How to Brand and Import Your Own Merchandise and Stand Out From the Crowd
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Merchandise products are a great tool to promote our products and services. Branded merchandise helps imprint a lasting impression of our business in the minds of our customers. However, there’s more to effective merchandise than mere promotions and brand recall. Merchandise products should be maximised to serve a purpose.
In this episode, Ros and Liquid Promotions director Lauren Brown take a deep dive into how travel agents can create winning merchandise that people can use for the long term, is cost-effective, and better for the environment. Tune in for some actionable tips you can use for your business!
Quotes from the Episode
“I help people do good things for their business (and not) spend money on crap, I wanted it to be a promotions with a purpose company.”
On question whether or not small businesses need corporate gifts and merchandise: “They do, but they need to know why they’re ‘giving’ it rather than giving it just for the sake of giving.”
“You need to have a product that you are spending money on that has a purpose. You need to understand what’s your goal. Work out what your target is at the end and work out a product to go with it.”
“It’s all about the purpose and sustainability. If you have a purpose you would be able to understand the results you need.”
“Whatever the budget is, you don’t want that product in the bin. Giving someone a bigger item is not necessarily better than a smaller item. Some people just like the token thought and some people like the big thing. You can’t always make everybody happy.”
“It’s got to be something people want, not just something because it’s there.
“In this current climate, you don’t want landfill. So you need to be careful of what you’re giving out.”
“I don’t want to supply balloons, plastic bags, bottled water… because those are the things that are killing our planet. Everybody has to take a stand on their passion and for us it has got to be much more eco-friendly.”
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Announcer: Welcome to Travel Agent Achievers! The place to learn how to grow your travel business and have fun with it. Join Roslyn and her guests as they walk you through proven steps to a fulfilling and profitable business.
Roslyn Ranse: Hey, guys, welcome back to another episode of Travel Agent Achievers. You're here today with Ros, myself, and also a very special guest. Lauren Brown.
I have known Lauren for over 10 years now, and she's certainly one of the movers and shakers Australia's marketing and promotion scene. She owns a creative and event specialist company, Liquid Promotions, based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Founded in 2014 Liquid Promotions is a boutique promotional company that creates bespoke custom made merchandise for businesses.
Now these promotional items can include anything from stationery and office supplies, electronics, clothing, you know, uniforms and also specifically for the travel industry. I've worked with Lauren for a number of years, and we've created several items together that my clients absolutely love.
So, I've asked Lauren here today to have a chat with us. She's a mum to two gorgeous boys. We are both very busy in our work, which is what everybody says, but I'm very glad that Lauren can be here with me today. So Lauren, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. I just want to say thank you so much for making the time to have a chat with me today.
Roslyn Ranse: Can you tell me a little bit about you and how Liquid Promotions started?
Lauren Brown: I have been in the industry for about 14 years. I was a bit lost when I started, didn't know what I wanted to do. I studied Geology, did the whole travel thing and, you know, sort of found a job in the promo space, which is where it all started.
And then, went on to have my kids and left where I was and it all sort of grew organically. So I've had experiences like the custom making and then the uniforms, and clothing and then the promo items - working out what’s suitable for a business rather than just having something to give away because people have an overall thing to like free stuff
Roslyn Ranse: Exactly
Lauren Brown: And not making it useful and not landfill is sort of where we’ve found our niche. This is sort of been a really good role for me because I couldn't jump around and my head doesn't just stay in one place.
Roslyn Ranse: So you consider yourself a bit of a creative type?
Lauren Brown: Yes.
Lauren Brown: Creative and it gives you the opportunity to use that creativity and then put it into practice into what people may want and find the right fit for them rather than sort of making them fit to the mold.
Roslyn Ranse: So how did liquid promotions come about?
Lauren Brown: So when I had my kids, I loved what I was doing and I really found myself and I found my avenue that I could grow in and then I could help people do good things for their business without finding that they had to do something. So they didn't want people to spend money on crap.
I wanted it to be, you know, promotion with a purpose, rather, you know, this is, you know, you start off a campaign and you go, What's the end goal? And it was just taking people who were not given the time of the day because they weren't big enough for they were, you know, big clients who didn't know where they were taking the direction and finding how to make it.
How to make their business come to life as well as being part of that journey. So when I had my kids and I started out of my journey on my own, it was quite scary I'm sure it is for everybody, but you know,
we couldn't come up with a name and then I went liquid and I remember Alex going it's a really bad name. I went no, I like it. There's something about it that's fluid and it moves and it doesn't get stuck.
And that's how we all need to bathe. Just keep it moving. Keep it simple.
You know, the source of everything comes from liquid. So it was like, well, that's going to be us.
Roslyn Ranse: That's awesome! So it's fluid as you said, you work with the small companies, large companies, and it's about getting to know them and then finding out what's going to be the right thing for them.
