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XL4U Blog

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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– 

photo for brittney

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.

19thBirthday

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  

XLDesign4U Header FB2017

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Is Your Beef Memorable? Part 1

WheresTheBeef2b3d

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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Let's Have a Barbecue That Sizzles

 

650x404 BBQ

 

Warm weather, good music, hamburgers on the grill – it’s that time of year again.
It’s barbecue time!

As the month of June awakens, we begin to get a glimpse of that warm summer heat. Summertime is often a time to kick back, relax and have a little fun. Pools and water parks are opening and beaches will become packed as people begin to enjoy summer vacation. For some, the first getaway of the summer is right in their own backyard or even a local park. Individuals and companies alike enjoy a good barbeque during the warm summer months. At home, it is a great way to enjoy the company of family and friends over a nice meal. For businesses, hosting a company picnic is a relaxing way to bring employees together to socialize without the daily stress and pressures of work. It is a great morale booster.  Customer appreciation picnic events are a great way to build service relationships too - a great way to bring out that "down to earth / real people" connections. 

But, hosting a barbecue event has even more to offer than just great food. Part of what makes a picnic outing great are the social activities and interactions among the crowd. Need some ideas to bring your team together this summer at your company picnic?

Set a theme: People love party themes. It makes the event more fun and allows people to get into character. One popular summer picnic theme is a luau, complete with tiki lanterns and grass skirts. Also, one of the great things about hosting a luau is that it is often hosted at or near water so that your attendees can enjoy a nice cool dip during the party. Whatever theme you choose, go all out with decorations to really create the illusion you seek. Send personalized invitations to your employees. A direct invitation sent via the mail makes a larger impact because it makes them feel special. Don’t forget that special touch. Encourage people to dress up to support your theme, making the event that much more of a success.  Incorporate barbecue event products that sizzle!

Scavenger Hunt: Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt?

 ScavengerHunt image

It is one of the best ways to get your party people engaged. Start the event out with a scavenger hunt. Eliminate the awkward social moments when people first arrive at an event. Hand out cards to send them on the hunt as soon as they arrive. Your attendees will immediately become engaged and you will find that participating in a scavenger hunt will create great team building skills for your employees while encouraging some healthy competition. It will also give your cooks plenty of time to finish grilling your delicious food without anyone hovering over them.

Party favors & prizes: Everyone loves free prizes. You will want to reward the winner of your scavenger hunt with some cool prizes. Pre-planning some picnic games for your guests to enjoy can be fun too.  Plus it builds friendly team competition.  Maybe a teamed water balloon toss with increasing distance between partners’ tossing.  Have fun giveaway items linked to your party theme available for all attendees. Giveaway ideas can be anything from fun sunglasses, water bottles, water toys to glow in the dark necklaces; the list is endless. In addition to providing your game winners with prizes, you’ll want to have small party favors for everyone who attends. For example, if it’s a luau, maybe give everyone who attends a lei to support your theme. Have fun with it. Personalized candy is fun as well, because who doesn’t like sweets? Hand out chocolate bars personalized to your theme and company. People will love it!  If your event is a company picnic or customer appreciation event, don’t forget branded recognition gifts for your employees and/or customers.

Provide a diverse menu. Everyone loves a good barbeque, but remain sensitive to the fact that everyone does not eat hot dogs and hamburgers. As our nation becomes more health conscious, more people are becoming vegetarian. Offer some diverse menu options to meet the tastes of everyone attending.  Pot-luck food assignments are fun too!  Segregate the assignments by categories such as a side dish, a dessert, beverages, etc.  The host can be in charge of the main course and festive plates, napkins, utensils and the like. A surprise mixture of other dishes that you’ve assigned arriving with each guest will add a bit of fun, and will encourage all of the guests to be a part of the event’s success. 

Summertime is here so dust off those grills and get ready
for summer barbecuing and picnic fun!

Allwork-no play-500x195 IMG 2634

 

Copyright

© Scavenger Hunt Image Credit: http://www.davidokeefe.com/blogs/post/2010/08/05/Website-Scavenger-Hunt-Today-Giving-Away-Free-Art.aspx

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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.

Conceptual Image Of Teamwork-by-cooldesignID-100196527

 

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.
Refer-A-Friend ID-100214272

 

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.

Copyright

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

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Recognition - The Business Case

Recognition - The Business Case

Thanksgiving is Just Around the Corner!

Have you thought about thanking your employees for a job well done?

Consider this business case for recognition:

Effective employee recognition enhances employee motivation and satisfaction, increases employee productivity, and contributes to improved organizational performance.  Organizations that do employee recognition well – and they’re a minority – tend to have a recognition strategy that is integrated, multi-faceted, and multi-tiered. XLDesign4U is creatively capable of assisting the implementation of such a strategy that can work for your specific employee teams.  Recognition and Award Programs are intended to support and reward employees, positively reinforce their initiative and creativity, and enhance business performance. Employee recognition can be used for a wide variety of achievements and contributions, such as innovations and improvements, performance excellence, and length of service and is often
presented at different levels depending on the accomplishment.

Did You Know?
Recognition and Award Programs Can:

• Reinforce company goals

• Strengthen an employee’s image of your company

• Foster employee loyalty and instill a climate of trust

• Create a friendly and competitive environment

• Encourage personal achievement & reward performance

• Build relationships

• Reduce turnover by up to 50%

• Generate 56% higher customer loyalty

• Create a 38% increase in productivity

• Cause a 27% increase in profitability
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According to a recent Gallup survey of more than 80,000 employees,recognition is a key factor in employee satisfaction and retention.  The purpose of this survey was to “identify the consistent dimensions of quality  workplaces, defined as those in which four critical outcomes—employee retention, customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability—are all at high levels.”

