30 Nov

Choosing The Right Charities

Posted in News on 30.11.10 by John Meloche

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned in our blog that the season of giving brings about fraudsters of all kinds looking to cash in on the generosity of those celebrating the holiday season. While being mindful of your spending habits during this time of year, it is also important to be on the lookout for scam artists.

Both online and in person, fraud is rampant, especially during the holidays. Alison Griffith of Metro Canada warns today that giving to charity is obviously a kind gesture, but one that should be carefully researched before committing to. When seeking out the right charities to donate to, Griffith suggests that you first make sure that your charity is registered with the federal government.

Secondly, do your best to donate to charities that allow you to do so in person. This is generally more beneficial than doing so over the phone or internet. Mail solicitation is also something that Griffith recommends you keep away from. “Some charities do their own mail blitzes but many hire fundraisers that take a piece of the pie,” she warns.

In addition, although it may seem the generous and kind thing to do, Griffith suggests that you not “spray your money all over the place. You will feel more connected to a couple of charities if you focus your giving than if you give little bits here and there to a dozen of them.”

Choosing a charity, of course, is generally the first step. Picking one that is close to your heart or relevant to a loved one is usually the best bet. Earlier today, members of our staff shared their stories about charities that they actively participate in. Breast cancer awareness, for example, is popular among many of our reps.

With surviving family members and others that are still affected by the disease, the fight for a cure is a personal one for them. Donating to causes that help you to feel more connected with those you are directly helping always provides a good feeling. It will also help you to feel more confident that your donated funds are being used for a legitimate cause.

Some of the easiest ways to make those who are less fortunate than you better enjoy the holiday season is to donate clothing or items that you no longer use. Some people forget just how much clothes they have because they almost never visit certain parts of their closets! Take some time and go through your wardrobe. You may be surprised how many articles of clothing you find that would be better suited for donation rather than dust collecting!

Finally, suggests Griffith, get your kids in on the action. Teaching children the thoughtful act of giving during the holiday season is a gift in and of itself. As Griffith writes, “children love causes where they get something back such as a letter, a photo or some tangible recognition that their efforts have made a difference…encourage them to save part of their allowance every year in a jar, envelope or bank account to give to a charity of their choice.”

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29 Nov

Cyber Monday Is Here

Posted in News on 29.11.10 by John Meloche

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are likely well aware that last Friday was “Black Friday”, the most frenzied shopping day of the year in the United States. Known to offer the most significant discounts on many of the most popular retail items, the day offers Americans and many Canadians crossing the border the opportunity to save big on their holiday shopping.

For the many other Canadians who did not join the mad rush at department stores and malls throughout the U.S. last Friday, today provides yet another opportunity to take advantage of big bargains. “Cyber Monday”, in fact, is an even more convenient way to save as consumers head to the almighty internet to look for the best deals offered all year.

As John Lentz and Alexandria Sage of Reuters report today, U.S. retailers are still hoping to cash in big after the crowds have cleared. They explain that “the Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday was dubbed Cyber Monday five years ago to get consumers to focus on online shopping. But retailers have been increasingly offering online deals on Thanksgiving Day and over the holiday weekend.”

Lentz and Sage go on to note that “Cyber Monday” has been known to generate between $900 million and $1 billion. Canadians, of course, are able to take advantage of such deals within the comfort of their own homes, by logging on to sites such as Overstock.com or Amazon.com to look into who is offering the best items at the lowest prices.

One of our Synergy reps couldn’t help but get in on the fun before coming into work today. “Even for some of the smaller gifts, it’s awesome,” he exclaimed, “I bought some DVD sets today that would have normally run me at least 30 or 40 bucks each. I basically got them at less than half price, and that included shipping and handling!”

Lentz and Sage note that many retailers are engaging in an online battle of sorts as they fiercely try to out-deal each other. Wal-Mart, for example, is offering free delivery of certain merchandise throughout the holidays. The world’s largest retailer is being joined by Best Buy as a company that is also allowing shoppers to buy online and pick up in person.

But just how popular is “Cyber Monday” compared to “Black Friday”? “I would expect Cyber Monday to be as strong as sales were this weekend,” said Maggie Taylor, a senior credit officer with Moody’s Investors Service.

