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3 Signs it’s Time for a Loyalty Program


loyalty program

If you’ve got a brick and mortar business that caters to consumers, you probably have your share of repeat customers that come in daily, weekly or monthly to purchase your products. Regular customers are fiercely loyal and when it comes to your business they’re happy to promote you and your products to family and friends. Your customers know how much you appreciate them (at least, you think they do), but you often wonder what you can do to make them feel special and thank them for their business. If you have a customer base that is returning regularly, it might be time to launch a loyalty program. Here are a few undeniable signs that it’s time for a loyalty program: 

Everybody knows their name.

Your best customers are the ones you know by name. They come in, browse your products, make a few purchases and return the next week. They likely sing your praises. They’re your ideal buyer. Losing customers like this, your easiest sells, could be devastating to your business, but anything can cause it. Your competitor could launch a special sale, they could get busy and go to another location closer to their work – any number of things can happen. That’s why its important to not only stay in touch with them from a marketing perspective, but incentivize them to return.

You find yourself thinking of your customers when you place orders for products.

“Joe would love this new IPA.”

“This color would look amazing on Alison.”

“My group of young regulars will love this new promotion.”

No matter what their age, marital status or taste – you're probably thinking of your most loyal customers when you stock new products. From the latest designer threads to the best beers from local brewers to everything in between – if you’re a retailer, you keep your customers in mind when you place orders. After all, if you didn’t your customers would never come back. But if there are a few people that stick out in your mind when you go to choose new products, they’re just waiting for a program especially for them.

loyalty programs for restaurantsYou’re getting a ton of referrals.

“Oh, yeah! Jessie sent me. She was raving about your drink specials and tapas and we just had to pop in!” Don’t you wish you could hear these words all the time? If you didn’t know: 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends and family. (Nielson) That means you have to treat your loyal customers like gold. Launching loyalty programs will give them incentive to return and tell their friends about you. It’s the most beautiful circle there ever was.

It’s hard to create a loyal band of followers, but somehow you’ve done it. Pat yourself on the back for having the perfect mix of products, location and customer service. It’s an art mastered by few. But don’t you think it’s time to reward your loyal fan base? If you’re starting to come to the conclusion that it’s time to launch some sort of program, don’t wait any longer. Just go for it!

Maximize your referrals

3 Reasons to Switch to Gift Cards


order gift cards

As summer comes to a close and you begin your preparations for season, you’re probably giving your marketing expenses a look and exploring new ways to brand your company. As you make updates, print out new signage, plan new campaigns and eliminate some of the old – you’re inevitably going to encounter your gift certificate “checkbook”. While you know that many business have already made the switch to plastic gift cards, you still on the line. After all, the software and machines are a fairly costly up front investment and you’re not really sure that your customers really care about the difference. But the truth is that they do and your gift cards could actually be doing you more harm than good. Let’s explore a few reasons that it’s time to switch to gift cards.

A fully integrated system.
Right now you probably only have a handful of people that have access to the gift card book. After all, each certificate is essentially like cash. But when you have plastic gift cards, employees using your point of sale system can sell them. This means less waiting for your customers if your managers (or you) aren’t available. It also means that if the entire stack of gift cards is lost or stolen they can’t be used by the person that finds them, since they have to be loaded when they are purchased. You also have better management over how much you sell and employees can easily apply gift cards upon check out rather than requesting a manager or owner to modify the purchase.

gift cards greenA greener alternative to paper certificates.
Paper certificates can generally only be used a single time. This means that each time they are used they are thrown into the garbage. Gift cards, however, can be reloaded again and again, re-gifted or reused by their original owner. This keeps waste out of landfills and helps you do your part to keep our environment clean. It can also save you money, since employees can keep cards that have been used only once for another sale.

It makes a difference to customers.
Customers appreciate working with retailers and organizations that embrace the latest technologies. While gift cards may not be the “latest” technology, if you’re still using paper certificates, you could be seen as outdated by your customers. If your organization is seen as outdated, you could risk losing your customers to your competition.

 As you start to digitize more and more of your business to remain up to date with the latest technologies, gift cards should be included in your integrations. Not only will they seamlessly fit in with your employee’s sales and make your manager’s jobs easier, they offer a green alternative to paper certificates. Ultimately, your customers are the most important part of your business. Paper certificates can be easily lost or destroyed. It’s time to make a change. Switch to plastic gift cards and your company will reap the benefits in the long term.