Did You Know?

The Tax Benefits of Recognition:

FireBolt-Award 11x176 FS-711-HR • Companies implementing Recognition and Award Program strategies record higher levels of performance, employee retention, and safety levels when compared to those using other forms of incentive.

• An employer can deduct up to $1600 for employee achievement awards provided to any single employee during a qualified Recognition and Award Program initiative throughout a single tax year. (IRS Code 274J)
  Stellar-Award 100x100 FT7801-HR

Recognition and Award Programs can play an important role in the success of your company. In times when corporations are looking for every avenue that can ensure success, don’t overlook those that can - and do - help you achieve: the employees of your organization.


Recognition as a business tool doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it is a wise investment that will create lasting value and achieve a long-term return. All it takes is thought, care, and a willingness to acknowledge that recognition means something to your most valued and important assets: the people who are your company.

 

 

Image & Article credit: Visions/Awardcraft

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Computer "Help" Scams

Yesterday I received an uninvited solicitation from a relatively pleasant gentleman claiming he was calling me on behalf of the "Microsoft Windows Care Team".  Having recently sent an assortment of "error messages" to Microsoft upon experiencing software issues, my 1st reaction was that this call might be believable - especially since the caller advised me that he was aware of my recent error reports and he was also aware of the fact that I have been enduring some system "slow downs".  But something was leading my intuition to exert caution during my phone conversation with this situation.  I'm sure you've all been there - here's my story.


My "mega computer" that carries loads of heavy graphic software was recently networked into a "share mode" within my office for a new employee where we will need to access & work on client files simultaneously.  After the network sharing was finally set-up correctly, I've noticed somewhat of a computer performance speed slow-down when I'm working with shared files.  Likewise, my 2 most often used powerful graphic software programs (Illustrator CS6 & PhotoShop CS6) tend to not play very happily together when I bring them in to the same playground simultaneously.

So when I got the call from someone who said they were with the Microsoft Windows Care Team I listened.

Why I listened?

The caller correctly advised me of his knowledge about what I've been experiencing.   Additionally, he advised me that I may loose everything on my system if I don't take corrective measures immediately... he said I have "worms" in my system and there has been and currently is malicious activity coming in to my all-important work machine.  

 

But wait a minute - my intuition told me something was not "right" with this intrusion of my busy work day.

Here's the "not right" / go with your intuition signals:

-The caller was foreign speaking with broken English.
-Everytime I questioned how he was able to determine I was having issues, he said it was "flagged" via my incoming error messages.
- When I asked him where he was calling from, he said New York - but it was uncanny how I could hear in his audible background lots of other (same foreign language-speaking) conversations going on.I could even detect some foreign yelling in the background!
When I told him I was busy and that this was not a good time, he pushed his call to action with insistance that I was in DANGER.

I then told him I would much rather have "my" computer guy discuss the issues with him on my behalf, and I requested his phone number.  Again, he pushed with the DANGER message.  I demanded his phone # & told him that I was willing to take the risk of waiting until "my" computer guy could follow back up with him while he (someone who I trusted) was sitting at my computer.  Finally, I was given the number: 760-306-4030.  I still have to look up that 706  area code to find out if it is really iin New York.

 

He told me his name was David.  Funny that's one of my sons' names.  Hmmmmm...

 

So we hung up, and I closed up my shop with a full system shut-down.  Scarely, my Windows Machine wanted to install updates at shut-down.  I acquessed and allowed the long-winded updates & didn't touch anything during that update/shut-down process.

 


 

Next day-

I did a web search for Microsoft Windows Care Team...

Yes it is a SCAM! 

Avoid tech support phone scams

http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx 

 

In USA you can contact FBI, State Attorney General, local law enforcement and consumer

watch groups. Arm yourself with knowledge. 

 

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), funded in part by the Bureau of Justice Assistance

(BJA).

http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.asp

 

No, Microsoft would not call you unsolicited. Nor would they know if any errors existed on your

computer. So those are frauds or scams, to get your money or worse to steal your identity. 

Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently - Microsoft does not make unsolicited

phone calls to help you fix your computer

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/phishing/Msname.aspx

 

Hoaxes and Scams

http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/cu_sc_virsec_master?ws=support#tab3

 

Microsoft Consumer Support Center

https://consumersecuritysupport.microsoft.com/default.aspx?altbrand=true&SD=gn&LN=en-us&st=1&wfxredirect=1&gssnb=1

 

Microsoft Support

http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/?ws=support#tab0 

 

Microsoft - Contact Support

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/help/contact-support

 

Hope this helps. 

 

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Are you remembered everyday?

Are you remembered everyday?
Wouldn't it be great if your clients and prospects thought of you every day of the year?  We can achieve this easily with subliminal time "remembrance" through a customized calendar gift.  Of course, including an image about you and your company that is viewed daily is a plus, but there are additional calendar enhancements that can really keep your calendar in front of your clients and prospects.  We all use calendars.  Where have you seen a business office/work-space that doesn't have a calendar?  XLDesign4U specializes in customized calendar creation - we can help you with promoting your business and it's services through this every-day medium.  Here are some thought provoking ideas to make your calendar stand out:
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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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