Added Wall Street analyst, Hamed Khorsand in a note to investors: “The data does suggest that consumers are spending more time online this year with their spending plans, which would bode well for Amazon.”

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26 Nov

Ontario Bracing For Winter

Posted in News on 26.11.10 by John Meloche

Generally speaking, Torontonians have the ability to brag that they have shorter winters than the rest of Canada. Sometimes not even getting a drop of snow until the new year, parts of Southern Ontario are thankful for their geographical position in the country known as the “Great White North”.

This winter, however, Toronto residents and those from the surrounding areas may not be so lucky. Today, Liem Vu and Tamara Baluja of The Toronto Star report that “Old Man Winter” is heading to Ontario and bringing upwards of 30 to 40 centimetres of snow along with him!

As Vu and Baluja write, “A snow squall watch is place for Barrie, Orillia, Midland, Muskoka and Parry Sound, with Environment Canada predicting 30 to 40 centimetres of snow. The snow flurries come with winds expected to reach more than 80 kilometres an hour. The Ottawa area and eastern Ontario will get another day of freezing rain, with Southwestern Ontario getting snow squalls and white-outs.”

Today, outside of the Synergy Marketing Consultants headquarters in Toronto, heavy snow flurries could be seen swirling around in the parking lot. “Oh no!,” exclaimed one of our reps to the laughter of some of his colleagues, “Last year the snow barely came at all, I loved it!”

“Not me,” responded a fellow rep, “I love winter sports like snowboarding and skiing, so the more snow the better!”. Naturally, her winter-hating co-worker had to remind her that you generally need to leave the city of Toronto in order to enjoy such activities. “If only winter could exist outside of the city, that’d be perfect,” he suggested.

Knowing full-well that such a request is nothing more than a fantasy, Torontonians will be bracing for temperatures as low as 4C this weekend. This isn’t actually too bad considering that today’s thermometer was closer to the freezing mark. Meanwhile, most of the rest of Canada is already being covered in the white stuff.

Just in case Southern Ontario gets its own share of snow this early in the winter season, Vu and Baluja remind drivers to take extra precautions when they’re on the road. In their Star article, they quote OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford as urging motorists to remain calm and careful on the road during slippery conditions.

Said Woodford: “One of the most common things drivers do is jam on their brakes and grab their steering wheels. Once you apply the brakes, you actually lose control of your vehicle and you’re in the skidding motion. By easing up on the accelerator and not applying the brakes, you can easily gain control of your vehicle. But look where you want to go and steer to where you want to go.”

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25 Nov

The Black Friday Battle

Posted in News on 25.11.10 by John Meloche

Naturally, we’ve been blogging a lot lately about holiday shopping. It is, arguably, the most popular activity taking place at the moment. And as always, the Synergy Marketing Consultants Blog is doing its part to help business owners cash in on this yearly event. In addition, we are also always looking out for consumers in an effort to help them budget and find the best bargains.

It appears as if Dana Flavelle of The Toronto Star is on a similar mission. Tomorrow, in the United States is known as “Black Friday”. Yesterday, Flavelle questioned whether or not Canadians should be heading south of the border to take advantage of what has become known as the craziest shopping day of the year.

Each year, “Black Friday”, which takes place the day after American Thanksgiving, offers shoppers astounding discounts on some of the most popular items of the holiday season. There is, ironically, a big price to pay for such savings, however. With so many shoppers looking to take advantage of the great deals, extremely long waits in line are usually the norm.

Flavelle points out Marie Carberry, a 41-year-old homemaker from Milton, who had to wait in line for four hours last year at a Wal-Mart in Niagara Falls, New York. She ended up buying a Rock Band video game for just $30 U.S. The game is regularly priced at $199.

In addition, Carberry also picked up MP3 players, bed sets and designer clothing during her “Black Friday” shopping spree last year. She claims to have saved $400 in the process. Even after factoring hotel, food and gas costs, she believes that she came out ahead financially.

Flavelle argues, however, that this year, heading south of the border may not be as cost-effective. Taking a look at Canadian and American retailers, Flavelle noticed that the prices between them aren’t all that different for this year’s top-selling items. It appears as Canada’s strong loonie is holding up against the American greenback, making prices more competitive.

