The Bizz by

Business & marketing advice, news and features, design inspiration, and the art of gifting.

3 Smarter Promotional Giveaways for Trade Shows, Expos


By Fausto Mendez

    At massive trade shows, like CES in Las Vegas, promotional giveaways have morphed into an art form as companies from around the world aim to outdo each other with more effective giveaways, and it’s become clear that the best promotional campaigns are more creative, utilizing a strategic combination of products, messaging and distribution.

    Below, I list three (smarter, more effective) promotional giveaway ideas that can apply to most trade shows. We haven’t seen these ideas out in the real world - not exactly as we present them here - so they might give you the winning edge over the guys at the next both. 

Flash-Drive Bracelet as a Contest Entry


    We’ve seen wearable flash drives at CES and other press-heavy shows, but they are almost always used to distribute basic information, like brochures and links. These are especially popular with companies that target reporters because they make it easy to deliver press shots, link lists and other important details while allowing the reporter’s attention to stick to whatever’s more important. This is a pretty smart tactic, but you’re limiting the bang per buck if you stop here. 

    Remember that the main goal of most giveaways at any trade show is to act as a billboard for your brand, so you should design your campaign in a way that keeps these bracelets on your targets’ wrists. One way to do that  is to launch a contest around the bracelets.

    As you hand out the bracelets, tell your targets that one of your employees randomly delivers prizes to people that wear the bracelets on the show floor, but you won’t know who or where he is because he’ll be dressed like everyone else.

    Make sure that you have the prize on display at your booth to tempt your audience. Of course, the more valuable the prize, the more likely that people will wear it, so it’s probably better to hand out a few big prizes than many low-quality ones. Still, there may be situations in which your target audience might prefer an inexpensive prize. For example, condoms might be a very popular prize at SXSW.

 Promotional T-Shirts, Tote Bags or Backpacks as Coupons


     This idea can work for any trade show where you aim to sell to attendees, and all you need to do is print a coupon on your promotional shirts, tote bags or backpacks, preferably next to a very large version of your logo and slogan.

    The key is to hand out shirts away from your booth and to require the customer to wear the promotional item during purchase in order to redeem the coupon. As a result, attendees will put it on and later walk to your booth to make the purchase. The result is crowds of people wearing your logo and buying your stuff; of course, that’s assuming you have a product that people want. 

 Mugs, Tumblers or Cups for Access to Free Coffee, Alcohol or Water


    Promotional mugs, tumblers and cups are some of AnyPromo’s hottest sellers, but if you hand someone a free cup, you’re not pushing your campaign to the max if he hides it in his tote bag right away. As a result, your best bet is to offer free drinks to attendees that have your mug, tumbler or cup in hand. 

    Whether you offer caffeinated drinks, alcohol or water depends on your specific situation, but the goal is to create a buzz of “that brand that is giving everyone free drinks if you just use their cups.” Furthermore, you can use the opportunity the catalyze important conversations with individuals that may be interested in your product, brand or cause, and the cup will serve as a friendly, non-intrusive ad after the show. 

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

3 Copywriting Tips Supported by Scientific Research


By Fausto Mendez

    Copywriting is very much an art, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hard science behind some of the principles used by more successful writers. These scientifically-backed #copywriting tips should graduate your game to the next level, no matter your skill level.

    Teaching copywriting is difficult. You can only lay some ground rules that point people in the right direction, and most tips and advice are merely opinions based in anecdotal evidence, relentless practice and educated guesses. So it can be hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Thankfully, Gregory Ciotti put together a list of seven copywriting tips that are supported by some level of scientific research. We summarize three of his more useful tips below.

1. Leverage an Emotion That’s Already There.

+ Tip: Find an emotion that your target often feels, and make them feel that again. Don’t tell them what to feel. Like a novelist, the goal is to craft copy that leads them to that place on their own. Then, mix your message into that good emotion.

+ Science: Mirror neurons can make you feel what you see. It’s why men cringe when they see another man get hit in the balls. Make your target relive the emotion by showing them a scene that takes them back to it. The emotion makes your message more attractive and more memorable. 

2. Don’t Sell Money. Sell Time.

+ Tip: Even low-quality brands hardly advertise their low prices. It’s something stores do for brands, but you almost never see a brand thumping its chest about its absurdly low prices. That’s because it doesn’t really work. Time is a more precious resource, so sell good times, not good prices. Miller’s slogan (“It’s Miller Time”) is the perfect example. 

