Five Minutes With Rebecca Kollmann, Fox World Travel

View From The Other Side

A Long-time Distributor Switches Roles

rebecca-kollmann-webRebecca Kollmann spent nearly 20 years on the selling side of promotional products, investing time and effort in the advancement of the industry and earning her MAS in the process. But when an opportunity to work as a buyer on behalf of an organization outside the industry presented itself just over a year ago she began a new journey. Now, as director of marketing for travel agency Fox World Travel, Kollmann shares her take on ‘the other side’ and how her industry experience and skills are helping her succeed.

PPB  How did you find your way to Fox World Travel?

Kollmann  Interestingly, the position description found me one evening on LinkedIn. I thought about it for a few days; I had heard great things about the company and its growth and decided to reach out. My passion is in marketing and it was time for me to move back fully into that arena. While it was difficult to leave the promotional products industry, relationships can (and did) follow, and everything just seemed right.

PPB  What did you do in the promotional products industry, and how did it prepare you for the work you do now?

Kollmann  I began in an inside sales role for a distributorship, then took a marketing position within that same company. That led to account management responsibilities as well. With my last company, I began in a marketing management role and later was responsible for business development, which included recruiting, sales management and marketing.

There are some aspects of marketing, such as planning, budgeting and how you reach your targets, that simply change based on the mission of the company and who the targets are. Some of the most tactical of experiences within promotional products have helped me, including helping others understand certain decorating processes and even knowing what other products are out there (pretty much everything!) and what will provide a better value within the initiative.

In travel, we work with various suppliers and the supply chain is quite similar to how it works in promotional products. We also have relationships with a number of advertising partners across media channels. Finally, making the most of the networking and learning experiences offered within the promotional products industry has helped in a comfortable transition and skills that transfer regardless of one’s next destination.

PPB  Have you had to learn any new skills, or “unlearn” any old work habits, in order to do your best work for Fox World Travel?

Kollmann  I had to brush up on various mass media channels I’d not used recently, and understand how events and other outlets work within the marketing mix for consumers vs. simply B-to-B. I obtained my Google Analytics certificate and use  this data daily. There are so many pieces of the marketing mix that work well together, and sometimes—in promotional products—the synergies in the mix are overlooked in the quest to sell more promotional products. It was helpful to step back and learn from my team, as well as metrics, what was working, and where there was opportunity to do more.

While I had the promotional products background, I didn’t want to come in and dictate how things were done and who we would work with immediately. I needed to take the time to learn and ask ‘why’ as well as understand the successful relationships that were already in place. Regardless of where you are, you can come in with preconceptions that are totally off base. It’s so important to be a sponge when starting with a new company—whether it’s in the same or a different industry.

And, while the skills are similar, the industry is new to me and there are a lot of people who know a ton more than you do about it—learning from them is huge both from the knowledge and relationship development standpoint. You don’t know what you don’t know, so step back and learn, then you can lead.

PPB  What lessons have you learned about the way promotional consultants can work with clients for the best outcome, and vice versa?

Kollmann  It’s amazing how helpful it is to work with someone who asks questions about what you’re trying to achieve, and listens, then offers ideas and solutions. I can go to a distributor and tell them what product I want from what vendor, because I have that background—but I don’t want to do that, because then I’m limited to what I used to know, and they’re only an order taker vs. having the chance to show their creativity. You can also be a consultant who isn’t as ‘creative’ or ‘visionary’, but listens, is responsive, helpful and delivers—everyone has the ability to be that type of person.

We recently went through a rebranding initiative and have worked with a few providers in different areas. There are a couple who truly made life easier and, at the risk of upsetting many others who I know could have done similar work, I am so grateful to them. So many say that they want to be an extension of their client’s marketing department or to make things easier for them—and some truly do. Believe me, when balancing a lot of other things, if you can do that, you become a hero and can have a customer for life.


Serve Up A Successful Business Meal

Dining protocols are an exercise in modern etiquette

Sitting down to a business lunch or dinner is a great way to talk shop in an informal, friendly setting. But in an increasingly global economy, how you navigate the meal can have just as big an impact on the outcome. Cross-cultural consultant and international protocol expert Sharon Schweitzer offers these tips for ensuring a successful business dining experience.

