My ten-person company sells and implements business software – we have about 600 active clients. I’m the owner and I’m responsible for it all. But really, my job is primarily sales and marketing. I’m tasked with finding opportunities, qualifying leads and nurturing prospects towards becoming clients so I can hand them off to my team for implementation.
Being a small business, I can’t do all of this sales and marketing work on my own. I also can’t afford to hire more people. So I lean heavily on Staples as my one-stop shop for my sales and marketing needs. Yes, Staples is sponsoring this blog. But the facts are the facts. Here’s how.
I use Staples for my design work.
Over the years, I’ve changed our logo and our brand a few times – nothing major but enough to keep up with the times. In the past I’ve had to hire expensive consultants to do this. Recently, I’ve used Staples. With their logo design services, I was able to meet one-on-one with a design consultant to choose the right solution for my business. Based on our discussions, the Staples designer created examples for me and within three days I was presented with great concepts. The process was simple, fast and affordable.
Staples does my company’s business cards.
Even in this day of smartphones and digital communications, I still find myself handing out business cards at meetings and events, don’t you? I’m not sure if this old school manner of introduction will ever go away – or if I want it to. There’s something cool about it. Staples helps me keep it cool. I turn to them for my business cards, and have used their templates to create or update my existing cards, which has allowed me to maintain control of the process. The templates are modern and appealing- they also give me options for print, color and finishing. Staples also offers many types of card stock thicknesses and finishes too, and I’ve sprung in the past for the better ones to impress my audience. The best part is the turnaround – I usually get them within the same day of ordering or within a three day delivery period. Best yet- they’re priced right: 500 cards start at just $14.99.
I do postcard campaigns through Staples.
Email is popular, but people still read things they get in the mail. I’ve found that my client base in particular responds to printed marketing materials. I don’t want to spend too much money so I’ve worked with Staples on postcard campaigns. They helped me choose and design a personalized postcard from hundreds of templates to remind both clients and prospects of the services we provide as well as help us promote our in-person trainings and meetups. I’ve sent both standard and oversized postcards – some with a matte or glossy finish (depending on how rich I’m feeling that month). A few times I’ve mailed them myself but recently I’ve relied on Staples do that for me with their direct mail services, which includes either using my own list or a personalized solution to build a new list based on advanced demographic, geographic and behavioral data.
Staples gives me trade show support.
Every year my company does a few trade shows. I find them not only helpful for lead generation but also to provide an opportunity to see others in my industry, share ideas and get education. Unfortunately, trade shows aren’t cheap. My booth or table needs to look professional and attractive. To help I’ve turned to Staples. I’ve purchased and customized banners from them which has helped me increase my brand recognition and value, and promote new services we’re offering. Staples offers hundreds of banner templates in many sizes, along with banner stands and accessories. Anyone who attends trade shows knows that promotional products – those silly toys, pens, charging cables and earbuds – are a fun way to attract attention for your company. I buy those products at Staples, too. They offer hundreds of choices and I can put my company’s logo on any of them.
Running a small business is challenging. The good news is that there are good companies that help me keep my costs down. Staples is one of them. I rely heavily on them and consider them a one-stop-shop marketing partner.
Most of us think of Staples as a place to get the basics for our office – pens, paper and yes, even staples. But dig deeper into the office chain’s offerings and you’ll many items that would increase productivity and profits at your company. I did just that and here are six interesting things I found that could literally change your business.
1 – Anything from the Print & Marketing Services
Staples has a whole array of services at its Print & Marketing Services that can enable you to outsource all functions of not only your mailroom, but your marketing department too. The experts there can help you create eye catching business cards, signs, banners and posters for your company, promotional products for your next trade show, invitations and announcements for your next event, professional looking brochures, presentations materials and manuals, as well as great marketing materials from postcards to custom gifts for your customers.
2 – A letter folder.
If you’re doing a lot of mailings in-house, you can invest in the Martin Yale 1501X Letter Folder which will process thousands of letters in minutes, speeding up your mailing process and giving a jolt to your marketing. The machine is capable of folding brochures, programs, bulletins, newsletters and is ideal for businesses, churches, schools, and any other organizations. Or consider outsourcing these jobs to Staples Print and Marketing Services to save you time
3- An expresso machine.