Writes Flavelle: “The Microsoft Kinect for the Xbox 360? It’s priced at $149.99 both at Wal-Mart Us and Wal-Mart Canada, according to Redflagdeals.com, a shopping information website in Canada. The new Barbie Video Girl? It’s priced at $44.97 at Wal-Mart Canada, only slightly more than at Wal-Mart U.S., where it’s $39 U.S., according to the website.”

It appears as if a number of stores in Canada will be holding “Black Friday” events of their own to compete with their American counterparts in attracting customers. So, before you flee to the States this weekend, you may want to look into the prices being offered by the stores that here at home.

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24 Nov

Remain Memorable This Holiday Season

Posted in Uncategorized on 24.11.10 by John Meloche

With the holiday shopping season fully upon us, it goes without saying that business is set to pick up. Retailers everywhere are undoubtedly prepared for the holiday rush as customers clamour into stores looking for the best deals on gifts. Naturally, this is the perfect time of year to promote your business.

With all the extra customers bound to file in to your store, it provides you with ample opportunities to generate more business for the long term. You will want to ensure that all of your new customers leave your store satisfied and, as we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, “wowed”.

We’re pretty sure you know what we think is a great way to wow your customers. Our promotional items have been wowing our clients for years. Especially with it being the holiday season and all, we highly recommend our Christmas card and CD combo. The perfect holiday gift for any customer or colleague, the gift is bound to put a long lasting smile on any recipient’s face.

Prerna Malik of Suite101.com agrees. The Vancouver-based website which is dedicated to answering your “101 questions” writes that “holidays are the perfect time for small businesses to develop customer relationships and boost holiday sales. Holiday cards are a great business promotion tool.”

Malik goes on to specify that small business owners have profited greatly by investing money into personalized holiday cards. She lists a number of reasons why sending out these thoughtful gifts have been so effective. Among the most obvious reasons is that customers are a lot more likely to remember to do business with you again.

Like all promotional gifts, the key to the Christmas card is to build customer relationships. When you personalize the card, it adds “an element of warmth” while at the same time, presents your company as professional and courteous. During the holidays, people take extra care in handling their mail so as to not discard cards that celebrate the season.

Therefore, your holiday card will not be treated like the average mailer or flyer that is generally used to promote a business. Instead, your gift will be opened, read and remembered, assures Malik. Being remembered is an obvious factor in developing customer loyalty.

Malik also reminds us that holiday cards are cost-effective measures of growing your client base. She recommends that you buy them in bulk. Naturally, we advise the same. Our cards and CDs offer a design that includes your company information so that you are never forgotten, each and every year. It’s the gift that you give that keeps on giving back to you!

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23 Nov

Canucks To Spend Less Holiday Bucks

Posted in News on 23.11.10 by John Meloche

Already fully entrenched in the holiday spirit, Synergy Marketing Consultants has been blogging a lot lately about holiday activities such as decorating and shopping. Naturally, when keeping your retail business in mind, it makes sense to take advantage of the season to do all you can to make the shopping experience at your business a memorable one for shoppers.

This will be especially important this year, as many shoppers are watching their wallets with extra care. With so many people on a budget, there is evidence that shoppers will not be spending as much as they might have in previous years. Just last week, The Canadian Press reported that retail analysts are predicting more frugal purchasing practices this year.

Citing a “recession-battered” Canadian public as a factor in the smaller holiday shopping budgets this season, it is apparent that there will be less splurging this year. The Canadian Press article interestingly also points out another reason why holiday shopping in Toronto may be slower to take off than usual.

“It doesn’t feel like the holidays yet,” said shopper Crystal Bowes, noting that the weather isn’t all that ‘wintery’ in Canada’s largest city, “so that influences me a little bit, but other than that it’s great because I can get more shopping done.”

“This warm weather is a killer,” added Brent Houlden, who is Deloitte Canada’s retail practice leader, “because we’ve all been programmed in our DNA to go shopping when we see snowflakes because that means Santa is coming.”

Deloitte recently completed their 2010 holiday outlook survey and concluded that, aside from the weather, Canadians are spending less as they are expressing great concerns about paying down debt over buying gifts. 44 per cent of the survey’s respondents plan on spending less this holiday season then they did a year ago.

In addition, the survey also found that even with extra money, most consumers would not increase their holiday spending budgets this year. Only 10 per cent of those surveyed said that they would spend any extra income on gifts while a whopping 75 per cent reported that they would either save the money or use it to lessen their debts.

