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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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Have You Hugged Your Graphic Designer Lately?

 

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Part I

The creative graphic designer’s task to provide an appealing product is typically based on several different elements.  Sometimes they are asked to create an ideology from a blank canvas; other times they are requested to create a finished thought from images and text provided by the client. Have you ever considered the value of a graphic designer’s time to build your desired finished product?

One of the first realizations as a business owner is the fact that you cannot do everything yourself. This is the time that you employ business partners to work with you, people that are experienced and skilled in areas that you are not. The creative graphic designer is one of those partners and sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of running our business, I think we may take these valuable individuals for granted.

Whether tasked with the implementation of designing a new logo, compiling a color/image scheme that conveys a subliminal message or just a plain and simple text placement with appealing font selection, the graphic designer’s job is complex. Sometimes, to provide the best product, a designer might need to cohesively blend all of these elements together to achieve their goal. 

The creativity to implement the desired result involves “think time” for your contracted designer to plan the best outcome.  As the business owner, it is extremely important that you respect this aspect of the creative process if you want to receive quality results from your designer. “Think time” enables your designer to proactively plan your project both mentally and visually to map out the best plan to achieve your desired result. The last thing you want from your designer is a knee jerk reaction to your design requests, resulting in a poorly designed product that fails to meet your requirements.

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So, how does a business owner go about adding a quality graphic designer to their team? What resources and characteristics must they search for?

1. Past work history. Progressive business owners are hip to trends and changes going on in the marketplace. They pay attention to what their competitors and their peers are doing, and in this process, observe the work of various graphic designers. When shopping for a creative graphic designer, you may have admired their work through a peer or competitor or you may have even searched them out on the web.

2. Referrals. New graphic design partnerships are often formed simply through a referral. If a trusted friend or peer has a had a great relationship with a designer and you see evidence of their great work, this can often lead to the start of a relationship. New relationships built on referrals are great because trust is already earned through the referral relationship. However, because of this high level of trust, expectations are high, so it is important that the designer work hard to live up to that expectation and maintain that trust.

3. Existing relationship. You may also find a graphic designer through an existing relationship you have through another channel. It could be a trusted friend or family member or an old colleague you know that recently started their own business. Like the referral, trust is already there because the relationship exists, but the burden rests on the designer to preserve the relationship by providing a high quality product that meets the needs of their new client and partner.

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Now that we have established how you choose your graphic designer, it is important to review the creative process that the business owner must follow with their graphic designer to create the best product for their business. There is much more to the process than simply choosing a graphic designer, and then telling them, “go.” They do not have a crystal ball to see into your future or your vision for your product. It is a give and take relationship.

In part II of this series, I will reveal how you can embrace the creative process with your designer and work with them lock and step to achieve the results you want. In the meantime, give your designer a hug. They deserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Beef Memorable? Part 1

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Let’s face it. We all like free stuff.  

That’s why we happily accept free promotional products from companies.

Have you ever been given a promotional product that appeared flimsy & cheap? What kind of impression did that leave? As small of a token as that trinket was, you immediately associated the quality of that product with the perceived quality of that company’s product or service.  Some promotional products specialists say that "SWAG" is a bad word because it instills the clear impression of junk.   Corporate branded promotional products are a reflection of your company’s brand, and therefore, should not be taken lightly.   "WOW" your gift recipients!  That's how they'll remember your brand, it's services and - in many instances, the person who presented the gift.  

Dave Thomas, of the Wendy's Hamburger Chain, sealed his brand with the notorious "Where's The Beef" television commercials back in the 80’s.  For those of you who are too young to recall his message, here's a quick recap:

Where's The Beef?

Wendy’s did an excellent job of branding their company with their popular slogan, “where’s the beef?” As a company, you never want to leave your prospects or customers thinking, “where’s the beef? “The investment to promote our branded message is related strongly to the perceived value of the branded "give away" gift.  We want the gift recipient to remember us and what our company or services can provide for them.  A positive remembrance is accomplished when the gift is re-usable time and time again whether it feels good, smells good, looks good, works great or even tastes yummy.  If the gift falls apart, shrinks, dis-colors or doesn't taste good what kind of positive impression does it leave for the company and the service you provide? The quality of the product(s) you choose to give away has a direct reflection on how the quality of your product or service is remembered. What kind of impression do you want to leave with your gift recipients?

 So, how can we ensure that we maintain a positive remembrance with an affordable cost and a high perceived value when giving away promotional items?

 As you work with your promotional products partner, ensure they not only know what your budget is, but also your standards in conveying your corporate brand.  Don't skirt around unrealistic ideals.  Communicate openly with your promotional products partner.  We all know how to shop and have a basic concept of product values. Upon understanding your realistic promotional budget and the desired result for your marketing campaign, a qualified promotional products partner can go to work for you in finding the products that best fit your parameters.  Think about that first impression.  How does the "give away" communicate your branded message?  Sometimes a picture of a possible worthy marketing item just isn't good enough - ask for a sample so that you can insure the product quality conveys your desired corporate remembrance. 

Always remember The Five Senses.
Each person has five sense organs that take in information from their environment and send it to their brain. The brain then processes the information and tells the body how to respond. The 5 main sense organs are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin.