Lauren Brown: Yes
Roslyn Ranse: So as a small company, like,, us as travel agents we run small businesses, when you say finding the time and getting to know the clients, do you think that corporate gifts and merchandising is something that smaller companies in general need?
Lauren Brown: I think they do. But they need to know why they're giving it rather than just giving it for the sake of giving it.
Because if you're going to give someone a pen, what's the purpose of that pen?
Like if you were to give someone a pen that’s going in their travel wallet its got a purpose. But if you were just giving them a pen because they were passing you by the trade show, so are 400 other people.
So what makes you different?
Roslyn Ranse: Exactly.
Lauren Brown: So you need to have a product that you are spending money on that has a purpose. You need to understand what your goal, and if you don't know what your goal is to give it out then work out what your target is at the end and then work out the product to go with it.
Roslyn Ranse: Is that something that you work with your clients on the ground and what's going to be the right thing for them and the most value, especially in a giveaway, as you say, a pen anybody can do.
But what's the purpose behind that?
That's not something that I actually thought about before.
What's the purpose?
I know being in travel our travel wallets are really important, the eye masks and earplugs and, you know, little bits and pieces like that. But thinking about the end goal and the purpose that make people come back for more.
Lauren Brown: Yes, so you know, it's you really, really need to know, like with all of your merch it’s been like you want people on a plane to see someone with your thinking I didn't get one from my travel agent.You know, I didn't feel my special at the end.
So when you handed out, you could be proud to give that, not just go oh, it was a sort of like an okay idea.
Roslyn Ranse: So it's creating a bit of a FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out for anybody else that you saying something that you're giving away your clients that other people are looking at it going.
Oh, why didn't I get one too?
Lauren Brown: Mine’s not as pretty as yours. No one loved me enough to give it to me.
Roslyn Ranse: Yes, true. So when you're giving out a promotional item to a client.
How does somebody like the business owner know that they're getting the most out of that promotional item to use?
Like the product?
How does somebody like a business owner? How do they know?
Lauren Brown: It's hard to guess. There are some items out there that have a really short shelf life, but that it's all for me about the purpose of the sustainability. So you're giving out something, it has to have a purpose, you would be able to understand the results that it got in the end.
Roslyn Ranse: Can you give me some examples of some short shelf life products that you do? Do you mean like chocolate?
Lauren Brown: Confectionery, chocolate, you know things like that. It's got branding on it. You know you eat it. It's their purpose for that sort of thing is if you were a trade show and you had the bag of popcorn that was branded, people want the popcorn, so you're going to get the opportunity to have a chat with them because they're going to want your product rather than the mints somewhere next door.
Roslyn Ranse: Right.
Lauren Brown: By doing a low-cost little thing, you might get the bigger, you know, the bigger booking because you've got the opportunity to chat to them because they have to come and talk to you if they want that problem, so that has its purpose. And then your gift, when you give them at the end, you have to work out based on what you need in your, you know, financial what you can allocate to a promotion.
You don't want that whatever the budget is, you don’t want that product in the bin. So giving someone a bigger item is not necessarily better than a smaller items. Some people just like the token and thought, and some people like the big thing. You can't get it.
You can’t always make everybody happy.
Roslyn Ranse: That brings a really good point, particularly, I know you're during event work now and preparing merchandise and promotional materials for events as well. So as travel agents, we go to a lot of expos, and you know, whether that's a wedding expo, or a conference or an event or something and to have as you say, a short shelf life product it's the perfect key to draw people into your stand or draw people into you to talk to you.
Would you find that in the work that you're doing with clients at the moment? And then differentiating that with a longer-term use a product such as a travel wallet as they're traveling, or a neck pillow or something like that?
Lauren Brown: Yes, 100%. When you do the exhibition, you need to get someone in, but you don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get them in. But they're the people that you know.
You need to get people to come to see you, so you need to have something there to entice them.
Otherwise, they don't necessarily come but when you give them your promo items, at the end of you know, it's the last impression, which is the most important.
Sorry, you've given them the travel wallet that you've remembered to put in there all their little bits and pieces and you know as a travel agent, we rely on you guys to make sure that everything is ready so I can get on the plane, and I'm like, yep passport, visa. All of that's done, and then you get to the airport, and I know that you'd always do this with me, open my travel wallet. And like oh my pen, and then I'm like, there's always one in there like every card of everything is thought about. So that's that last impression. Going how do you to fill in this thing, oh, that’s alright, I'm all sorted.
Roslyn Ranse: Right
Lauren Brown: That’s that last giveaway where you've got that impression to give back. It's like, yep, it's all done.
Got on the plane.
I was uncomfortable.
I had my travel pillow.
Like that last impression that it can make or break anything
Roslyn Ranse: Yes.