+ Science: Customers are willing to pay more for good service, which means they are generally more concerned about quality than price. That doesn’t mean lower prices can’t help you outsell your competitors, but it does mean that you’ll have to convince your target audience that your lower prices don’t mean a reduction in quality as well. Focus on the quality of the product. The low prices market themselves.

3. Don’t Avoid the Counter Argument

+ Tip: Your product, service or brand is not the answer to your target audience’s every problem. More importantly, there is usually a clear argument against it. Don’t ignore the opposing argument because it will be recalled by the target when you present yours. As a result, it’s best to tackle those opposing viewpoints head on. Think about it: Pepsi doesn’t ignore the existence of Coca Cola, not even in its own ads. Apple doesn’t ignore the existence of Windows, and I’m sure you’ve seen car commercials that feature the competitors’ products. 

+ Science: Psychologist Charlan Nemeth tested two styles of debating, one that acknowledged the opposing viewpoint and one that didn’t. Of course, the arguments that did better are those that didn’t pretend there is no opposing viewpoint. That’s because when you’re “real” with your target audience, they are more likely to trust you, and when you answer their questions, they don’t have the opportunity or the desire to find answers elsewhere.  

   Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

How SoBe® Used Promotional Giveaways to Go Mainstream


By Fausto Mendez

    John Bello used promotional giveaways to grow his beverage brand, SoBe®, from a niche set of bottled drinks to a mainstream phenomenon that PepsiCo eventually bought out. Today, he’s building up new brands with strikingly similar marketing strategies. 

    Promotional giveaway campaigns work. Need proof? Just ask John Bello, founder of SoBe, which he sold for $370 million, and the architect of SoBe’s wildly successful promotional campaigns. How’d he do it?

Promotional Products 

    Bello leveraged the power of promotional products and a fascinating and unforgettable logo. Combine the two, and you have a series of high-quality promotional products branded with SoBe’s iconic lizard. Here’s how it went down.

    His team would deliver a box of promotional giveaways, such as keychains, to as many SoBe dealers as possible, and the SoBe dealers would hand out the branded products to SoBe customers. The SoBe customers are already fans of the product, and the iconic lizard logo is beautiful and striking enough that it can be appreciated on its own. So the giveaway has two main effects.

Customers as Brand Ambassadors

    First, it makes the customer feel appreciated, and in the customer’s mind, it creates an association between those positive feelings and SoBe (and sometimes the store itself). That effect makes SoBe more memorable, so the customer is more likely purchase SoBe products in the future. The store owners tend to appreciate the free marketing as well. 

    Second, the customer would wear or use the promotional product in his or her day-to-day life, and the eye-catching lizard logo would attract others’ attention. As a result, the product becomes a conversation starter for the customer’s friends, family and acquaintances, and this introduces the brand to new fans.

Rinse & Repeat

    As Bello continued SoBe’s relentless promotional campaign, his effort slowly paid off as the brand grew to mainstream proportions, but he’s not one to take too many days off. After selling the company to PepsiCo, Bello launched a new beverage brand, and he’s using the same proven marketing strategies all over again. 

    In similar fashion, the new company’s logo is often sought for the mere fact that’s beautiful. “Part of the trick is having cool giveaways and a cooler logo,” says Marketing Officer Bruce Burke. The second half of the trick is getting those products into the hands of the target audience.

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Recipes to Boost Focus in Meetings: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread #RBFM


By Fausto Mendez

    Pitching to a hungry audience is shooting yourself in the foot, so bring along some tasty treats - preferably sugary stuff - to boost everyone’s focus and mood. It WILL make a significant difference in the success or productivity of your meeting or pitch. This week’s #RBFM sugar spell: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread!

    Our favorite #RBFM recipes deliciously mash up two separate concepts, such as cinnamon rolls and cheesecake. That’s because, in a business setting, you definitely want to impress your meeting’s attendees. It makes your meeting that much more memorable. They will always remember that meeting as “the one where I tried a cinnamon-roll cheesecake for the first time.” If you’re making an important pitch, the incoming sugar high could be the difference between a success or a failure. 

   Anyway, let’s bake something. You can thank Recipes Quick’n Easy for original recipe. 

Step 0 - Gather your Ingredients


+ Filling: eight ounce pack of cream cheese, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar, one tablespoon of flour,one egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

+ Bread: 1 2/3 cups flour, one teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, one cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup canola oil, two large eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, one cup chopped pecans or walnuts. 