Gift card marketing

Marketing Mistakes: The Don’ts of Small Business Marketing


marketing mistakes

We’ve all been there. The marketing has stopped being as effective as it once was. What was formerly a really exciting campaign that had your customers and prospects engaged and buying your products is now pretty much just crickets. It’s not your fault. Marketing needs to be changed every few months with a careful plan in place. If you’re struggling with ineffective, expensive marketing strategies, it’s probably time to explore some of what you’re doing and make sure that you aren’t making these marketing mistakes. 

DON’T: Invest your budget into one big campaign.
marketing investmentThis goes along with the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Inevitably you’ll have some campaigns that are total flops. That’s why its important to have more than one campaign. Make sure that you don’t set yourself up for failure by investing your entire budget into a single radio ad or e-mail. This way if something takes time to work you can be launching other campaigns in the meantime. If you’re looking for inexpensive ways to market, consider signage for brick and mortar locations, referral cards for existing customers and inexpensive digital marketing, which can have great return.

DON’T: Just get started without a plan.
Many times business owners are so desperate to increase sales that they jump right in to marketing campaigns that they haven’t thought through carefully. Be sure to take the time to plan your campaigns with a marketing calendar. There are many templates online that will help you to plan out your calendar for the year. This will help you to prepare in advance and order signage, flyers, and other print collateral as your event comes closer.

DON’T: Do as many things as you possibly can.
marketing overloadJust like we warn about investing into one campaign, you also want to make sure you aren’t spreading your budget too thin and only investing a very small amount into a lot of different campaigns. In order to give your campaigns the best possible chance to be effective, it’s important to dedicate the right amount and time to it. As an example, if investing additional funds into printing additional signage for a campaign means that more people will see it and take advantage of your promotion or come into your store, it’s worth the additional investment. If you spread your budget too thin and don’t have room for boosting your existing campaigns, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

Give your marketing the best chance of success by properly planning, dedicating the right budget to it, and not launching too few or too many campaigns. Successful marketing takes constant testing. You want to be sure that you’re measuring each effort you make and tweaking your campaigns to see which ones are most successful. If you have a better idea of which campaigns work you can more effectively plan for the future.

Need more marketing ideas? Check out our IDEAS page!

Restaurant Marketing Tips: Making it Through Off-Season


restaurant marketing tips

For restaurants located in areas that rely heavily on tourism, there’s almost always a busy season and a slow season. During busy season most restaurant owners can barely keep their heads above water to think about new and exciting marketing ideas and in the off-season budget just isn’t available for additional marketing efforts. It’s a bit of a Catch22 in this particular industry. If you’re cutting budgets and your marketing is suffering, it might be time to look at some non-traditional, inexpensive marketing tactics that will help you make it through the offseason.   

Host an Event.

Your regulars love special occasions, so why not host an event to bring all your regular customers in? Whether it’s something as simple as a party to celebrate the start of football season or a themed “just because” event, engaging the customers that come regularly and spend money in the off-season is the perfect way to garner loyalty. Events can be promoted with press release and covered by radio stations, who love to promote special events. A banner or wide format sign hung a few weeks in advance is the perfect way to promote the event itself.

Plastic MenusOverhaul your menu.

If you’re particularly slow in the off-season, completely redoing your menu can be a great way to inspire others to come try your newest flavors. By embracing more local and seasonal ingredients, you can generate a ton of buzz with new foodies and can even attract a review from one of the local food critics or bloggers. This is a fantastic way to bring in business for the minimal cost of redoing your menus. 

Focus on service and upselling.

There’s no better way to market a restaurant than by delivering fantastic service and selling your customers your best dishes. While more training can help your servers and bar staff create a welcoming environment, developing drink menus, table tents and other collateral can help make your customers more aware of some of your most popular products (and increase the bill).

Market to Businesses.

While tourism may be down during off-season, businesses with employees are around throughout the year. Consider offering catering for office parties, booking events at your restaurant on the slowest nights, and even offering lunch delivery.

