Of course, many worked from home during the lockdown, and some will stay working there, but over time most will return to the place they left months beforehand.
Some appear to be relaxed in a world without a vaccine, but many are less so. Never before have people taken so much interest in personal hygiene in the workplace and, with the possibility of a second wave of infections, what they can do to protect themselves.
We have created a range of ‘new normal’ products, all of which can be branded, to help your organization remind and protect staff and visitors alike. Furthermore, why not send this type of item to your home-workforce or customers. If you don’t have the resources to manage fulfilment, to lots of people, we can help with that too.
You can view our new normal products here https://rosslyn.co.uk/g/new-normal-safety-products/
Then my whole world went zoom. Welcome to the new normal. A place where you have a choice; move forward or look back.
Trade shows, meet-ups, roadshows – you name it, none of that stuff is happening for a while. Right now (May 2020) would you want to share a confined space with lots of other people from other countries? Exactly.
So video conferencing has become the only safe solution for, not only large organisations but friends and families too.
For some, none of this is new. There has long been an army of freelancers and ‘tech’ savvy types mixing work from home with, work from the office, work from StarBucks. For once in my lifetime I was finally free.
Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s a sad fact that wars and pandemics are very often the only events that generate real societal, technological and economic change. Once you’ve found a better, or cheaper, way of doing something, you are unlikely to go back.
The boss of Barclays bank has speculated that the concept of having a large headquarters building may become a thing of the past. Airlines will probably have to cut routes and increase prices. Most retailers simply won’t exist within the next few months. Bang, just one touch and all the church bells rang.
And who will pick up the tab for the eye-watering cost of managing, or dare we say mismanaging, a pandemic? What taxes will need to increase and what effect will those increases have? Will the young be left to ‘carry the can’ as usual or will, for example, ‘inheritance’ taxes rise? After World II, British inheritance tax rose to 80%. Then my whole wide world went zoom.
Here are some questions for you?
- How do you retain mindshare, and brand awareness, when people are not physically visiting a central point of contact?
- Can digital marketing deliver everything? What about SPAM filters, ad blockers, and a general weariness with being followed around the internet by lawnmowers simply because your Google assistant heard you say lawnmower!
- How do you promote brand loyalty, and a sense of community or teamwork, when everyone is remotely located?
- What does it feel like when the nice man brings a box to your door full of useful free stuff?
- Do people have all the stuff they need to work from home?
So here’s the pitch. Gifting, rewarding, promoting – these things are now more important than ever? Disagree? Then just invert that premise – how does that sound? Leveraging goodwill creates a competitive advantage – and boy are we all gonna need some competitive advantage!
Zoom – or whatever you do – then, ask us to send a follow-up to the attendees. We could put a pack of stuff together with a covering letter or card. We could source items which are really useful for people working remotely. Or you could just send a teddy bear for the kids or a bowl for the dog!
It’s imperative that your on-line events are followed-up properly. All at once there was no turnin’ back. Oh zoom, you chased the day away.
There is much debate as to what shape the recovery will take. Will it be a ‘V’, a ‘U” or a ‘W’? Some foresee an ‘L’. Either way, certain products and services remain essential; food, health, power, finance, communications et al.
Markets will change. Some businesses will disappear, leaving their market share and talent to others. Some will reorganise and refocus. There will be new opportunities, trends and attitudes.
Many will look back at this period and see that its ‘chaos’ created positive change in their lives. Yes, it was painful at the time, but that’s when ‘I moved to X’ or ‘decided to change Y’. Maybe it took a pandemic to make you realise just how good your life was and to appreciate what really matters to you!
Marketers have to assume that much will be different. ‘Physical’ events such as trade shows look set for a slow recovery. Virtual events, webinars and online meet-ups are here to stay. The ‘home desktop’ certainly presents a new promotional opportunity.
Will people seek a little light in their lives? Is this the time to really promote ‘goodwill’, to be generous and caring? You may not be able to hand a client a gift personally, but you can still send one to their home.