+ Glaze: one cup powdered sugar, two tablespoons half & half, one teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts. 

Step 1 - Mix & Preheat


+ Preheat Oven to 325 degrees. 

+ Grease and flour two 8” x 4” x 3” loaf pans.

+ Start the filling. In a bowl, mix: cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg and vanilla. Mix until it feels pretty smooth, and aim for a “cream” texture. 

+ Start the bread. In a larger bowl, mix 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, salt cinnamon  cloves, ginger and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix: pumpkin puree, canola oil, eggs and sugar. Now, mix the contents of these two bowls together. Drop in your nuts for good measure. 

+ Step 2 - Prepare for the Bake


+ Empty half the pumpkin batter into the two loaf pans. Layer on the cream cheese, followed by the rest of the pumpkin batter.

+ Create a marble effect with the cream cheese by swirling a knife in the batter. The goal is not to mix the cream cheese into the batter; instead, the cheese should remain separate from the batter. 

+ Step 3 - Let’s Get Baked!


+ Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick into your bread and pull it out clean. 

+ While we wait for that to finish, let’s make the cinnamon glaze. Take all the ingredients for the cinnamon glaze and mix them together. Add more cinnamon to darken the glaze. 

+ Pull out your bread. Let it cool for ten minutes or so. Now, drop some glaze on that B, and drop in your nuts for good measure.

Step 4 - Assimilate


+ First, I should warn you that fireworks may shoot out of your mouth during consumption, so keep a fire extinguisher on hand. 

+ Once you have your extinguisher, grab some bread, and put it in your mouth. I guess you can save some for a friend or whatever, but I wouldn’t blame you for being selfish. Oh yeah, don’t forget to save some for your next meeting, or… never mind, you’ll probably have to cook another batch.

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by, the Web’s low-price leader in promotional products. 

Three Critical Tips to Write Better Marketing Copy (Slogans, Email Subjects, Ad Copy, Etc.)


By Fausto Mendez

    Whether it’s a brand slogan, a promotional giveaway, a marketing email or a highway billboard, the best marketing copy is rather short and simple, but it can be far from easy to write. Effective marketing copy can take a long time (maybe even several days) to produce and revise, and it sometimes requires a draining amount of frustrating effort. But improving your copywriting skills can add a significant boost to your business’s success, so it’s important to continuously refine and hone your work.

    I’ve recognized three key principles throughout my career that have helped me improve my copy over time. Keep these principles in mind the next time you write to help you boost the quality of your work (see the #copywriting tips page for more)

Don’t Start with Words


+ Don’t start with words; start with a feeling. You shouldn’t write if you don’t know what feelings you want to evoke, but if you identify and target a specific feeling, such as relief or confidence, you’ll have a much better idea of what you are really trying to say. After all, that’s the point of marketing copy (to evoke or sell a specific feeling, not really the product itself). People don’t care much for products or services, but they love the good feelings certain products or services bring them.

+ The example above doesn’t feature any marketing copy, but it does a good job of evoking the the childish joy and wonder of one’s imagination. Actually, the intentional lack of marketing copy amplifies the feeling, so it’s also a good example of the “less is more” principal described later in this article. 

Short Verbs Are Safe Bets


+ Get in the habit of starting your copy with an action word; it’s beneficial to your writing process to start your copy with a short verb, such as “win” or “boost”. That’s because good marketing copy gets to the point fast, but the practice can also direct your writing process in a positive direction. You may find that this rule is too formulaic in certain situations, but most of the time, it’s a safe bet - especially if you’re pressed for time and not feeling super creative. 

+ The example above is a perfect illustration of this concept, and it gets right to the point. The feelings being evoked are joy and laughter, and that emotion leaves a positive impression with you as it associates joy and laughter with the name “Chick-Fil-A”. Furthermore, when a customer creates an emotional association to a brand, it makes the brand more memorable. 

Less is More


+ I can’t stress this principal enough: use less words whenever you can. The shorter your message, the more people will consume it and understand it. It’s not a difficult concept to understand, but it seems to be a difficult concept for newer writers to apply. 

+ In the above Nike ad, the writer could have written: “It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how or why you do it. It doesn’t matter how good you are when you do it - as long as you do it and you do it for yourself.”  But the standard Nike slogan, “just do it”, works much better. It communicates the same message in a fraction of a second, so the team that designed the ad effectively maximized the audience that will consume and understand the ad. 