Too many restaurants fold during the off-season. If you’re struggling to generate additional revenue in slow months, try a few of these suggestions. Investing in your marketing is important, but it doesn’t always have to be in the form of costly ads and collateral. Put your marketing budget in the right place in the slow months and you’re bound to see limitless return.


plastic menus


Garnering Referral Business


referral business marketingLaunching referral programs is a fairly easy undertaking. Create an incentive, market it to your existing customers and watch the leads roll in. The idea is simple in concept. But referral programs as a marketing tool can require marketing themselves. Here are a few great ways that you may not have thought about to generate buzz for your referral program.

Referral Cards.

referral card marketingJust announcing a referral program with signage or in an e-mail isn’t enough. It’s important to give your customers an “in hand” reminder to refer you to their friends and family. Printing referral cards can give you something to give your customers and your customers something to the person or business they are referring. Having a takeaway card will remind those that are being referred to you to cash in on the referral and will give you a way to track where your leads originated. Referral cards should include your branding, contact information, information about the incentive (if you’re passing the incentive on to those that are being referred) and a way to identify who referred them.


Having a mutually beneficial incentive for the person or business that is referred to you may be a little more costly, but might serve to get more leads sooner. By rewarding not only the person who offered the referral, but the person who received the referral, you can more easily convert those referrals into new business. Place an expiration date on those offers and you might convert them even faster. Be sure that your incentive is something that your prospect and referrer can place a value on. A free trial, buy one get one or free consultation are all great starter incentives that can work for most industries.

Cross-Industry Placement.

Once you have your referral cards and come up with your incentives, you can’t just sit there and wait. Partner up with business across your industry who have the same buyer demographic that you do in order to funnel more referral business and promote your program. Most businesses will gladly promote you in exchange for cross marketing or can even offer additional “incentives” that you can package with your referral program to sweeten the pot even more. A few examples of cross-industry marketing would be a yoga studio placing their referral cards at a day care or women’s clothing store.

Marketing for a small business can be difficult enough on a limited budget. When you come up with new ways to use that budget, they have to be great. Referral programs are a low cost way to marketing your services and earn new prospects and customers, but don’t forget that marketing that program is as important as planning the program out to begin with.

Want more insight? Download Referral Card Marketing 101

Small Business Marketing: Big Ideas for Small Budgets


small business marketing ideasDoing the same old when it comes to marketing businesses with small budgets can get…well, old. And if you’re bored with your marketing strategy, odds are your prospects aren’t finding it any more engaging than you are. Coming up with new ideas for small marketing budgets can be difficult, but with a little brainstorm and a few tips from this blog, you can freshen up your marketing pretty easily. Here are some tips to get big traction from small marketing budgets.

Use Ads Outside of Print Publications.

Advertising in print publications is one of the most costly methods of advertising there is. From a branding perspective, though, it can be excellent exposure. Since there is significant time invested in conceptualizing and designing an effective print ad – it’s important to maximize the exposure by turning it into a campaign. Consider printing signage or integrating it in a banner for integrated on-location branding. You can also use the design in you marketing collateral or to create flyers for your business. 

nonprofit marketingPartner with a non-profit.

There is nothing like public relations to maximize a budget and get notoriety for your business. Choose a non-profit and start a campaign where you donate a portion of your profits to that organization. Capitalize on the social media following and reach of the non-profit and the news outlets to get more exposure. While you may have to allocate a percentage of profits to the charity or organization that you choose, you’ll invest a very small amount of your marketing budget and get maximum exposure.

Run Campaigns More than Once

As you finish creating your marketing calendar, you’ll inevitably have to print signs, banners, and other collateral related to the different campaigns that you run. Don’t let these printed materials go to waste and be sure to run campaigns annually or more often to get the most from the amount that you’ve invested in printing this collateral. Spacing campaigns far enough apart to where they’ll still have an impact is important, but be sure to run them often enough to get return on your investment.

Being in a business every day and marketing for that business year in and year out can leave you with few new ideas. If your marketing is starting to feel dull, it may be time to come up with some new ideas and re-invent some old ones. Maximize the budget you have by using your ads outside publications, partnering with a non-profit or running older campaigns multiple times. This will give you room to innovate your marketing and make the most of your budget.

Want some more great marketing ideas? Check out our ideas page


Marketing Ideas for the Fitness Industry


marketing for fitness

Whether you’re a small business owner in the fitness industry or an advertising and marketing agency focused on the success of your fitness industry clients, you might need a little more insight on how to make the most of a smaller budget in a local market. From print advertisements to billboards and signs to Facebook and beyond – if you’re struggling with where to invest your budget, here are some useful tips. These will help you determine what might work for you and how to allocate budget and measure your efforts.

