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XL4U Blog

We XL4U!

An Update from Lori Brooks about XLDesign4U

XLDesign4U had a very eventful & enjoyable first and second quarter of 2017. From big jobs to little, our team has persevered while continuously striving for excellence. Here’s a brief run-down of what we’ve been up to & what’s going on currently.

Las Vegas PPAI Expo- In January Lori & Bre got the chance to make their way over to Nevada to experience & learn all of what the PPAI Expo had to offer. There were more than 12,267 promotional product distributors in attendance during this 5-day annual event. Featuring 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in 3,144 booths, including 157 first-time exhibitors, the Expo showcased thousands of new and exciting products, education and events in one million square feet at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The amount of available knowledge was immense & captivating. This was the first time ever that XL made an appearance at the Vegas show, it was also undeniably beneficial.  Numerous boxes of unique product samples were sent back to Richmond and the educational sessions that Lori and Bre attended at the Expo provided many new industry insights with an opportunity to learn a variety of new skills.  The result of attending this annual event opened additional opportunities to better serve our clients with more variety of product types and competitive new supplier relationships.  Additionally, the ability to share experiences with other promotional product distributors from all over the country proved to enhance our confidence about how we currently EXCEL and new ways to improve our services.

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Shawn’s Departure from XL- 

A member of the XLDesign4U family since May of 2016, Shawn Holt one of our creative specialist is taking his career elsewhere to expand his knowledge & experience in the creative field. We appreciate his contribution to XL over the past months & are excited to see where this journey takes him.  Also - great news! Shawn will be a new dad soon!
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XLDesign4U and EWI Richmond- 

Lori is enjoyably serving her second year as secretary of EWI Richmond.  
The Richmond Chapter of Executive Women International is celebrating its Fiftieth year in 2017! 
This national organization comprised of more than 1,400 member companies and 1,600 representatives continue to thrive and has grown to nearly 45 Chapters located in major cities in the United States and Canada. EWI is a premier organization for connecting, building community and developing both professionally and personally for today’s business professionals and their firms. EWI Richmond is currently comprised of 35 local professional member firms with 41 firm representatives.  XLDesign4U is proud to be an active member firm in the Richmond chapter of Executive Women International. During May and July 2017, EWI Richmond will be awarding educational scholarships (EWISP) to local high school seniors based on their scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, good citizenship and extra-curricular activities. Scholarship Awards range between $1,000 and $5,000. In July, the ASIST scholarship will be awarded to local adults facing economic, social, or physical challenges, who are looking to improve their situation through educational opportunities. Local Chapters partner with educational providers and social services agencies to identify potential candidates. Chapter-level winners are submitted to the EWI corporate level for the opportunity to be selected for one of 13 scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

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Bre Marvel’s Tenure celebrating three years as a team member with XLDesign4U in July 2017– 

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Bre continues to grow as an integral part of the “XL Team”.  She has developed an excellent level of industry knowledge and exerts an uncanny capability to find qualitative products for our clients.  Her focus on detail and traffic management couples extremely well with her ability to provide genuine customer service and to assist Lori with project management.  XLDesign4U is very fortunate to benefit from Bre’s team efforts through inside customer service and her ability to provide an organized system to share delivery updates, product satisfaction inquiries and new project research.  Bre works closely with Lori to assist with accomplishing right-sized budget constraints for clients and on-time / as promised production scheduling.

Distributor Connect in Florida- 

Lori is making her way down south for the Distributor Connect  event at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale Florida. The goal of this venture is to make new connections in the printing and promotional products industries.  Created for the industry’s elite, Distributor Connect Meetings are by invitation only and is an exclusive relationship-building event. The conference format features pre-scheduled, one-on-one sessions between distributors and suppliers.  Each meeting session is held in an exclusive supplier suite, securing privacy and improving business opportunities. Lori will have an opportunity to meet suppliers she has communicated with through emails and phone conversations over many years as well as being in an environment to meet new suppliers and learn what they can provide for accomplishing client goals and solution-oriented project tasks.
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                          Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale, FL 
                          Distributor Connect May 10-May 12, 2017

After the conference, Lori will visit suppliers, friends and family in the state of Florida before heading home to Richmond. She'll make a surprise visit to her mother on Mother's Day in the Daytona area too!