There’s nothing that boosts employee moral more than good food in the break-room. And buying a Delonghi® Nespresso® Lattissima+ EN520 Capsule Espresso/Cappuccino Machine, for example, will show your employees just how much you love them. It comes in black, silver and white with an amble-sized mile carafe and water resevoir and will make your employee’s favorite cappuccino, latte, macchiato, espresso, long coffee, hot milk and hot water.
4 – A backup generator.
If your business is in an area where the power goes out then every minute you’re in the dark means you’re losing money. So it’s must that you have a backup generator like the WEN 4750 Watt CARB Portable Gasoline Generator. It runs on gasoline, weighs a hundred pounds and puts out 4750 Watts of power, plenty to keep things humming until the electric company gets things back in action.
5 – A whiteboard.
Walk into any innovative tech company in Silicon Valley and what will you see? Lots of nerds. But you’ll also see whiteboards…everywhere. That’s because great businesses (like yours) are always thinking, coming up with new ideas and hashing out solutions to the latest problems – and a great whiteboard like the Luxor®, 72″ x 40″, Steel Wall Mounted Whiteboard would be perfect for you business. With its rugged painted steel surface, the whiteboard allows you to use magnets to affix documents to the board for enhanced versatility. This whiteboard includes mounting hardware, making it simple to attach the board to drywall.
6 – A long-distance laser printer.
Hopefully, your sales team are frequently out presenting your products and services to lots of prospective customers. The trick to a good sales presentation is walking around, engaging, and keeping your messaging direct and on time. And a critical tool for doing this is the Logitech R800 Professional Presenter 100 FT-Range Green Laser Pointer. It has a built in timer and a brilliant, green laser and a wireless range of 100 meters means you’re free to move around and connect further with your audience.
7 – Promo items for your trade show.
If, like many companies I know, your industry’s trade show is one of your big marketing events of the year you want to make sure you’re equipped with all the bling necessary to make it a success. And you’ll be overwhelmed by all the great trade show items Staples offers – from posters, flyers and brochures to promo items like bike bottles, flash drives and football “stress relievers” – all with your company’s logo of course! Staples Print & Marketing Services is a one-stop shop for items like these and more.
Want to grow your profits this year? You can sell more. Or you can cut your expenses. Or you can do both, just by visiting Staples. The popular office supply giant offers many ways for its customers to increase sales and reduce costs. Here are three that I recommend.
1 – Use Print & Marketing Services.
If you’re just running into Staples to buy some paper, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity – Staples’ Print & Marketing Services.
Here you can bring your presentations, copy and print jobs and have them professionally and quickly done without taking up the time (and resources) required by someone in house. But more importantly, you can rely on Print & Marketing Services to provide the kind of marketing assistance that would cost significantly more if you were to do it yourself.
At Staples you can:
- Use the center to create eye-catching business cards and professional looking signs, banners and posters.
- Get your postcards, flyers and brochures designed and printed with the help of their consultants and in-store experts.
- Ask for help with promotional products – from coffee mugs to T-shirts – that can be made for your next event.
- Make sure your branding is consistent across all of your stationary, envelopes, business forms and checks.
- Choose the right personalized gifts and giveaways for customers, partners and employees.
When there’s something to celebrate, lean on Staples Print & Marketing Services to help you create photo cards, invitations and announcements.
Staples Print & Marketing Services is an outsourced marketing and administrative arm of your company, staffed with trained experts to help you launch marketing campaigns, do the right things at your next trade show, build your brand, attract attention for your business and create meaningful connections. Taking full advantage of their products and services will increase your profits. There are full-service capabilities for larger printing jobs and laminating, for example, as well as self-service options like convenient and quick print-to-store copies. Check out the Staples Business Center staples.com/businesscenter and Print & Marketing Services documents.staples.com.
2 – Join the Rewards Program
With each purchase at Staples, including most of what you’ll do with their Print & Marketing Services above, you can build up rewards. The program will let you earn up to 5% back in cash rewards on everything (excluding postage stamps, phone/gift cards and savings passes). In addition to these benefits, you’ll get free shipping on your staples.com orders over $14.99 (excluding Oversize items.) and you’ll earn $2 back in rewards for every ink or toner cartridge you recycle. Learn more at: (insert Rewards page with Link here).
Smart buyers can take advantage of membership programs to get them money or benefits back. Joining will increase your profits.
