customized USB drives and now you can add phone chargers to the list. The advantage of offering tech promos like this is that people use them all the time so your brand message can be visible on a daily basis.

Drinkware and Water

According to ePromos, more than 25 percent of consumers use branded (logoed) drinkware every day. The latest trend in drinking cup merchandise is diamond-cut drinkware, which offers a high-end feel.

Another option is to offer custom-branded bottled water. The water bottle idea may not be new, but with different colored caps or bottle shapes, you can put a new spin on it. People appreciate water when it’s given out at trade shows, concerts, races, other outdoor events.

Above all, the main trend to follow when choosing your promo product is to think retail. People only want (and use) the freebies that they’d be willing to buy. Need some creative new ideas? Check with your promo products supplier to discover what’s hot and what’s not.

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3 Ways to Make Your Search Engine Results More Clickable

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Typing a search term into Google returns thousands of search engine results pages or SERPs. Ranking highly in the SERPS is obviously good. But as integrated marketers know, high placement doesn’t necessarily guarantee high click-through rates. By optimizing the three main elements of your Google SERP listing (page title, URL, description), you can make your SERP links more engaging and thus, more click-worthy. Marketers with small sites will find this a fairly easy DIY project, while larger sites may require assistance from a developer or digital-savvy copywriter.

1) Page Title: give each web page a unique title that tells the search engine the page’s main focus. Make it short (<55 characters), make it relevant (start the page title with your strongest keyword), and make it irresistible by using strong active verbs that convey action and a benefit.

2) URL: a clear, concise, descriptive URL can do wonders for SERP click-through rates (CTRs). For example, www.FlipvaleFlorist.com/weddings/arrangements/gerbera daisies fits the bill in a way that www.FlipvaleFlorist.com/popular wedding flowers does not.

3) Meta Description: integrated marketers who read our small-business search-marketing tips know that crafting this behind-the-scenes tag is one of the more effective ways to rank higher in search results. “The best descriptions start with a verb and a strong call to action,” notes Link-Assistant.com. Give every web page a clear and unique description. Doing so helps search engines differentiate between pages and return the most relevant results. Keep descriptions under 155 characters because search engines simply cut off (truncate) verbiage that exceeds this length.

These are “among the quickest, simplest SEO hacks out there,” Link-Assistant.com says, and “…a few small changes can lead to major improvements in traffic and rankings.”

The Salvation Army Fundraiser

In April, The Salvation Army of Greensboro had the most successful fundraiser in its history! PIP Triad was proud to be apart of this event!

_DSC0060 copy2.jpgDSC_0264 (1).jpgWith over 70 corporate sponsors and over 500 attendees, “All You Need is Love” took place at the stylish Proximity Hotel.

DSC_0334.jpgDennis and Nancy Quaintance were the Signature Advocates of compassion and service. Over $140,000 was raised from the event and will be used to serve over 22,000 people in Greensboro through The Salvation Army’s programs and services.

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Avoid These 3 Website Design Fads to Keep Conversion Rates High

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Change is good and your website design must evolve to accommodate emerging user preferences and technology. But, says Website Magazine, integrated marketers seeking to modernize shouldn’t be swayed by these or other misused design techniques.

1) Masonry Layout: a grid-like, column-based page style that does not use fixed-height rows but rather reduces the gaps between page elements to optimize page space; masonry layout is also called the “Pinterest-style” because the popular image site was among the first to use it. While visually attractive, the style often fails to point hurried users to information that will quickly solve their problems. This discourages interaction and ultimately causes users to bounce away. It’s a “niche design technique being used…to the detriment of user experience,” observes Website Magazine.

2) Soft, Static Nav Buttons: some integrated marketers try to friendly-up navigation buttons with vague “feel-good” terms such as “Explore” “Discover” “Experience” and “Imagine,” that do little to identify relevant, usable content in the way that say “Products” “Services” and “Support” might. “Brands should design all labels for clarity so that “users have a reasonable idea what to expect when they click on a navigation element,” notes Website Magazine. Otherwise, “they come off as an insecure company just trying to be clever.”

3) Missing Breadcrumbs: This 20+-year old web-design technique (named from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale) clearly shows users where they are, relative to the rest of the site. But many contemporary designers say they are an outdated design relic bereft of any real usefulness. Usability experts, like Usabilla, disagree. “Users want to know where they are in relation to the rest of the site when they navigate. Not knowing can cause them to get lost and waste time. Breadcrumbs…are a necessity if your site has 3 or more category levels of content. Testing shows that there are only benefits and no downsides to using breadcrumbs.”