    Here’s an extra bonus tip that can apply to any creative professional, not just writers: develop amazing, outstanding taste. Simply by improving your taste (for example, learning to enjoy more sophisticated books or higher-quality blogs), you will improve your creative work. That’s because you can more easily and quickly identify bad ideas, so you can trash those ideas before you finish them. The best creatives kill almost all of their ideas, and they only keep a few shining gems to refine. Similarly, you should find a thick pile of unused ideas in your trash bin at the end of any writing session.

    For more copywriting advice, check out "10 Ways to Improve your Marketing Copy."

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

How Social-Media Marketing Boosts Sales by 30% in the Video Game Industry


By Fausto Mendez

    The effectiveness of SMM (social-media marketing) is a widely debated topic, but the video game industry is done with that debate. And its verdict is in. It turns out SMM may be its most powerful marketing channel yet. 

     Twitter broadcasts over 400 million tweets everyday. That’s a lot of talk - most of it gibberish, but the video game industry is learning that guiding those conversations towards upcoming video-game releases has a very significant impact on sales, according Twitter and Deloitte LLP. Twitter UK commissioned Deloitte LLP to measure the impact of those 400 million daily Tweets on the sales of 100 best-selling PS3 and Xbox 360 games, and you can see the results for yourself in the full infographic below (click to enlarge it). 


The Lesson: Creatively Integrate Multiple Channels in Your Marketing Campaigns

    The point is not to rely solely on Twitter - or even social-media marketing - but to shape your campaign using a variety of tools that guide your audience towards positive online conversations about your products or brand. 

    Now, let’s use this lesson to design an effective marketing campaign for a company like Rockstar, maker of the famed Grand Theft Auto series. As a marketer for a major gaming company, you have to think bigger than an unforgettable TV ad, a beautiful billboard, a hilarious Twitter author, or a well-designed Facebook page. You want to design marketing tactics that start conversations that move to and from various marketing channels. 

The Example: How to Move Customers From Channel to Channel

    For example, you might design a set of TV commercials that confuses and surprises viewers. Throughout the commercial, you’d display a unique hash tag at one of the corners of the screen. The confusing ad would encourage users to search for the video or the hash tag online. The confusing ad also airs between 4PM and 8PM because that’s when the target audience watches TV. By 9PM, the audience is most likely playing video games and/or browsing the Web.

    At this point, those gamers that aren’t gaming are probably searching for the video or hash tag in order to discuss it and share it with their friends. After discussing with their friends, they probably want more information, so they would search for related websites later that night. This campaign would have three important effects.

+ By adding social and online components (that are easily searchable and sharable) to the TV ads, the ads are viewed by many, many more people than if they were developed without those social and online components. 

+ Conversations with friends about upcoming games has a more powerful effect than ads that intrude on the audience’s time and attention. Friends are often entertaining, welcomed participants in such conversations. Ads that try to dictate how you think, on the other hand, run the risk of being an annoyance if they appear in the wrong situations. In other words, your friends’ excitement for the next Madden NFL game is more effective than a tv ad for the same game, but the conversation that exposed you to that excitement may have never occurred if it wasn’t for the TV ad in the first place.

+ The search-engine performance of your website is increasingly becoming dependent on the performance of your social-media profiles and content. As your profiles and content are shared across social-media sites, your website’s SEO grows too, so by catalyzing conversations that involve your social-media profiles, critical keywords and links to your website, you should increase the traffic that your website receives from search engines beyond the traffic that arises from curiosity just after a new ad airs. 

Why does it work?

    In the previous example, the process starts in the living room. That means you have to know when your audience will be there. If you do your homework, your customer will see your ad on TV at the perfect moment. They would then search for your hash tag or video online (which would cause the initial search-engine traffic boost). As the audience start conversations about the video and any related content, they would share this content on social networks, and then you get a second search-engine traffic boost as Google notices that your brand name and content are being shared on social-media sites. As excitement, rumors and information spreads, sales grow. Just rinse, and repeat.

    Whether you’re ordering promotional products for a trade show or finalizing the details for your next TV commercial, a strong and wise marketing campaign can go a long way. Take notes, people!

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

#MarketingMonday - How Refinery29 Launched a Multi-Million-Dollar E-Commerce Store Built Around Content Marketing


By Fausto Mendez

    Content marketing is a powerful but often underestimated tool in the world of business, and despite being misunderstood, it is the vehicle that is turning average Joes from all walks of life into millionaires.

