Wow! This week the wall street journal trumpeted the weakness of the Chinese economy and tells us the Chinese government is injecting billions of Yuan into the manufacturing sector to shore up businesses and support the labor force. And, on top of that, the government arbitrarily weakened the currency from a recent high of about 6.05 Yuan to the U.S. Dollar to 6.41 Yuan to the Dollar, making Chinese goods 6% cheaper than they were.
So, aside from looking for even lower prices at Wal-Mart where virtually everything but milk and eggs comes from China, how can I import goods from China to benefit my business bottom line and stay competitive?
The following are some hints and guidelines I have gleaned from 30 years of experience importing goods from China and Thailand:
1.) Don't look for the best quality, price, service and ethical treatment by searching online at Alibaba. All advertisers there profess to have English speaking customer service personnel at your service, often their English comprehension is on par with your grasp of Mandarin, so response time to your inquiry can be measured in days, or not uncommonly, never. Equally important is the fact that a majority of advertisers are "trading companies: not manufacturers, so prices vary from attractive to scandalous, depending on where the roulette ball stops on your spin of many choices. So, be vigilant and query more than one source. Often you can visit websites for a better idea of the company's capabilities.
2.) 50% deposit with order and balance due upon delivery of your order to the freight forwarder in Asia is standard policy so ask for references and check them out. Even an approved protoype or pre-production sample does not provide adequate protection as horror stories are abundant where samples were approved and yet when the container arrived the contents, already paid for, were sub-standard. Adding to this conundrum is a non-existent legal system for disputing or arbitrating quality or other problems in China.
3.) To capture the cost advantages and eliminate the attendant risks, find a hong kong based sourcing broker and buy through them. Depending on order size there will be a 10% to 20% management cost but all the risks above are absorbed by your English speaking intermediary. He/They will have people on the ground at the production site to provide quality control and scheduling assistance and assume full financial responsibility for your complete satisfaction. In addition, this firm will probably have ongoing relationships with honest and dependable suppliers forged over many years, they also can coordinate the export/import documentation and the fastest ocean or air transport for your goods.
Our company, Benchmark Displays LLC will be happy to consult with you here in the U.S, understanding quickly your requirements, providing manufacturers MOQ's (Minimum Order Quantities) and do so with you in a compatible time zone while Asia sleeps. You can speak with one of our knowledgeable staff at 800.600.2810
With the technology craze in full swing, there is a lot of information out there on how to use technology to attract customers (see previous vinyl blog on QR Codes). If you have walked through a mall recently, and who hasn't? you probably noticed more stores using video kiosks, apps, and digital media to get customers in the door. So, following this trend, here are several tips you can utilize with video marketing. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, with a little ingenuity and a smartphone, you can create your very own scorsese-esq videos.
If you keep in contact with your best customers, sending them email updates periodically, how about creating a personal video message on a smartphone to communicate with them. By creating a short (yes, short) video message, designed specifically for them, it adds the personal touch. It could be showcasing a new product you think they might be interested in, or a how to video showing the latest gadget in use, whatever the case, most of us screen our calls these days because we are so busy, but we more than likely would take the time to watch a short video message, at our leisure, if came from someone we trusted.
Another great resource is Youtube. Millions of videos are uploaded daily, it is free to use, and because it is also tied in with Google Plus, it has become a great social networking venue. I can't tell you how many times I have looked on Youtube for "how to" videos.. Need to fix a garbage disposal? I found a video that helped me do it all on my own! Need to photoshop your ex out of all your vacation pics? There are plenty of videos to help you do just that. If you have customers interested in how to do something, anything, related to your business, create a video for it... Start by asking your employees what questions customers often ask, and create a video around it. Once you upload the video to your channel, you can share it on other social media sites, email it, or embed it on your own website. One word of advice, if you decide to share it on other platforms, make sure you use hastags #custom cosmetic displays, (just an example) so your video can be more readily found.
Periscope, is another great tool for real-time video marketing. It is like your own personal broadcast station. Your followers are alerted whenever you are live on periscope and can ask you questions. More on that in later posts as I am still figuring this one out!
