Monthly Archives: May 2012

“The Sales Game” – Communication Between You and Your Clients

Vanguard Direct, Utterly Orange’s parent company, if you will, continues to encourage engaging conversation among its employees while still keeping things lighthearted. At this year’s company kickoff meeting, we had the opportunity to discuss a relatively common agency/client conversation with a video that got everyone smiling—particularly those who knew the account people acting in it.

Bob O’Connell, our fearless President, generously lent us his office to ’60s-ify with hippie-style décor, complete with wildflowers and a lava lamp. Take a look at some of Vanguard’s employees taking themselves a little less seriously. And if you’re not doing it already, let’s hope you’re talking to your clients the same way Salesman #2 is soon.

I can’t tell who’s more handsome: the host or his mustache. Cast your vote now! (Kidding!)

Author: Eric Swenson

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Dirt and iPhones Do Mix: One Vanguardian’s Perspective on Technology on the Farm

So you play FarmVille on Facebook, and as you build your “farm” from the comfort of your easy chair, you feel like you are accomplishing something, right? OK, man up already and face it––you have no clue what it’s like to run a farm. My experience is slightly different––my family had a chicken farm in Rockland County that we “city kids” would visit during the summer to “help out.” The farm also grew corn as a staple crop for feed and to sell. By the time we would get there in the summer, the real work was done––our biggest chore was shucking the corn for dinner.

Flash forward to spring 2012 and my reality. I consider myself a “gentleman farmer.” I live on nine acres of pristine property in the mountains of Sullivan County, NY, in the tiny town of Glen Spey (Google Map 12737). I have a barn with a hayloft, split wood for the fireplace, operate a tractor (lowlanders have riding mowers; we have nothing but tractors), drive a pick-up truck, and have a back brace with suspenders for the real work. My frost date is Memorial Day weekend, which means no planting till then––seeds are OK, but the real work begins on the holiday weekend.

My “field” is a 60′ x 40′ horn of plenty, filled with fruit trees and bushes, grape vines, 20 varieties of vegetables and cutting flowers, and surprisingly, no corn. Each year I fertilize with up to 300 lbs of cow manure, lime, and fireplace ash to keep the pH correct. My beds are raised, and I till each one until the soil is the consistency of butter. What self-respecting plant wouldn’t want to wiggle its roots in my bed? Call me crazy, but I commute three hours to work each way because I love where I work and love where I live, just not necessarily in that order.

Last weekend, I did the first cut of the season. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and as I made the turns on the tractor with my music playing from my iPhone, I stopped to take a photo of our family of tree swallows working on their new nest in the birdhouse. As I paused to take it all in, I realized how much technology I have come to rely on to make my life easier. Besides the joy and convenience of having music and photography attached to my belt, much of this process is technology-driven. Consider that I use my iPad to order everything from new tiller blades to seeds to chain saws to fertilizer. Weather is a big consideration on a farm, and I have not one but three weather apps to help me know when to plant and when to water. These apps also help to notify me of approaching storms or frost.

When the day is done and the stars come out, I have a great app on my iPad called Star Walk. This app is terrific if you have a clear view of the night sky and you can see all the stars and constellations overhead. This app also shows which satellites are drifting by. (Unfortunately, the shooting stars you may enjoy flash by too fast to be named.)

There are a plethora of other apps to help your green thumb, and it’s always best to read some of the reviews before you purchase. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an oldie but goodie, the Farmers’ Almanac. Continuously published since 1818, this periodical is known for its long-range weather predictions and astronomical data mixed with humor, trivia, gardening, cooking, fishing, and human-interest content. While not yet an app, it is available as an e-book for your iPad, Nook, or Kindle. This is a must-have for even the “black thumb” gardener who can’t keep even a houseplant alive.

To finish on a positive note for my FarmVille friends, reviews of the new FarmVille Version 2.7 are high. Released on April 4, 2012, FarmVille has gone tropical. Grab your sandals and head to FarmVille’s new Hawaiian Paradise. Leave those clunky coins at home because the new currency is coconuts. Love the beach? Cultivate your favorite water crops and play with new aquatic creatures. While Zynga is excited with the reception the latest version has received, I am sure the lucky few who sample my harvested veggies will be glad there are “gentleman farmers” like me who like to play in the dirt.

Author: Tom Caska

Are We Living the Jetson Life?

I will admit I am a child of the 60s and was raised with the television as my babysitter. I will also admit I am a science fiction fan––it started early in life, with The Jetsons and then Star Trek. I used to wonder what life would be like with such cool gadgets at our fingertips. While we are not there yet, we do have some cool items in our everyday lives. Here are a few from The Jetsons:

Moving Walkways: Although we don’t see these every day, they can be seen and used at most airports.

Televiewer: Just imagine looking at a screen and reading real-time news from all over the globe. Hmm … I don’t know about you, but that is how I start my morning.

Robot Vacuum Cleaner: The Roomba is like Rosie, but without the personality.

We have nailed a couple of things from Star Trek as well:

Communicator: Whenever I saw a clamshell cell phone, I could not help but think of the “communicators” of Star Trek.

Wireless Earpiece: I wonder how much influence Uhura’s (slightly more stylish) earpiece has had on today’s Bluetooth devices.

