Category Archives: Resources

From the Desktop to the Desert: DistributorCentral at the IMAGEN Brands promoXperience


From the Desktop to the Desert…
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in what was dubbed as the “Inaugural IMAGEN Brands promoXperience.” Organized and sponsored by IMAGEN’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Dana Zezzo, the event was designed as a networking event “away from the boardrooms and bars” combined with a product field testing event. To add to the adventure factor, the networking and field testing would go down over the course of 48 hours during a Ragnar Trail Relay in the middle of the desert outside of Tempe, Arizona.

Sounds a little different than a round of drinks with clients at Eye Candy, right?

Are you crazy?
In trying to explain the event to colleagues at the office I was met with everything from a blank stare to an all-around questioning of my sanity.

You’re going to run through the desert, at night?

Well, yes…and during the day too.

You’re going to camp? In a tent? With a bunch of guys, most of whom you’ve never met?

That’s the plan.

Aren’t there snakes in the desert?

Well, sure…but usually you can hear the rattlesnakes before you see them, which is good, right?

Ragnar or Bust
I set off for the Arizona desert armed with camping clothes, running clothes, a laptop, an auxiliary battery and multiple cameras. There was going to be a lot of sitting around in camp and I figured it would be a great time to work on some projects in between running legs (a virtual blackout of cellular connectivity in the desert largely negated those plans).

The Team

I met up with the rest of the team in a parking lot in Phoenix. Dana Zezzo, who needs no introduction, was our fearless leader. Also from IMAGEN Brands was Ryan Meulemans, whose gazelle-like running prowess would make us all question our pre-race training plans. Kirby Hasseman, distributor extraordinaire, industry content mogul, and also a customer and friend, was in tow. Joe Durham, or “Big Joe” as you might know him, of HALO Branded Solutions rounded out the “above six foot” crowd on our team and provided a constant stream of levity throughout the day and nighttime hours. Proforma’s William “Willy” Adair, fresh off the Boston Marathon, was there to join Ryan at the front of the pack as our pace leaders. Jimmy Visney, of RLK and Associates or, as some of you may know him, captain of “Full Time Swag” where he blogs about life on the road in an RV with his family, provided a continual stream of conversational topics. Finally, Proforma’s Mitchell “Les” Edwards, who, after seeing him sprint out of the starting gate and sprint across the finish line multiple times, earns the award for hardest effort.

Having known only Dana and Kirby prior to landing in Phoenix, the proverbial “social media turns a handshake into a hug” certainly applied to this crew. We went from being recent social/email acquaintances to being teammates and moving into a 20 x 20’ campsite together seamlessly; a few people working on the tent, others setting up chairs and shelters, and others prepping food…and hydration (yeah, those Coleman coolers were full before we set foot in camp).

The Swag
Dana and Ryan passed out products from Crown and Vitronic, as well as apparel from S&S Activewear. And he chose wisely – from the drinkware to the apparel  and the folding chairs to the cool-down collar, I used these products extensively from the time we arrived until the time we left. For a great recap of the products we used be sure to check out Kirby’s post – “Epic Products from the Ragnar promoXperience”.

The Campground
The campground at a Ragnar Trail event is fascinating. Nearly 400 teams – almost 3,000 people – set up camps ranging from the basic to mind-boggling (kudos to the team that built a tiki bar and had a propane-powered fire pit). Ragnar sets up a pretty elaborate village too! A 24-hour wood-fired pizza truck, a coffee truck, medical tent, massage tent, merchandise tent, a campfire, s’more and movie area provided by REI, plus stretching and yoga areas – it’s an impressive setup. Our camp was stocked with all-new gear courtesy of Coleman and IMAGEN Brands and before long our temporary housing was assembled and we set about cooking, eating, “hydrating”, and learning about our teammates (and our neighbors…no conversation is private when you only have 400 square feet to house each team of eight).