    Justin Stefano and Phillippe von Borries are the owners and founders of Refinery29, a fashion content and e-commerce company out of New York. It’s raking in multimillion-dollar sums every year, but it didn’t start out that way. About eight years ago, the website could barely pay a $28,000 salary to each member of the founding duo, but thanks to a smart and evolved approach to content marketing, it pulled in $14.2 million dollars last year. Stefano and Borries expect that number to increase by another ten million for 2013, according to Business Insider

    Prior to launching Refinery29, both Stefano and Borries held down relatively cushy jobs in law and politics, but they quit their careers to launch the website in 2005. It started out as a somewhat traditional blog on fashion, music and design in New York City, but their dedication and taste finally paid off after three years. Riding on a $28k salary purely from ads, the blog took off around 2008 as smaller, niche brands found a growing and receptive audience at Refinery29. 

    Oddly enough, Stefano and Borries know nothing - and continue to know mostly nothing - about the fashion industry. But Refinery29 eventually became the place on the Web to talk about emerging fashions and up-and-coming brands. What they didn’t realize at the time was that they were perfecting the practice of content marketing, which would set the stage for an e-commerce store that would launch Refinery29 to new heights.

    The addition of an e-commerce component to Refinery29 enables the store to generate another $3-4 million per year, and it doesn’t cost the duo much time or effort to get the store off the ground. After all the, Stefano and Borries don’t even buy inventory. They just take a cut from the products sold by the smaller, niche brands that their audience loves to read about.

    What Stefano and Borries did with Refinery29 is what content marketers all around the world aim to do everyday, but content marketing doesn’t always produce such favorable results. Their success stems from a few basic principles: 

+ They are genuinely passionate about their jobs (as owners of Refinery29) and the content they produce. People are attracted to passion, and passion makes it easier to work harder and more effectively.

+ They write for the reader, not for search engines. Writing for search engines can help you boost traffic in the short term, but writing for real readers produces passionate, dedicated fans that love to come back to the site on a regular basis.

+ Like in TV, high-quality (entertaining and/or useful) content comes first because that what attracts people. Without the content, there is no audience.

+ Many e-commerce stores underpay content marketers, copywriters and bloggers in the belief that their contribution is not as important as, let’s say, a web developer. But to underpay your writers and bloggers is like ABC underpaying its sitcom-writing staff. The writers of a major sitcom at ABC are some of the highest-paid employees of the company. Think about that the next time you expect a minimum-wage employee to generate major traffic. Appreciate your content creators.

+ A content marketer should have (or at least strive to have) the same skills and professionalism as a staff writer for Time Magazine or

+ Don’t forget to broadcast a healthy sense of humor. The Web is full of humor and people that appreciate a good joke. This is a fact of modern Web culture, and if you’re not in tune with modern Web culture, you won’t succeed as a content marketer.


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Honda Leveraged Pinterest to Reach 5 Million Users With Tiny Budget - #MarketingMonday


By Fausto Mendez

    Every Monday, we analyze a successful marketing campaign, or we assemble a set of tips on a relevant marketing topic to help you boost your business to the next level. This week, we dissect Honda’s very successful #Pintermission campaign.

    Social-media marketing is a tricky landscape to navigate, but some out-of-the-box creativity can go a long way. Big brands know this well, and Honda knows this better than most. In fact, Honda’s #Pintermission campaign reached about five million users, according to Marketing Mag, including 5,000 repins and 2,000 “likes” so far. Overall, Honda measured 16 million impressions when the campaign (which included traditional advertising) was said and done, and that’s not including Facebook and Twitter conversations. But exactly how did Honda leverage Pinterest to such great effect? 

    The campaign specifically advertised the new CR-V, which encourages the concept of enjoying life beyond the walls of home. The CR-V is also targeted at younger adults that are about to settle down, and these young adults grew up with social media. They are accustomed to making plans online, and a good chunk of this demographic are on Pinterest too. Now, here’s the tricky part. How do you reach all of these people with a minuscule budget?

    The name of the game is creativity. If you have it, you can probably be an amazing social-media marketer, and whoever’s working for Honda apparently has it. 

    Honda reached out to Pinterest users with profiles that have massive follower numbers, and a significant chunk of these followers are individuals from the target demographic. The company offered these users $500 each. All they have to do in return is to make or complete one of their pinned images. Honda calls this concept - taking a day off of Pinterest to give life to a pin - a #Pintermission. 