Portable Memory: We have actually moved past this technology. Spock would carry around small, square items from computer to computer, but we have moved from 3.5 disks to clouds––I think Gene would be amazed at how far we have come.

NASA is currently working on a tractor beam for future unmanned space probes. The beam would pull tiny particles closer to the probe for analysis. NASA predicts this technology is only ten years away.

What TV/movie technology would you like to see become a reality?

Author: Susan Hallinan

AdForum’s Top 5 Commercials for This Week

Check out AdForum’s top five commercials for this week. It was apples and oranges this week—all of the ads had something really interesting to say, from the funny (Bloemen’s “Screwed” ad) to the clever (Flying Horse Energy Drink’s “Cat-Toast” ad) to the powerful (Road Safety Authority’s “View” ad, which was––as one of those ideas you’re sure you’ve seen before––really great).

Despite not being in English, Ice Dew’s “Rehydration” ad was a really fun take on the “60% of your body is made up of water” factoid.

Have a favorite? Cast your vote and post!

1. Bloemen.nl – “Screwed” – Publicis

2. Ice Dew – “Rehydration” – Bartle Bogle Hegarty Shanghai

3. Flying Horse – “Cat-Toast” – Ogilvy Brasil Comunicação Ltda.

4. Road Safety Authority – “View” – Irish International

5. Strongbow – “Push It” – St. Luke’s Communications

Author: Eric Swenson

Are You Saving Enough for Retirement?

Since the inception of 401(k) plans in the mid-1980s, traditional pension plans have been on a steady decline. What this means is that YOU are now responsible for making sure that you have a sufficient nest egg when you retire.

According to recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, approximately 80% of the working population that is within 10–15 years of retirement do not have a sufficient amount saved to reasonably expect to comfortably retire. These individuals will now either have to work longer or drastically reduce their standards of living.

How about you? Will you be ready for retirement? Below is a link to a simple calculator that can assess where you stand. You will need to enter some basic income and assumptions, and it will quickly calculate how much you will need for retirement. Also, it will calculate how much you will need to put away on a monthly basis and how much that amount will increase if you decide to wait a year.

http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/how-much-will-i-need-to-save-for-retirement

401(k) plans were established to give the employee more control over his or her future. Are you taking full advantage of this benefit? If not, see your plan administrator and don’t be left out.

Author: Tim Murphy

Memorial Day Marketing Ideas

Memorial Day is Monday, May 28.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think Memorial Day weekend? The beach, barbecues, suntanning, relaxing … and shopping! Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. It’s important retailers take advantage of this timing. But to sell more, retailers must understand their consumers and know what they are looking for. So what do people want to do for Memorial Day weekend? Go on a beach getaway (that’s what I’m doing), host a house party, fix things around the apartment, visit a relative who lives three hours away, get pampered at a spa, go to a barbecue party, spend the day fishing, check out the latest technology gadgets––maybe it’s your last weekend before you start your carb-free summer diet, so you’d like to go out for a great meal and really indulge. No matter what, it all involves spending money: the flights, the hotel, the car rental, food, gas, gifts for the host, the massage, the facial, the latest iPad, the lobster dish followed by chocolate mousse…

Once you know where your customers will be, target them with special promotions. People love good deals, such as “buy one, get one free” or “spend $35 and you’ll get a free beach bag.” Store displays should be happy, colorful, and inviting and should create sense of urgency. Say something like: “Your friend might be enjoying a piña colada in Islamorada, but you get to take home the latest Betsey Johnson bathing suit––NOW, for only $$$!” Or how about rewarding all your Facebook and Twitter followers? Drag them into the store. Give them something. They will love you for it!

What are you doing this Memorial Day weekend? Any special deals you’ve gotten so far?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Do You Ever Find Yourself Asking, “How Can I Stay Ahead in This Fast-Paced, Competitive Marketplace?”

For most people, the answer would be a resounding “Yes.” In this day and age, the key to success is making the most of your time, ALL the time. With so many suppliers optimizing their sites for mobile browsing and creating apps for your smartphones and tablets, you can get pricing, specs, and inventory levels with just a few taps. Instead of spending your commute sitting idly, you can utilize this new technology for your benefit. Now you can actually knock off some of the items on your to-do list before you even arrive at the office and get a jump on your day. Or you can hammer away at that pile of work while you are away on vacation before that dreadful Monday morning hits.

For example, armed with just an iPad and my cell phone, I can fulfill my current role at Vanguard of finding the best suppliers and quoting the best possible pricing for our customers no matter where I am. Mobile sites are popping up all over––just check out a few of the leaders in the promotional items industry.

These apps and mobile websites also allow you to see orders in the proofing and production stages, as well as their shipping status, so you can have answers for your clients before you even fire up your desktop at the office. Additionally, you can now check pricing, inventory, and turnaround time remotely, allowing you to easily type up a quote while on the go. Gone are the days of train or flight delays slowing down our productivity when these little challenges come our way. With more and more companies developing these types of user-friendly options for our mobile devices, we can not only improve our time management skills, but deliver superior customer service as well. Soon, we just may be able to steal that famous Army quote: “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”

Author: Amy Carroll