Said Holden: “I think consumers are getting mixed signals (about the economy) and they’re reacting hugely rationally. They’re not totally out of the stores, but at the same point in time, they don’t have the debt capacity to drive huge purchases, so people are just being cautious.”

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22 Nov

Decorate With Care

Posted in Uncategorized on 22.11.10 by John Meloche

We are definitely in the festive mood here at Synergy Marketing Consultants. All our employees who walked into work this morning were greeted with an array of decorations and lights that have created a whole new aura in the office. How do you not love the holiday season?

The actual holidays may not be here just yet. But that’s no reason you can’t make your staff feel the wonderment of the season as they enter work each and every day. Now, while we have streamers, lights, snow-speckled windows and even a Christmas tree, we acknowledge that not everyone celebrates the same holidays during this time of year.

So, while we advocate sprucing up your office during the holiday season, we also recommend keeping everyone who works in the office in mind. Courtney Flaherty of eHow.com is like-minded. On the website, Flaherty suggests five different things to consider when decorating your office to celebrate this time of year.

“Pick the colors,” writes Flaherty, “Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so when choosing ornaments for the display, consider picking colors other than red and green. Black and white look great together and so do purple and blue. Ornaments in various colors can be found at almost any store that sells decorations around Christmas.”

Flaherty also recommends that you be sure to keep your staff safe while the decorations are hung throughout the office. You will want to make sure that any hanging ornaments don’t hit anyone in the head! It’s best to select locations of the office where people are generally seated to hang decorations instead of a “well-traveled location with lots of standing or walking.”

As well, Flaherty suggests that you cut ribbon in a variety of lengths, anywhere from one to two feet long. By threading the ribbon through the top of ornaments and tying a strong knot, you’ll be sure that your decorations won’t fall off and crash down on one of your staff members.

You may also want to tack the ornaments to the ceiling using the tail end of the ribbon instead of taping them. With varying types of tape, it’s important to know that not all adhesives stick to walls and ceilings. You’ll want to be sure that none of your hard work goes to waste with falling decorations that end up breaking upon a crash landing!

Lastly, not all ornaments need to be hung. Save a few for glass vases to be placed on tables and desks. This provides a “festive pop of colour” on all levels of the office. The holidays are almost here. But the spirit of the holidays has most definitely arrived. Be sure to have fun and stay safe decorating your office this year!

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19 Nov

Go For A New Year Sales Spike

Posted in Uncategorized on 19.11.10 by John Meloche

Back at the beginning of October, we introduced our blog readers to Canadian business expert, Evan Carmichael. Not much different than this very blog, Carmichael has gone to great lengths to offer up his entrepreneurial expertise to the public. With the new year fast approaching, we figured we’d take a look at some of his ideas about growing business in 2011.

In a recent article from his website, Carmichael lists three main ways to grow your business in the coming year. The first is to get more clients, the second is to increase the frequency of purchases from your clients and the third is to increase the dollar size of your average transaction.

There are a number of ways to get more clients, according to Carmichael. The first method is one that we preach all the time, here at Synergy. “Give something away for free,” echoes the Toronto entrepreneurial genius.  He writes that business owners should think of their relationships with clients like marriages!

Clients need to get to know you and trust you in order to become a loyal customer. It’s not much different than dating before you get married. A great way to introduce yourself to a potential “spouse” is to offer something for free. This way, you are giving a potential customer the opportunity to try your company out with no risk.

Carmichael also suggests that you can get more clients by leveraging the media. He insists that most people read stores in newspapers and magazines rather than looking at the ads. If you can get a journalist to write about you, you will not only be spending less money to advertise your company but you will be gaining more attention because of it.

It’s important to get as many sales from your customers as possible. Carmichael believes this is a key factor in increasing your business. Not only do you not want to lose your current customers, but you want to keep them coming back frequently. Creating a loyalty program is an excellent way to do this.

Running regular promotions also helps to encourage repeat business. Writes Carmichael: “If you want to double your business next year you can either try to get twice the number of customers or get zero new customers and just get your current customers to buy from you twice as often. Either way, you’re doubling your business, but it’s a lot easier to get your current customers to buy more.”