What your business or brand ‘says’ and ‘does’ during this period may have implications for years to come. Do you slash prices or emphasise quality and service? Remember Marks & Spencers’ ‘Dinner for 2 for £10’ during the Financial Crash – a straight forward discount cleverly packaged. How creative could you get?
There is much evidence, from previous recessions, to support the notion that those who suddenly and drastically cut their marketing expenditure hand a long-term advantage to those who don’t. Not all companies are about to dial their marketing activities down. Some will push harder than ever, sensing a chance to leapfrog the opposition. Remember, the damage will be very expensive to undo.
No two recessions are the same. The COVID recession could be deep but short-lived. This time next year your business could be busier than ever but struggling without its most experienced staff. You could be marketing a new product or service. Your main competitor may have disappeared, legislation or consumer attitudes may have forced your sector to change course. You may have a whole new brand identity or a new owner. Who would have thought?
Trust and reliability are evergreens. In a world where supply chains are reorganising, credit is being withdrawn and prices are yo-yo-ing wildly, being able to rely on a brand or partner is crucial. Stay close to your customers, make sure they have all the information they need when and where they need it.
However tricky the situation got, your brand, your company was always there to serve. A light in the storm.
During the past 25 years, I have spent 80-90% of my professional life working from home. Here are some tips which you may find useful;
- Get dressed, and go to work!
- Work a typical business day, for example, 9 to 5 with a break for lunch. Retain some structure and routine.
- Have a space ready-set for work. Some are fortunate enough to have a home office or study, but many don’t. You need somewhere you can concentrate, without distraction.
- You are not on holiday, but others will think that you are! Young children, in particular, won’t get what’s going on and that’s not their fault. But, you need to figure out a ‘settlement’ with everyone else in the household including the dog! You get peace and quiet, they get extended playtime later in the day or an evening walk. Use your considerable diplomatic skills to explain, very gently, that you are at work.
- Don’t eat too much! A nice email arrives, so off you trot to the kitchen to reward yourself with a chocolate biscuit. Someone makes a silly request so you calm yourself with the 6th coffee of the morning. Working from home can create some bad habits, guard against them otherwise your health will suffer.
- Have proper breaks, go outside or somewhere away from your screen. You need a mental break, eating lunch clicking through emails is not a break. Try something new between work sessions; a new book, a new playlist, a new recipe.
- Make sure you talk to a human at least once during the business day. Skype. Facetime. Zoom.
- Beware of addiction to ‘Breaking News’ and a blizzard of ‘notifications’. That stuff will kill your Deep Work.
- Allow yourself some ‘creative time’ – just a part of the day when you can try new work-related stuff, or to simply type out some notes about an idea you have. Too many people exist in a reactive loop, just ticking through a never-ending list of things that need doing. Working at home is now allowing you to avoid a percentage of the meetings you’d usually be sucked into, so use that spare capacity to be productive. How could you streamline what you do? What are our competitors up to right now? What can our team do differently? How do we improve X or Y?
- Enjoy not having to commute! Relax and become more positive. Remember, previous generations couldn’t do this. Lots of people have jobs which mean they can’t do this. Technology is giving you more time in your own space.
Working from home can be the perfect solution for some, but a real test for others. You, of course, will develop your own approach based around your particular set of circumstances. I’m one of those people who needs a core routine. I rarely, if ever, work at night but I tend to have music playing most of the day and stop to play my guitar at regular intervals. We are all different.
2020, our 25th anniversary, hasn’t exactly gone to plan!
Having weathered a number of storms during the past quarter of a century, including the financial crash and the shock of 9/11, we thought we’d seen it all. Obviously not. Without question, the scale and speed of the current economic collapse, which has befallen many businesses, are frankly difficult to comprehend. But for most life goes on, and we like everyone else will find a way through.
It’s inevitable that during 25 years of trading, some of our choices were good and some not so good. Some ideas worked, some did not. All businesses have problems from time to time. You probably won’t find that in your ‘how to run a business’ textbook, but as anyone who has actually done it will tell you, it is true. You try stuff and learn.