19 Years of EXCELLENCE-
 
In August of this year XLDesign4U will be celebrating its 19th year in operation. The company has survived through floppy disc, QR codes, 4 presidencies, the birth of social media sites, & so much more. Through it all XLDesign4U has & will continue to excel for all our wonderful clients. Old or new, we appreciate you all for being a part of our legacy & look forward to what the future has to offer.

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Until our next update, always know that our team of EXCELLENCE will continue to provide the best possible service levels with the best possible value.  Best Regards from the XLDesign4U Team  

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Brand Name vs Knockoff

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Should you get the new iPod or a generic MP3 player? Do you go with Nike or just a generic brand running shoe? Do you spend your hard-earned money on that new Coach purse, or do you get the knock off that looks just like it? These are the questions we ask ourselves when evaluating whether to go with the well-known name brand product or just a generic version of it. Do name brands really matter? How important are they to you? Name brand products are clearly more expensive than their knockoff counterparts, but are they better? Let’s take a moment to distinguish the clear differences between brand name products and knockoff products to help you more carefully evaluate your decision.

There are factors that go into consideration when deciding between a brand name product and a knock off.

Loyalty

We simply purchase some brands out of habit and loyalty. For instance, maybe our parents used the same laundry detergent during our childhood and by default you’ve continued to use that detergent with your family as an adult. You have a particular brand loyalty to that detergent. You haven’t really evaluated whether it is the best in the market. It’s just familiar to you and has worked to meet your needs so you don’t see a reason to change. People that are loyal to a brand are likely to stick with it because it has been reliable.

Apple Brand Loyalty And Brand Champions

Quantity/Price

Customers almost always list price as a main factor in the products they choose to purchase. Unless they have brand loyalty to the product, more than likely, price and quantity will have a significant influence over their decision.  Analytical spenders will compare the quantity of the product they are receiving with the cost to determine the overall value. A price conscious consumer always asks, “what am I getting for my money?”

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Quality

While price is important when evaluating products, so is quality. The most expensive product isn’t always the best, but the least expensive product does not always lack quality.

In determining the best product to use, it is important to evaluate your loyalty to that product line, price and quality. So, how does this come into play when evaluating whether or not you choose a brand name or knockoff brand? Let’s review some pros and cons of each.

Brand Name Pros

Why would you choose a brand name product, even if it might be a more expensive product?

  • Aesthetically more appealing. Brand name products are typically more established in the market, enabling them to invest more money into attractive packaging to lure their buyers.
  • Often made of more durable materials. Oftentimes, but not always, brand name products are made of higher quality, more durable materials, resulting in a higher price point.
  • Sold in more stores. Brand name products are often found in more stores because they have been around a while and have higher distribution channels. For example, you can find Tide in any local grocery store because it is a well-established laundry detergent brand.
  • More promotional deals. Brand name products often spend more money in advertising, which is one of the reasons why their brand is so recognizable. With a higher marketing and advertising budget, these companies often invest in a variety of promotional offers to bring in new customers.
  • Name recognition. Brand name products have a foothold in the marketplace. It didn’t happen overnight but they’ve built a name for themselves. People recognize their brand when they see it and therefore, associate that brand with credibility. The see the Nike swoosh and think “just do it” and they see the Burger King sign and think, “have it your way.” Established brands have garnered recognition that results in trust with its consumers.

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While there are clear benefits to brand name products, knockoffs do have their place. Let’s look at some of their advantages.

 Knockoff Pros

  • 30% cheaper on average. The number one reason a consumer will choose a knockoff product over a brand name product is price. It’s easy on the purse strings, allowing them to delegate money in their budget to other priorities.
  • Often sold in bulk. Many knockoff brands are often sold in bulk which means that not only is the product cheaper than the brand name alternative, but you also get more for your money as well.
  • Available on government assistance. Knockoff brands, particularly in the food industry, are available to purchase on government assistance. Name brands are often not allowed in the program if it is significantly more expensive than its generic counterpart.
  • The same as brand name. Knockoffs are often mirror images of their brand name counterpart. This is particularly evident with over-the-counter and prescription drugs where the generic brand is significantly cheaper but houses the same ingredients as the brand name.