Storytellers Are the Best New Marketers

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The art of storytelling is getting a modern makeover as a powerful integrated marketing tool.

From crowd-funding sites that provide a forum for sharing investor-enticing narratives, to companies that demonstrate their value by exploring how people use their products in everyday life and work, storytelling has morphed from bedtime to boardroom — just ask Raven + Lily’s integrated marketing team.

As MarketingSherpa reporter Erin Hogg detailed, this social enterprise shifted to a storytelling content style in its ecommerce strategy, achieving a four-fold lift in year-over-year sales.

Through this metamorphosis, Raven + Lily took several steps to engage customers better. You can modify these easy-to-conduct steps to bump up the power of your own company’s storytelling and delivery, too.

Analyze Site Elements through the Eyes of the Customer. The team looked at its revamped ecommerce site as a customer for the first time, instead of staff members familiar with the inventory already. To help their customers see the value in the products offered, the team updated product descriptions, offered sizing charts and increased the size of product images.

Incorporate Stories of Artisans. The core element of Raven + Lily is its focus on the women who are producing the products. In the product descriptions, Raven + Lily includes stories about the artisans, including their pictures. Click here to see the full version of this creative sample. Hogg reports that the company incorporates other integrated marketing elements as well, such as a card with the artisan’s photo and story in each shipment. Click here to see the full version of this creative sample.

Improve the Checkout Process. During the revamp of the site, Raven + Lily improved several elements to provide a smoother purchasing experience by:

  • Adding product images of items in the cart to help shoppers see exactly what they are purchasing and ensure they have the right items
  • Reducing the number of pages into one accordion-style checkout page with sections that expand and collapse as a user goes through the purchase
  • Building more clarity into the process, such as displaying accepted credit cards
  • Including the option to purchase with PayPal

Upgrade Search Functionality. The team also optimized the on-site search bar by implementing a search app so users could search products with ease. The return results show categories instead of single product, allowing users to see a full range of matching items.

Now for the Happy Ending

Since implementing the revamped ecommerce site, Raven + Lily has experienced a four-fold, year-over-year in sales, with online sales between 2012 and 2014 increasing 150 percent. According to Hogg’s case study, Raven + Lily attributes this success to thinking like their customers and bringing a storytelling element to their products.

For other ideas on how to use storytelling in your own marketing efforts, go to our library, which includes:

Four Fatal Grammar Errors That Can Tank Your Direct Marketing (And How to Fix Them)

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Even with a killer list and great creative, your direct marketing doesn’t stand a chance if its it’s riddled with more glaring grammar errors then than you’re your kid’s 2nd grade English lesson. Grammar errors effect affect your credibility, which is bad for integrated marketers’ brands…and their bottom lines, too. Here are four common snafus and their easy fixes.

  1. Random Quotation Marks “Around” a Word. See what just happened there? Quotation marks should be used to indicate a quote, or convey irony, inauthenticity, or slang. Take a look at how unintentionally hilarious misused quotation marks can be.
    The fix: only use quotation marks when you are actually quoting speech.
  1. Run-On Sentences. You, as an integrated marketer, probably have a lot to say: so much so that, as a seasoned professional—who wants to get more bang for the buck—you may find yourself writing sentences that go on for as long as paragraph. STOP. Simple is better and long sentences fatigue your readers’ eyes.
    The fix: Break long, complex sentences down. Usually, you can break one longer sentence in two by simply replacing semi-colons (;) or em dashes (–) with periods.
  1. Overreliance on Spellcheck. Spellcheck is essential, but it won’t catch common errors, like improper use of its/it’s or there/their/they’re; it can’t save you from autocorrect fails; and spellcheck won’t know if you transpose a number or miss a decimal on a price.
    The fix: get another set of eyes on your project.
  1. Random Capitalization. Even though Many People do it, random Capitalization is Not a thing. At least, not a thing that is appropriate for business and marketing communications. Capitalization is used at the beginning of a sentence or to indicate a proper noun/name, or title—e.g., it would be Nivea Essentially Enriched Body Lotion, but if you’re not talking about a specific brand name or product, it’s “our lotion” not “our Lotion.”
    The fix: Get a subscription to the AP Stylebook for as little as $25 a year. It’s the go-to resource for grammar, punctuation and usage issues, including correct capitalization.

Make Your Direct Marketing Efforts Air-Tight

Now that you know how to say it, integrated marketers should think about what you’re saying to your customers, when and how. Read more articles on direct marketing best practices.