The Race..and the Product Field Testing
At sharply 10am the next morning our team was scheduled to start the race. Kirby was our lead-out runner, followed by me, then Dana, Jim, Joe, William, Les and Ryan. Once all eight runners finished their first leg we moved on to the second leg for each person, and finally a third…24 legs in all, encompassing 124 miles (roughly 15 miles for each of us). My first leg was the “yellow” leg – in theory the second hardest leg – and I’ll readily admit that I was a little under-prepared for the hills and heat (note to self: next time actually train. On hills. And in heat. And on trails. And at night). But I got through it, and ultimately my second and third legs felt a lot better since they occurred at 6pm and 3am, respectively, when the temps in the desert dropped into the 50s.


Everyone on the team rocked this course and in the end – although we were doing this purely for fun – we were excited to learn that we had finished in 9th place in the men’s division! Given that we just spent 48 hours sleeping under the stars (and really, there wasn’t much sleeping) and running through the desert and over mountains at all time of the day and night, I’m chalking that up as a success.

I ran all three legs in my polyester sport shirt from S&S and my Jersey Mesh Cap from Vitronic and they worked wonderfully. The cooling collar from Crown literally saved me on the hot leg during the day – soak it in ice water and wrap it around your head and it becomes a personal cooling device. Of course, when I got back into camp after the cooler legs at night…I threw on my performance hooded sweatshirt from S&S and dipped into the cooler from Vitronic for some liquid refreshments.

The Networking
In between the running legs there was a lot of talk – industry talk, non-industry talk, project talk…we even broached politics at one point (differing opinions, but a refreshingly jovial and agreeable discussion by everyone). I learned about interesting projects these guys were working on, their thoughts regarding the industry, marketing strategies, technology and more. A few of the guys struck up friendships and passed out cards with our neighbors in the campground after explaining what we do (if there were a prize for best outfitted team…we would have won, hands down). And yes, Kirby and I did get a little business done (more theoretical and planning rather than actual technical work given the lack of cellular connectivity in the desert).


The promoXperience
All in all the experience was a blast, and I’d definitely consider doing it again in the future. I made five new friends from the distributor side of our industry and had a great time learning about the things they’re working on. There are some cool projects going on out there, and I look forward to connecting and working with them in the future (when, after this event, they’ll no doubt be selling more Crown and Vitronic products). We put some great products through their paces and learned a lot about IMAGEN’s line that I wasn’t aware of before.

The Recaps
Interested in checking out the products we used? Visit In fact, if you host a website with DistribtutorCentral shoot us an email or give us a call and we’ll show you how to quickly and easily add and feature these products to your ecommerce-enabled website. Of course, if you don’t host a website with us…give us a call and we’ll help get you started!


Check out all the great products we tested!


For a great write-up about his experience at the event be sure to check out Kirby’s article, “The promoExperience Ragnar Recap.”

For Kirby’s take on the products we used check out his article, “Epic Products from the Ragnar promoXperience.

The Videos
Oh, there’s video too… a great behind the scenes look at our experience at the event assembled by Kirby, and a music video…yes, a music video…that was born out of this off-centered experience.

Check these out and be sure to hit up Dana and Ryan if you want to learn more about products from Crown and Vitronic or if you’re interested in a future promoXperience event!

“Behind the Scenes”

“Runnin’ Through a Stream”


David Shultz
Vice President, Operations
DistributorCentral, LLC | @dshultzkc

The Sky is Falling. Again. Not Really.



Tomorrow millions of people around the globe will experience a total solar eclipse. For many, it will be their very first eclipse. As I sit here in an aluminum tube hurtling through the air at 478mph, 40,000 feet above the earth, I find myself looking at the sun’s reflection on the wing, pondering the sheer wonder and awe that will go through the minds of those who are lucky enough to experience tomorrow’s “totality”.

At the same time there are also those who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. That’s right, there are people around the earth who believe that the eclipse is the opening act of the apocalypse. In fact, one prophecy website that boasts thousands of followers claims that tomorrow’s eclipse will kick off a seven-year period during which 75% of the world’s population will be destroyed.

