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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

In With the Old …

Filed under: Editorial, Fun

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Hope you’re all still basking in the warm glow of being with friends and family, eating your weight in butter cookies and consuming festive cocktails at swanky soirees like it’s your job. Me? I’m on self-imposed detox for the next 10 days, until I retox my way through the PSI Show in Dusseldorf (I’m looking at you, Michael Bernstein. Can. Not. Wait.) and ASI’s Orlando Show.

However, certain factors this holiday season got me thinking, and I’m going to take a stand that will surely have some of you (my gimlet eye is on you, Brad White), shaking your heads and saying, “God, she’s so antiquated.” You know what? Meh. I don’t care.

Now, while I appreciate all the holiday e-cards and social media festive “e-greetings” that have been sent my way in the last month, nothing — and I mean nothing — takes the place of a handwritten holiday card or a self-promo holiday mailer.

Case in point: My OCD is never worse than at the holidays when I send out 500+ (Kid You Not … This year the grand total was 511) cards, each with a handwritten personalized note. Even more obsessive, everyone gets a card chosen especially for them. No mass sentiment for me, thank you very much. Which means, for example, that Danny Rosin from BrandFuel got a card chosen specifically for him and different than the one I sent his business partner, Robert Fiveash, also chosen just with him in mind.

I know it sounds crazy, and trust me, my right hand looks like a swollen claw after writing out 500+ cards, but you wouldn’t believe the response I get. Industry salespeople are always asking how they can set themselves apart from their competition, how they can build their own brand and stay top-of-mind with clients. Take my word for it: It’s as simple as sending a handwritten note. Why? Because no one does it anymore.

So, I implore you: power down from your e-communications and go old-school, just for two weeks. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I believe, by the feedback you get. Don’t believe me?

Witness the entrance to my office at ASI: Filled with cards from industry friends, colleagues and acquaintances, most of whom received my card and were so giddy over the tactile experience of getting actual mail, that they responded in kind. The byproduct? Increased communication and stronger relationships.

Holiday Cards

Two whip-smart distributors we all know took it one step further by sending out holiday promos — Counselor Top 40 distributor Proforma and one of the hottest shops out there, Bluegrass Promotions (see photos and descriptions below). I spoke to reps at both companies, and return they’ve already seen from a comparatively small investment in the products, packaging and mailing has been off-the-charts. Seriously, what a way to start the new year. (Side note: Right up there with how Kim Kardashian graduated high school and whether Nancy Grace truly is the Antichrist, I’m continually baffled by why my beloved suppliers — who know more about the effectiveness of their products than anyone — don’t employ their own marketing medium and do self-promos.)

I love how Proforma “themed” its holiday promo around coffee: a substantial travel mug, festive cookies and a Starbucks gift card. The personalized Leed’s pen? A classy touch …


Who DOESN’T love baked treats at the holidays? What makes this mailer, from the smart cookies at Bluegrass Promotions, so unique is the customized packaging and tie-in promo copy: “This holiday season, we’ve cooked up something special for you.” Billy Booe, vice president of business development at Bluegrass and a multimillion-dollar sales producer, sent an e-greeting in advance of the cookies being mailed, letting recipients know they’d be getting something special (a Photoshopped Booe as an animated elf was a howl). The response? “People go wild for these mailers and remember us for their promotional needs because of it,” Booe told me.

So, here’s my challenge to you: Create a self-promo campaign within the first quarter of 2012 for 20 clients or prospects. Putting my money where my (really expansive) mouth is, I’m willing to pony up $250 for both the supplier and distributor company with the best campaign. Send me samples of your mailer and the facts behind it (products used, message conveyed, audience targeted and the ROI/ROO — Return on Objective — metrics) by April 1st to be considered.

You know, when I moderate education panel discussions at ASI shows on the topic of “The Power of Self-Promotion Campaigns,” one of the main obstacles people seem to have is that they’re overwhelmed and don’t know how to get started. Well, as the folks at Nike would say, Just Do It. Do something. Pretty much every supplier I know is happy to offer discounts for distributors doing self-promos, and and I’m willing to help brainstorm ideas with you. Just send me an e-mail: mbell@asicentral.com.

Cheers and more soon from the PSI Show in Europe (my favorite show ever!) and ASI’s Orlando Show!

— M

PS: If you’re a supplier who’s going to be at ASI’s Orlando Show, please take a well-deserved break from booth set-up on Monday, January 16th to be my guest at a free, suppliers-only luncheon and education session that I’ll be moderating from 12:15-1:15 p.m. in room W202A. In the “What Distributors Want” panel discussion, four top distributors will take your questions and discuss how you can become a valued promotional partner and integral member of their creative marketing team.