    Pinterest is a popular place for sharing how-to articles and images of places or activities that people would love to be a part of, so the rest of the campaign was rather easy. Honda created boards for these users to post their #Pintermission photos, and the company also requested that these users create their own dedicated boards for the campaign (with Honda’s Pinterest profile as a collaborator). In addition, Honda also posted and shared custom images that advertised the concept of a “Pintermission”. With the stage set: online discussions, viral shares and “likes” took off. 

    Most importantly, Honda understands that Pinterest is not the best place for marketing many of its other vehicles. The CR-V has a unique target audience. As a result, Honda found those users online, and then, it developed a plan to engage those users with the CR-V as the centerpiece for discussion. That’s the big lesson here: find the customers, understand them and engage them.

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

DIY Promotional Giveaway: Chocolate Bouquet


By Fausto Mendez

    If you’re a fan of DIY crafts for personalized gifts and promotional giveaways, you should consider adding a personal touch to your next promotional gift with a homemade chocolate bouquet.

    This DIY giveaway is perfect for courting leads that happen to be recent grads - especially masters and PHDs - since they might be moving up the corporate ladder soon. You might also send one to your clients’ kids if you’re close enough and not creepy about it. Top it off with some relevant promotional giveaways, such as a pen set or an iPad case, to add some brand boosting power to your gift. Don’t forget that the point of a promotional gift is to raise awareness of your brand in your target audience.

    Furthermore, you can adjust the design to fit a variety of themes, holidays and events. You are only limited by your creativity. Now, let’s make a chocolate bouquet.

    First, you should do some basic research to determine the best type of chocolate to buy. Some people really prefer dark over milk, and others love white chocolate. Some people love caramel while others prefer (or have allergies to) certain nuts. A little bit of homework goes a long way.

Step 0 - Gather Your Cooking Materials


+ Mini Reese’s peanut butter cups or a similarly shaped chocolate candy.

+ Square-shaped (not cubed) chocolate candies or candy melts (that you melt and reshape into a square). Reshaped candy melts work best.

+ Lollipop sticks

+ Mini M&Ms

+ Colored candy decorating pen

+ Flower pot

+ Styrofoam cylinder (that fits inside the flower pot)

Step 1 - Prepare the Cups


+ Insert each stick into the top of the peanut butter cup. You might need to make a hole with a toothpick before inserting the lollipop stick. This helps to keep the cup intact as you insert the stick.

+ Most likely, your hands are too warm for the peanut butter cups, so they are starting to melt. Place each of peanut butter cup right side up on a plate. Stick them in the refrigerator for ten minutes to help them solidify. 

Step 2 - Assemble the Hats


+ Use the candy pen as adhesive to stick the square chocolate onto the bottom of the peanut butter cup. Do not penetrate the square chocolate with the stick.

+ Sit the hats upside down for about ten minutes to allow the adhesive to set.

+ Create the graduation cap tassel with the candy pen, and use an M&M to create the button that holds the tassel onto the hat.

+ Arrange the caps within the flower pot by using the Styrofoam to hold them in place.

Step 3 -  Dress it Up


+ Use tissue paper (preferably cut into thin, long strands) to add some flare and hide the Styrofoam. 

+ Decorate the flower pot with a message or art.

Step 4 - Add Promotional Products that Raise Brand Awareness


+ If you’re using this concept as a promotional gift, you’ll need to add some customized promotional products with your brand logo on it. We have a number of suggestions below, but can also browse the AnyPromo No-Minimum section for products that don’t have to be ordered in bulk. Don’t forget to add your brand’s logo to any of these products.

+ Many grads have a laptop, and have developed some level of addiction to it. A promotional messenger bag for 11-inch or 13-inch notebooks would be a useful and long-lasting gift.

+ Some grads might enjoy a custom flag or vinyl banner customized with a band or sports team’s logo. 

+ If your target is a drinker, he or she might enjoy a corkscrew / coaster gift setWriters or heavy note takers might prefer the leather notebook version.

+ Targets with business cards may enjoy a custom sculpture shaped out of their business cards and then placed inside a glass bottle. It’s a new take on the boat-in-a-bottle concept. From 18 wheelers to aircraft carriers, there’s definitely a sculpture that will appeal to your target.There’s even a sculpture of business man behind a desk!

