July Vendor Spotlight: Maple Ridge Farms

Founded in 1979, Maple Ridge Farms began by selling their products door-to-door to local businesses in central Wisconsin until a few years later in 1982 they discovered the promotional products industry. Since then they have sold exclusively through distributors. Maple Ridge Farms originally produced their gifts in a rented warehouse until 1990 when they decided to build a 27,000 sq. ft. facility.  A few years ago in 2008 they moved to an 85,000 sq. ft. production facility that they currently occupy. Maple Ridge Farms is now the largest company in the United States specializing in business food gifts programs. They achieved this level of success by following one fundamental principle: “Your gifts should be recognized for their outstanding quality and exceptional flavor.”

The Promotional Products Association International has awarded Maple Ridge Farms thirteen times over the years with the Supplier Star Award and Supplier Star Award of Merit. They were also recognized as the inaugural “First Place” winner of the ASI Distributor’s Choice Award in 2001 and have won every year since! Not surprisingly, 99.99% of all orders are shipped on time!

Maple Ridge Farms’ product line consists of fine chocolate, fresh-roasted nuts, Wisconsin cheese, home-style cookies & brownies, and gourmet smoked meats. Nearly 25% of their business consists of custom or non-catalog items.

Maple Ridge Farms attributes their success to three main factors:

-           The highest quality food

-           Innovative packaging

-           Being a customer focused company

Indoff is proud to say that they have been doing business with Maple Ridge Farms since 2003. Over the years they have worked together to promote food gifts to the Indoff customer base. In 2010 Maple Ridge Farms put together an educational webinar for the Indoff Sales Partners. That year, Chris Drowne took advantage of their “One Taste” lead generation program and, as a result, wrote a very nice order with a large paper company.

“We enjoy working with the Indoff Sales Partners in their efforts to provide their clients with cost-effective food gift programs.” said Tom Riordan, Maple Ridge Farms President.

In their “One Taste” program you provide Maple Ridge Farms with the names and addresses of 20 or more of your best clients. Your clients then receive a gift box filled with 3 gourmet brownies or extra fancy jumbo cashews, a card with your business card attached, a mini catalog, and a coupon offering a 20% discount.  You then follow up with your customers to ensure they received the gift and ask for their business. All of this is provided at a very minimal price.

Indoff appreciates Maple Ridge Farms support and looks forward to growing our business together in the future.

June Vendor Spotlight: Akro-Mils

Akro-Mils, a Myers Industries (www.myersindustries.com) company, is all about storage, organization and transport solutions that increase material handling efficiency and reduce costs in virtually any industry. Their broad range of products have been used to shorten assembly times, maintain accurate inventories, improve parts protection and optimize storage space for more than 65 years.

Their products are vital components used in disciplines being implemented industry wide such as “5S” and “Lean Manufacturing”. Organizations that invest in a “5S” process gain productivity, create higher quality products and lower operating costs by simply implementing a system of waste removal, visual identification and efficient use of space. “5S” stands for Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain (+ Safety).

In addition to their broad line of productivity solutions, Akro-Mils now features the largest selection of Clear Bins, Totes & Containers in the industry.

As the industry leader, Akro-Mils strives to continually provide innovative, quality products supported by superior customer service and the fastest most reliable shipping in the industry.

Akro-Mils has been working with Indoff since the founding of their Partner Program in 1991. The relationship has always been and continues to be a very positive one. Akro-Mils is proactive when it comes to educating Indoff’s Sales Partners on their new product lines.

“Akro-Mils has worked with Indoff now for more than twenty years and we couldn’t be happier with the relationship and open flow of communication that has been established. Whenever we have a new product line to promote Indoff makes it easy for us to reach their Sales Partners by providing one easy point of contact.” said Greg Beaudin, Akro-Mils Midwest Sales Representative.

Indoff appreciates Akro-Mils long-standing support and looks forward to growing our business together in the future!

 

Why You Should Use LinkedIn

A “professional Facebook” and “a place to network” are just a few of the labels LinkedIn has earned over the years. In a sense, both of these are correct. On LinkedIn, you have your own profile just like you would on Facebook. The only difference is your LinkedIn page highlights your professional experiences, skills, and other important qualities making you not only marketable, but relatable to others on the site.

LinkedIn is specifically targeted towards business people, young and old, and in any profession. It links you to professionals in your line of work and cuts out all of the clutter (advertisements, requests, etc.) that you may see on other social media sites.

Networking is probably the most important feature the LinkedIn provides. With millions of members on the popular social media site, it is nearly impossible to not make a new connection every day, if so desired. The different levels of connections offer opportunities to get to know people you may not otherwise be able to get in touch with. This feature is ideal for those trying to expand their business.