3 – Tech Services
Smart business owners know that investing in technology will have a marked impact on productivity and profits. But they also know that to get the most out of their technology, they’ll need ongoing services and support.
- Hardware will need maintenance and even recurring replacement.
- Software bugs will need to be addressed.
- Operating systems must always be updated.
- Security applications are a must for protecting against data breach, malware and viruses.
- Critical data must be backed up daily.
- Users should be frequently trained.
- Computers and devices need to be setup properly.
- Networks and Wi-Fi must be operating efficiently.
When this doesn’t happen, people become unproductive. Data gets lost. Costly interruptions occur. Sales and customer service is affected. And so ultimately are profits.
Staples has a technology services arms that addresses these headaches. By contracting with Staples you’re not only relying on a trusted, reputable resource but you’ll getting trained and certified professionals who will look after your technology investments and make sure that everything is running optimally. Staples’ technology services are competitively priced and quality driven. Relying on them for your tech infrastructure will go a long way towards increasing your profits in the years to come.
Brian Moran, a small business and social media expert, was offering some advice on are recent Tweetchat for Staples and mentioned the importance of outsourcing. “Do what you do best,” Brian tweeted. “And outsource the rest.”
He is so, so right.
Outsourcing. Delegation. Call it what you want. But the smartest business owners I know are great at focusing on their strengths and getting others to do what they don’t do as well. I’ve learned this over the years. Resources are always stretched tight. You can’t be a genius at everything. You have to know when to get help. And for most of us there’s plenty of help available. We can outsource our accounting, our payroll, our marketing, our telemarketing, our customer service. And, as the holidays approach, we can outsource even more to Staples. That’s because Staples will take responsibility for the tasks we need to get done so that we can focus on other, more profitable tasks. For example…
Staples mailing services will handle mailing and shipping. Now that Staples has teamed up with UPS, we can bring our packages, regardless of size, to just about any location and have it sent out the right way, 7 days a week. Better yet, we don’t even need to bring our packages – Staples employees will help with the folding, stamping and taping. They’ll provide the bubble wrap, foam and inserts. They’ll make sure our packages get out on time and to the right place. And during the holiday season, this is more important than ever. We don’t need a mailroom for this. We can outsource all of this to Staples.
Staples Tech Services is a one stop shop for outsourced technology support. Their trained technicians can help with virus and malware removal, tuning up of computers, the recovery of lost data if there’s a crash and there’s even a small business help desk to answer tech questions on just about anything. But that’s not all – tech associates can come onsite to setup new devices, configure a network, install software or hardware and back up files. Being in the technology business myself I know how a single software bug or hardware crash can disrupt an entire day. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure this stuff out on your own…you’re not an expert. Instead, you can outsource this work to the experts at Staples and continue to focus on what you do best.
Staples Copy & Print will help you eliminate your in-house copier and reduce the amount of administrative time spent doing unproductive work. Whether you’re doing a year end party, designing holiday cards or just printing out invitations to an event, the Staples Copy & Print will handle everything from design to production to delivery. Some business owners insist on doing all of this in-house – and the results are always inferior. Remember Brian’s advice: do what you do best. Are you an expert designer? No? Neither am I. Outsource it to Staples and don’t spend the time on things you’re not at good.
To succeed small business owners need to outsource. And there’s no better place to outsource your work this holiday season than Staples.
Most doctors are better known for their medical expertise rather than their business acumen. But some are great at both. Just like one doctor I know – Dr. Vicki Bralow.
Bralow runs a two person medical practice in South Philadelphia where she treats (literally) thousands of patients a year. And her patients love her. She’s been doing this for many years. She spends a great deal of her time with her patients and treats many multi-generational families in this working class area of the city. But Bralow is a businesswoman too.
She understands that being the best doctor for her neighborhood also means running and growing her practice too so that her patients know she’ll be there for them for a long, long time. And that’s where her business acumen comes in. To run a good medical practice every good doctor needs good employees. These are nurse practitioners, medical assistants, administrators and other doctors. And she knows that taking care of her employees is the most important thing to do take care of her business. She relies on them. And her patients rely on them too.
