During this election year, the push for made-in-America products is strong. Job creation is a key issue in national and state races, and one way to create jobs is to increase American manufacturing. Due to this demand, we have noticed an increase in USA-made options in the promotional products industry. Stainless steel mugs and stress relievers, two items seldom made in the United States, are now being produced state-side. While this surge may seem like an election year trend, it quite possibly is here to stay. With the narrowing exchange rate between China and the US, the decrease in the Chinese labor pool, and the higher cost of labor, it is becoming less profitable to outsource manufacturing to China.
China may have caused its own problem with its one child per family policy, which started in 1978. With a dwindling workforce, Chinese laborers can be more selective about their employers. This option is forcing manufacturers to not only provide better pay, but better benefits. Due to an increased number of suicides, Chinese employers have been required to provide improved working conditions and allow more breaks, as set forth in the new labor contract law. Minimum wage standards have been affected as well. The Sichuan Province, a major source of migrant workers for cities in China, has raised its minimum wage this year by 23%. Many other provinces have followed suit and increased this level by at least 13%. Although the Chinese government keeps a tight seal on compensation figures, extensive research has shown that the average salary in China has been increasing by 10% per year and will continue to climb. In fact, China now has the 3rd highest labor costs of emerging Asia, behind Thailand and Malaysia. These factors all contribute to making Chinese labor less efficient and cost-effective than it once was.
The appreciation of the Chinese yuan also impacts the likelihood of moving manufacturing out of China. For many years, China fixed its exchange rate against the American dollar, preventing the yuan from appreciating. However, in 2005 China ended this currency peg. Since then, the yuan has risen by 23%. This trend seems to be continuing with China’s move to internationalize its currency. The Ministry of Finance and the People’s Bank of China both support the initiative, although they are hesitant because this will undercut the value of Chinese manufacturing. Their intent is to make China less reliant on external markets despite the negative effect on its trade surplus.
Although the rising cost of labor and appreciation of the yuan will continue to be a gradual process, many believe that we will see a shift in manufacturing as soon as 2015. Even today, many companies have expressed the benefits of production in the US. Designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen produce both their clothing lines in the United States because they believe the added cost of manufacturing in China outweighs the benefits of cheap labor. While there are other countries where manufacturers can outsource production, a continued push by American consumers for made-in-America items will help bring manufacturing state-side. Whether it be purchasing the domestically made brand of dryer sheets or insisting politicians use made-in-America promotional products, we can all do our part to emphasize the importance of American manufacturing. In turn, we are stressing the importance of American job creation.
By Amanda Baratta
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and being a women owned company, we feel an important connection to the cause at MSI. There are few people who have not been personally affected by this disease and there is a clear global effort to spread awareness and fight for a cure. Just watch any NFL game in the month of October and you will see players sporting pink cleats and gloves. Our own President, Amy Hershman, is a breast cancer survivor, who has been free of the disease for over a year now. However, it is still something that affects her life every day. This understanding is what makes us take a large interest in the search for a cure.
Leading up to the month, a lot of our vendors will feature special breast cancer awareness items. This year we decided to partake, and did a self promotion lip balm displaying a pink ribbon. When we gift these items to clients, we will not only be promoting ourselves, but promoting the search for a cure.
We also take a specific interest in working with our client’s to create their own breast cancer awareness items year round, and during this month especially. Recently, we worked on an item for our longtime client, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, in conjunction with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Horizon sponsored the Golf for the Cure event held by the organization and asked us to create a jacket for the event. While all of our projects are important to us, we took extra pride in creating the perfect jacket for the occasion and were inspired to make our own contribution.
We decided to donate to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, and are encouraging everyone to do the same. Susan G. Komen for the Cure revolutionized the breast cancer movement, not only raising funds for a cure, but raising awareness and helping women who are battling the disease. If you wish to donate, you can do so online at the following link: http://ww5.komen.org/Content.aspx?id=6034
By Amanda Baratta
Here at MSI Promotions, we have been noticing a new push for American made products. We’ve had many requests from our own clients’ for promotional items made in the United States. Television series, such as ABC News’ “Made in America,” tackle the challenge of decorating a home or outfitting a family with items made in this country. Yet many companies, such as Dell and Adidas, have just recently moved their production overseas. Dell closed US production in January 2010, while Adidas began manufacturing NBA uniforms outside of America in 2009.
That brings into play another interesting question. Why are so many seemingly “American” products, not being made in America? Rawlings Baseballs, an item used to play “America’s pastime,” are manufactured in Costa Rica. American Girl has an ominous “made in China” tag on all of their products. Even a trip to the Museum of American History’s gift shop will lead you to an array of products not made in the country the museum is celebrating.
There is also a fine line between made in America and assembled in America. You may think you’re buying American when you choose that Ford or Chrysler, but most of the parts used to compose the car are manufactured elsewhere. In fact, most Toyotas go through the same process as a Jeep or Chevrolet, and have components from Asia but are assembled here in the USA. Is there really a difference between an American, German, or Japanese car anymore?