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There are clear advantages to both the knockoff and the brand name. In the end, it is clearly a matter of choice and preference.

Whether your preference is brand or off brand, consider partnering with the team of XLDesign4U to find products that fit your specific needs. We have an assortment of products we can place your unique branding on and a plethora of cost effective alternatives.

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Duped By Marketing?

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April 1st just passed, did you get fooled?

Advertising is designed to entice you to purchase a product. Companies use many different strategies and tactics to promote their products and services, but let’s be honest, some of these tactics have played us, the consumer, for fools. In the spirit of the season, it is only right that we review some of these tactics with you so that you won’t be an April fool when you make your next purchase.

Overpricing

The next time you make a purchase, do your research. Many companies overprice their products, making them seem like a good deal in comparison to something else. However, the product that is often being compared is either overpriced or not an apples to apples comparison. Don’t get duped! For example, if you see an $80 steak at the start of the menu, the $20 ribs will seem more like a good deal in comparison. But, is it really a better deal?

Interestingly, it has also been shown that those who do end up getting the overpriced food (i.e. $80 steak) tend to enjoy the meal more than if it was less money, even if the meal is the exact same. They higher perceived value gives the illusion of a luxurious meal, when in fact, that $80 steak could just be a marked up $20 steak.

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99 cents

One penny under a dollar sure does make a difference. It’s all about strategy and this is probably the most widely used trick of them all. Simply dropping the price of an item to end in .99 has been proven to psychologically make us think an item is significantly cheaper when it’s only a penny difference. So, whether the item is $0.99 or $9.99, we’ve been conditioned to think we’re getting a deal when in reality, it’s just a penny.

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Salt=Thirst

A cool, refreshing beverage should quench your thirst, right? Do you ever wonder why when you drink soda or any big brand water that you don’t feel completely quenched by the end of the beverage? You can thank sodium chloride for that, better known as salt. Some beverage companies put salt within their drinks in hopes that you’ll have to drink more, in turn making it so you must buy more. And clearly it’s working because despite Americans’ awareness that sodas are unhealthy, over half of them consume at least one soda per day. Our guess is most consume more than one because of the salt intake.

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Meal Appeal

Have you ever seen a mouthwatering pizza on a commercial and immediately wanted to order a pizza? We’ve all seen the spectacular looking food in commercials. And, it’s not just the pizza that may look good; they really know how to make a Big Mac look gourmet, but for those that have ordered the food know that it almost never looks as good in person. The reality is, most of the food in these commercials are not even real. These companies have whole teams of people that specialize in food photography & editing. Some of their methods are equal parts deceptive and ingenious. They often use glycerin to make sea food appear juicer, use dyed mashed potatoes to mimic ice cream (because the lighting would melt the ice cream too quickly to photograph), insert carboard into cake slices (as well as pancake stacks) to make it more structurally sound and separate the icing from the cake to avoid stray crumbs on the icing, gluing sesame seeds to buns, and most ice you see in commercials is plastic made specifically to look like ice cubes. There’s plenty more examples, but I think you get the idea. A majority of food you see on TV is a lie, a delicious looking disgustingly made lie. Yum!

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Phony Portions

“You get what you pay for” doesn’t always hold true for some companies, some have very tricky ways of saving a bit of money by changing their portion sizes over time giving you less for the same amount of money. Here are a few examples of this trickery at play: Over time cereal boxes have become thinner. Lays hold about 30% chips and the rest is nitrogen; this helps keep the chips fresh for longer while on the shelf, but at the expense of less chips. Snickers started selling two small bars within one wrapper leaving a gap between them, this gap cuts down on the amount of chocolate and saves them tons of money each year. By far the most disturbing of these proportion scandals is the meat industry. Meat is sold by weight, so to make them heavier (especially chickens) they inject water into the meat, this method is called “plumping”. Some chickens sold on the market have been shown to be made up of up to 30% water.

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Advertising is a great tool used by many companies to promote their products, but as you can see, many companies have “fooled” us with their deceptive tactics. Pay attention to what you’re buying and make sure you are truly getting what you pay for.