This is why LinkedIn is the perfect site to use while recruiting and doing business in general. On LinkedIn, you can search for people with certain skills and experiences as well as within companies and your “connections”. This is a good feature to use when looking for business prospects and partners. LinkedIn can help you move forward whether in a job search or with other business activities. It can, for example, put you in touch with a supplier that may link you to a set of new customers or to experienced individuals that can help point you down the right path.

Along with meeting people, LinkedIn is great for starting discussion boards on a wide array of topics. People love to share what they know. By starting and participating in a board, you can get insight on how other people like you do things and what has worked for them in the past. Leading, or even just participating, in a discussion board can also establish and grow your credibility in your industry.

Not only is LinkedIn good for networking and discussing popular topics, but it links you and raises your rank up in search engine sites. This means if someone “Google’s” you, your company, or a word tagged in your LinkedIn profile, there will be a greater chance for that person to find you (This is also known as Search Engine Optimization). These days it seems like an online presence is becoming more and more crucial so links, like this example, are a necessity.

LinkedIn has many features that can help aid in any professional engagement you may currently be pursuing. Although there are many more great features on LinkedIn, other than the ones mentioned, these seem to be the most popular takeaways. Networking, discussions, and SEO are a great way to get things started, whether it’s a fresh business idea or a plan in need of a revamp. LinkedIn is more than a “craze”. It is millions of members strong and can do wonders when properly taken advantage of!

Indoff Goes to the ASI Show!

ASI, short for Advertising Specialty Institute, is a large company that works with both suppliers and distributors in advertising for thousands of different products. They host shows that feature vendors from across the nation and presentations from inspirational speakers.

A few of Indoff’s corporate employees took a trip the ASI Show in Chicago last week and from what I hear, it was a success!

Indoff’s President Jim Malkus, Vendors Manager Adam Heck, Social Media Coordinator Krista Fisher, Promotions Administrator Randee Walsh, and Promotions Product Sales Partner Scott Mueller were among the thousands that attended the Chicago ASI Show.

The group was able to visit almost every vendor at the show in a little under three hours! They stopped by the Vendors that already work with Indoff as well as the ones that would like to. Indoff’s social media team made sure to spread the word about Indoff’s involvement in social media in hopes to create some new, strong relationships. They mentioned things like our monthly Facebook contests, Twitter updates, and Pinterest boards. The team also talked to vendors like SanMar, Vantage, and Primeline in hopes of getting them even more involved with Indoff.

There were definitely some perks to going to the show too. The “swag” the group received was fun and practical.

“Some of our favorite items were the amazing car chargers that have various options on which phone you may hook them up to – super practical.” said Krista Fisher, Indoff Social Media Coordinator. “We loved the hand sanitizer, Chap Stick, shades, and footballs too! It is never a dull moment at the show.”

The show as a whole was not only informational but a great time. It was a fun day trip to the Windy City that I am sure the group can’t wait to do again next year!

Here Are Some Pictures From the Show!

Tips for Engaging an Online Audience

Engaging the online community is pretty important in today’s society. Whether it is Facebook checking what their friends are up to or their local news site checking the weather forecast for the day, everyone is constantly on some sort of online website. It may be a little intimidating to think that your site, may it be a personal blog or a company store, is accompanied by thousands of other different websites.

So how are you supposed to get your site to even be thought about?

Well BlueGlass, an internet marketing agency, has a way to get started. As found on mashable.com, here are a few tips on what you should be doing in order to gain an online audience. They start by giving a few quick tips that anyone can use and most likely get results from.

Tips for engaging an online audience:

  • Captivating headlines
  • Use the copy to sell the rest of the piece
  • Promote, promote, promote!

According to the article, 80% of people will only read the headline of what you have posted. That’s a lot. The rest, only 20%, will go on to read the whole post. By thinking of something that is not only catchy, but either informative or inspirational, it is possible to grab some of the 80% and pull them in to hear what you have to say.

The “copy” is the first few sentences in your article, or other content, that explains what the reader will be reading throughout the page. (It’s kind of like a summary only a little shorter.)

This can also be where you lose some readers.

If the copy leaves nothing to anticipate, why would a reader want to go any further? You have already told the whole story in the first few sentences. Make the copy informational, but leave something for them to look forward to in the body of the posting.

Many people, including myself, choose to scan most articles instead of intently reading.  You should make your content easy to read and to-the-point. The use of bullet points and small paragraphs will make it easy for the “scanners” out there to pull the important information and weed out the filler.

Lastly, the use of promotion is extremely important for any company.