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by Thanks to Chica Circle for the pictures.

An Email Marketing Tactic that Works Really Damn Well


By Fausto Mendez

    Email marketing is a tricky beast to tame. Effective tactics vary from business to business, so A/B tests and audience surveys can work wonders. But some basic strategies exist that can unlock big rewards if you execute them well - no matter your industry or audience. A recent EDM campaign by REI is a perfect example.

    This morning, I stumbled upon a great piece at Freelance Writing Solutions on follow-up marketing emails that seem to be working pretty well on customers that made recent purchases at REI. Below, I break down the story to the basic details, but the whole thing is worth a read if you have the extra time.

+ The author of the article recently purchased a pair of cross-country skiesat REI, an outdoor-equipment retailer with a lot of street cred within the outdoor-sports community.

+ Approximately three weeks after purchase, he received a follow-up email from REI. The message congratulated him on his recent purchase of skies, and it included some very helpful articles, including how-to guides on equipment cleaning & maintenance and a web-based tool that displays snow reports at your favorite ski spots.

+ The customer felt like REI was paying attention to him because REI knows that he didn’t purchase downhill, or mountain, skies. Also, the email marketing team at REI did a great job at guessing exactly the kind information a recent purchaser of cross-country skies might need. Actually, that customer didn’t even know he needed some of the information in the message, so it was a welcome surprise overall. 

+ This marketing email is not designed to immediately catalyze purchases. Unfortunately  a lot of marketers expect instant results out of every message sent to subscribers, but this message has a much greater, longer-lasting effect. The effect this message seems to have on the customer is that it builds a relationship with the customer, increasing brand awareness and brand appreciation in the process. As a result, his next outdoor-sports purchase will probably be at REI. 

    The story illustrates the importance of building long-lasting and close relationships with your customers - not just through email marketing but through any and all available channels. More importantly, email marketers need to exercise more out-of-the-box creativity to find the best ways to do this.

    It’s a great idea. No doubt. But we suggest a few more tips that’ll help you make the most out of every EDM:

+ Stay visual. Effective web marketing is always mixed in with amazing graphics, photography and lay-out design. Rely on a tried-and-true graphic designer to help you achieve the best results.

+ Though your graphic artist has a great eye for visual design, he’s probably not a great marketing manager. The same can be said about your customer service reps and salesmen. The EDM campaign as whole, including message and content, should be managed by a well-trained marketing manager that can easily see the world through the eyes of other people. 

+ The subject line is critical! This text is the first thing the customer will see, and it will literally determine whether or not the customer opens the email at all. It may even encourage customers to label your messages as spam, which can weaken your delivery rates in the future. In other words, you can build the best EDM emails that have ever existed, but if the subject line is weak, no one will even open it in the first place. 

+ Seek the opinions of an outside consultant with a fresh and unbiased view of your business. This consultant can offer answers to confusing issues that you would have no idea how to approach, such as: low deliverability rates, IP address issues, domain issues, choosing the best email service provider for your current circumstances, A/B testing, blacklists, whitelists, changing privacy laws, and much more. If a consultant is out of your budget, you may consider signing up with an email service provider, SEO firm or marketing company with an EDM specialist on staff that you can call upon when you need help. 

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

Recipes to Boost Focus in Meetings: Cinnamon-Roll Cheesecake #RBFM


By Fausto Mendez

    Pitching to a hungry audience is shooting yourself in the foot, so bring along some tasty treats - preferably sugary stuff - to boost client focus and mood. It WILL make a significant difference in the success or productivity of your meeting. This week’s #RBFM sugar spell: Cinnamon-Roll Cheesecake (with Cream-Cheese Frosting).

    What happens when you combine two of the most amazing deserts into one concoction? You get something like a cinnamon-roll-cheesecake absurdity. Though it might shave off a few minutes from your lifespan, it’s worth more than its weight in gold (at least to your taste buds). In an nutshell, it’s a cheesecake stuffed with cinnamon rolls. Delicious.

    Now, let’s get to work. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a 9-inch Springform pan to get started. Next, search your house or the local supermarket for the following ingredients.

Step 0 - Gather Your Ingredients


+ Cinnamon Roll Batter: 2/3 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup butter (room temp.), 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt

+ Cinnamon Filling: 3tbsp cinnamon, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup butter (melted)

+ Cheesecake Filling: 16 oz. cream cheese (room temp.), 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 3 eggs, 2 tbsp flour

Step 1 - Start the Cinnamon Roll Batter


+ Cream together the butter and sugar. 