One of the things we’ve undoubtedly got right is our obsession with keeping our costs low. We never went in for old-school status symbols. Another is strict adherence to a very simple rule – we don’t do anything for nothing. We are a business, we are here to make money. You buy it for one and sell it for two. Maybe that’s why we’ve outlasted Lehman Brothers, Woolworths, Thomas Cook, Carillion and Flybe.
We’ve also been very enthusiastic about the use of technology. As a micro-business, technology provides us with an opportunity to punch well above our weight. We can do more, faster and for less than many of our larger competitors. In theory, our entire business could be run from an iWatch – although the little screen would drive me crazy!
So it seems the trick is to be super-lean and adaptable. If you’re not, something like COVID-19 is going to expose your weaknesses very quickly.
The climate change emergency will outlast COVID-19. Together, they will reshape supply chains, and geopolitics more broadly, forever. Our industry, like many, has been addicted to low-cost products imported from countries many thousands of miles away. That is going to change.
We are preparing to make ‘country of origin’ much more visible to our clients. In fact, not only do we plan to tell you where the product is from originally, but also where its been in terms of central warehousing and branding. You may be surprised just how many miles the average product clocks up! Logistics companies, who cannot show that they offset the carbon they create, face an uncertain future. Some cities will soon ban diesel vehicles altogether. The rules of the game are changing.
Product pricing is likely to become more fluid than we have all been used. Budgeting during a period of inflation, created by shifting supply chains, will be new to many. Looking for somewhere to invest your fortune, try a highly automated local manufacturing business! The new products we add to our range, from here on in, will reflect a move towards ‘localisation’.
Like many companies, we subscribe to a growing number of digital services, for example, cloud-based CRM. Over the past few years, the number of services we pay to use has risen, as have the prices we pay to use them which is mainly due to the weakening £Pound. Some are essential, but we’ve identified a few which could be replaced by expanding the back-end of our own web site. This means a short term investment in development to achieve a long term saving. This will also allow us to create a better experience for our customers with some really useful new services available behind a client login. There’s some cool stuff coming for our loyal customers!
It seems that during the COVID-19 emergency, we are not allowed to mention the ‘B’ word – Brexit. But, just to remind you that the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, with or without a trade deal, in just a few months time. So, if our Government is to be believed, British business must survive COVID-19 and then immediately adapt to being removed from the largest trading block in the world. Let’s hope all the free-trade deals we’ve been promised are ready to go in time!
And finally, you will notice that we haven’t been trying to sell you hand sanitiser and face masks – we’re currently getting between 10-20 emails a day! Many overseas suppliers are supplementing their income by offering products they don’t usually supply. Do they have the correct product certification or accreditation? How do you know the paperwork is genuine? Do they even understand what they are selling? A word of warning, a proportion of what’s being offered is probably not what it purports to be. Be careful what you buy and who you buy it from.
See you on the other side!
Jonathan Lee, Managing Director
Promotional products; 10 effective uses to help you get more value.
1. Increase brand awareness
When your customers seek ‘X type of product’ what brand do they think of first and why? Making sure the right people think of your product or service, at exactly the right moment, is what brand awareness is all about. Your product or service may be technically superior, it may be cheaper, it may be a whole long list of wonderful things but if people don’t recognise your brand, or even worse, are confused by what it stands for, your sales team will have a mountain to climb. Promotional products help to raise brand awareness and spread the message. Get known by more people for less.
2. Improve customer loyalty with promotional products
70% of companies say it’s more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Earning and retaining customer loyalty is paramount. People ‘buy people’, so give ‘your people’ the tools to spread goodwill. Promotional products offer a cost-effective medium for increasing customer loyalty. Maybe your audience is very traditional, they want the printed calendar for their desk or a simple pen? Maybe your clients will be enthused by something more sophisticated like a wireless charger. Make sure your brand name is right there, front and centre, just when it needs to be!
3. Promote a specific product, message or event
Use promotional products to highlight the attributes of a particular product or service. Connectivity, integration, speed, efficiency; all of these concepts can be communicated by the right promotional product. Add a strap-line or event title to your branding to tie-in with your campaign. Continue the main theme of your campaign through your promotional give-aways; match shapes, colours, and functionality.
