Promotional Marketing In The Post-COVID World With Paul And Stephanie Zafarana
It is going to be a very different stage for marketing as we come out of the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a brave new world. To talk about what this pivot means for the promotional marketing space, Paul and Stephanie Zafarana of Pica Marketing Group join Bob Roark on the show. With decades of experience in coming up with innovative marketing solutions for businesses, Paul and Stephanie are experts in promotional marketing and spreading the marketing message using promotional tools and products. Listen as they talk about the future of promotional marketing in the post-COVID world and share some very amusing and incredible stories of marketing strategies that you never thought anyone could have pulled off.
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Promotional Marketing In The Post-COVID World With Paul And Stephanie Zafarana
We have a special episode. I have my good friend Stephanie Zafarana and her husband Paul on. They're from Pica Marketing Group. We're going to talk about marketing post-COVID pandemic and what they're doing to serve their clients. Stephanie, Paul, welcome to your episode.
Thanks for having us.
Tell us a little bit about the Pica Marketing Group and who you serve.
Pica Marketing Group was conceived in 2008. There isn't a better time to start a company. We learned a lot of lessons starting in such a crazy environment, but we incorporated it because we saw the needs that not only were our clients and people in the marketing community looking for innovative marketing ideas. They were looking for hard numbered returns. They were their board of directors and all of the people that they report to for real numbers. No longer was it okay to throw money at the marketing and sales department without any actual results. That is why we call it Pica Marketing Group because pica is a unit of measurement. It plays well to our audience. We work on serving nonprofit organizations, healthcare, and then manufacturing. Those are the vertical markets that we serve the best and we engage in a couple of different ways.
We have some large clients where we're able to plug into their already established marketing department and be that outside voice. We’re that different perspective to help them accomplish a particular project. Be plugged in to some of those smaller organizations that maybe have a person that's the office manager/marketing director. We become the marketing department for them, offering ideas, working and collaborating to get their message out, but doing that heavy lifting. It seems to work well for our clients. The great part is we find ourselves dealing with all sides of projects. Nothing's too big and too small. The more creative, the more fun we all tend to have. In the end, it is about results. We like to start the conversation with what you are trying to accomplish and work from there.
It's been an interesting time. We're starting to come out of some of the quarantine and restrictive movement events post-COVID. A lot of the companies, their worlds changed. What are your thoughts on these companies on, what they should be thinking about as far as marketing and spending money and both from their customer perspective and also how to keep their employees safe?
One of the biggest things that some people may or may not realize is back in the late '80s, early '90s when there was another recession that happened, a big player came out of that and that was Clif Bars. Those energy bars that everybody has. They were a big player in that and the time to spend on marketing and advertising is in these times. People tend to remember those brands that are out there that are there for them on a personal level. They tend to remember that they were there for them during this whole time. That's been a huge part of it. You want people to remember your brand in a positive light.
You're in a unique position to make people feel that you're in the same shoes that they're in, that you're going through what they're going through. You can relate to them. You want to be relatable. You want to build that trust with people. Things that people intend to do now are holding back in their marketing when they should be spending it. We're in the process of developing our own marketing plan. It's different than what it's been, but we're figuring out ways to get that message out to people that are in their home environment where we may not have their home addresses that we used to have their corporate addresses.
We're trying to gather that data and information to give them a unique experience. That's some of the stuff that we're seeing out there. Also trying to get the message out about what it means to operate in the state of things. From employee engagement and safety concerns and how do you plan to reopen? You have to have a plan. It's that old saying, "Failure to plan is planning to fail." You’ve got to have a plan. If you don't have something written down and follow the plan, then you're going to have a hard time out there. That's probably one of the big backbones or keys that we know as a small business utilizes is having that plan and writing it down and following it. If you keep following it, it will happen. That roadmap that you layout there will get you to the end, to the finish line out there.
I think about the general level of concern and uncertainty. Let's say that you're a business owner with a larger employee base. The employees, as I understand it, for some of the business brokers that I've talked to, many of the employees are reluctant to come back to work. Either it's an economic reason or they're afraid. From the business owner that says, "Not only do I need to take and communicate effectively with my client base, but I also need to be not tone-deaf with my employees and communicate." What type of things might you do on behalf of the business owner to communicate that to the employees?