The article also goes on to say that giving your customers or audience value will give them incentive to come back to you and your site in the future. The author explains, “Smart, persistent promotion — especially via social media— will help cut through all the noise online and make your content sharable and more effective.”

Although these tips may not get you millions of hits over night, it is a place to start. Remember to keep your content genuine, readable, and catchy and to build relationships with the online community. If you can make them aware of your presence and offer them some sort of value, there’s a good chance they’ll come running back for more.

Want to read the whole article? Click here!

Network Your Way to Indoff

As we all know, social media is a very powerful tool. Depending on how it is used, it can make or break a person, company, or even a product. The opinions and exposure of any social media community are valued because a “mention” or a “share” from anyone means exposure for that company.

At Indoff, we are trying to do just that; continue to gain exposure. Through social media, we have gained many connections and strengthened relationships. We take the time to make sure that we are not only strengthening our social media presence, but that our Sales Partners know how to effectively use many of the more popular social networks. By using webinars and tutorials and being there when a Partner has a specific question we are able to set them up for success.

Sites like LinkedIn have proved to be a great tool in connecting Indoff with other, professional individuals and companies. With over 500 followers on LinkedIn, Indoff interacts with industries like Material Handling and Office Furniture consistently. This allows for great networking opportunities for those working within Indoff.

Networking is just what we are doing. By not only talking with our Vendors and Partners, but by using sites like LinkedIn, we have welcomed 38 new Partners so far in 2012.

Our Partners aren’t your average salespeople. They are a network of about 400 working in any of our five divisions; Material Handling, Commercial Interiors, Promotional Products, Business Products, and Commercial Printing. Our Partners work independently in their own offices and on their own schedule, nationwide.

Indoff has been voted one of The Greatest Companies to Work For 2011 by Promotional Products Business (PPB) Magazine and One of the Best Places to Work 2011 by Counselor Magazine, the Promotional Products Industry’s two leading publications.

How to Start Managing Millennials

Generational differences play a big part in the work place. At times, an older generation can clash with a younger generation simply because they do not understand how the other prefers to do things. There are ways to avoid these conflicts and, going on, it may be more necessary than ever before.

An article found on mashable.com – an independent website that covers digital culture, social media, and technology – explains just how important inter-generational communication is about to become.

(Read the full article here!)

According to the article, 46% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials by 2020. That is almost double of what it is today. This means you will eventually begin to do business with a younger audience. It is obvious that the way millennials work, whether it is with social media or among themselves, is quite different then the other three generations that also occupy the workplace. It is said that one in three millennials would actually consider social media flexibility over salary when taking job offers. That may seem outlandish to some, but that just proves how important a social media presence is and will become for a company.

So what does this mean for you?

It means that now is the perfect time to learn how to use social media to your advantage. Not only is it is an opportunity to create a social media presence that can’t be ignored by any generation, but it is also a chance to work with this up-and-coming generation and use their skills to your advantage.

When millennials talk about social media they’re not just talking about their Facebook profile. While Facebook is a great place to start, it is not the only social media site out there. Sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, for example, are great sites that can be easily linked to Facebook making your social media presence come to a complete circle.

Social media doesn’t come easy to everyone. To “Gen Y’ers” though, a day would seem pretty abnormal without contact with some sort of media. After all, millennials switch between media-related devices an average of 27 times per hour, according to the article. That’s almost every two minutes! That seems like a lot, and honestly it is, but these kinds of statistics are what defines this generation and ultimately creates an advantage for your company.

The shift in generations is inevitable so why not embrace it? Social media is a great platform to begin to connect with the millennials and start to think how they think. It will not only allow you to get a taste for what this generation craves, but it will open your business to new opportunities and networks!

July Meet & Greet with Staci Deaton

Starting this month, and each month after, we will feature one of Indoff’s Sales Partners. This is a chance to get to know our Partners on a more personal level and to have a little fun. This month we are featuring Staci Deaton. Staci is a part of Indoff’s Material Handling Division. She has been with Indoff for 18 years and is looking forward to continued Partnership down the road.

The Interview

If you could live anywhere in the world, no strings attached, where would you live? Why?  If satellite internet were affordable I would live everywhere, but since it is not, right where I am.

What is your favorite movie?  I can’t narrow to just one. Casablanca, Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Snatch, Fight Club, Big Lebowski, Bourne Movies, Ratatouille

What is on your iPod?  Rap, jazz, classical, hip hop, pop, rock, blues and reggae

What would you do with a million dollars? Be happy about retirement.

