Export Your “Made In USA” Brand

Hanson Marketing is a member of the San Diego & Imperial District Export Council, and today we gathered at the World Trade Center San Diego to meet Mr. Suresh Kumar, Director General of the US & Foreign Commercial Service. His talk brought us up to date on the National Export Initiative and ways in which the federal government is enabling growth, through such programs as committing 3% of US GDP to R & D tax incentives.

His background in consumer marketing shone through, as Mr. Kumar likened the US’ 1400+ commercial service officers to the “Distribution” pillar that must be solidly in place before US exporters begin meaningful promotions.  These officers are truly commercial diplomats, but they think and act like startup entrepreneurs and hold to the 4Ps of marketing and sales management.

Mr. Kumar presented Export Achievement Awards to area companies and to World Trade Center San Diego. The region’s expertise in water technology and maritime systems infrastructure is evident. (Hanson Marketing is proud that client Hawaii Kai Corporation won the same award, due in part to the global channel strategy we formed for the company)

Made In the USA is still the world’s #1 brand cachet, according to Mr. Kumar; and a Designed In California tag signals world-leading innovation.

Learn more: National Export Initiative, US & Foreign Commercial Service. Bellamare, The Maritime Alliance and The Security Network.

Gaming for Fitness: Products Span Retailer Aisles

The latest issue of Vision, the Consumer Electronics Assocation’s excellent trade publication features Gaming for Health.  The video gaming industry is feeding new technology and ergonomic interfaces to keep people of all ages fit, alert, and helping them to recover and rehabilitate.

“Exergaming” extends into all age groups and global selling regions. Foundations and university research sites also advance the use of exergames to help better understand health risks and behaviors.

At VQ ActionCare, we’re expanding our retail channel partnerships for sales of a low-impact, seated exercise and rehabilitation system called the Resistance Chair.  While clearly low-tech in form and function, thousands of Resistance Chair users plug into instructional DVDs that allow people stay at home and keep fit. We’re studying our customer’s useage habits and deciding what the next generation of this product will be. It will likely contain more digital intelligence, and link to online fitness and training aids.

Established sporting goods and big box retailers are re-thinking their product lineups, to serve their loyal, aging shoppers. Will be interesting to see how category buyers cross over from the electronics aisle to the fitness corner, when promoting and displaying exergaming and other smart exercise systems.

Read more.

Selling Services on the Cloud: Elements of Success

Although sales of  intangibles — services, Cloud-based software — carry healthy margins, sales close rates are typically well-below the ideal.  Examining the reasons why this occurs is key to solving this issue. A panel of veteran salesmen shed light on the challenge at TechAmerica San Diego Marketing & Sales’ July Roundtable.

The event was especially productive due to the variety of attendee profiles, all of whom brought unique perspectives to the discussion. I spoke with a software technologist who’s starting up a new venture, an account manager for a Cloud-based data management solutions provider, and a project manager at an IP-based telephony systems provider.

As soon as moderator Craig Arnoff, co-chair of the roundtable asked panelists how selling intangibles differs from selling products, it was clear that successful sales people share universal traits, regardless of what’s in their bag of tricks. Trust, training, drive, optimism, better customer service. Some are born, some are made.

Ken Reilich made an interesting point: some salespeople come to rely upon products as crutches, vs. their selling skills. Products become the sole reason for success, or the whipping boy for failure (“pricey, lousy, old…” ) Take the product away, and replace it with intangibles, and success is slightly more determined by superior selling skills.

David Alemian reminded us that a successful salesperson can sell anything: he began his career selling swimming pools in New England, in the winter (quick, what’s the pain point there?!); and now promotes a novel, Cloud-based management tool sold to healthcare IT leaders. He also touched on Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a key element in human interaction.

Bruce Cole sells Internet marketing and SEO tools and services at a local and community level. He emphasized testimonials and proven success stories, which I also advocate is the most valuable sales tool, whether selling in one zip code or in several continents. I think that’s why Yelp and Angie’s List have earned such a following.

At this point, I wondered how each panelist would extend these formulas for success into a channel-driven, multi-tier sales organization… wherein face-to-face visits with end decision makers are rare or impossible.  A successful global channel leader possesses all of the above traits and skills, then marries them with excellent organizational skills, time management, and a healthy respect for the value of channel partners. Topic for another panel!

Craig brought up the core element of success: a fruitful, face-to-face experience with customers begins with a  make-or-break, 15-second pitch. For successful salespeople, it’s like breathing. But for less outgoing, more self-conscious people it’s a mystery.  Craig also shared a couple of items from his Sales Alliance toolkit: how pre-screening and benchmarking can increase a good match between sales candidate and employer.