Lauren Brown: So when we do like our event management, you know, we always say you need to give out something to get people in.
And it's got to be something that people want, not just something because it's there.
And in this current climate, you don't want landfill.
Roslyn Ranse: No.
Lauren Brown: You need to be careful of what you're giving out.
Roslyn Ranse: So what are some hot items at the moment that you're seeing across all industries, what sort of things are you seeing?
Lauren Brown: There's always the tech products that people love something to do with your phone or computer. Things like that are always, always big. Doing a lot of, you know, a lot of water bottles and notebooks and sort of those things that come through. But then I'm even doing some beautiful presentation boxes and a lot of the focus has moved to how it's presented, so you put anything in a nice wrapping and you can present it. So it's useful.
It's sustainable in it's nice, sort of recycled and, you know, bamboo coffee cups and just really sustainable things that are not heavy and bulky and overpriced. Just everyday use items that aren’t filling up the cupboards.
Stuff that you don't really need.
Roslyn Ranse: That's true, not filling up your cupboards. And it's also not going to waste and landfill as you say. That's a huge thing! So you're finding that now within your industry, that more clients are looking for sustainable products and things that aren't going to go to waste?
Lauren Brown: 100%. And we're positioning ourselves as a company that way. Look, I don't want to supply balloons. I don't want to supply plastic bags, bottled water, all of those things. You just you know you can get them, but you can get them from someone else because those are the things that are killing our planet.
And I think you everybody needs to take a stand on their passions. And for us, you know it's got to be.
Roslyn Ranse: That's awesome! Much more eco-friendly.
Yeah, I completely agree. So in saying that, that's what you guys do. And that's certainly where your business is going with Liquid Promotions in the sustainable direction and making sure that it makes a lasting impression for clients. But it's also something that'll stick around for a long period of time. It's not just going to disappear. It's not going to go in the waste.
Lauren Brown: 100%, sometimes the cheapest isn't the best, you know.
But there is a promo product that's, you know, suitable for every market, for every client that will work.
That's not rubbish.
I am a big fan of telling people, if it's rubbish, there's no point spending money on it. Because if no one's going to keep it and it doesn't have a purpose then don’t do it.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah, absolutely! So when you're putting together these campaigns and working really closely with your client to make sure that you've got the right product and the right fit for everything, when the products are delivered and that period of time can be anywhere from what week to three months to have things delivered?
Lauren Brown: So it just depends on how custom-made you want to it. If you need something quick and easy, we find something off the shelf and then we print it here. And we, you know, do what we need to do.
If we've got a little bit more time and a bigger quantity, or we can collate different orders to make it a pack, we can do it. I have to say it takes about 12 weeks. We sample, we get custom, everything we can really, really focus on tailoring that product exactly what you need.
Roslyn Ranse: So it can be quite a long process. What's the feeling when those products land on your doorstep in to your warehouse and then you go and deliver the first lot or the first lot arrives.
Lauren Brown: At first nervous, going although we have our agent over there and it's all quality tested, but you've got a sample here and you're wondering if it's like you're going to make sure you put that whole thing happening and then you get it and it's perfect. You take it out and then to see someone's face that something that was just a concept that they thought can't come to life and then it's gone through all the different stages of changes and I like it here a bit there and making it perfect. And then you get it. And it's just, like, so excited.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah, I completely agree! When I received the products here. It's so exciting. And I love the feedback that I also get from clients. And I know other colleagues as well when they giving out products to our clients. The feedback that we get, it just makes the biggest difference because of how happy they are.
It's going that extra mile.
It's the thought that you've put into it. So that all certainly definitely would come straight back to you as our partner that we work with them, make sure that we're getting the right products for everybody. So we thank you for that. But it's really good to hear that you've also got that excitement when something comes in and then that goes out as well.
Lauren Brown: Yes, and then it's just the reaction to know that it wasn't off the shelf and it was perfect. So it's such a rush.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah. So do you have any tips for travel agents on how they can leverage the power of promotional materials to attract and retain clients?
What sort of things would you suggest?
And and how can we, you know, leverage these things?
Lauren Brown: So, firstly, it's definitely knowing you give something out. What do you want out of it?
So you're giving it to someone, because they can use it or because you're trying to get them in, you need to start out knowing what, where you're at and how are you going to use it and then making sure that your product fits what you're doing.
So if you're looking at an exhibition or you're looking at giving it to someone who you've booked the trip with or it's they're honeymoon, reunion, you need to make sure that that product is appropriate for your target market.
Otherwise, it kind of looks a bit home. Okay, it's a nice thought. So like your industry, you need to make you know you can. You've got such a broad spectrum because it can be taken away. Or is it home is when you get your documents or just the little thing that comes in the post, whatever it is, as long as you’re making sure that it's working. See, a lot of you can do things that are on the go. You can have your chargers. You can have water bottles. You can have a really nice story, but that they could put memories in and you could custom-make this beautiful diary that they would like to take with them.