4. Recognise employees
Good people are hard to find. Great people are hard to keep. Making sure that colleagues, of all levels, are properly recognised is key to your organisation’s success. A staff umbrella for the winter, a ‘new starter’ pack or gym bag to encourage a healthy lifestyle can all form part of a programme of recognition and reward. We all like to feel valued. Promotional products can help to add the value that staff retention relies upon.
5. Increase footfall to your trade show booth
Catch the eye. Giveaways are a great, low-cost method of attracting interest and spreading goodwill. Why not turn each visitor into a mobile advertising platform by giving them a free bag? Have a low-cost, high volume giveaway like sweets or stickers to giveaway en masse. Then take something more sophisticated to give to your key contacts after that important scheduled meeting. And remember, merchandise is made to order so the more time you allow for production the better the product will be – don’t leave it to the last minute!
6. Kit your staff in uniform
Teams wear team kits. Armies wear a uniform. It’s simple stuff. Put everyone in some form of uniform and subconsciously they start to work together. Uniform, even if it’s just an embroidered shirt for wearing at a trade show, will help make your staff more visible and feel more valued. Uniform projects a professional image to existing and potential clients. Think about it, who do you feel more confident buying from? The smartly dressed person decked in company colours or the non-descript guy loitering around at the back of the trade-show booth? And what sort of image do you want your delivery drivers to portray? As the old maxim goes, ‘you never get a second chance to create a good first impression’. We offer a wide range of clothing and headwear.
7. Say thank you to a VIP
Decision-makers are hard to get to and even harder to satisfy. It’s never been tougher to maintain a personal relationship now that we all operate in a digital world. And yet, people still ‘buy people’. The big decisions are still almost always sealed with a face to face meeting or a level of personal trust built over many years. So say thank you, at that opportune moment, to the person who has placed their trust in your product or service. What’s an appropriate gift for your key contacts? Do women want the same as men? Is there a price point, too low and the item may seem insulting, too high and you stray into the minefield of inappropriateness. Check with the people who manage the relationship.
8. Tie-in promotional products with an event or season
Four seasons and numerous religious, cultural and sporting events combine to create a busy calendar of potential themes for your next promotional campaign. But be careful, make sure you aren’t about to offend someone or infringe a copyright! People are individuals with individual attitudes and beliefs. The title of a major sporting event is often copyrighted and many images and terms associated with major events are protected too. So yes, it’s cool and often really effective to tie your promotional campaign in with a moment in time, but before you do make sure you’ve done your homework.
9. Add value with a premium gift
Ever wondered why you got a freebie inside a box of breakfast cereal? Did you know McDonald’s Restaurants is the largest toy retailer in the world? Multi-nationals follow the tried and tested approach of ‘premium’ marketing; add a low-cost extra to your core product to alter the overall perception of value. Could you do something similar? Buy our plumbing products and get a free tape measure!
10. Promote cost-effectively, sustainably and responsibly
As digital advertising costs spiral and social media marketing flatters to deceive, traditional marketing methods have begun to regain ground. Promotional products offer a low-cost channel for generating brand awareness and promoting goodwill. And now you can go green with promotional products!
Generation Z is angry and organised; is your business ready?
Some old people think the warmer weather is a good thing! It’s also clear that some think climate change is a left-wing conspiracy.
But younger people are thinking very differently, and furthermore they’re pretty ANGRY about the whole thing!
So whatever your sector, whatever your product, whoever your customer is, it’s time to respond with actions not words to what’s happening with attitudes around climate change, pollution and ethics.
Facts, yes facts not fake news, prove that these issues are real and that they will have a significant impact on demand for your products and services.
This is why it makes sense to switch to eco promotional products.
Plastic is the new tobacco
18 billion pounds of plastic waste ends up in our oceans each year. Over 817 animal species around the world are affected by ocean pollution and more than 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic entanglement and ingestion. Just 10 rivers carry 93 per cent of the trash that feeds into our oceans; the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai, Pearl, Amur, Mekong, the Indus and Ganges Delta in Asia, and the Niger and Nile in Africa. The Yangtze alone dumps up to an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste into the Yellow Sea.