Reminds me of a lesson I learned long ago on career development: teamwork lets others benefit from your talents, as you do what you do best; while you draw the same from them. Don’t waste time trying to perfect your less-than-ideal skills.

More about the moderator and panelists here.

Building Retail Channels: A Milestone

I’m pleased to share news from VQ ActionCare about our retail expansion strategy. Signing up nationwide, top-brand retailers is such an important milestone to reach, and is worthy of a big shout-out.

Here’s my favorite part: “We are excited to make this strategic move to partner with five top national retailers …,” said Tom Hanson, Director of Sales, VQ ActionCare. “… these retail partners… share in our commitment to expanding solutions for active seniors in innovative ways.”

Read the whole press release here.  Learn more about VQ ActionCare’s senior fitness solutions here.

Selling Services and Software: Margin Reality Check

Although these and other intangible solutions carry healthy margins, close rates are well-below the ideal in the real world.  Be the hero who helps your company reverse this trend, improve your bottom line, and boost commissions and bonuses.

TechAmerica San Diego Marketing & Sales Roundtable is presenting a panel of experts who will help you build a sales management toolkit for such key issues as:

• Understand why product-oriented salespeople often fail when selling intangibles and services
• Discover innovative strategies and programs for selling services and software
• Explore ways to make conceptual sales approaches more tangible and concrete
• Differentiate your offerings to motivate buyer action and to thwart competition
• Develop methods for cross-selling and up-selling services during product-oriented sales cycles
• Learn several sales skills required to be effective in selling software and services

It’s live in San Diego, on Thursday morning, July 21. Registration: REGISTER NOW

Via Lucis and ARTstor Collaboration

I’m pleased to share news about Via Lucis, our venture to document Romanesque and Gothic churches in France and Spain through high-resolution photography.

ARTstor digital library in New York is collaborating with Via Lucis \to share approximately 2,000 high-resolution images, taken by photographers Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey, from their extraordinary and unique collection of medieval Christian churches in France and Spain.

The collection primarily features interior architecture, especially the arches, vaults, domes, and buttressing that define the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The collection also features a selection of images of the Vierges Romanes, stylized wooden statues of the Madonna and Child, from the 11th century to the 13th century. A subset of these sculptures includes the Black Madonnas, which are particularly venerated in Spain and France.

Dennis Aubrey explains, “The intent of the photography is both to document these magnificent structures and to capture the mystery and hidden presence of medieval spirituality.”

“As the member of a military family who lived in France for seven years while growing up, I was always aware of these churches and felt a deep personal connection to them,” Aubrey continued, “This is a great opportunity to be able to share what we have documented with a larger audience, to allow others to experience them as PJ and I have.”

Via Lucis Photography and Via Lucis Press are parts of a long-term project to document Romanesque and Gothic churches throughout Europe. The projects include the photographs in the collection and a forthcoming book, Light and Stone. The book includes the Via Lucis photographs accompanied by text from Dennis Aubrey, edited by Ann Hanson. The images are high-resolution representatives from a library of over 45,000 images of over 300 churches and cathedrals throughout France and Spain.

We consider Via Lucis to be a spiritual descendent of two earlier undertakings – the famed “Missions Héliographiques” and the “Éditions Zodiaque”,” said PJ McKey. “It is a very personal project for us and being able to capture these churches in a way they have never been captured before is inspiring. We bring our own photographic eyes to the churches, but let them speak for themselves in their beauty and history.”

In 1837, the French government established the Commission des Monuments Historiques. The inspector of monuments then commissioned the Missions Héliographiques: a group of five photographers whose task was to photograph various monuments throughout France. The Editions Zodiaque was a publishing house started by three monks from the tiny French monastic community of La Pierre Qui Vire. From 1950-1995 they traveled throughout France and Europe photographing Romanesque churches as photographer-pilgrims. The team printed many superb volumes illustrated with their extraordinary photography.

Christine Kuan, Chief Content Officer & VP of External Affairs for ARTstor stated, “The ARTstor Digital Library is delighted to be disseminating this important Via Lucis archive for teaching and research purposes. European Romanesque and Gothic Churches remain one of the most studied areas in the history of art and architecture and it’s wonderful that this collection will be reaching a wide range of educational and scholarly users at the more than 1,350 institutions in 45 countries we serve today.”

“We are pleased that the photographs will be made available to the scholarly and academic communities through this arrangement with ArtStor,” Aubrey said. The ArtStor Digital Library in New York serves educators, scholars, curators, librarians, and students at more than 1,350 universities, colleges, museums, and libraries in 45 countries worldwide.

About Via Lucis
Via Lucis Photography and Via Lucis Press are part of a long-term project to document Romanesque and Gothic churches in France and Spain. The photographs represented here are high-resolution images of Romanesque and Gothic churches in those countries. The photographers, Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey, have created a library of more than 45,000 images.