When your promotional partner understands not only what you want to communicate, but also your audience and your budget, they are able to work with you more effectively to achieve your marketing goal.  Think about the median age of your audience and what are the types of products that your audience is most likely to appreciate?  When communicating your results-oriented marketing ambition, it does no one any favors keeping your budget a secret. In fact, it is a waste of both of your valuable time. You will find that a qualified partner can save you time if they are given all of the requirements of your marketing goals.

 Don’t leave your customers asking, “where’s the beef?” Start with a clear communication with your promotional products partner so that they can work with you to deliver the highest quality product within your budget that will reflect your brand and services as desired.  The response we received from our recent  Brand Name Products publication shared with our newsletter subscribers proved that "beef" is, indeed, important.

Copyright

© Image Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj36_DW_IzNAhWCWx4KHRLLCaAQjRwIBw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yahoo.com%2Ftv%2Fbp%2Finside-story-wendy-where-beef-ad-30-years-004259251.html&psig=AFQjCNHyCrvLnUR8N2BmYCp7tc4_3zjL0g&ust=1465081350485523

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The Value of a Supplier Who is a Team Partner

In the beginning, it is easy to take for granted the valuable relationship with the suppliers of goods and services necessary to run your business. We typically use terms like vendor and supplier which are very sterile terms.  Consider which of your suppliers truly serve as visionary team-players.  Ultimately, all businesses desire a cohesive culture where all players move forward with the same goal.  Order-takers are just mechanical fulfillment positions.  Business partners and team members that have a shared goal to maintain and promote your corporate mission are valuable assets to maintain and reward proactively.

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If maintained properly, the client/supplier relationship can be more than an order giving/taking relationship.  The supplying service partner can only be a valuable asset to your business if they understand your company culture and vision.  After all, the goods and services they provide typically play an integral role in the successful operation of your business. The "right-fit" supplier will be a strong team-player capable of filling your needs not only with the desired end result of the delivered product, but by having the ability to reliably assist with maintaining your branded expectations.

The right-fit service partner understands your business - its budget, it's branding message and its culture. (click to tweet) These partners stay focused on what's best for your company.  They continually look for and implement the best possible product values, functionality and creative promotion of your brand.  This desirable win/win relationship deserves as much cultivation as that of your own clients.
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Fostering and nurturing the relationship with your preferred team service partners requires very little effort, but it does require that you pay attention.

Referrals: There is no business that does not appreciate a complimentary referral. (click to tweet) If your service partner has been good to you and you truly appreciate their performance, one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to tell others about them and send them referral business. Your service partner will, in turn, reward and reinforce the integrity of your referral by providing the same level of excellent service. Additionally, they will want to thank you for thinking of their business.  You may be surprised at the impact this subtle way of saying Thank you will have.
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Small gifts of appreciation given to your best team players show that you value their efforts and will develop intangible results that will positively impact your business.

Show your appreciation for the awesome decorated t-shirts and caps your partner provided for your event. Invite your service partner to be a part of the event as a guest or better yet, as a member of your corporate family.  Give them free tickets to the event.

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Thank your service partners with public testimonials on social media -on both your platforms & theirs.  Suggest that your service partners share your success stories about completed projects with tangible examples about how the outcome of the final delivered product fostered your company's mission.
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As the mutual trust, respect and appreciation grows on both sides of the partnership, you may discover more opportunities for your service partner to help you in your business. In turn, they will go out of their way to find solutions to challenges as you encounter them and work to keep your business moving upward toward your goals. By working together as partners actively, you allow each other’s businesses to be top of mind in all business dealings, elevating each of you to new levels.

Take the time to evaluate your current relationship with your suppliers. Are they just sterile suppliers, or has their level of service been more of a team partnership that you just have not recognized or rewarded? If the latter is the case, don’t take that relationship for granted. Treat them as an appreciated team partner instead of a just a supplier, because in the end, you are sure to get out of any relationship, exactly what you put into it. 

Enjoy this excellent parody video about a client/designer relationship - note how the partnering designer keeps performing the challenging task at hand.
https://youtu.be/xwqPYeTSYng 


 Image credits: 
cooldesign and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; www.123rf.com/profile_aopsan

 

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It's All Good

It's All Good

What lessons did we learn in the 2013 year?
The good, the bad and the ugly - It's All Good!

By now, many of us have either already set our goals for YR14 in to place, or - at least - we're considering what our goals will be.  Some of us find that putting our goals down on paper helps.  We plan to reflect on a monthly or quarterly basis with regard to what we accomplished within our goal set.  Even if only a few proactive steps were actually taken and the desired end-result has yet to be achieved, it's all good.

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© image provided by iStockPhoto.com; Reach For The Top Olympics 2014 Theme Song By Jeff Durand

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Where's The Beef?

Where's The Beef?
Have you ever been given a promotional product that appeared flimsy & cheap?
What good is that?  Not only does it provide a poor and degrading impression of the "gift-giver", but it makes us wonder "Where's The Beef?"  If you want to make a lasting impression with a promotional branded product, think before making your investment.  We'd like to share some interesting observations with you...
 
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Rusty Nails (Then & Now) - Thanks Dad!

Here in Virginia, in early June, my hydrangeas are popping out with big blue balls of flora.  As I admire them I remember strategically scattering rusty nails on top of the soil above their roots late last summer - that was one of my Dad's "tips".  Yes, Mom gave me lots of tips too, but with Father's Day around the corner, I was inspired to write this artical and share with whoever may appreciate it.

Copyright

© Lori Brooks, Thanks Dad! June 12, 2013

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