The industry veteran gives advice on how to make a positive first impression.
By John Corrigan.
For over 35 years, Gary Austin has been charming clients with his southern hospitality.
Austin, owner of Jackson, TN-based Gary Austin Advertising (asi/127581) and ThePenGuy.com, understands the importance of making a good first impression. He also knows the power of promotional products and how to explain their value to new customers. Counselor spoke with Austin about marketing strategies and reaching out to prospects in the digital age.
Q: How important is it to make a positive first impression when meeting a client in the promotional products industry?
Gary Austin: As the adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In the promotional products business, it is even truer because we are in the impressions business. Often our products are a customer’s first engagement with a business that we serve, so we have to make sure that the products offer the correct first impression. One thing we tell our customers is that “everything speaks” and if everything speaks, what do these pens say about your company and your business? What does that golf shirt or hat or coffee mug say about your company? We believe that our products are the first touch a business has with future customers and that first impressions speak and speak loudly. That is why we work very hard to give all of our customers the highest quality of products, presentation and service.
Q: What’s the best way to make a good first impression when meeting a client in person?
GA: The products have to speak for themselves; therefore, having some high-quality products with our company’s logo on it is essential. We believe you have to let the customer see just how powerful and effective great logo placement on high quality products can truly be.
Q: How about through email?
GA: Our email strategy is multifaceted. We strive to make our email marketing outreach targeted and useful. We engage many first-time customers through Google AdWords, social media posts and ads, as well as numerous other platforms. From these marketing efforts, we will often receive a customer engagement that leads to an email address being obtained. These engagements will then be placed into situation-specific, targeted email drip outreaches based upon the customer’s behavior and engagement within our site, social media channel or ad campaign. Our goal is simple – provide useful, quality information that is in line with the need and expectation of the potential customer who trusted us with their email address.
Q: Speaking of social media, what’s your strategy for gaining followers?
GA: Content is key and, as the old web developers say, content is king. Everyone is flooding their social media with new posts, and ads and sales pitches fill our screens on a minute by minute basis. We believe that less is actually more. Give your customers and potential customers only the content that you yourself would find useful and valuable. We try not to bombard people with 10% off coupons every five minutes. Instead, we keep our customers’ time and intention in mind. Therefore, we focus on showing only high-quality products and putting out useful content, ideas, suggestions and information that we see working for a large percentage of our current customer base.
Q: What are three things you should never do when meeting someone for the first time?
GA: Our answers may be different than some others, but we consider it a privilege to be in front of any prospective customer. Thus, we do not want to make the interaction about us. So that would be our first – never make the interaction about you. We want to give customers confidence about who we are and what we can do, but none of that matters if they don’t understand how we can help solve their problems. We want to make our time together about them, their business, their challenges, their struggles and how we can introduce them to some of our solutions.
Our second never is also somewhat counterintuitive, but we would say never sell. What? Never sell? Yes, we are not there to sell – we are there to solve. How can we solve our customers’ problems? The reality is solutions sell themselves, so we don’t have to focus on that. We just need to listen and offer help and service where we can. Our third is never show up empty handed. If we believe our products work and allow a business to be remembered and make a lasting impression, then we should be taking our own advice and offering a prospective client some products that will make an impression.