About ARTstor
ARTstor is a non-profit initiative, founded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with a mission to use digital technology to enhance scholarship, teaching, and learning in the arts and associated fields. ARTstor consists of: A repository of hundreds of thousands of digital images and related data; the tools to actively use those images; and a restricted-usage environment that seeks to balance the rights of content providers with the needs and interests of content users.

Small Retailers Stake Claim vs. Goliaths

What an inspiring article by a brand whiz, on how he helped two mom and pop businesses take on their own Goliaths by showing them how to tell customers why they’re better and more unique.

  • Moths to a Flame: For a too-quiet restaurant at the end of a dark road, enticing prospective patrons to tread a dark alley and draw nearer to lit torches. Once in, the food and ambiance won them over
  • Early Birds Catch the Worm: Urging a green grocer to tell his story of dedication and care in selecting fresh produce at the crack of dawn every day using the most elementary of tools, taking on the giant while armed only with polaroids, note cards and a Sharpie.

If you’re a locally-owned business who’s facing down a new Goliath in town, reach a little and stake your claim based upon your key values — dedication, personal care, affordable pricing, convenience. If you also get the chance to sell and serve customers online (previous post), these same rules apply for reaching shoppers far and wide.

Please read Martin’s article at Fast Company; link here.

World’s Largest Companies: Top 25

Quick, what’s your guess on the world’s largest company?

Did you guess an energy provider, a manufacturer, or a financial group?  Of those three, I’d guessed Royal Dutch Shell, and I was wrong.

The largest company is JP Morgan Chase & Co., according to Forbes magazine. It’s hard to think that over 16,000 jobs worldwide were filled at JP Morgan in the past year, considering the state of banking.

See ’em all here.

 

Retailers of All Sizes Win Global Shoppers

Hanson Marketing recently structured an online retail strategy with global reach for a retailer of natural personal care and gourmet food goods. No matter the size or current reach, any retailer with the right mix of unique solutions and compelling story can go global.

Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) states that “Domestic-only retailers and online pure-plays are using e-commerce to achieve global reach without opening stores by enabling cross-border trade (CBT) from an existing website (e.g., Saks Fifth Avenue) or by building complete, local e-commerce operations (e.g., Amazon).”

Think about what this means, particularly for local, one-shop bricks and mortar retailers and for those operating purely online: the global retail market isn’t just for the big boxes!  If you believe that the products you offer are unique and that your store is the best source for them — after all, this is what you tell your customers everyday, right? — then you’ve got a foundation for going global.

Contact Tom for a detailed case study on how Hanson Marketing formed a global retail strategy with proven growth results.

Campus Marketing: Apple, Barnes & Noble Lead the Charge

In the rarified air of US college campuses, you will find two American companies leading the charge to capture top brand loyalty and affinity. Apple and Barnes & Noble’s direct-to-consumer channels, student ambassadors, and outsourced sales and service leave their daily imprint on millions of students and staff on campus. The result is an annual crop of well educated customers with discriminating tastes and generally higher earnings potential (says the dad of a recent grad, optimistically…)

Barnes & Noble College is the outsourced campus bookstore at over 600 US campuses, touching over 4 million students and 250,000 staff daily. Through the subtlest of branding, shoppers might notice that B&N is running the place. While such outsourcing helps institutions control operating costs — I’m all for that — it’s generally difficult to unseat an incumbent retailer/outsource provider once entrenched. And, along with that comes the risk of complacency in pricing and quality of services, borne by shoppers who pay premium pricing in exchange for a convenient location. In a store where $65 hoodies prevail and the majority of customers live within a half-mile and are shopping on their parents’ dime, there will be no bargain basements.

Aside from their outsourcing services, B&N is masterfully marketing their Nook-based technology resources straight into the college market, wherein its NookStudy is positioned as the online reading and study platform.

Apple grabs incoming students and their folks with promotions, displays and kiosks. Educators and students are the only set of consumers on the globe who can enjoy discounted Apple products, it seems. So, again, the college campus marketplace is an ideal channel for such a globally cool and technically powerful brand as Apple.

Besides the books and bits market, popular food and beverage makers such as Naked Juice deploy college ambassadors, stocking dorm room fridges and social gatherings. Ambassadors are generally vivacious, friendly students who are fun to be around… hence their products are fun to drink/eat. We see early evidence of campus ambassador marketing in grades 7-12, wherein clothing and shoes are test-marketed on the backs and feet of good-looking, popular people who are nice to look at and fun to be around.

Apple, Barnes & Noble, Naked, and other friendly brands know that campus marketing channels are insular, price-inelastic, and ideal breeding grounds for successive generations of brand-conscious shoppers.

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