Great employees are the backbone of any business. Apathetic and unmotivated employees can suck the life out of the sales transactions they perform. On the flip side, happy, engaged employees pass on their enthusiasm to their customers. As a result, customers are more likely to become engaged and be repeat customers, if they are served by enthusiastic employees. It stands to reason then, that happy employees boost the company's bottom line. So, what are some ways that companies can retain content staff?
"You've done an amazing job", "keep up the good work", "bravo"... Praise, recognition, a pat on the back. We all crave positive feedback when we put forth extra effort, and it's especially nice to hear from your employer when you have gone above and beyond. Meaningful rewards and recognition provide an effective way of raising morale and encouraging higher levels of performance. So how can you recognize an outstanding achievement?
First things first. When you see that someone has done something exemplary, acknowledge it right away. Don't be arbitrary or random in your responses. If they put forth extra effort to complete a task ahead of schedule or went the extra mile to land a big contract, let them know.. How?
1) Perhaps through a staff appreciation program. You can award points for reaching certain milestones or achievements, and points can be redeemed for privileges.
2) Another way is through employee recognition plaques or awards. It gives employees something tangible they can put on their desk or on a shelf in their office. It serves as a daily reminder that they did a great job and you took note: (see benchmarkdisplays/showcase) for some ideas..
3) Make it a team effort. Post a "kudos" in the company newsletter, and ask employees to submit the name of a peer they would like to nominate.
These are just a few suggestions.. stay tuned for more....
Another year is rolling right by.
So, it's time again for us to extol the many virtues of Benchmark's vinyl, retail environment, POS marketing products in all their understated but vital-to-success glory.
Virtually every multi -store, retail chain regardless of its specific merchandising mode, uses these inexpensive but purposely intrusive little shelf talkers, sign holders and brochure holders to virtually grab customers (and promote products!) as they navigate the aisles.
What distinguishes Benchmark vinyl products from the herd is our outrageously low prices and ability to make and ship these displays with hyper-speed, even in very large quantities.
We purchase clear, rigid vinyl sheets in all the needed gauges in container loads from the extruder in China. We have the cutting dies on hand for hundreds of sizes and styles while making tooling for custom items in-house. Then, we use proprietary, multi-function, heating, bending and gluing machines to produce finished products in a fraction of the time and labor cost of our competitors.
We do this at our partner fabrication facility just south of San Diego, California in Baja California.
Whether you have an immediate need for our vinyl products or just want a cost comparison on something you purchased at an earlier time, check out our website at Benchmarkvinyl.com and send us an inquiry or give our friendly and experienced customer service staff here at our corporate offices in Palm Desert, California a call 800-600-2810. The proof is in the April pudding!
What we have done with some success as a business strategy at Benchmark Displays is immerse ourselves in the attitudes, and cultures of Mexico, and China, the countries we have come to rely upon as manufacturing partners. The reason for this is practical, not philosophical or philanthropic, as we design, engineer and source products with relatively high labor content for our U.S. customer base. The internet and the world wide web have combined to shrink the world in a virtual way so that global sourcing seems not a possibility but one of today’s mandates for business survival.
For example, this week, starting on February 19, China begins its annual New Year Celebration. Revolving on 12 year astrological/zodiac, animal, cycles, this year is the year of Yang or the Goat. Two point eight billion Chinese migrants, office and factory workers and executives are on their way home to the cities and villages from which they came to be with family and friends.
While here we revel in the luxury of a few four day Holiday weekends per year, the Chinese economy is entirely shut down and on vacation for anywhere from one to three weeks, with two being the average. Having visited China factories regularly for 25 years in connection with our work, we know to carefully plan for the heavy production backlog in the month before and then during the holiday, when there will be a complete shutdown of production and most business communication.
However, come March 1st , it’s business open once again, and with a renewed emphasis and urgency. Our special facility is with “on the ground”, competent and ethical, English speaking colleagues with a shared commitment to consistently exceed customer expectations. The commissions we earn for our services are inconsequential when measured against the assurance and insurance we provide our clientele that they will receive exactly what they ordered and when it is scheduled to be delivered.