In the meantime, if you are interested in crafting an advertising campaign that will not “fool” your customers, but genuinely grow your brand and promote your product, consider partnering with the team at XLDesign4U.

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From Mom & Pop Shop To The Top

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Success is a universal desire, yet everyone has their own ideas of what success means. Simply owning a business could have been your ultimate end goal so, if you’re content wherever your business is on the totem pole there’s no reason to read further. However, for those of you who have further business aspirations and want to see their small operation morph into a top contender of your field, this is the article for you.

Yes, It’s Possible

Not all corporations start out large; many originated from humble beginnings that had to climb and persevere to the status they are now. A wonderful example of this is the story of Sam Walton. Back in 1950, Sam opened his first retail store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Using the technique of scoping out competitor prices and marking his down slightly from theirs, his shops grew immensely in popularity. This eventually enabled him to gain enough capital to open a second shop in Roger, Arkansas. You recognize these retail operations today as Walmart. Walmart is currently in all 50 states, 14 foreign countries and has an annual gross profit of over $120 billion. It employs more people worldwide than the population of Houston Texas. Ninety percent of all Americans live within 15 miles of one. You might not be the next Walmart, but on the other hand you might be.

Waltons Five and Dime store Bentonville Arkansas

The Key Master

The phrase “confidence is key” is to keep in mind during an expansion. However, after you get through a few doors, there will be more than just your confidence needed to unlock the next door and move forward. You’ll attempt to open a door and fail and you’ll either need to find a new key or give up on that door completely.

Some doors are reinforced, so kicking them down isn’t always a viable option, and if it is an option, it’s possible to damage the success or opportunity on the other side. You can always try to pick the lock, cheat the system, but that’s not the honest way to go about it and you risk breaking the lock entirely rendering the door into a wall. So, this begs the question, what keys do you need and where do find them?

You can ask a friend if they have a key or refer you to someone who might; alternatively, you can hire someone to create a key for you, or you can do the grueling work of crafting the key from scratch. At the end of the day, it all comes down to utilizing your available resources intelligently to move yourself forward. Don’t fear asking and don’t fear working; sometimes those are your only or best options.

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Success & Failure (accept both into your life with open arms)

If you can’t accept failure, success is never going to accept you. Nothing truly spectacular that has longevity started at the pristine level it’s at now. It takes countless hours, days, weeks, months, years of trial and error. Finding out what works and what falls flat is all part of the process of prospering. People who know how to handle losing are always better winner.

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Love a Critic (distinguishing between helpful & harmful critiques)

When you accept the fact you’re not always right, you’ll have the adequate mindset to grow. Knowledge is power, but delusion of intelligence is a weakness. When someone gives you criticism try your best not to get upset. Hear the person out and then think on it. Don’t dismiss nor accept immediately, just consider. Once you evaluate for a decent amount of time then you should decide if what they said held any significant weight. But, remember, your best critiques come from someone who has already achieved the level you are aspiring to. Listen to criticism but filter it accordingly.

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Jack of All Trades Don’t Get Paid like Experts Do

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”- Bruce Lee

If you offer 20 different services (although variety is great) you’ll only be a novice at all of them. If you knock it down to just a few, your skills will be more specialized in those fields. Scrap what you’re just okay at and get tunnel vison for the things you’re best at. That’s how experts are made- organize your focus and execute accordingly.

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Define Your Demographic

Chuck E Cheese vs Dominos. Knowing which demographic gives you an incredible competitive advantage, even if your product isn’t the most superior in the same market. For example, it’s safe to say in terms of quality, Domino’s pizza is better than Chuck E Cheese (CEC). But does this get in the way of CEC being unsuccessful? Not by a long shot. This is thanks to market segmentation; they know their demographic (children between the ages of 3-8) and market to that age group aggressively.  That’s the key to their success and longevity.