Check please.

I read those articles and the requisite barrage of comments with the same combination of incredulity, frustration, and, well, amusement, that I experience when I read the comments following the latest headline in our industry to take social media by storm.

You know which one I’m talking about, don’t you?

Walmart Enters the Promotional Products Industry

Yup…that’s the one.

Not since Vistaprint and Amazon launched their promo businesses has there been such an immediate and audible gasp by members of our industry. Last week at the North American Leadership Conference and Tech Summit the buzzword of the week was “Amazon-like experience”. Do we need to be worried that one year from now we’re going to be talking about a “Walmart-like experience”?

Of course not. And here’s why.

First, to put your mind at east just a bit; Walmart themselves did not “enter” the promotional products industry. At least not directly. If you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that the site looks strikingly similar to another site that is run by a promotional products distributor.

Coincidence? No. The Walmart Promo Shop site is simply a branded site that a savvy distributor pitched to Walmart, likely in return for a portion of the profits, a licensing fee, or some combination thereof. This differs strikingly from what Amazon and Vistaprint are doing, where our distributor channel isn’t involved at all.

Yes, Walmart does nearly half a trillion dollars in business each year. Yes, they have roughly 4000 retail outlets across the country. Yes, they employ over two million people. But how many of those employees do you think know the first thing about the promotional products business?

Secondly, for the most part nothing has changed. If you are a distributor you will continue to compete against people who focus solely on price as their main competitive advantage. In the particular case of the Walmart Promo Shop site, that is even less worrisome since, as a few savvy commenters pointed out in the Promotional Products Professional group on Facebook, this site isn’t listing products at prices lower than what most of you are currently able to offer.

In fact, if your concern relates primarily to price let’s look at a specific example. If you look at the Icy-Bright 24-Pack Cooler on the Walmart Promo Shop site and the same product on a distributor site hosted by DistributorCentral that’s using standard, published supplier retail pricing you’ll see that the difference in price just over one dollar, or roughly four percent.




That is to say, your customer could buy this cooler for one dollar less on the Walmart Promo Shop site than they could if they bought it from you at standard listed prices from the supplier. I’m guessing that many of you have negotiated some level of preferred pricing from suppliers so any worry about being beat on price by the Walmart Promo Shop site goes out the window when you break down the numbers.

But let’s assume for a minute that you don’t get any special pricing from suppliers and you sell to your customers at full advertised retail price.

Can you provide your clients with one dollar of value? Just one dollar, on a $26 item?

The difference in what Amazon, Vistaprint, and Walmart provide to their customers and what you provide to your clients is, well, you. Your imagination, your creativity, your consultative approach to developing marketing solutions, and your willingness to work hand in hand with your clients to help them achieve their goals.

That imagination, creativity, and relationship-focused approach provides your clients with so much more than one dollar.

One of the comments that stuck with me during last week’s North American Leadership Conference was a comment made by Roy Spence, the creative mind behind some of the most successful marketing campaigns in history.

We need to ladder up and stop selling products and start selling purpose-inspired solutions.

-Roy Spence

No offense to Walmart, but they aren’t in the business of selling purpose-inspired solutions. At least not when it comes to promotional products.

Distributors in our industry should, however, be in the mindset of selling purpose-inspired solutions to their clients and it’s those solutions that add the value that makes the distributor channel in this industry so important.

That said, we cannot ignore the fact that companies like Amazon, Vistaprint, 4imprint and others are providing a fast, easy, frictionless method of ordering promotional products. Embracing that type of technology and having it available in your toolset is critical as you strive to build relationships, engage more efficiently with your customers and do business in a manner that fits your needs and theirs. Amazon may not be in the business of providing purpose-inspired solutions, but they have essentially become the gold standard in terms of how to find, buy, ship and track products online and that’s a lesson to which all of us should be paying attention.

