Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Here's How We're Different!

On Monday at 11am, we received a call for a potential order of 3,000pcs of a soft stock bear.  The delivery timing required that the order be done domestically, however, the end user’s requirements were much more involved than a typical stock order request.  By 1pm, the Sales Team had received 5 more calls and emails related to this same project – some from familiar customers and others from new customers.  Each distributor customer was clearly working on the same project and knew that the project was out for bid, but each gave us just a little more information as to the project details, customer’s requirements, and ultimate promotion.   To add a little more complexity to this project, the end user had required all the pricing and photos of options to be submitted by 3pm the same day!  As stated in our strategic objective, “Our success is driven by a team of professionals that listen to customers needs and understand the importance of good communication. “ 

They wanted a very soft bear, but they wanted this bear to have a portion of his fur removed and a patch in the fur stating their tagline, “I donated some of my softness to Caress”.   We discovered that the end user was a Furniture company that was promoting the softness of their new carpet brand, Caress.   We worked with our cosmetology department (Beckie) to take some bears home and try several methods shave a portion of Peter Bear’s fur.  To meet the customer’s request for pricing and pictures by the 3pm deadline, we also manipulated a flock saddle and calculated pricing and labor costs to glue the patches.   We did, however, let our customers know that we were exploring some additional options overnight which included stitching, shaving, or cutting.   Beckie returned in the morning with the results of her “hairdressing” as well as created an option with some hand-stitching.   Jenn typeset artwork and Terry helped us transfer the logos onto our patch and ribbon to present photos of a spec sample to help “sell” the idea.   We presented the ideas and updated pricing to our customers on Tuesday and received some very positive and thankful responses. 

We learned that we were one of, if not the only company, that was willing to help our distributor clients with this urgent request.   One of our customers from IPromoteU told us that Steven Smith, Vitronic, and Fields (all our ASI competitors) would not go any further than offering a bear with an imprinted t-shirt which was not what the customer wanted.   While we do not know the end user’s final decision on this potential order, we worked together as a team to meet 6 distributor company’s requests when our competitors were not willing to do this.  What a testament to our Strategic Objective which states, “Everyone understands how their work brings value to the organization.”  Our teamwork to understand the client’s needs, present creative ideas, and meet their time frame has helped us toward a trusted relationship with these clients which could amount to success far greater than this potential 3,000pc order. 

-          Betsy Socci, Sales Manager

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three No Cost Ways to Say Thank You!

People have choices about where to spend their time and money.

Take the time to thank them for choosing your business.

Saying thanks is an easy and effective way to grow relationships—and ultimately, benefit your business.

Social Media Shout-outs:
Recognizing customers shows them how much you value them. Thank customers by mentioning them in a tweet, posting a coupon on Facebook, or profiling one of your best in a blog post. As a bonus, the customer will often share your efforts with their personal networks.

Personalized Emails:
Turn a customer into a loyal one by giving them special attention. Send personalized emails to customers thanking them for their business. Give customers a reason to remember you in the New Year with a discount on their favorite products or services.

Recognition for a job well done is great incentive for employees to keep up the good work. Take your gratitude a step further with publicity. If an employee wins an award, send out a press release and share the news on social media or the company blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Character Toys

The Sales Team has been working hard to develop our 2013 Catalog.   There are so many good ideas; however, bringing it all together to balance words and pictures to tell a story about how Artistic Toy is different than other stuffed toy manufacturers is not an easy task.  We talked with a graphic artist for two hours about our ideas and determined we needed to outline a story of the most important things about our Company.  Through further reflection following outline was developed to help tell our story.   

Custom Stuffed Toy Prototypes in 48 hours
Helping You Build Character
Absolutely Safe – All of our toys are independently safety tested and meet or exceed requirements by the CPSIA
Relationships - We are on purpose about helping customers understand the opportunities that exist within Character Marketing™
Artistic Alerts – Email updates are provided to you at each stage of your order from initial entry to final shipment to keep you informed
Case studies – We will provide you with case studies to help understand the uses of plush toys in your business and their ROI.    
Thousands of stock toys – We have thousands of stock toys in our inventory that can be personalized and delivered in 10 days
Every detail of the toy is considered before the first stitch is made. 
Reliable – You can count on our Artistic Toy team for all of your stock and custom plush toy needs