So plastic is about to become the new tobacco; dirty, anti-social, old-fashioned.
Yes, as you will see we are still selling plastic products or products with some plastic components, but we’re trying hard to reduce the amount each year and so are many of our suppliers – ‘the writing is on the wall’ for our industry so to speak!.
Alternatives to plastics
There are plenty of responsible alternatives across all of our product categories. 15 years ago you would have had a choice of say 50 items, now there are hundreds!
From the original recycled pencil to pencils made from old banknotes and denim jeans. The war on disposable cups has created a new choice of drinkware options including products made from bamboo and recycled bottles.
Bamboo is becoming a popular substitute for plastic components with items such as the bamboo wireless charger are becoming very popular.
Clothing too is a category of real innovation. The U.S. Alternative Apparel has some really innovative products, almost all of our clothing products are WRAP certified.
And as the plastic bag has been confined to the history books by many large retailers, we offer a wide range of organic cotton and jute shopper bags.
It’s also about sustainability and ethics
Do you want to be the business who bought products from a factory full of kids, kids just like your own? Do you care about sustainability or is that stuff just for hippies and management-speak types? Within a business context, it’s not what you think that counts, its what your customer thinks – and their customer – and their customer!
You could buy the cheapest T shirt or you could buy a WRAP certified product. Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment; 152 million are victims of child labour.
Similarly, you could buy the cheapest sticky note or you could buy a recycled product. Tropical deforestation is now responsible for 11 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
And why not make a virtue of your decision to buy responsibly? Why not advertise the fact that your business or brand, does care about the environment and social standards? In fact, maybe in the long-run, the ‘cheapest’ items are the certified products? In other words, to Ignore issues around sustainability and ethics may prove to be an expensive mistake.
Climate change will never kill goodwill
Promotional products create goodwill, that’s it in a nutshell. In turn, goodwill creates relationships which generate profit. People buy people. So, it follows that, as long as trade exists, there will be a need to create goodwill. Alongside goodwill there co-exists a perennial desire for all things new. New products excite and help to project the concept of progress and innovation. Right, ok so promotional products get to survive but they a have to be different. Products have to be recyclable, they have to be biodegradable, they have to come from sustainable sources and be responsibly sourced. Yes, you can have giveaways but those giveaways have to be different from those churned out during the era of waste.
Business is not ‘bad’, it just needs to change
Currently, it seems almost impossible, for a business, not to be viewed as hypocritical and inconsistent when it comes to many of the issues outlined above. Some will think that our approach is cynical. They are wrong. We have no company cars, we all work from home so there’s no commute. We try to recycle what we can, and through a developing range of products, try to encourage our clients to switch to using more ethical and responsible promotional items. Where we can we are sourcing products manufactured in the U.K. to reduce the need for air and sea freight.
However, even though we are minuscule in comparison to the 20 most polluting companies in the world, we still face real challenges. For example, we recently tried to replace some of our packaging materials with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Some items were quite easy to switch-out but others proved really difficult to replace with products that performed just as well.
Small businesses often rely on larger businesses, who have much greater resources, to drive innovation. Maybe it’s just too easy for some sectors to default to ‘business as usual’? Maybe the use of some materials has to become illegal before we get real change?
We are light-years from perfect, but we are trying!
The young have chosen NOT to ignore facts. Unlike their parents and grand-parents, Generation Z appears to have an increased ability to think critically and, is becoming understandably impatient. Heatwaves are now 30 times more likely due to climate change. Temperatures of 21.2 degrees Celsius were recorded in London’s Kew Gardens on February 26, 2019. It was the warmest winter day the UK has ever experienced. A few months later, the warmest ever Summer day (38.7 degrees Celsius) was recorded. Which bit of this are people struggling to understand?
So yes we are, as a micro-enterprise, of course, light-years from perfect! – but we are conscious of the issues and are trying to improve.