+ Add the egg, milk and vanilla to the bown. Beat for a minute or so; scrape down the bowl.

+ Mix in some flour. Throw in some baking powder. Toss in a little bit of salt. Mix at a slow speed until thoroughly combined.

Step 2 - Start the Cinnamon Filling


+ Grab another bowl. Mix together the melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. 

Step 3 - Start the Cheesecake Filling


+ Grab a third bow. Fill i up with cream cheese and sugar. Beat it for two minutes at medium-high speed.

+ Crack some eggs. Don’t add them all at the same time. Mix in each egg before you add the next one. Scrape down the bowl.

+ Add vanilla and flour. Beat for minute or so.

Step 4 - Bake Your Cinnamon-Roll Cheesecake


+ Spread half of the cinnamon-roll batter onto the bottom of the Springform pan. Press it down. Make sure you spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking to your hands.

+ Next, add all of the cheesecake batter into the Springform pan.

+ Drop spoonfuls of cinnamon filling over the top of the cheesecake batter. When you’re done with the cinnamon filling, drop spoonfuls of the cinnamon-roll batter over everything.

+ Gently swirl your mess of ingredients together. How much you swirl is up to you, but you don’t want to mix it all together. The goal of the swirl is for all of the different batters and fillings to not be so separated but to leave enough separation so you can experience different textures and flavors with each bite.

+ Bake for 50-55 minutes. Let it cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Move it to the fridge for 4 hours or so. Take it out and let it warm up back to room temperature.

Step 6 - Now, Let’s Make Some Cream-Cheese Frosting


+ Beat some cream cheese and butter in a bowl for two minutes or so.

+ Add the other ingredients into the bowl; mix it together until you’re satisfied with the consistency of the frosting. If you feel that your frosting is too thick, thin it out with a splash of milk.

+ Pour the frosting over the top of the cake.

Step 7 - Consume


+ First, thank Culinary Concoctions for posting the original recipe.

+ This next step is arguably the easiest part of the recipe. You’ll need: a plate, a fork, some friends (or a lover), and either some good music or a few episodes of your favorite TV show. Eat.

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

The Best Way to Deal with Difficult or Mean Clients


By Fausto Mendez

    Business is business - until it gets personal. Actually, when big money and reputations are on the line, it’s almost always personal. It’s really easy for your clients to step on your toes (or the other way around), but no matter who’s at fault, you need to be ready to deal with moody, rude or emotionally unstable customers in a positive and calm way that moves you closer to your business goals without sacrificing top-tier service.

    Law firms are a perfect example of a business atmosphere that is bursting with emotions. When you’re serving a client that’s on the verge of losing his house, business, freedom or a ton of cash, it’s silly not to expect some frustration to surface in ugly ways - not just from the client but perhaps from yourself too. That’s why the Harvard Business Review's Mark Goulston is sharing the lessons he’s learned as a lawyer who’s served some of the rudest and downright meanest clients in his industry. His entire article is worth a read if you have the time, but we break down his advice to some actionable basics below. His tips can apply to any industry, so take notes. 

+ Start out by preparing yourself for the worst. Don’t expect your clients to respect you. This attitude prevents clients from surprising you with outbursts or insults.

+ If your career requires you to deliver really bad news to clients, it’s best to ask your clients how to approach them with bad news. When the time comes, bring up your previous conversation about how to deliver bad news, recap the client’s advice on delivering bad news, and then deliver the bad news in the way the client recommended.

+ In the event that insults come your way, detach yourself from the insults. It’s much easier said than done, especially when you’re caught off guard, but that’s why your start by preparing for the worst. It’s also important to keep in mind that the client doesn’t really know you as a whole person, so insults, in this case, are just a symptom of frustration. 

+ When shit finally goes down, the client may insult you, yell and maybe even threaten to fire you. Your ego won’t want to take it, and you may be tempted to yell back. Don’t. Just take a deep breath. Look them in the eyes, and pause. Though it’s not acceptable behavior, now would be a good time to remember that circumstances can drive anyone to behave this way.

+ When the insults finally come your way, ask a question that forces the client to examine and repeat what he or she just said, “do you really believe what you just said?” Another great question: “What was that all about?” Chances are that they expect you to fight back, so they won’t know how to respond.

    Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Linkedin, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

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