The Point of the Stylus Pen

12 Feb

When I first encountered them, I really didn’t see the point (no pun intended). Now, I can’t live without mine. Whether or not you physically write on your tablet or iphone, this piece is a huge help. If you do write, it’s a must have. As such, the stylus is now one of the best branding/premium opportunities to come along in the last hundred years.

It’s not east to build onto something long considered the most popular, economic giveaway (which is basically the title the pen had since ink and paper were invented). The stylus/pen combo is a genuine chance to give out something that does everything needed when choosing a promotional product: 1) it serves a purpose, 2) keep your name/logo/brand front and center, and 3) it stands the test of time.

The best part, just like pens, stylus’ can be very inexpensive (under a buck) and offer that “high perceived value” everyone craves.  I’m currently giving away one that attaches to your iphone or ipad (pictured below). Be one of the first 25 people to e-mail, text or DM me and I’ll send you one for free.

If you’re interested in buying any, I’m offering 10% off all the prices in the attached flyer until the end of February, 2013. Prices do not include set-up charges, sales tax or shipping.



7 Feb

If you’ve ever made hats, you probably remember that the lowest price you’ll pay for a hat embroidered in one location is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5. One of my suppliers is running a special that will allow you to embroider in THREE locations for that amount. For right around $6 you can do as few as 72 at a time which is all but unheard of. They take about 3-4 weeks but what you sacrifice in production time, you’ll more than make up in the branded nature of the product. Call or e-mail me for more details or sample requests.
hats copy

A New Spin on the Beer Pong Cup

7 Feb

Amidst the hundreds of thousands of products one stumbles across at a promotional products trade show, it’s always nice to see someone trying to freshen up an old, archaic idea. Hence, THE PARTY TUMBLER. With the sliding lid, this beauty is idea for keeping beverages hot or cold. Comes in an assortment of colors and will look awesome with your logo emblazoned on the side. Available for as little as $4.30. Call or e-mail me for additional details.

The Party Tumbler

The Party Tumbler


25 Jan

Last week was the big PPAI (Promotional Products International Association) annual trade show in Las Vegas and boy was I dreading it. I haven’t been in five years and it’s a really huge, monster of a show. Chachkees, hats, and polo shirts as far as the eye can see. I mean, let’s be honest—have there really been such huge strides in the manufacturing of the polo shirt and pen that I need to spend several days in Las Vegas away from my family touching, feeling and talking about them?  Of course not.

As it had been so long since my last attendance, I felt obligated to go. Also, having recently joined a new company, it was actually somewhat important that I attend as it would be my one and only opportunity to meet my new colleagues many of which lived in various parts of the country. So that was the end of that debate. Off I went. And boy was I glad I did.

It didn’t take long for me to remember the actual point of attending the industry trade show: Connecting and reconnecting with PEOPLE. A reminder that as much as the internet has rocked our world (and in many cases, not for the better), we are in a people business. Our products are designed for people. Our buyers are people. Our manufacturers are people. Trade shows are about PEOPLE. Something my Google maps or Starbucks finder will ever be able to take the place of.

Tradeshows represent an endless array of possibilities that are easy to forget when staring into the face of them. Things like seeing suppliers you never get to see. Like my buddy Dave who I haven’t talked to in years. (This is quite typical of what can happen.) We shoot the shit for a few minutes and he says some random thing that will remind me of what he does and why we’ve done so much business together. That comment or notion will trigger something in me to call a handful of people who I think might benefit from what Dave is selling. And so on and so forth. And suddenly, the trip has paid off. In that instant, it’s been a catalyst for some very well needed inspiration.

It’s running into friendly competitors and checking in. Learning about how everyone else is fairing. Celebrating. commiserating. Whatever.

For me, there was another very important element where this show was concerned; the rare opportunity to meet my new co-workers. Several months ago I joined PromoShop, the premiere agency when it comes to sales of promotional and marketing products and services. Thanks to a great company lunch meeting, I was given the chance to learn more about how I made this decision and more importantly, why we are so successful.

If you don’t know, PromoShop is so much more than just another “your logo on anything” company. We are truly a marketing agency with so much more to offer. This company has a creative and art department that would rival any Madison Avenue ad agency. To add fuel to the fire, our service is unparalleled. In the end it’s all about giving the customer the best possible service experience they’re ever had. PromoShop represents the best of the best and it’s a thrill to be a part of their team. If there is such a thing, they are the Yankees of the industry.

So if you ever need anything; whether it’s two dozen hats with your logo or a full-blown, nationwide, point of purchase marketing program, call me, e-mail me or tweet me. Exploit my near twenty years of experience and the machine that is PromoShop.