Top notch quality –  Our factory quality control experts, overseas manager, and US production team examine every detail of your toy to make sure you are 100% satisfied
Our promise to you – We create products for distinguished organizations.  Working with our character will change your life forever
Your Brand – Our master designer will create your one of a kind custom prototype in 48 hours from an existing mascot, drawing or concept to bring your brand to life
Service above all others – Our unique CPC – Clear Process Communication meeting system keep you informed every step of the way from initial order to final delivery

Everything from the marketing to the manufacturing is based on Character at Artistic Toy.    Character Marketing™  is the concept that stuffed toys, when used as Characters in your marketing, will transform a brand so that it connects with people emotionally, move customers to action, and turn customers into fans. Character Marketing ™ is more than plush toy manufacturing.  It is the establishment of brand that is dependent on Character Manufacturing™.  Character Manufacturing ™ is about factory relationships that allow us to do things other suppliers can’t.  It is a shared philosophy that quality control goes beyond government standards to a global team of people who care about how the product looks when it comes out of the box. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It’s Everyone’s Job

If you look at Artistic Toy’s organization chart you might wonder where is the Marketing Department.  Who is responsible for Marketing?  The biggest complaint about most Marketing Departments is that they never talk to the Sales Department.  Some organizations propose to solve that problem by making a Sales & Marketing Department. 

In reality you can’t put the additional burden of something so complicated and important on one department.  At Artistic Toy we subscribe to the philosophy that Marketing is NOT a department, it is an ATTITUDE.  I recently learned from Paul Kiewiet, MAS that People are the 5th P that many Marketing text books overlook.  (Product, Price, Place, Promotion).  My feeling is that the most influential people are on marketing is the entire team of people that show up to work every day.  It is their attitude and desire to do more than push product and paper all day that sets us apart.  Please join me in celebrating the accomplishments within each and every department to take on this very important role of Marketing our company.
  1. Public Relations:  PPB Boss Nomination, Customer Service SuperHero, Product Safety
  2. Product Website: Accounting leading the team to accurate product information
  3. Loyalty Packages: Production delivering relevant products to each customer.
  4. Email Campaigns: Sales sending weekly product ideas to customers.
  5. Facebook Posts: Product of the Day, Quotes, Team Member Birthday, Anniversaries
  6. Catalog Design:  Developing attractive layouts and new product suggestions
  7. Clear Process Communication Meetings: Customer Surveys & Ratings
  8. Character Story:  Holding us to accountable to our vision and mission.

I think everyone in the Company would agree they have been involved in many of the activities above; however, may not have viewed them as Marketing.  So the next time you are doing something and wondering, “How is this my job?”  Think about how important Marketing is to the Company and that the set of expectations you set for yourself, memories created, stories shared, and relationships built all taken together account for our brand and when communicated effectively is the most powerful form of Marketing we have.   Keep up the good work team!   

Friday, November 2, 2012

How do you handle a situation in which distributors complain about suppliers selling direct yet they, themselves, source product directly from overseas?

The premise of the Industry is founded on a Supplier and Distributor relationship.  The integrity of the Supplier and Distributor relationship is the strength of the industry.  The primary tenant that no one will disagree is that the Supplier does not sell product directly to end buyer organizations, as this is the job of the sales organization or Distributor Company.  Suppliers that sell to end buyer organizations are looked upon as less favorable than those who do not sell direct.  From the Supplier’s perspective their does seem to be a double standard because Distributors have many direct factory relationships to overcome price pressure from customers.  

With a hobbling global economy Distributors are economically pressured to skip the U.S. import supplier and deal directly with factory in China.  Consequently, direct import trading companies have started to register with the industry organization making it easier for Distributors to connect directly with factory representatives that work on commission and can eliminate all need for a U.S. supplier.  Some of the larger distributor companies have but their own purchasing policies in place that make all orders over a certain dollar value go out for bid to other suppliers.  Many of these suppliers are non-industry suppliers, trading companies, or directly with the premier factories.

In my experience it provides no value for the Supplier to complain about the Distributor's sourcing practice, as well as it does no good for the Distributor to complain about the Supplier's direct sales practice.   While Artistic Toy does not sell directly to end user buyers, the focus must be on how we can help each other regardless of who you sell to or buy from.  No one distributor or supplier owns any customer relationship.  Every buyer has a different set of needs and requirements for ordering and you have to carefully understand how each of us fits into that relationship.  The real problem for most businesses is who my target market and what am I better at than anyone in the world?  Once we answer those questions with clarity and integrity our value is sustained regardless of supply chain problems.