Birol Growth Consulting® Helps Hillary’s Gifts Find Its Best and Highest Use in “Best Intentions™” Case Studies
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Smart business owners know that the strength of a company depends on the relationships it forges with clients. Just ask Hillary Feder, owner of Hillary’s Hand Painted and Personalized Gifts of Hopkins, Minnesota www.hillarysgifts.com. Her job is to create gift solutions to solidify the bond between her clients—mostly businesses and organizations—and their customers, employees, and constituents.
The irony? Until recently, Hillary’s Gifts focused more on selling product than value in their own client relationships. Like most of the promotional products industry, the company was product-focused. However, Feder realized a few years ago that her business could do more. “I wanted to move into a consulting model, but at the time nobody in my industry was talking about it,” she recalled.
That would soon change, but not fast enough for Feder. How could she sell the value of her company—and her industry—to clients who were used to talking about products and price?
In 1989 Hillary Feder’s best intentions were to custom-make a birthday gift for a friend of her three-year old son. The hand-painted sweatshirt was such a hit with kids and parents that Feder, who had recently quit her job to stay home with her children, saw an opportunity. She bought a bunch of shirts and a lot of paint, and her business was born.
Eighteen years later, Hillary’s Gifts employs nine people and operates a storefront and Web site (www.hillarysgifts.com), providing personalized and custom gifts for corporate clients and consumers. Having entered the corporate market somewhat by accident—the recipient of a baby gift basket called to set up an account for her employer—Hillary’s Gifts now gets 65-70% of its revenues from the corporate/organization side.
As part of the $18-billion promotional products industry, Hillary’s Gifts offers some pretty cool stuff. In addition to T-shirts and travel mugs there are custom laser 3-D crystals; personalized shadow box collages; “Metropoly” wall art with personal or organizational milestones replacing the famous Monopoly board squares; fashionable glass paper holders; and an array of desk accessories, stationery, gift baskets, and more. “The things we do feel a little less commercial and promotional than what people are used to seeing,” Feder said. “We specialize in providing more ‘gifty’ products and packages.”
Because the products are so fun, it’s easy to get caught up in them, but they are simply tangible expressions of appreciation, celebration, sympathy, or gratitude. The underlying message is what strengthens relationships between organizations and their constituents. Feder understood the need to sell clients on this value, but she was swimming upstream. She had a hard time just getting past administrative assistants in order to consult with actual decision-makers.
THE BGC SOLUTION:
At the Promotional Products Association International Chicago Conference in the fall of 2006, she took Andy Birol’s class on his book, “The Five Catalysts of Seven Figure Growth". “There was something about his energy,” she said, “that told me ‘This guy has that last piece of knowledge I need to make this work.’”
Andy reaffirmed and rephrased what Hillary Feder knew. “She needed to complete the transition from selling product to creating outcomes,” he said. He called these outcomes “Best Intentions.”
Consulting, he told Feder, goes beyond uncovering client needs; her job is to help her clients “do the right thing.” After all, busy people (and organizations) sacrifice opportunities to build relationships by not making time to thank, honor, celebrate, and recognize others. Andy described the Best and Highest Use® (BHU) of Hillary’s Gifts this way: “To uncover, frame, express, and extend a client’s ‘best intentions’ as articulated through specific products.” Andy went on to explain, “Every firm, especially those in the promotional products industry, has its own unique BHU, which simply stated, is what they like doing, are good at doing and have been valued by their market for doing."
To sell clients on this value, Feder needed to firm up her conviction. “[Andy] taught me to understand in a broader spectrum what we do and how it affects people,” she said. “There were times when I dropped back too quickly to a product-selling place. He put it into my brain that we are the doctors to fulfilling people’s best intentions.”
He also coached Feder on how to get in front of decision-makers. “He has taught me not to accept ‘no’ or ‘not available’ as final answers,” she said with a laugh. “In the past, all too often, I would present to administrators who then presented our work to the decision maker. Andy doesn’t let me get away with this anymore.”
Hillary’s Gifts is transitioning into the “best intentions” model of consulting with terrific results. Rather than “spitting out ideas” in hopes that something sticks, Feder now gets in front of the people she needs to see. “I have welcomed the number of presentations we have made to the decision-maker since I started working with Andy," she said. “Now we can show a client how much we can help them and in how many different areas.”
No longer is she willing to sell her company short. “I needed to get beyond selling price,” she said bluntly, “and Andy helped me be okay with losing a customer over price.” She now asks certain questions early in the sales process in order to determine whether a client is open to learning about value. “It has saved me a lot of time,” she said.
Impressed with how “intuitive” and “thoughtful” Andy was, Feder believes he can work across many types of industries. “He has such a high level of knowledge and skills about growing businesses that he can make any industry-specific adjustments quickly and willingly,” she observed.
Andy described Hillary’s Gifts as the kind of company that goes the extra mile to help clients go the distance. “Beyond providing beautiful products and packaging, this company excels at coaching clients to do the right thing—increasingly, a rarity these days,” he said. “What Hillary Feder has done stands as a terrific example for other companies in the promotional products industry! I hope all firms in her industry can develop and market their best and highest use.”
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