Which brings me to the holidays. And Staples. That’s where Dr. Bralow always goes for her office supplies, of course. But this year I challenged her to use Staples for the holidays too. And I offered to help her find the right gift items at Staples for her practice. Did Dr. Bralow take me up on my offer? Sure. But did she intend to buy gifts for her patients? “Sorry, no,” she said to me. “If I’m going to buy gifts for anyone, it’s going to be for my employees. Without them, both my patients and I would be in trouble.”
And so we both thought…what would be some great holiday gift ideas at Staples for Bralow’s employees? And three good ones came to mind.
Bralow’s practice manager, Karen, has been using the same old laptop for more than five years. And she takes it with her between both offices and her home. She never complained, but the laptop was slowing her down. “When I talked to Karen about getting her a new laptop, she threw her arms around me! I had no idea it was taking her old laptop more than 10 minutes just to start up every day. That was a huge inconvenience to her and for my practice.” So Bralow purchased a new HP laptop for Karen at Staples. But that wasn’t all. She also bought two iPads for her nurse practitioners to update patient files on the go, which is saving everyone a lot of time. “My practice needed some critical tech upgrades and I found them at Staples,” Bralow said. People love tech – it helps them do their jobs better. And it makes their jobs more fun.
The break room.
Bralow’s break rooms in both her offices are so important because it’s the one place where her people can go to relax and try to relieve some of the stress from their very busy jobs. How can she make these modest places just a little bit better for her valuable people? Coffee. Really, really good coffee! So why not celebrate the holidays with two Keurig coffee machines and a whole bunch of gourmet coffee, right? She got a great deal on the units from her nearby Staples. “I wanted to treat my people to something special when they take their breaks as a way to say thank you.” But that wasn’t all…..she also purchased a bunch of coffee cups from Staples and is having each one of them personalized with an employee’s name. She’ll give these out at her year-end holiday party.
Dr. Bralow is definitely a generous person. And her generosity shows during the holiday season. Every year at this time she gives a full week’s salary to her employees as a bonus. But she likes to give something more. So she scooped up a bunch of great gift cards at Staples for other fun retailers to include in everyone’s envelope with their bonus. “The cards aren’t generic – I bought each person a specific card based on what I know they like, like certain retailers and restaurants that are people’s favorites.” Bralow also does one other special thing each year too – in addition to giving her employees’ gifts she likes to buy a little something for their kids. And there were some great cards available at Staples for this too. “Three of my employees have teenage girls, so I bought them each a gift card to a cool makeup and perfume store here in town that I know they’ll love.” See kids? It’s not just school supplies you can buy at Staples!
All in all, Bralow had a great time shopping at Staples this holiday season. She was able to get everything she needed for the people that matter the most: her employees. That’s why she’s not only a great doctor, but she’s a smart business owner too.
Rich Wark runs a great little business. A profitable business. A hands-on business!
Rich and his sister are the owners of Bob Wark’s Liberty, a gas station and repair shop in a suburb of Philadelphia. The business was started more than 40 years ago by Rich’s father – a car mechanic himself, and has grown over the years to serve thousands of customers in many neighboring towns. Rich’s father’s reputation of being the best of the best was achieved through hard work, integrity and dedication not only to the business, but to his many valued customers and the surrounding community. And many of these customers (like me), and their children, have stayed loyal to the business over the years. There’s something to be said for quality and Wark’s Liberty is known for its quality work.
Running a gas station and repair shop requires a lot of time and money. Employees need training. New equipment needs to be purchased. There’s insurance, utilities, payroll and benefits to consider. The work is demanding and so are the customers. Wark’s is open before the morning rush and stays open until late in the evening. Rich competes against other other repair shops in the area not only for customers but for skilled people too. According to Rich, “our business has always been based on the belief that our customers’ needs are of the utmost importance.” That kind of attitude has seen the business through multiple decades of change.
When it comes to his customers, it’s the little things that matter the most. Dropping a car off at a busy person’s home instead of having them come in to pick it up. Taking a few dollars off a bill where they can. Making room in their repair schedule to accommodate an emergency. Being on hand in the middle of the night to take acceptance of a towed-in car that broke down on the highway. And saying thanks.
Particularly during the holidays. This is the time of the year when it means the most. And Rich makes it a point to reach out to his customer base and say thanks. This year, like other years, he’s sending out holiday cards. I suggested that he get them this year from his local Staples Copy & Print center. And not only that, he could use Staples Copy & Print center for special calendars for his customers and posters for his employees too.