[caption id="attachment_5287" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Promotional Marketing: People tend to remember the brands that were out there for them on a personal level during difficult times.[/caption]
We're in the age of transparency. You've got to be open in letting people know what's going on. You, as a business owner, are going to have similar concerns with them coming back and working in your location or whatever that's going to be. Getting that message out there, the marketing message that you need to have from as a business owner, we firmly believe that you tell people that message until you're blue in the face. It's at that moment that they're starting to get that message. The repetition over and over to tell them what's going to happen, "We're planning on doing this. The state may say that our shelter in place order is going to expire on XYZ date. Our plan is to move forward with this date and this is how we're going to do it."
Laying that plan out for them is going to be helpful to over-communicate at that point to your employees, but also letting them know, "We understand that you may have concerns for your health and wellness when you come back. Here's what we've put in place for you to do that.” We have put together sanitization stations, maybe some directional signage on where to park. Handwashing signage that goes out there that we have done for some local businesses here. Enter and exit signs that are giant twelve-foot flags that fly in the wind for those driving up. Even the social distancing dots that go on the ground, stand here, don't sit here and limiting the number of people in an elevator. Communicating that out there of what they should expect when they come back and how they're going to be paced out or the different working days they're going to be in or out of the office.
As people have transitioned to working from home, some of those people are still going to be working at home and you've got to make them still feel comfortable that they're part of the team. Maybe part of that is in your marketing message, for those that are coming in to work, you've laid out these plans. You have masks and sanitizers, and whatnot. Those that are working at home, that may be a branded backdrop or depending on how crazy you want to get with it, maybe it's a baseball cap that they wear to let everybody deal with their quarantine hair that they're all having. It's a real thing that's happening. I'm due for a haircut myself.
Having that ability to over-communicate to people and let them know that the business does have their best interest in mind as well as their customers that are coming into their shops. How do you do that through promotional products, whether it's a pen, a notepad or whatever that is? Those are tools. They're no different than a radio, TV, online ads, and any of that stuff. Like a good chef, you don't want to have to rely on your paring knife to prepare a gourmet meal. You have an arsenal of tools that you use to make that meal through your pots and pans. A selection of having a good team put together to get your vegetables, your meats and your wines and whatnot to prepare that good meal. Having a business from us from a marketing standpoint is no different. Having that group all pulled together to lean on that you're going to do the cleanings X number of times a day, and here's where you can go to get more information on that is going to be a vital part of the communication process.
You can use promotional marketing to do exactly that and get that message out there. That's where we, as the experts out there in the promotional world, have seen a lot of benefits. We're seeing not only what's happening in possibly your industry, but we're seeing stuff from across the board because we touch on many different industries. We specialize in a certain number of industries, but through our networks are seeing how the manufacturing industry is doing things differently than the financial industry that's doing things differently than the restaurant industry. They're all vital parts of the economy to be up and running but they're all going to approach that messaging ever slightly different. How are they going to handle that workforce coming back from the small place that has 2, 3, 4 people to the people that have 30,000?
As I think about taking care of the employees, how do you take in and communicate the care that you reflect in your behavior for your employees? How do you take and share that message with your customers to let them know that, “We care for our employees as we care for you, our customers?” How would you see that working in concert?
You can utilize a lot of the other mediums out there too. We are a part of one cog in that wheel. If maybe you own a restaurant to give you an idea of it and I'm going to use a baseball cap. You want to communicate a way to utilize a promotional product, maybe if you had that and people were coming up or driving up and they were wearing that cap of your business, you offer them a discount on their order and some other stuff that goes along with it. That's a way you could use it as a promotional piece. You can use different printed handouts. Maybe it's a DoorDash or Grubhub with every order that goes out. As people are getting some of those meals and it could be as simple as a sticker. You get the package that you don't know you'd like to think people are honest out there and give them the benefit of the doubt.
The bag that you put the food in maybe it's got that special branded label that goes on there that carries out that, "This thing was packed with tender, loving care with your health in mind as a consumer." As ways to give people some confidence in what you're doing because you're going through a whole different world in the food industry of somebody else bringing your food to you that you don't know. You've got to instill that trust. Trust is going to be a big thing coming out of all this from a consumer standpoint and working with brands that they trust. The different little nuances that you're putting into it where you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money doing it, but it's the thought behind it. How do you instill that trust that you're able to deliver on what you promised?
Paul, we've been talking about your clients and their employees and the things that they're doing to address the changes. With their changes and so on, you have had to also pivot with what you're doing and how you operate your business. What does a pivot look like for your business?