If you need help with the digital toolkit aspect of your business be sure to give us a call. Just don’t do it between roughly noon and 2pm CDT on Monday…our staff will be outside watching the eclipse and hoping the world doesn’t end.


David Shultz
Vice-President, Operations
DistributorCentral, LLC | @dshultzkc

David is one of the original members of the software development team behind DistributorCentral’s industry-leading technology platform. Today he serves as a member of the firm’s executive team, providing leadership and strategic support to its software development, sales, marketing and customer support teams and serve as key technical contact for many of the firm’s enterprise-level customers. Innovation and collaboration are two of our basic tenets at DistributorCentral, and the ones that allow us to help our clients focus on their key strengths in order to drive revenue growth.

Maintaining Supplier Relationships After a Merger

It seems that supplier consolidation is a daily occurrence in the promotional products industry. In January 2017 alone, J. America Wholesale merged with Top of the World, FEY Promotional Products acquired Magna-Tel, Ball Pro acquired Diversified-Adtee, and Ennis acquired Independent Printing Company. With that kind of activity in the first month of the year, 2017 will likely be a record one for supplier consolidation.

While these mergers and acquisitions create cost efficiencies for the suppliers, many times it leads to confusion among distributor clients. Think of it as the law of unintended consequences – no supplier knowingly creates turbulence for distributors, but when a merger of two companies takes place, this is often the case.

Instead of waiting for communication from the supplier that’s been acquired, take the bull by the proverbial horns and drive the conversation. To ensure your business as a distributor isn’t negatively impacted, focus on the following when working with a supplier that has recently been part of a merger or acquisition:

  • Updated Terms – It’s critical to understand whether your terms with the company changed and, more importantly, if it impact any current orders. Finding out after an event date has been missed that a new policy suddenly put you over your limit may cause you to lose a valuable client.
  • Updated Documentation – Related to updated terms, find out if they need any updated documentation from you to ensure transactions continue to flow in a smooth manner. Do they need an updated credit application or resale certificate? Don’t rely on the supplier to ask you.
  • Don’t Blame Employees – It’s far too easy to vent to a front-line employee how things “used to be so much better.” Remember, they are also going through a transition which may include learning new systems, policies, and procedures. Giving the customer service representative grief about how the merger has impacted you won’t help the situation.
  • Provide Realistic Lead Times – Distributors who form the best relationships with suppliers for the long haul – especially after an acquisition – don’t abuse a rush order policy. During a transition, it’s imperative to give suppliers as much lead time as possible and keep them abreast of any significant changes to the timeline.

Developing and maintaining good relationships with a supplier after a merger is not a complicated process. Drive communication, ask important questions, don’t point fingers, and be realistic with lead times. Like the old saying goes, “treat others how you would like to be treated.” It really is just that simple.

Bill Petrie

About brandivate

Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business.

A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, Vice President for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients.

Beginners Guide to SEO for Promotional Products Websites

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
is the activity of ensuring that a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering, primarily focusing on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic and increase awareness in search engines.

Whether you already have a website or are planning to build a fresh site using DistributorCentral’s Responsive Website Editor, understanding the most basic, effective SEO practices that you can do yourself can make a huge difference to your site’s performance since the majority of web traffic is driven by major commercial search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!

There is an art and a science to SEO, and an endless array of websites and SEO professionals out there who can help optimize your website, but the following are a few easy tips to help you improve your SEO that you can do yourself.

1. “On-Site” SEO Elements

These elements are part of the content on each page of your website that should be optimized to help search engines accurately index your pages.

Keywords: keep it simple – choose of up to five keywords or keyword phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. There are many keyword search tools available online to help you find the most relevant keywords that will drive ongoing web traffic and conversions on your site. Keywords can be sprinkled throughout the actual page content as well as added to META TAGs on your pages, but having relevant, applicable content in the actual text on your web pages is critical to accurate indexing.

Title Tag: The title tag on pages of your website tells search engines what any given page is about in the most concise and accurate way possible. It should be 70 characters or less and include your business or brand name and keywords that relate to that specific page only. This tag is placed between the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags near the top of the HTML code for the page.