Why? Because Staples definitely makes more happen. Staples Copy & Print is offering new, low prices on their products and services. And the idea worked.
“Everyone at Staples makes this easy,” Rich told me. “I’m not a design guy. I’m a mechanic and a business owner. At my Staples store I get suggestions for holiday cards. I can also look at all the ideas they have online. I also designed a great calendar for my customers and created a few custom posters, using antique cars, for my mechanics. They loved it.”
My other advice to Rich: use this time of year to say thanks, and thanks only. Some business owners make the mistake of trying to sell when it’s not time to sell. By “touching” his customers with a simple card he’s making them remember Warks. Together we worked to create a good database of customers from his accounting and email systems. The idea, I recommended, is to use this database throughout the year – not just the holidays. Sending cards at the holidays is nice. Sending another card mid-year will really stand out too. Having a good database is critical for this.
But back to the holiday cards, calendars and posters. This is not something to be taken lightly, and I have made mistakes before. Mistakes that I advised Rich to avoid. Wark’s has many Jewish and Muslim customers. He can’t just say “Merry Christmas” or send something that might offend, no matter how innocent. The cards should be simple in design with the right message of thanks and gratefulness. A lot of thought should go into choosing the right card each year. And each year Rich can get help from the people at Staples so that he can make the right decision.
And so we did. After discussing some card designs and messages, we chose cards for this year. A design showing a winter scene and wishing a warm holiday season. The price was right. The cards got turned around quickly. And his customers will be pleased. How many times have you received a nice little card from a local shop, thanking you for your business and wishing you a good holiday? Not many, I’m sure. Some business owners just don’t get it. But Rich does. And that’s why his customers love him.
Plan inventory. The worst thing ever is having a customer place an order and you’re out of stock. People want things now, and if you fail to deliver immediately, they’ll just turn to one of your competitors. Also, remember that buying last minute will leave you little room to negotiate. “Secure the best deals from vendors by getting your stock now,” advises Barry Moltz, a small business expert.
Get additional help. The good news about the economy is that people are working again and things are looking up. The bad news is that there are less good people around for your business! Think ahead about your needs and secure people now. If it’s just part-timers you’ll need to fill the gaps then reach out to the career offices at your local colleges well before Thanksgiving break arrives.
Announce “doorbusters” early. Moltz also says you should use weekly “doorbusters” to attract customers to your store or website. It makes sense. The better deals you offer now, the more interest you’ll be getting earlier. Create signage to highlight holiday promotions or create flyers you can put in bags with deals for the next week. It’s easy to do both with Staples Copy & Print services. The goal is to draw people in to your store or site before the holidays, so they’ll think of you during and after the holidays too.
Say thanks often. “Everyone gives thanks during Thanksgiving,” Moltz told me. “Set your company apart and give back every week.” This is advice for the entire year, isn’t it? I recommend giving stuff away for free. It doesn’t cost much and everyone likes free stuff. I send a client chocolates from Staples once a month, every month throughout the year – just to say thanks. This is a good tradition to start now and carry on throughout the year.
Reinforce customer and employee appreciation. It’s not just about giving thanks. It’s being loyal. And providing great service. It’s telling an employee how good they are. Or offering a special discount to a customer just to say how much you appreciate their business. The holidays are good time to reach out to the people that impact your business the most and making sure they know how important they are. I recommend sending cards and calendars from Staples Copy & Print, a great place where you can create customized gifts at very low prices for telling your customers and employees how much you care.
Get back up. Moltz, like me, is big on contingencies. What if inventory doesn’t arrive? Or the power goes out? I checked the calendar and it turns out that the holidays come in December, right? For many of us, there’s risk of bad weather. A snowstorm right before Christmas may look pretty, but it could be a killer to your business. “Have a contingency plan,” Moltz advises. Think of all that can go wrong and have plan for making it right. You are the owner. You are the leader. Your job is to think ahead and minimize surprises. That’s why you’re making the big bucks!
Finally, go social. Both Moltz and I spend a lot of time on social media. And the benefits are significant. We’ve both generated a lot of business thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What kind of content can you provide? “Think beyond promoting deals,” he advises. “Tell customer success stories. Give your unique point of view.” You’ve been doing this for a while. You’re an expert in your field. Use social media to educate your community and make your friends and followers’ lives that much better. What goes around, comes around!