In the Bag Promotions finds success by going old school

In The Bag Promotions Ribbon Cutting The Readings held a formal ribbon cutting to celebrate the showroom’s opening.

Even though Lori and Dan Reading’s Boise, Idaho-based distributorship is called In the Bag Promotions (UPIC: I644966), the husband-and-wife business partners think way outside the bag when it comes to marketing their products and services.

With the promotional products industry moving toward less personalized internet-based transactions, the Readings decided to buck the trend by leveraging their customer service strengths and creating a showroom space that would wow their existing customers—and bring in new ones.

If You Build It…

When In the Bag Promotions bought distributor Bright Advertising in 2012, it created a growth opportunity, and Dan joined Lori in the business after 32 years in the food service industry. They brainstormed ways to expand the business and decided that a well-designed and organized showroom should be an integral part of their strategy.

“Before, we went to visit clients in their offices. But that didn’t allow us to showcase everything we can do because you can’t bring everything with you. We wanted a base where people could see and feel and touch … it’s really helped to open people’s minds and show that promotional products are more than just pens and coffee mugs,” says Lori.

Once they decided on the showroom idea, they needed a new space. Their search ended when they found a stand-alone dentist’s office with high ceilings and an open reception area that would make an ideal storefront showroom. When the space was ready, the next step was figuring out how to organize the showroom and make it visually appealing.

“We went with a less-is-more strategy and decided to segment the showroom into four areas—image, brand, promote and recognize. We have items displayed by color to inspire ideas, but most are hidden in drawers for a retail-oriented feel,” says Lori. She finds that many of their customers now prefer to come to the showroom and go through the drawers for new ideas. Suppliers who come in are always happy to provide samples for the showroom because they want their products displayed.

The T-Shirt Machine

“Lori saw t-shirts displayed in PVC pipe somewhere and that inspired her to come up with the idea to promote color by making it look like it was pouring into empty paint cans. I do home improvement projects and created a display piece that resembles a machine spilling liquid color into paint cans.” Dan says his creation, called the T-Shirt Machine, is “a great conversation starter.”

The eye-catching display will be featured on their customized SanMar catalog cover this fall, providing even more marketing opportunity for the showroom.

In the Bag Promotions Showroom The clean, organized and colorful showroom (with the T-Shirt Machine on the back wall) is ready to inspire In the Bag Promotions’ customers.

The Showroom Effect

The Readings say the showroom has had a positive effect on business and they now have a part-time employee specifically dedicated to maintaining it. But once you’ve got a great showroom, how do you convince customers to come to you?

“It’s a challenge,” Dan says. “We’ve had to find creative ways to entice them to come in.”

Often, however, the showroom helps turn drop-in visitors or curious tourists into new customers.

“A guy from a government agency came in to talk to us about new commuter campaigns, but when he got here he was so blown away that now he is a very good customer and he referred us to others,” Dan says. “That’s the impact of being here.”

Six Ways To Get Customers To Visit Your Showroom

1. Ship a client’s order to your office occasionally, not directly to  the client. Call the client and offer to bring the products to them or invite them to come pick up the item and check out the showroom.

2. Offer lunch. “For larger clients, we invite them to come during the lunch hour and we provide a small lunch, such as sandwiches, as a convenience,” says Lori Reading.

3. Share your space. By offering the use of their conference room to nonprofits that don’t have any meeting space, the Readings bring in new potential customers.

4. Offer prizes. “To thank our clients for visiting, we ask them if they’d like to spin for a prize on the spinning wheel or take a turn on the Plinko board to choose an [In the Bag Promotions logoed] prize. We give nice prizes and they love it. It reinforces what promotional products are all about,” Lori says.

5. Celebrate your customers. The Readings have a large chalkboard in their conference room where they recreate the logo of visiting clients.

6. Host an annual event. This year In the Bag Promotions is hosting a VIP tailgating barbecue for their best customers—with a showroom tour included, of course.