Meta Description: The meta description is the snippet of information below the link of a search result. Its purpose is to describe the contents of the page to the searcher. You want to write your meta description with a human audience in mind that includes the page’s main keywords, as the meta description does show up in search results. It should do everything possible to drive the searcher to click.

2. Additional On-Site SEO Elements

Internal Links – You can help search engines learn more about your website by internally linking to other pages on your website within your content. Leverage tools such as DistributorCentral’s “Custom URL Builder” to create direct, succinct, links to key pages or product categories on your site. For example, you could create a custom URL that, for example, appears to the search engines as “” that links to a specific set of tumblers that you feature on your website. Search engines love short, descriptive URLS when categorizing your website.

Header Tags – Using header tags helps both readers and search engines break up your content into digestible sections. Each page should have a main header title tag (“H1” tags in html) that describes what that page contains. Subheaders (H2, H3, etc.) can further categorize content on that page.

Image Name & ALT Tags – Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage but they also search for keywords within your image file names, so name your images descriptively and in plain English. Alt tags are shown when you hover over an image with your mouse and they add SEO value to your website. Adding appropriate alt tags to your images can help you achieve better rankings by associating keywords with images. Using alt tags is an effective way for your e-commerce products to show up in Google image and web search.

3. Content

The key to pleasing both search engines and visitors is to have quality content on your website. Here are some examples of quality content:

  • Blog Posts
  • Industry Articles
  • Case Studies
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

Creating quality content for your website can be a huge investment of time and resources, but it doesn’t have to be if you take advantage of the resources already available to you. Search engines love relevant content, and ideally visitors to your site find the content useful such that that they share it via social media, leading to even more visitors. You can start out simple by creating blog posts on your website, and as your audience grows, you can expand your content to include additional types of media.

4. Link Building

The basic goal of link building is to get other websites to link to yours.

Link Building Ideas for Promotional Products Distributors:

•    Submit guest blog posts to popular blogs in our industry and to the markets you sell to. Generally, you will get a link back to your website in an author notation. DistributorCentral often features guest blog articles in our monthly CentralZone newsletter submitted by Suppliers with relevant articles about product category trends.

•    Reach out to related (but not competitive) businesses to see if they will link to you. A good way to do this is to see if the businesses you work with have link pages on their site for partners, vendors, suppliers, etc.

•    Create local search profiles and social media profiles to attract clicks and generate more incoming traffic to your website.

•    Submit your website to applicable industry directories. For example, a promotional product distributor that specializes in custom wedding invitations and save the date magnets could get listings with a link back to their website on The Knot or The Wedding Channel and other similar sites.

•    Submit your website to the “local” pages of Google, Bing, etc., to ensure that your site is found “locally” when people are searching for services such as yours in your area.

•    Create your own or find Infographics to convey the power of leveraging promotional products in you clients marketing efforts. Take advantage of PPAI’s resources that speak to the power and value of promotional products:
Get In Touch Advertising site and the Promotional Products Work site

5. Monitor your Results – keep track of your SEO progress

There are a lot of valuable SEO tools available online. Start with basic monitoring to help you learn more about whether your SEO efforts are making a difference.  Google Analytics can help you learn more about the visitors to your website and monitor your organic search traffic sources to see what keywords people are using to find your website in search results. Monitor traffic to your website as you launch new marketing initiatives and learn from which efforts drive traffic to your site and which don’t. Adjusting your tactics as a result of accurate analytics is one of the most powerful ways to build your sites’ relevance and search engine rankings.

Blog Article by:
Stephanie Protz, DistributorCentral
Marketing Director

How Wine on Tap is changing the Beverage Marketing Industry

Guest Blog Article by: Marissa Sutter, Motto Inc.
Digital Marketing Coordinator

Walking into any bar, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a line of tap handles displaying what beers are on tap. What if customers could walk into a bar and see a line of handles displaying the various wines on tap? Thanks to the latest trends in the beverage industry, wine on tap is becoming a common staple in bars across the country. Kegged wine is changing the beverage marketing industry due to how wine is being tapped, why companies are tapping wine and what is being done to market this innovation.