Finally, increasing the dollar size of the average transaction in your store is important to making more money next year. It’s the age-old practice of upsizing no different than a McDonald’s employee asking if you’d “like fries with that”.  If there are other products or services that you feel would meet the needs of your customers, never shy away from letting them know!

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18 Nov

Gas Prices Gouging Ontario Drivers

Posted in News on 18.11.10 by John Meloche

At Synergy Marketing Consultants, we happily offer great products at great prices. We feel that it is important for customers to believe that they are receiving an excellent value for the money that they are spending. When consumers feel that they are not getting good value for their money, it’s natural for them to become disgruntled.

Perhaps that’s putting it lightly for drivers in Ontario, as of late. As Bryan Borzykowski reports in a special to The Toronto Star today, “gasoline prices and making a lot of people angry in Ontario.” With gas prices shooting up to a $1.10 in recent days, most drivers are feeling ripped off at the pumps.

In just three weeks, the price of gas has spiked by 5 per cent. Many Ontario drivers are looking for answers. And while it may not help out their wallets very much, Borzykowski attempts to offer up some reasons as to why the prices at the pumps have skyrocketed.

Firstly, he mentions, Shell Canada closed down a refinery in Montreal this past September. According to Dan McTeague, the Liberal MP for Pickering-Scarborough East who monitors gas prices, this now-closed refinery was responsible for supplying eastern Canada with 10 per cent of its gas requirements.

Now that Shell is buying gas from other suppliers instead of getting it from the 130,000 barrels a day that was being produced by the Montreal refinery, drivers in Ontario and Quebec are all paying the price at the pumps…literally. Said McTeague: “It’s significant. We’ve all allowed too many mergers and now there are too few players to feed the demand.”

Let’s not forget this past year’s inception of the Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario, reminds Borzykowski. Ontarians used to pay 5 per cent GST on gasoline, he reports. Now they pay 13 per cent thanks to HST. McTeague estimates that Ontario drivers are paying 8.8 cents more now than they were before HST took effect on the first of July.

Borzykowski also notes that the price of crude oil has increased. A barrel has jumped from about $70 U.S. to as high as $88. Don’t forget, reminds McTeague, that the rising Canadian dollar is not allowing importers to trade as they were when the loonie was weaker.

Then there are a bunch of other factors that people don’t have a lot of control over. “Everything from the general economic outlook to oil spills and hurricanes affect prices during different times of the year,” writes Borzykowski. “Bummer,” says drivers all across Ontario.

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17 Nov

Spend Within Your Budget

Posted in Uncategorized on 17.11.10 by John Meloche

In yesterday’s blog, we discussed some of the things that one can do to avoid holiday scams. Unfortunately, the season of giving happens to take place during the season of stealing! So check out our last post if you haven’t done so yet. Today, we’d like to tackle other ways that you can protect your wallet this holiday season.

Many times, when people go out to shop, they get so excited about the experience that they forget about the all-important task of staying within a budget. It’s not easy. Shopping (for some people, at least) can be fun during the holidays. The stores are decorated in festive ways, the Christmas music is on…you know what we mean.

For the most part, people are smiling and enjoying the wonderment of the season. See those people without smiles on their faces? Those are the people that hate shopping (yep, there’s a lot of them out there). It’s either that or they’re the people who have simply spent too much and won’t know what to do when their credit card bills come rolling in!

Here are some tips on how to stick within your holiday spending budget. Firstly, write a list. Hey, if it’s good enough for Santa Claus, why can’t you try it? On that list, do not only write down the types of gifts that you plan to buy, but be sure to include the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on each item.

If you find the item at a price that’s too high for you, there are some things that you can do to work it out within your spending limits. Initially, you may want to keep searching for that item in other stores. This, of course, doesn’t help you to save much time. But it’s money we’re trying to save here, so let’s focus! The alternative is to purchase that item and then subtract the amount that you overspent on the item from the budget for another gift.

No matter what, you want to try your best to only spend as much as you set out to spend. If you can’t afford to pay for all of your shopping spree, it’ll end up being a not-so happy holiday season for you. Secondly, try to keep track of the spending that you’re doing. Often, we forget that charges do add up!

Try rounding up every time you make a purchase. Buy something for $57.93? Write down that you spent 60 bucks. That way, you will help to somewhat trick yourself into spending even less than you anticipated. Remember, the key is to not overdo it, while making the purchases you need .

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