A major pivot for us happened. The saying by Deepak Chopra, "All great changes are preceded by chaos." That's what we had to go through. Our industry pivoted from doing all the bags and the pens and other pieces that we’re affectionately known for. A lot of our factories because of the relationships that we had already pivoted into making non-surgical masks. Those three-layer mass that everybody you're seeing out there wearing, we pivoted those factories back in January and February when this was happening overseas. The factories were already pivoting. It was starting to make its wave over here. A bag manufacturer that once used to make those non-woven or reusable bags of polypropylene ones had converted to making the masks for consumer-grade. That was a huge pivot.
[bctt tweet="You want people to remember your brand in a very positive light. Focus your marketing message on that." username=""]
We used to get branded sanitizers. You wanted your brand on there and you had a little toggle that went onto your briefcase and you'd go to a trade show and you'd walk out of there with 5 or 6 different branded sanitizers from somebody with a little spritzer. You throw them in your car and never thought about them again. As that stuff pivoted when I was calling one of our plans up and asking them a question about some other stuff, we said, "With sanitizers, that's a whole other animal out there." They sold out within 72 hours, eight months’ worth of inventory and another 1.5 million bottles of sanitizer.
You had a pivot and find out that you’re having those conversations with people like, "You need sanitizer. Where are we at? How do we get this? How do we bring it in?" We were talking to distilleries to get it in and how to bottle it for us and private label it in that respect. You had to leverage a lot of your relationships. We had a mutual friend that introduced Stephanie and myself, helped us pivot. They were an ink manufacturing company and they had the ability to manufacture hand sanitizer. They were deemed essential during all this. We started talking to them and said, "What can you do?" They said, "We've got the raw materials here. We can start making sanitizer for you."
We started doing and it was 500 gallons of sanitizer in bulk that we sold out. Having those connections to be able to pivot in that respect and having those relationships helped for us to pivot from all our usual factories that had the bags and the other sanitizers. We had to go and utilize our resources on it. We pivoted from that. We also had a pivot as we're talking about all the PPE stuff in there. Everybody was going, "You're going to work from home now." We had to figure a way out of going, "How do we get stuff out there?" People were being told within 24 hours, "Pack your stuff up, you're working from home, whatever you're going to need because you're not coming back into the building until we don't know when." It’s like you're being escorted off the job and it's stressful.
It doesn't matter who you are, but you're being told that this where you were at, what was home for you. It got uprooted and you had to work from your house with your family. Maybe you've got kids and a pet. You had to figure out what that meant. We talked to send stuff over to people in their offices. We now had to have the corporate standpoint of, "How do you make the employees feel comfortable at home? How do you make them feel that they're still part of the team?" It's a paradigm shift for a lot of folks that weren't used to ever working from home. They were used to having that one-on-one around the water cooler stuff and not having those collisions that would happen in the office. You go to the water cooler, you grab us lunch or whatever. We had to help pivot with that.
We were talking with people branded mouse pads, webcam covers, headphones and web cameras. How do you get that out to everybody and how do you get that message out? Creating letters and inserts that would go through into those packages to let the employees know that, "Yes, they were indeed valued." We pivoted that way in creating these work-at-home kits. Stephanie did some stuff we worked with some of the local schools. We happen to be affected with our son from a graduation standpoint and we had a pivot on coming up with graduation kits. What did that mean for the school? They're going to graduate. How do you keep them engaged from the yard signs that they were doing to mailing stuff out to each one of the kids and letting them feel, whether it was socks and the spirit wear that the schools were using. We had to get creative. You had to dig deep.
You had to move quickly too.
There were a lot of four-hour night’s sleep and if you want to call it sleep. You had to get creative with it. As these things came out, I've found working from the home office, I slept in my office here on the couch because I was up putting stuff together for hours on end. You go down that rabbit hole and like, "We've got this stuff pulled together. Here’s what’s usually cool and let's do this." You're feeling like a mad scientist pulling all this stuff together and trying to show people that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a way to get this message out there. Think about different ways to get that message out to one, whether it was a school, so let the students feel included, and because their lives and their parents' lives got disrupted. Those that were graduating, how do we get them involved? You had all the other nuances that were happening from the work at home people.
You had to do all different things at once to pivot. If you look at our social media stuff, we put together different kits like that during that time. If you go on my LinkedIn profile or if you go on our corporate Facebook page, you'll see the fruits of those labors on ways that we were trying to get out there and show people a different way of thinking. Instead of going, "We throw our hands up in the air, we're good. They'll be fine." People didn't want to feel like they worked in these silos and were disconnected. Everybody wants to feel loved and connected. We had to think about it from a corporate standpoint and what that meant from a promotional marketing standpoint to keep people feel loved. We used to joke with the boys that they ever fought. We had an oversized t-shirt and we’d say we’d put them both in one...