Interview with Incentive Marketer Mary Grant of Enhanced Performance Group

Enhanced Performance Group specializes in Incentive Marketing. Who better to ask about ways to promote writers and their services?
Thank you Mary, for being with us.

Book authors are being called upon to do more of their own marketing, and freelancers have always had to promote their own businesses. Incentives and premiums sound like good tools, but what are they?

Incentives, simply put, are tangible and intangible items that motivate an individual toward the achievement of a goal. Premiums can be both tangible incentive items or branded marketing items. In the incentive industry, the terms are often interchangeable.

Premiums sound like something writers can use to promote themselves and their services at conferences and library events. Can you tell us how this works and give an example or two of some of the more creative items you’ve come up with?

A premium item with a logo or message on it serves as a useful tool to keep your audience engaged in you or your book. They can also be a great traffic builder as I have yet to see anyone turn down a free pen at a convention. Premium items should be useful, appropriate to your market and carry your message or logo to be effective.

There are a number of examples I could site, however, I believe it might be more beneficial to make your readers aware of the power of brand marketing through the use of premiums. As we look around our homes or cars, I guarantee that within 10 minutes you will be able to identify 10-20 branded premium items you use every day. For instance, your travel mug, coffee mug, jacket, t-shirt, pen, notepad, refrigerator calendar, refrigerator magnet, cap, icescraper, ruler, etc. are most-likely all items that carry a logo that you might use in your everyday lives. Each time you use that item, you view that companies’ logo/message. According to the Ad Specialty Industry (ASI), 62% of customers do business with the company after receiving the promotional product. Furthermore, 84% of customers remember the business that provided them with the promotional product. And finally, at $.004 per impression, promotional products have the best cost per investment of popular advertising media. Clearly these items are effective in both building brand awareness and increasing sales.

Incentives are used to motivate, and the first thing that comes to my mind is motivating salespeople to perform. Is there a way that writers could use incentives to increase book sales or promote their freelance businesses?

Of course! The basic principles of an incentive program can be applied to just about any situation where you want to gain a desired outcome from a target audience. Basic incentive elements are: 1) Know what motivates the audience; 2) Clearly state the goal and the award for achievement; 3) Communicate with the audience frequently and let them know their progress toward the goal and, finally; 4) Give the award to those who achieve the goal.

As an example, let’s say you want to get 25 people at a convention to review the first three chapters of your book online. At the convention, you provide an example of a ceramic coffee mug imprinted with your name, the name of your story and your web address. You have imprinted pens with your name, web address and title of the book to hand out to visitors to your booth. You explain that the first 25 people to review the book will receive the coffee mug for their time. You provide the pen which has the information to complete the request. Once your first 25 reviews come in, you follow up by mailing the “winners” the mug along with a catchy message (or another chapter of the book). Additionally, you’ll have others reviewing the book and visiting your site so you’ll have additional opportunities to interact with them.

You also do event planning. In writer terms, this could be anything from a book signing or book launch to a writer’s conference. What are some of the advantages of hiring a professional to handle the details?

There are several advantages to letting a professional handle the details: site selection, negotiation skills, experience in operating other events to know what works and what doesn’t. However, the biggest advantage is that it allows the sponsor or participant to attend the meeting and focus on the content as opposed to the logistics.

What’s the most important consideration that anyone planning an event should keep in mind?

Know your goal or expected outcome of the meeting and have a clear budget in mind.

Most people think of lectures and classes when they think of conferences, but I understand that you’ve arranged some pretty fun stuff to motivate attendees. Can you give us some examples?

Sure. Sometimes it’s fun to “cleverly disguise” a learning event as a game. We’ve done such things as Wii tournaments to encourage teamwork and game shows to test product knowledge. There are many other examples as well that are dependent upon the goal, the budget, the location and the audience. It is, of course, important to remember that while there is a time for fun, there is some content that calls for lectures and classes. However, the utilization of lighting, décor, etc. can have a huge affect on the effectiveness of the presentation.

In your experience, have you noticed a common mistake that clients make when they try to promote their product to clients?

Yes. They look at what most appeals to them and not what would appeal to the audience. When talking about your own business, it’s important to remember that it IS business and while your writing may be very personal to you, the art of promoting it is should be strictly business.

You also help clients put together websites and newsletters by coordinating the talent necessary to deliver the final product. When you first talk to the client, what are the two most important questions you ask that help you understand the client’s vision?

If I have to choose two things, the first would be “What is the goal of the publication” and “What is your budget?” Obviously people are looking for a desired outcome so that’s clearly the top priority. The second question is sometimes an uncomfortable one but a necessary one. However, it’s critical to know when choosing talent and vendors. That way there are no surprises and everyone works toward the same goal. That’s not to say that you will receive an inferior product if your budget is low. It simply means that we may look for other, more cost-effective ways to attain the desired outcome.

You also write copy for your clients. What should writers keep in mind when penning for corporate clients?

Know the client’s business. I’m not saying that you need to know every part number of every piece of inventory but a general knowledge of who they are, what they do, how they go to business and what their current situation is will certainly give you an advantage in both your writing and your conversation. And, frankly, the client will appreciate your research. Know the audience and know specifically what the mood of the piece is to be. Clearly you will write differently for a training manual than you would an incentive announcement. Finally, don’t try to be something you aren’t. If technical writing is not your forte, let them know and perhaps give them a referral to a technical writer. They will appreciate your honesty, you’ll save face, and you may get an additional referral by the technical writer whom you referred.

Business marketing practices are changing. What direction is Enhanced Performance Group moving?

Unfortunately, in this economic climate, promotional products and incentive programs are the first expenditure to be cut from most corporate budgets. While our service offerings remain the same, we continue to focus on educating our customers on the importance of promoting during a down economy. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, if you advertise, promote or incent when everyone else stops marketing, your message is more likely to be noticed due to fewer ads in the market and, you or your business are more likely to be remembers when everyone starts advertising again.

Mary is available to arrange conferences, book launches and other events as well as to discuss premium items. To contact her, call 630-263-9300. Her website, is being retooled, but we’ll include an update when it’s finished.  

Thank you again, Mary, for sharing such valuable information!

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