Beyond all that, I did see some really cool polo shirts.

Twitter: @CustomMerchGuru
Cell: (818) 535-6293

Fire Me Please!! (WARNING: Rant Ahead)

16 Jan

There comes a point in time with every sales person where you simply cannot service all of the accounts you’ve got. Since I’m just now getting back into sales, I unfortunately have yet to get back to this happy place. It’s an interesting position to be in. What it implies is that you have so much great business, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to give all of your customers the attention and responsiveness they need. It also means you’re in jeopardy of becoming just like every other shmuck who provides bad, half assed customer service. It means that you’re in horrible jeopardy of your reputation being compromised. It may in fact mean that these have already happened.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in this position or on the cusp of this position (and you know who you are), you may wish to consider asking one of your less busy associates to either help you service the account (with some kind of fair commission split), or take it over outright. If you don’t have an associate, perhaps a friendly competitor not currently as busy as you?

What you don’t want to happen is that you become so short sighted, so desperate, so greedy that you steadfastly refuse to let your client go thereby causing them undo aggravation and unpleasantness.

I currently find myself on the other side of this equation right now and I can’t tell you how pissed off I am. Long story somewhat short, I have an accountant that I’ve been using for many years who clearly has many more important clients than me. This is all too evident in his lagging response time, inattentiveness, and general “I don’t give a fuck about you” attitude. Even worse than all of that, he’s one of these people who clearly don’t actually read e-mails in their entirety. He just reads the first sentence and reply’s leaving whatever other questions or issues I’ve raised unanswered thereby elongating the entire process of answering my simple requests or questions. And please don’t think I’m sending him lengthy e-mails. They are as short as I can make them and very to the point making this tactic that much more infuriating.

Now I get it. Believe me I get it. He’s busy. Times are tough and the worlds in the shitter but he’s ok. His business is thriving. And he doesn’t have enough time in the day. And he’s got clients he obviously makes much more money from then yours truly. Believe me when I tell you, I get it.

So Matt, “What would you have him do?” you may ask. Well allow me to reply.

FIRE ME! Just fire me as a client and let me get on with my life and don’t put me in this horrible, awful, hostile place I currently find myself where I feel as though you’re doing me some kind of favor in spite of the fact that I’m paying you for your time.

PLEASE JUST FIRE ME! As long as it’s not a couple days before the 15th of April, it will be much better than having to deal with all of these negative emotions and feelings your neglect and disrespect are causing me. Sure, I’ll be annoyed. I don’t want to have to go through the exercise of finding another accountant. Just more time wasted as far as I’m concerned. But at least I can get on with my life. Shit happens. I’m a big boy. I’ll understand.

The key is to try and do it before it gets to this point.

The key is, recommend another accountant before it gets to this point. Pass me off to an underling (which he’s got) before it gets to this point. I’m not above it. Just please don’t put the onus on me. Please don’t become just another shmuck with bad customer service.

Where my accountant is concerned, he’s too late.

The solutions I just mentioned (other than outright firing) go hand in hand with the way Tony Hsieh built Zappos into the online powerhouse that Amazon bought for a billion dollars. If you’re in a service business and you don’t follow him, change that right now. Hsieh entered an already crowded marketplace by blowing away the competition with better customer service than anyone had ever experienced in online history. He commanded his customer service team to do anything and everything for their customers even if that meant physically referring them to a competitor because Zappos was out of whatever shoes they might have been looking for. That just because they were losing a sale, the net results of a move like this would come back to them with ten-fold returns. He called it the WOW FACTOR and there is no better example of the way a service business should operate. If you’ve never been to their offices in Henderson, Nevada, GO! They offer tours to anyone (yes, anyone) that wants one and they’ll even pick you up at your hotel. I’ve been. It’s worth it. I learned so much from it and adapted many of their business practices where customer service is concerned.

Take this morning for example. A perspective customer contacts me wanting to build an online merchandise store to raise funds for his non-profit. He wants to populate the store with various branded merchandise which he can then try and sell to his vast database of members with the hope that he’ll raise enough money to keep his non-profit alive. Great for me. A risky proposition at best for him with involving large start up costs he may or may not ever recoup. It’s hard enough for Disney to sell merchandise let alone this guy for his non-brand, non-profit.