  1. Going the print publication route.
    One of the more expensive channels for marketing a fitness facility is in print publications. Take some time to understand who your target buyer is and make sure that you’re advertising in publications that apply to them. Yoga studios, for example, might find success by advertising in local parenting magazines or small gyms might find success with fitness publications.
  2. Radio and television.
    Radio advertisements are another good way to capture a target demographic. From ESPN radio to oldies stations – if you have a good idea of your buyer’s interests, you should be able to hammer down their taste in music and television programming as well.
  3. Signs, banners and printed in-gym offers.
    There are a lot of statistics that support signage for marketing fitness facilities. While print and radio can be effective, they are expensive and aren’t necessarily targeted to the neighborhood that would be attending your facility. Signage, when properly placed in a high traffic area, can attract those that live in the surrounding neighborhoods. You can see more about the effectiveness of signage in our infographic, here.
  4. fitness challenge marketingEmbrace the contest.
    Fitness challenges, Facebook share contests and weight loss challenges are the perfect way to get others interested in your facility that might not have previously joined. Incentives like a free month’s membership or a cash reward are the perfect way to help people lose weight and bring awareness to your gym.
  5. Group memberships.
    More and more companies are focusing on organizational health and taking care of their employees. From meal plans to gym memberships, marketing to businesses is the perfect way to get many members at once. By offering a group rate, you take a small hit on your profits, but gain an entire group of members from one business.
  6. Keep it in the family with a referral program.
    Once you have members in your gym, keep them loyal with loyalty programs and incentivize them to market on your behalf by offering a referral program. Referral programs reward your current members, keep them motivated by bringing their friends into the gym and allow you to benefit from new members with very little added expense to your marketing budget.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider as you brainstorm marketing efforts for fitness facilities and gyms is that you must get to know your buyer persona. Sit down and take a deep dive into a day of their life. What are their concerns? How much time do they have to dedicate to fitness? Where do they go for information? Do they have children? A job? How do they make decision? What prevents them from making it to the gym? By understanding more about what makes your buyer persona tick, you’ll be able to come up with some great marketing ideas.

Want to learn more about increasing referrals in the fitness industry? Download this ebook.  


Growing Ad Agency Revenue: Reseller Opportunities


growing ad agency revenue

If you’re an advertising agency, you may experience certain times in the year where things are a little slow from an advertising perspective. Particularly in coastal or vacation areas, many small businesses shut down in the off season or experience a significant drop in revenue that comes with decreased tourist traffic in their businesses. Rather than cutting expenses and trying to run leaner during the offseason, take matters into your own hands by focusing on growing ad agency revenue with resale opportunities. While retail clients may do less print advertising, commercials and cut budgets in the offseason, plastic card products are still very much needed. Whether they’re referral cards, membership cards, key tags or plastic menus, make sure that you’re offering your customers well-rounded marketing services by offering these items.

Referral Cards.

Every business from gyms to chiropractors and everything in between operates successfully by getting referrals year round. In order to encourage your small business customers to get more referrals, help them plan and launch a referral program. By reselling referral cards you can keep another service in house, design collateral surrounding the referral campaign and act as a bit of a hero during the slow off season by bringing in business in other creative ways.

membership cards example 3Membership Cards and Key Tags.

Gyms, yoga studios, car washes, libraries, small retail stores all use membership cards or key tags to establish loyalty programs and maintain membership. The cards or tags work with an application or software to help them manage details about purchases and members, as well as accounting information. By offering membership cards for your retail and fitness clients, you can add an additional revenue stream to the mix and get graphic design business by helping them to design them to be consistent with their branding.  

Plastic Menus.

For your restaurant clients, you need a reliable, cost effective menu printing option. Rather than having your customers seek out a menu printer, take the time to help them design their menus and plan out each detail. On top of a reseller discount on the menus themselves, you can make additional income by shooting food and drink photos. Add table tents, drink and appetizer menus to the mix and you’ll be able to provide a comprehensive service to your restaurant clients that adds regular revenue in the offseason.

Don’t risk losing your customers to an outsourced printer. Become a one-stop solution by offering membership cards, key tags, menus, referral cards and other plastic products to your clients and keep the graphic design and administrative management expenses in house. Your customers will be happy to avoid having the deal with an additional vendor and you’ll have a constant stream of additional revenue coming from your reseller discount.