With this new trend in Made in America products, we think more companies should look into the option. Entire websites are devoted to finding items made in this country. There is even a store in Elma, NY called “Made in America,” which is filled with the obvious, American made products. It is not an impossible endeavor. Sealy makes all their mattresses in High Point, NC. Nanette Lepore creates all her designs right in Manhattan. Pyrex manufactures its line in Charleroi, PA. So, the next time you need pair of jeans; opt for True Religions, made in Vernon, CA, instead of a pair of Levis made overseas.
By Amanda Baratta
As a member of the social media generation, it is clear that traditional marketing techniques are not going to cut it for any business to sustain itself going forward. The pace at which technology is improving and social networks are growing is exponentially fast and companies need to adapt as well as reach customers on this more personal yet fast-paced level. One increasingly popular marketing technique is the use of Quick Response codes, or QR codes, to gain and maintain customers through enhanced customer experience. Chances are you have seen an interesting looking square barcode on a company’s materials, such as business cards, posters, websites, clothing, advertisements, and more.
QR codes are scanned through a free smartphone application which then uses the phone’s Internet capability to connect to whatever the company wants to share, such as website links, contact information, video, or images. The beauty of QR codes is the ability to share information of your choice cheaply to customers in a way that is convenient with them and up to date. A survey by MGH, a Baltimore marketing firm, discovered that “72% of smartphone users are likely to remember ads that include QR codes”. According to Business Insider, “1 in 2 Americans will own a smartphone by Christmas 2011”. These details alone are enough incentive for companies to embrace QR codes.
Businesses can use QR codes to their advantage through various creative methods. Bizreport cited 10 great ways they are being used, such as “coupon promotion, advice and information, entertainment, business cards and contact information, advertising, extending store hours, real estate signage, charity donations, and connections to social media.” Examples of successful implementation include a Macy’s marketing campaign, a spontaneous Lupe Fiasco concert, and a Calvin Klein billboard. Many websites offer easy and quick QR code creation, so implementation just depends on the company’s willingness to adapt and create meaningful content to share through the tool. Going forward, companies may have to work to get used to the new pace of marketing and the continuous updating it involves, but it likely to reap rewards. For companies, social media and QR codes are a cost effective way to connect to customers where efforts and ROI can be easily tracked. Through those tools, consumers are now paid more attention because of real-time connection and can benefit from discounts and other valuable content coming their way. By adapting to changing trends, companies can enhance their b2b and c2b relationships.
During times of recession and recovery, it is important to dedicate time, effort, and a fraction of your budget to promoting your small business. Use the following tips to show dedication to customers and prove to them that your good or service is not one that should be eliminated or overlooked.
Take Advantage of Free Advertising on the Internet
The Internet is full of free and legitimate opportunities for free advertising. In the world of small businesses, search engines can be your best friend. Engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing have launched “local listing centers”, where a business owner has the opportunity to register their business. In addition to the listing, the owner is allowed to expand on the resource by including descriptions and details of the business, posting coupons and live updates, and using performance dashboards to measure the listing’s viewing stats. Local listing centers are considered tremendous forms of free advertising and put a reassuring amount of control in the hands of the owner.
Embrace the Viral Nature of Social Media
Social media has become a new genre of marketing. The great thing about social media is that it encourages group discussion and sharing. However, this “group” discussion can be facilitated anywhere in the world. Leveraging social media to promote your business is an amazing way to get your name out there and tell the world what you do best and what sets your business apart from the others. Use social media platforms such as Facebook fan pages and Twitter pages to jump-start your conversation and connect to customers and anyone really, for that matter. However, go beyond the obvious and perhaps start a blog that you promote through social bookmarking sites like Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Digg. The possibilities are truly endless and breathe life into a business.
Pick Useful Promotional Products
Complement your virtual experience with tangible promotions. Promote your business with promotional products. People appreciate being given free stuff, especially if it is of use to them. A PPAI study found that 58% of respondents keep a promotional product from one to more than four years and 78% could recall the product, its advertiser, and the message. Products with the greatest recall due to usefulness or uniqueness included pens, magnets, and coffee mugs. Promotional products are offered to advertisers at a great price that is more than worth it for the amount of impressions and recall promotional products offer.
Continuously Check In with Clients and Rewind a Year
Keep all of your client’s contact information in one place that is easily accessible. Use this in conjunction with your records from the business you received exactly a year ago to follow up with clients. If you find that someone requested your services at this time last year, get in touch with that person to ask if they will be needing your services again. If not, at least you’ve put yourself into their head. Checking in with clients allows you to connect with them on a professional and personal level that will keep them coming back to you when you can and even refer you to their friends. An easy task that requires basic organization but rewards those that take the time to do so.
Send out a Newsletter
A newsletter has the potential to connect to customers in a successful way. If successful, a newsletter should inspire. Therefore, put together a fun company newsletter with a wide range of information. Most importantly, provide the readers, hopefully clients and more, with additional ideas to what your business can do for them. This extra form of communication provides clients with an overall perspective of your business and diversifies your offering.