Rather than giving him my hard sell and persuading him to let me build him a great web-store with all kinds of shirts, hats, mugs, bumper-stickers and pens as I could have, I told him the better option at this stage was for him to test the market by using one of the print on demand places on the internet. That he could set up something called a “virtual store” and offer merchandise that could be printed and fulfilled when it was ordered (as opposed to a typical online store program which utilizes pre-made inventory). That I simply would not put him in a position where he was left with an endless array of premium swag that no one wants which he would have no other choice but to give it all to charity in six months. This way, if his virtual store had any kind of success as he thinks it might, he can come back to me and I can set him up with a real, kick-ass, custom store all tricked out the way it ultimately should be like we do all the time. One with full back office/back end support and custom merchandise unlike the run of the mill crap everyone else and their mother peddles morning, noon and night.

The point is, as much as I need his business, it would have cost me more if I just sold him as I could have. The further point is, take care of your customers and they will take care of you. Hokey, I suppose. True, none the less. And remember this– if I teach you nothing else today: it’s ok to turn away business. In fact, in many instances, it’s necessary. It may hurt at first but in the end, it’s the best thing for everyone. Just like Sting said, “If you love someone, set them free.” And the same if you don’t love them. Just get on with it already.

Thanks for listening. Gotta go. I’ve got an accountant to replace.


Get Rejected or Get Lost

15 Jan

I’ve faced rejection my entire life in one way or another; whether I was asking a girl out on a date, looking for a job, or selling. At age forty-six, while there is certainly always a bit of a sting when it happens, I’m completely okay with it.

If you’re in sale’s, or any position where you need people to say “yes” in order for you to make money or achieve success, “no’s” are always going to outweigh “yes’s.”  Just like in Vegas, the odds are not in your favor. However, unlike Vegas, the cost of every “no” should be minimal. And when you do get your “yes,” the rewards of that “yes” should far outweigh everything all the “no’s” have cost you. Once you perfect your pitch and know your wares, prospecting should become a statistical probability much like amateur darts. The more you throw, the more you hit the board. If you’re lucky, every once in a while you’ll hit that perfect bulls-eye.

I think about things like what life would be like if I had not only realized, but embraced this dart board analogy when I was young; especially where girls were concerned. As a teenager, fear of rejection dominated me. The thought of taking a risk and putting myself out there by asking a girl out was just something I could not bring myself to do no matter how much I tried to rationalize any worst case scenario.

“She’ll laugh at me. She’ll tell everyone what a dip-shit I am (as if they didn’t already know). She’ll take out an ad in the New York Times letting the world know what a dip-shit I am.” And so on and so forth. Hardly rational thinking. Real fears none the less.

At one point when I was just out of college, I went to work at a prominent talent agency here in L.A. Unfortunately no one asked me in the interview if I feared rejection because if they had, I could have saved the two worst years of my life that I went on to spend inside that agency only to discover I was not ready to sell.

It’s an unfortunate thing because looking back at it now, I could have done it. If only I could have worked my way through my irrational fear of rejection.

Better late than never I suppose.

Now as I look at the world through my forty-six year old eyes, I can tell you without the least bit of hesitation: Rejection? Who gives a shit? It’s part of life. It’s necessary. If no one crumbled from it, the rest of us would never get ahead. And the minute you can get your mind around this, that’s the minute you can sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves (thank you Tommy Boy).

Suddenly I’m back in sales after a five-year side-trip into another business. When I started selling promotional products sixteen years ago, fear of rejection still dominated me. However, with every sales call I made, the fear dissipated until finally, it was meaningless. And then there was achievement and all of the wonderful things it brought. Having left the business as I did five years ago, I do not have the customers I once had. I’m basically back to square one, out and about looking for new clients just as I did sixteen years ago. The only difference is, I’m working from an entirely different mindset. I expect rejection every day. I welcome it. Well, maybe not welcome it. But I expect it. Without it, there is no life. And there sure as hell can’t be success.

I hope you will continue to follow my progress (and hopefully success) as I transition back into this life as a promotional products salesman after a five-year absence. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments as you see fit.  I also hope you’ll contact me should you be in need of any sort of promotional or marketing products. I can be reached at Also, please follow me on twitter @CustomMerchGuru.

11 Words You Should Never Use in Sales or Marketing

8 Jan

This is a recent Inc. Magazine article that really spoke to me. Personally, I hate hearing these types of buzz words when I’m being sold. When I’m selling, I avoid them as I desperately try not to come across as the stereotypical “sales guy”. You need to know your customer. Having said that, there’s no denying that some customers do respond to these words and actually want to hear them. Some extremely effective, very successful sales people can justifiably disagree with every bit of this article. The point is, you need to recognize that no two customers or sales calls are the same and adapt accordingly.