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1+1=2 (small companies that combine make bigger companies- Simple Math)

When all else fails, it’s wise to consider a merger. Finding a company with identical services and goals to compliment yours could be a huge step in elevating your business venture to a whole new level. The challenge is finding that ideal company to merge with. Like the research you’ve done to evaluate your market, it is vitally important to do the same level of research in determining the best company to merge with. After all, you don’t want all of your blood, sweat and tears to go to waste with one bad business decision. Take your time…ponder and make sure a merger makes sense for your business expansion efforts.

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If you are planning an expansion for your business and would like to partner with a company that can assist in developing the right marketing strategy and tools to achieve your goals, consider partnering with the team of XLDesign4U.

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Good to be Good

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Did you know that February 16th was Do a Grouch a Favor Day and February 17th was Random Acts of Kindness Day? Maybe this is a sign that we need to be more intentional about being kind to others. Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? When was the last time you engaged in a random act of kindness?

We live in a fast-paced society, filled with smart phones, computers and meetings in coffee shops. We are so consumed by technology and the next thing on our to-do list, we rarely take the time to stop and notice the world around us. As a result, many people lose sight of the value and benefits of being kind to others. Whether it’s building and nurturing client relationships or just simply being nice, it is a valuable asset to have in your repertoire.

Kindness is built on authenticity. First, it is important to recognize the difference between being kind to fulfill an ulterior motive or genuinely being authentic. Are you trying to fulfill something for someone else or fulfill something for yourself?  We all do both, being nice for something we want is a normal social tactic; most of us were taught that good behavior warrants reimbursement even if that reimbursement is simply the good behavior being returned to us. But, when you are being authentically nice, there is another kind of payoff that can be even more rewarding – satisfying your moral compass. Genuine kindness is not based on our own selfish desires. It is truly taking our eyes off ourselves for a moment to focus on another person. It’s not as easy as it sounds because inherently, we are all selfish. We always consider our needs first. However, there’s a level of peace reached when you’re authentically kind that cannot be easily found any other way. Plus, Zig Ziglar said it best when he said if you help enough people get what they want, you will automatically get what you want. What a great philosophy!

Being nice isn’t always easy, especially when it seems like the other person doesn’t deserve it. But, take a moment and put yourself in their shoes. You don’t know why they are cranky or irritable. Maybe their child is sick or a loved one just died. They may be rude to you, but smile anyway. You may be the only person that was kind to them that day.  On that same note, you shouldn’t overvalue people who undervalue you, but you can be kind without being perceived as a pushover.

Compliments

A compliment is more than just saying something nice, it’s proof that you’re paying attention to a person. When done correctly a compliment can set the mood for an entire conversation.  A good compliment is specific and genuine. When you’re seeking to compliment someone, make sure it you mean it; otherwise, you’ve tainted the experience. If you’re too generalized, your compliment can feel vague and forced. Over complimenting can give the impression that you’re trying too hard and that you’re not very genuine. Speak from the heart.

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Smile

Smile and the world is more likely to smile back. People often under estimate the value of a simple smile. It can change the mood of a room. Simply practicing smiling more often is a great way to be perceived as more positive and confident. When you smile naturally others will smile back. People do a degree of mimicry to be more comfortable in their environment; use this social tick to your advantage. Doing simple things like touching your face when the person you’re talking to touches theirs and clasping your hands together as they clasp theirs, can be a wonderful tactic to make someone more comfortable. Body language plays a large role in connecting with others, but the best tool in your box is your smile. A warm, friendly smile will automatically make someone feel more comfortable around you. It can shift someone’s mood because maybe no one has smiled at them today. Think of your smile as a gift of kindness and don’t be afraid to share it with the world.

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Pay it forward

Lastly, as we discuss random acts of kindness, consider paying it forward and living out the Good Samaritan example. There have been many examples in the media of people who have paid for the groceries of the person behind them in line or paid for the person behind them in the drive through while getting something to eat. You never know. That person might be down to their last $5 that week and your random act of kindness was a true blessing for them. How will you pay it forward this week?

Would you like some help developing a kindness campaign for your customers? XLDesign4U specializes in developing customized marketing plans to meet your unique needs. Consider a consultation with one of our team members to develop the most effective kindness campaign for your customers.

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Please take a moment to visit & support  http://www.cjstuf.org/ 
It makes us feel GOOD to sponsor this wonderful organization that does GOOD things!

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