Interested in learning more?


Plastic Product Reseller



How to Execute Effective Offline Marketing


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We’ve already debunked all the myths. You know it and we know it: print marketing isn’t dead. But it does take some work to execute an effective offline campaign. Effective marketing (whether offline or online) is targeted, well planned, campaign driven and expertly executed. In order to succeed in the competitive world of print, you have to differentiate your offers from those of your competitors. Here’s a great outline for some of the necessary steps required in order to execute a successful offline marketing campaign.

Establish a goal.
You cannot make an effective plan unless you know what you’re driving towards. Making a goal is perhaps the most important part of measurable marketing in the offline world. Goals for most companies come in the form of number of customers they wish to acquire from an effort. At minimum, you should expect to break even on your investment from a customer acquisition standpoint. An ideal campaign will do more than that. Establish what your goal is for your effort and be sure to write it down to reference later. This will help you to plan your campaign.

Know your buyer.
If your goal is to close 5 customers from a print marketing campaign, make sure to know exactly who those customers are. Interview current customers in order to get a good understanding for how your best prospects think. Create a buyer persona character based on that interview. Make sure to outline their demographics, what a day in their life is like, how they make decisions, their pain points, where they go for information and any other details that you think are important. Getting inside your buyers head is arguably the most important step. 

offline marketingBrainstorm campaigns.
Sit down with your marketing team, staff or even by yourself if your company is very small and consider what would appeal to the buyer persona character that you’ve created. Jot down ideas like special offers, coupons, free consultants and other offers that will grab the attention of your prospects. 

Create a content calendar.
Plan your campaigns seasonally. You need to make sure they make sense for your budget, the time of year and your prospects needs. Use an excel spreadsheet or other document to create your calendar and allow others to help you tweak it. This will give you a hard plan based around your goals that you can use year round to attract the customers you’re looking for. 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you’re marketing is to be compelling. No one likes to be sold to or hear the same boring marketing message every time they encounter your brand. Find a way to be informative and useful in your marketing message whether it’s offline or online and you’ll capture the attention of the prospects that you’re searching for. 

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Print Marketing Myths DebunkedI


marketing brochure

In the age of online marketing where social media and website marketing reign, some say that print marketing is dead. While we may have a slight bias, it’s extremely important that companies keep a versatile and well-balanced marketing and advertising strategy. Before you reconsider your print strategy, it’s important (particularly for retail and consumer services companies) to take a look at which print myths are wrong and view some statistics on the true effectiveness of certain types of print marketing. 

  1. 103801857Print Marketing Isn’t Effective.
    According to a survey conducted by International Research Communications, 73% of consumers said they preferred printed mail announcements rather than e-mail communications from the brands that they like. Another survey by showed that 70% of Americans prefer to read things printed on paper rather than on a screen with 67% of respondents reporting that they like the feel of print media over other types. Statistics don’t lie. Consumers like to receive some types of mail in print in their mailbox, this includes statements, coupons and brochures. People tend to forget something sitting in their e-mail inbox, but if they have a printed reminder of a coupon, discount or special promotion from a restaurant or retail store they love, they’re much more likely to take advantage of the offer.
  2. Print Advertising is Impersonal.
    In the days before modern print technology was available, there was no way to personalize print mail for direct advertising purposes. New technologies now allow for variable data printing, which means that virtually any flyer, direct mail piece, brochure or other marketing collateral can be printed with different information on it, including names, buying preferences and other data.
  3. Print isn’t affordable.
    Print doesn’t have to be expensive. Of course, as with any custom, specialized piece, you’re going to find that some pieces run more than others. Keep your costs down with printing by electing to purchase high impact items like signs and banners or avoiding special shapes and die-cut options. Direct mail is much more expensive than keeping printed brochures in your office or car for prospects. If you purchase your printed pieces in bulk, the per piece price will go down significantly. Relative to Pay Per Click or Display Advertising campaigns online, print collateral can be a much less expensive, long-lasting alternative.

Print marketing doesn’t necessarily mean direct mail, which is the most costly form of print marketing. It can mean signs, banners, specialty brochures, plastic referral or business cards or many other types of print pieces. Bring versatility to your marketing and avoid being fooled by these popular print marketing myths. 

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