The only consistencies I require when being sold (or selling) are: Be genuine. Be an expert. Be thorough. Don’t waste time. Make life easier. And don’t fuck me. Also, in the words of Gordon Gekko: “Save the cheap salesman talk. It’s obvious.”

11 Words You Should Never Use in Sales or Marketing

Want to stand out from the pack? Stop sounding like the pack. Samples are helpful. Demos are often effective. But what is the primary tool used to convince potential customers to buy?


Whether spoken or written, words make sales happen.

Or not.

Too many salespeople (and marketers and advertisers) use the same words to describe their products and services. Pretend I’m a potential customer or client.

Here’s how I react when you use the following words:

“Customer focused.”

Talk about redundant; should you be anything but customer focused?

If your goal is to imply that other providers are not customer focused, tell me how: Faster response time, greater availability, customized processes or systems… tell me in concrete terms how you will meet my specific needs. (If you don’t know my needs and therefore can’t address them, shame on you.)

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Something to Ponder by George Carlin

7 Jan

Something to Ponder for the New Year – George Carlin  – (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) It may be long to read, but it is so true.

SOMETHING TO PONDER: George Carlin George Carlin’s wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin – comedian of the 70′s and 80′s – could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate.An observation by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

I am the Mother F-Ing Umbrella Guy!

7 Jan

Fifteen plus years ago, I was on one of my very first sales calls in my new-found career as a promotional products salesman. A friend had graciously referred me to his boss who was looking to purchase umbrellas to give away to clients and employees as potential holiday gifts. I gathered my samples, put on a suit, and made my way to the meeting at their offices in Hollywood. The receptionist (who seemed all of fourteen years old) barely acknowledged my existence when I told her why I was there and who I had come to see. Without as much as a glance, she picked up the phone, dialed an extension and proceeded to utter the following words–words that would invariably change my life forever:

“The umbrella guy is here.”

Two words entered my mind in that instance. F*&k me! How in the hell did I become “the umbrella guy?”

Born and raised in New York City, a degree from the University of Southern California, my last real job had been working as director of development for Kiefer Sutherland at 20th Century Fox (Yes, that Kiefer Sutherland—Jack Bauer himself). And now at thirty years old, I was the freaking umbrella guy! Suffice to say, I did not make the sale.

I will get into the specifics of how my career path so radically changed at a later date. In the meantime, the purpose of this entry is to elaborate on the requirement for the appropriate mindset where the salesperson is concerned.

You see, when I went on that first sales call over fifteen years ago, there’s no way in hell the lowly “umbrella guy” was going to close that or any other sale.

Selling anything: houses, real estate, stocks, airplanes, pens, dogs, whatever, takes a certain amount of confidence and cockiness; one that requires to you believe that you are the be-all/end all master of your domain (whatever that domain might be). My mistake (and I never could have known it at the time) was in not embracing my new title as “umbrella guy.”

Here’s how the do-over might look with fifteen years of hindsight:

“The umbrella guy is here,” mumbled the half-witted, wanna-be actress/receptionist.

“That’s right!” said the umbrella guy. “The mother-f&*king UMBRELLA GUY is here! So get up off your lazy, no-talent ass and take me to your precious leader so I can slam dunk this bitch and get on to my next appointment.”

Ok, maybe not in those exact words. But something with a little more swagger that would have elicited even a minimal amount of confidence. Perhaps a casual joke about my new found title as The Umbrella Guy? Anything to show how truly at peace I was with myself and my place in the world. “Actually I go by the umbrella God if you must know.” Unfortunately, I was completely unclear about my identity at the time and what my purpose in the world was.

It took some time for me to figure it out, but in the end confidence is king when selling. If you’re just starting out, give it time. It will come. Success doesn’t happen overnight with anything or for anyone (despite what you might believe). Also, you can’t really be confident if you don’t know what you’re talking about. If I teach you nothing else, remember this simple tid-bit: KNOW YOUR SHIT. I’m successful because I know my shit. I know as much about the products I sell as I can. My customers rely on me to be their eyes, ears and brains when it comes to the products I offer.

I make a living because I provide a service. And I do it very well. Whatever you need, I’m your guy. I’m you hat guy, your coffee mug guy, your sweatshirt guy, your pen guy, your t-shirt guy, your usb flash drive guy, your messenger bag guy, and of course, your mother f-ing umbrella guy. I am your merchandise guy and I will do anything and everything to make my your life easier.

This is how I sell and I’ve found it very effective. It’s win-win for me and my customers. Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.

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