And say right, we went here, this is who came and these were the highlights. It doesn't have to be big it can be like the 10 pages thing like your trip highlight. You know, the worst part of your trip, whatever it was and you've just got this tiny little thin book of memories from that particular trip, and it's all signed at the bottom from you. With love.
Like it doesn't have to be a big thing. It just has to be a thoughtful thing.
Roslyn Ranse: I love that! I think now more and more people are gathering all these photos as an example on their phone, and they are no longer people printing photos, which is really sad but that's the way that video's going and audio's going and nobody's actually keeping the memories to go that refer to later. So whether that is in a storybook or, you know, a little notebook that you can print out your photos from your phone and there are many gadgets now that you can actually print out a little thing from your phone.
That's a really cool idea! I also think for kids these days as well, when they're going on a trip with their parents that they can take notes and keep a bit of a journal and it’ll remind them as they are growing up as well. So thanks for that tip. I'm actually going to run with it. And that's something that we could do together.
Lauren Brown: Yeah, it’s just the little thin ones. Just for that trip. A note to keep them going. So they can get a new one each time.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah, I love it. Great idea. So coming together with one thing that I'm going to put together and make sure that all of our listeners have access to so they can download a PDF, which will be on How to turn your creative ideas into a promotional product or event.
What are some things that we need to think about? So, we start off with an idea or concept.
What's the end goal?
Is that how you would start?
Lauren Brown: You need to know what your purpose is. It's sort of you need to know who you’re targeting and making sure that that product is appropriate for that person, and that's going to be desirable.
Are you going to get the right person by having a balloon there? Because you’re really going to get the two-year old who screaming for the balloon.
Do you want that as your person?
Do you want someone who's come up to you because they're going to give you business?
Roslyn Ranse: I want the person that you know is going to need the glass of champagne or something because they’ve got the two-year-old.
Lauren Brown: Exactly! It doesn't necessarily have to be a branded item to get in. It has to have that something. That's the memory.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah
Lauren Brown: You just have to, you know, think about the big picture first and then put the pieces together. So you need to start with your end goal and then work backwards to make it to make sure that all the steps fit.
Roslyn Ranse: Awesome! We're going to put together a checklist that people can download and have access to so that they can then tick off all of these bits and pieces. They can brainstorm some ideas if they got an event or something coming up, or they're even thinking long term about what they'd like to give their clients. They can go through a few different ideas. They can brainstorm the end goal, and they can think about what it is that they actually want their clients to receive in the end but also how they want to be interpreted.
As you say, if it's a honeymoon client. If it's a family client specific niche, everybody is different and we need to make sure that if you are providing promotional materials or promotional items to your clients, that it is specific for their needs and they are going to come back to you.
So we’ll prepare that checklist.
Lauren Brown: You would always want to ask for help on that because you don't always know what the right thing is. And you don't have to come up with the product because that's what we’re around for. We need to bring these ideas to me because that's what we do. You know?
It's like someone comes, you know, I want to go on a holiday. Where do you want to go? No, I don’t know.
Roslyn Ranse: Exactly. Oh, my gosh, it’s so true. We need to make sure that we're asking the right questions and then to bring those questions to you so that you can help formulate a product.
Lauren Brown: 100%. So you've got the bones of what you're trying to achieve name. You put together the rest of it to make sure it's not just spending money to spend money because that's just not going to get anyone anywhere.
Roslyn Ranse: Yeah, that's absolutely the same way it works in travel as well. So when a client comes to us and may say I want to go to San Diego, where do I stay? So we need to be able to have the ideas and know that client super well to know exactly what they're going to like, what they're going to love. And they will then continue to come back to us.
So thank you so much, Lauren! If people want to get in contact with you or with Liquid Promotions how can they do so?
Reach out, there's a beautiful one here and then there’s the team as well. So events, promo, ideas.
Roslyn Ranse: Anything
Lauren Brown: We’re always around.
Roslyn Ranse: Awesome! So Facebook and Instagram “We are Liquid Promotions” or reach out to Lauren by email and to get access to this PDF and checklist to help you with your information before you go to Lauren, then log on to www.travelagentachievers.com/podcast Or find the podcast notes here and down below.
And we will get this information straight after you. So thank you so much, Lauren! Are you are a huge asset to any travel business and certainly to mine. And I love being able to work with you.
You make it so easy, so fun, and you just get us. So, as travel agents, we can be quite unique in some areas and we all do different things. And we really appreciate all your help.
So thank you for everything you did for us.
Lauren Brown: Thank you! It’s been such fun.
Roslyn Ranse: I will see you soon!
Lauren Brown: See you soon!
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