Who was your childhood ‘hero’?  Aunt Elsie

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  My mother

What is one thing you are most proud of?  Friends and family

If you could, what advice would you give to your 25 year old self?  Buy Apple stock

What is your favorite quote? “There would be nothing to frighten you if you refused to be afraid.” Gandhi

What is your ultimate dream vacation?  See Elephants in Africa

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field of business, whether with Indoff or somewhere else? Build solid relationships, the world is small and everyone is connected.  Partnerships help everyone succeed.

How did you get into this business? OKI Systems in Columbus Ohio hired me to sell Kelly Dock Equipment in 1988, my territory was eastern Ohio.  18K plus 10% commission

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  Right where I am now.

What has been the most rewarding during your time with Indoff?  It is very gratifying to be a partner in planning, implementing and applying systems for manufacturers.

What is the best thing about Indoff? Honesty.   (With a bonus of freedom to make business decisions for the good of all.)

Social Madness!

With almost one billion users on Facebook, it would be wrong for a company to not have an active Facebook account. Just think, that is almost one billion people who could potentially become YOUR customer.

Social Madness is supporting the social media craze all over the United States. It is a competition divided into three categories; small, medium, and large sized companies. The company with the most votes at the end of the three rounds not only gets national exposure and big-time bragging rights, but will be able to designate the recipient of a $7,500 charitable donation.

If the company participates in Social Madness, it is their job to tell the World. “Likes”, “Shares”, and “Retweets” all count in getting the company’s social media presence a little stronger.

After hearing about the competition, we had to join! This would be the perfect opportunity for Indoff to not only increase our company exposure by entering a nationwide competition, but to intensify our social media presence not only on Facebook and Twitter, but other social media sites as well. “Our focus is currently centered on Facebook and Twitter,” said Krista Fisher, Social Media Coordinator at Indoff Inc. “But in the coming year, we plan to make Pinterest and Youtube a larger part of our social media plans. We believe these two platforms will help further our ultimate goal.”

So far, so good.

After holding a strong second place in round one, for two and a half weeks, Indoff made it to round two! We are currently still in second place and would love to stay there! (So please take a break from reading for a second and go VOTE!!!)

Thanks! And welcome back.

As sort of a “congratulations” and “good job” for making it as far as we have, The St. Louis Business Journal did a spotlight on Indoff. It goes into more detail about what we are really trying to accomplish by being a part of social media and is yet another great opportunity get Indoff’s name out in the open.

You can view the Social Madness Spotlight piece here!

To continue our efforts in becoming viral, we put together a “Where is Indoff” campaign. Our Sales Partners and corporate employees are emailed a sign and asked to simply take a picture with it. This proves to our followers that we are nationally diverse and that when you need one, there is a Sales Partner in your area.

It’s a fun, easy way to engage with everyone from our Sales Partners to our future clients. Social media is a craze that will probably only become bigger and better down the road and, hopefully, we will be right there with it.

Way To Go IT!!

It takes more than one person to run a company. In fact, it takes a team of people, dedication, and a lot of responsibility. If there is a problem, you have to find a solution and if there isn’t a solution, you better create one.

Recently a member of the Indoff family ran into a problem of his own. He reached out to our IT department for help and  got more than he expected.

Sales Partner, Kent Hildebrand, ran into a significant issue recently. His computer had been attacked by a Trojan virus. It took over the whole machine. The virus almost got a hold of his bank account, personal information, and other important sites. It corrupted all of his files and would watch his every key stroke. Needless to say, Kent was worried about his safety and his security. His internet provider led him nowhere so his next step was to turn to Indoff’s IT department in hopes they could shed even a little light on how to get rid of this horrible computer virus.

Kent got a hold of Steve DeSchryver, a support analyst for Indoff. Steve got Kent’s computer back on its feet. Although it wasn’t completely back to normal, it was functional again. Steve brought it to attention that Kent’s wife’s computer was linked to his and was also infected.

The next morning, David Eberbach, a support analyst for Indoff, addressed the problem head-on. He worked diligently to not only find the virus that was attacking the system, but  kept it from ever coming back.

“David worked very hard,” Kent said. “(He) found that more attacks, over 600, were still being launched against my system. David spent several hours, while helping others, and was able to find the attacker, block it, remove it and protect us from any additional intrusions.”

Now that’s impressive!

Obviously Kent is impressed with what our IT department has accomplished. It is awesome to see a department step up and completely stomp out a problem as big as a virus taking over a computer system. It is definitely a plus for Indoff as a company to have such a great support system for our Sales Partners.

“All to say, one more big feather in our hat.” Kent said. “Even as I head towards retirement…it is wonderful to know that I will finish strong with the support of a team that hangs a sign on their door, INDOFF.”