Factory visits, QC audits and onsite coordination of first time orders are a routine part of our service. We produce prototypes and pre-production samples and bring them home in the overhead bin of our flight to save valuable time, when appropriate at no extra charge in an effort to distinguish and differentiate our service. You and or your engineers can accompany us on these long flights, sleep on hard beds and enjoy the various delicacies at the traditional meal with factory management, or leave it to us. We have adapted to this and all the other unfamiliar cultural aspects, which believe it or not, are an important aspect of the successful import business relationship.
Chambers represent the interests of businesses, and advocate on behalf of the business community. How many recognized members do you have in your chamber? As a small business owner, having begun our journey 30 years ago, we share your passion for promoting the creation and development of local businesses.
Whether it’s corporate awards or custom designed association club member plaques, Benchmark Displays have proudly served as the leading custom plaque provider for numerous chambers across the country.
As we roll into 2015, let us help you to acknowledge and recognize your members, commitment and dedication to your community. If your organization needs a new design or a new quote for a previous plaque order, Benchmark is capable of providing quality pieces in a variety of materials such as wood or acrylic.
Call us today!
We have had several clients contact us recently to inquire about utilizing wire or metal in their new product displays. I thought I would share some of the potential benefits to using this material. Wire displays can be used for POP displays, magazine and literature racks, card displays, etc. The point of purchase product display landscape worldwide, like display merchandising in general, is evolving at hyper-speed as new materials and processes emerge. As our clientele of designers, and display users across all the industries we serviced became more aware and conscious of the need to be responsible stewards of the environment, we realized that while plastic products can and are recycled, other materials like paperboard and metal are easier and more amenable to reprocess for additional and economical re-use cycles.
So, Benchmark today offers recycled vinyl products for retail merchandising, paperboard displays for products and brochures, and most recently, attractive and budget-conscious wire displays of all shapes, colors and sizes for semi permanent use on the counters and floors of convenience stores and thousands of other self-service retail environments across the nation.
Wire displays by their nature are very labor intensive to make. So, while Benchmark has capable manufacturing partnerships with domestic and Mexican producers, it primarily relies on its China-based manufacturers for elaborate or large quantity applications. And, to capture the maximum product cost advantage of production in Asia, we are also adept at developing designs that are modular in concept, ship flat to reduce transportation cost but are quick and easy to assemble.
Wire displays are often designed with headers to accept "slide in" printed, seasonal promotional ads. Or since silk screen printing in China costs a fraction of U.S. domestic rates, multi-color, multi-location imprints are practical and can enhance the product presentation and impact of the display at POP.
Benchmark's matchless value proposition includes all of the above benefits plus design service, prototyping, short-run capabilities for quick turn product launches followed by less expensive volume production and fulfillment services.
Add the peace-of-mind that comes from dealing with a friendly, English speaking, US. based company that warrants and guarantees 100% product satisfaction while being able to communicate during compatible time zones for conducting business, and you have an unbeatable win-win production.
Since we are fast approaching a new year,(yes, where did 2014 go!) I thought we would talk about some trends in marketing for 2015. I know for everyone here at Benchmark Displays, we are constantly looking for ways to increase our online visibility. We have been working on creating a series of short corporate videos, so I was happy to discover, during my research that video promotion is a trend that we will be seeing more and more of throughout 2015. One article I read said that 40% of people respond more positively to visual content, with videos getting three times more likes than posts that are text only in content.
The whole point of marketing is to create brand awareness. You want your potential customers to engage and connect with the content you share with them. Long term relationships are key, so if you are creating captivating, personalized content, you are more likely to inspire your customers to stay on your website longer, and make recurring purchases.
Social Media will continue to increase in popularity, especially since everyone can download social apps to their smartphones and stay connected 24/7. Now that both Facebook and Twitter have added buy buttons to certain posts, users can even make purchases directly through these social sites without having to leave the page. We will see how well that does in the upcoming year. One of the sites that we have really taken notice of has been LinkedIn. They made some big changes in 2014, one of which was adding a publishing platform to their site. It gives companies like ours, the opportunity to build and develop a professional brand through content like a company blog, and allows us to showcase our capabilities directly to our target audience, other businesses.
As with anything else, trends come and go. But I think social media will continue to be an important tool for marketing and advertising. With the ability to reach a limitless number of customers, and tracking analytics integrated into these sites, it’s really a no brainer to try them out! So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of a promotional video, or have a brilliant new product you want to market, post/pin and tweet away!