Blue Ribbon Transport is one of our longest standing customers that we have helped with everything from business cards to table skirts to annual holiday gifts for customers. They are a 3rd party logistics company in the transportation industry that has been around since 1996 and growing exponentially ever since. They don’t actually own the trucks that transport their customer’s goods, so as the middle man it’s important for them to have good relationships with parties on both ends: both their customers and their carriers. And they do!
We had the privilege of chatting with Human Resources Generalist, Kristi Blum, who was able to walk us through their business, marketing strategy and promotional product trends to show how their marketing efforts increase employee pride and awareness.
Distinct Images: Tell us about the BRT office. What is the culture of the business?
Kristi: We have a really good mix of seniority. Of our 40 employees, some people have been here 10+ years, but then we have a nice group who have been here in the 3-8 year range, as well as a group getting ready to celebrate their 1-year anniversary with BRT. We have recently started targeting college graduates to bring in, train them and get them excited about this industry. We have a good atmosphere where everyone is paired in teams, which works really well for us.
Distinct Images: What promotional products have you ordered from us in the past?
Kristi: Golf balls, Sharpies and our annual Christmas gifts have been our staple items recently. Our owner likes to get creative with the holiday giveaways and does something different every year to send out to our customer base so we can keep our brand circulating. You guys had a Sharpie special going on earlier this year that we took advantage of and they have been extremely popular. Especially the brighter colors…we only have blue and black left – no more neon. We use them both for career fairs and to leave behind with customers, which might not generate business but definitely catches people’s eye!
Distinct Images: Why do you think there is value in branded promotional products?
Kristi: The value is all from an increased awareness standpoint. Since people are triggered by so many different things, it is important for us to hit all of them: print material, displays, events and promotional products. For example, we started out with just a career fair table skirt that Distinct Images printed, but learned quickly that we needed things from a vertical height standpoint. Therefore, we ordered a retractable banner so that our booth stands out more and can be spotted at different eye levels. Since then, we can already see that the response from people has increased. As a smaller company who has a lot of business-to-business interaction, we have to take a different approach by really knowing what our customers like and how to incorporate that into our marketing plan. We encourage our sales team to pay close attention to what our customers want and need. For example, if they visit a customer who is often wearing branded polo shirts, that is a good sign that we would benefit by giving that customer a Blue Ribbon Transport polo.
Distinct Images: Blue Ribbon Transport recently set up a custom web store. How has this benefitted your business and branding demands?
Kristi: It gives our employees a sense of pride in wearing Blue Ribbon Transport apparel and using products with our logo. If they get to pick things out themselves, company pride is generated and they seem to be more likely to use the goods. The store hasn’t been up long enough to see its true potential just yet, but so far we have gotten really good feedback. We have plans to make it grow and although it’s just an internal tool right now, we are playing around with the idea to eventually open it up to our customers as well. We also think there would be benefit to giving sales reps a budget to spend on our branded items so that they can take gifts to customers as their leisure and as they see necessary. There is great potential with this site!
Distinct Images: Have you seen a direct increase in sales or increase in brand awareness due to your distribution of promotional products?
Kristi: Right now we don’t have measurable increase documented in terms of dollars, but we most definitely do in interest. We just started having a presence at career fairs about a year ago which has helped with awareness of who we are and what we do. By handing out business cards and marketing materials, we have seen an increase in follow-up and people reaching back out to us with interest.
Distinct Images: Do your competitors use promo products as a marketing tool?
Kristi: Yes. We don’t do as much as some of our big competitors, but we’re getting there. A lot has to do with the size of our company. We’re looking at getting into sponsorships to help capture attention even more, but we’re strategic in our goals and outreach. The big competitors have their name on everything promotional, which some day we may do, but that’s not necessarily where want be right now.
Distinct Images: What has been the most successful promo product you’ve ordered and why?Kristi: We had a lot of chatter surrounding our small, leather tech padfolio with a notepad. It’s a nice, high-quality, professional piece that people use internally and customers ask for.
Distinct Images: How would you describe your marketing approach (budgeted, spur of the moment, strategic…)?
Kristi: The majority of our marketing strategy is strategic, but it certainly leaves room for new opportunities as they arise. We learn from events throughout the year and improve as we need. We aren’t strict on the budget. If it makes sense to do something that maybe we didn’t originally plan on doing, then we do it.
Distinct Images: Do you have a busy season? What do you do “off-season” to keep your name circulating?
Kristi: Historically, since our big customers were initially primarily the food industry, our busy season has been early Spring to late Fall since that is the peak of produce season. Now we’re getting to the point where we are pretty consistent throughout the year. The Fall and early Winter brings Thanksgiving, Christmas and SuperBowl goods which all generate high traffic. As we grow outside of the food industry as well, we are getting busier during other parts of the year, and as a result; are busy year-round.
Distinct Images: You have mentioned career fairs and targeting recent college graduates. Do you have a social media presence?
Kristi: Right now we only have LinkedIN since we’re marketing to that age group and people job searching, but other social media platforms are definitely on our ‘To Do’ list for the near future.