  • If you’re sending out the invitations, you are the host and, therefore, should be footing the bill. In the U.S., tipping is standard and at least 15 to 20 percent is considered acceptable. The tip should reflect the total price of the bill. Additionally, be mindful of guests’ food restrictions or allergies, and allow them to include any preferences or needs with the RSVP note.
  • When it’s time to order, be prepared to offer suggestions to fellow diners. Provide at least two recommendations—one each at the top and bottom of the menu’s price range. As the host, you set the pace of the meal by placing your napkin in your lap to signal the start of the meal. You also should be the first to place your loosely folded napkin on the table, to the left of the plate, at the end of the meal. Some of your dining companions may be used to ordering alcohol at business luncheons, while others abstain as a rule. The host sets precedence; however, just because you’ve ordered a cocktail doesn’t mean your guests are obligated to do the same.
  • The host sets the pace for mealtime conversation as well. Keep the conversation going, but allow for guests to contribute by asking questions and expressing genuine interest in fellow diners’ responses. While the purpose of the meal is business, it’s acceptable for conversation to drift into non-work topics. Keep the subjects light, though—think travel, pets, books—and steer clear of politics, sex and religion. Don’t interrupt the flow of conversation to speak to a server, either. Wait for a break in the conversation to signal politely, or call softly to the server.



Taking Online Ads For A Spin

Study finds digital channels are the new source for first-time car buyers

Glossy magazine ads and slick billboards may be taking a backseat as auto manufacturers look to build new business among the digital-first generation. A recent report from market research firm J.D. Power and Associates revealed that new-vehicle drivers spend an average of 11 hours a day surfing the internet, streaming video content and watching TV. While Generations X and Y clock in at 12 and 13 hours, the Baby Boomers and pre-Boomers come close at 11 and 10 hours.

The U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report, released this summer, also finds 70 percent of new-vehicle drivers are using services like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. These stats seem to make the answer obvious—advertise online. But efforts to block online ads through programs and subscription fees throw a wrench into the gears, so the challenge of getting ads in front of consumers remains.

To combat the limitations set by streaming media, traditional channels such as television networks, newspapers and magazines are opening new doors to digital placement. Nearly all TV viewers surveyed for the report are still watching network shows on television, and more than a third are viewing on network websites, apps or streaming boxes. Nearly half of magazine and newspaper audiences surveyed also take their news and information via internet portals.

Addressing the results of the report, J.D. Power’s Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive, said, “Traditional advertising isn’t going away, but automakers will have to continue to look at all channels … to engage with their customers.”


Let’s Make A Deal

Content portals keep sales reps in the purchasing loop

Few things are better at trumping the online, self-service approach to buying than a knowledgeable sales rep. But are you giving your reps the tools to maintain the best in-person purchasing experience possible? Sales content portals allow reps to instantly access relevant information about what they’re selling, ensuring their clients have the details they need about the products they want, on demand.

A good portal isn’t merely a condensed version of a catalog or website, though. To ensure your marketing content portal truly aids the sales rep in completing sales while building relationships with clients, follow these guidelines.

  1. Create a tool independent of your website that contains all the information your sales reps commonly access during a sales call.
  2. Curate content that matches specific sales goals or common buyer needs. Combine popular products with archived case studies that illustrate how those products have been used.
  3. Keep your content current. Needs change over time, and so do product features and availability. In addition to updating your catalog or website, be sure to update the content portal so sales reps are working with the latest information available.

Yours, Mine and Ours

Can you benefit from co-branding?

Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Little black dresses and bright red lipstick. These iconic pairings are made up of two elements whose identities are just as strong when they stand alone; yet, history is made when they join together.

This is what co-branding can do for companies. Coca-Cola and OPI Nail Polish collaborated on a line of soda-themed nail colors, expanding their reach into collective audiences under a shared view of the products’ ability to deliver “happiness in a bottle.” TOMS shoes and Element skateboards worked together to expand their respective philanthropies by offering co-branded merchandise through a special program.

Whether you’re looking to launch your brand into new territory or stand out in a saturated market, you might benefit from a co-branding opportunity. Of course, you’ll need a good partner in your co-branding mission—but how do you find the yin to your yang? Ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • Are there businesses operating in a desired market, or your current market, that offer services that appeal to your current or prospective clients?
  • Will co-branding with a business elevate your brand’s position among their customer base?
  • Do these businesses have current co-branding agreements with other companies? If so, what do those agreements look like?
  • Do prospective co-branding partners share your corporate vision, or express a similar vision?
  • Will you develop products to offer exclusively as co-branded merchandise or services, or will you co-brand current offerings for a predetermined