Tapping wine is done mechanically, virtually the same as for beer. A keg containing the wine of choice is hooked up to a keg-and-tap system, where gas, usually Nitrogen, is used to push the liquor through under low pressure.

Why Companies Tap Wine-

Speed & Cost:

  • No time spent corking, restocking shelves or recycling bottles.
  • When used for special events, wine on tap has been estimated to save employees over an hour of time that is usually spent transporting and organizing bottles on event premises.
  • Kegged wine doesn’t oxidize or spoil easily, which can reduce waste costs of wine that is normally thrown away.

Green Value:

  • 96% reduction in a company’s carbon footprint over 20 years when using tapped wine compared to wine poured out of bottles.
  • Each steel keg saves 2,340lbs of trash from the landfill over its’ lifetime, giving tapped wine an eco-friendly appeal.

Marketing Tapped Wine with Tap Handles- Anglia Ruskin at University in Cambridge, England, conducted a study tracking the eye movement of goggle-wearing pub-goers and their reactions to tap handles.

  • Participant’s eyes were drawn to tap handles before any other piece of marketing.
  • 95% of participants picked brightly colored tap handles attached to guest taps, over the bar’s own best-selling brand.
  • The study was able to verify that drinkers will make an “appearance-only” decision when faced with a slew of unknown choices.

Custom Tap Handles- Many bars and restaurants are doing more than just selling wine from a keg; they are marketing with custom tap handles.

  • Custom tap handles allow for bars/restaurants to market variations like:
    • Seasonal Flavors
    • Special Events
    • Frequent Changes to On-Tap Menus
    • Customization on Multiple Tappers
  • Companies are able to design handles to fit their brand by choosing from stock shapes or customizing a shape all their own.
  • Digitally printing on tap handles allow for recreations of full bottle images.

Custom tap handles have become a popular marketing strategy for new beverage products, especially when introducing wine on tap within a bar or restaurant. Tapping and marking wine in a keg could provide more payback to companies than just the monetary and ecological benefits that kegged wine already provides to the changing beverage industry.

View Custom Beer & Wine Taps from Motto Inc.

The Freedom To Control Your Own Data

Every month, DistributorCentral receives the most online product data traffic of any service provider in the industry. There is a reason we’re #1, we generate more than 6 million product views for our suppliers every 30 days from the DC research tool, 8,000 e-commerce distributor websites, and our live product data feed used by other providers such as commonsku, PromoCorner, and Web Jaguar.


Our mission at DistributorCentral is to be the most accurate solution in the industry; for an end user to accurately order products from a distributor’s website, and for the distributor to create accurate orders to the supplier.

Accurate orders all start with accurate and complete product information from the supplier. Suppliers using DC agree to honor their products and prices listed so distributors are assured of having accurate data without having to verify during the selling process.

“The Suppliers that I work with find DistributorCentral to be the easiest system to update, export, and import data for shopping cart functionality and accuracy. Our Distributors and Suppliers work as a team to ensure accuracy and report inaccuracies when they are noticed. When a Distributor finds a discrepancy, they have a tool to quickly make a comment and send that over to DistributorCentral. Once received, the Supplier is made aware and is able to correct the item via their Supplier representative,” said Aubrey Weaver, Senior Account Manager.

DistributorCentral allows suppliers total access to their products and pricing. The Product Editor has been designed for ease of use to make real-time updates. Suppliers can also export product, option and choice data into an excel format to update and upload. “From the time the updates are received and started, we are able to complete the import in just a matter of minutes,” said Heather Windler, Support Specialist. Most suppliers only need to export their product data though for annual pricing update purposes.

Besides hosting product data and pricing, we have also been working with suppliers to help them be able to share inventory data electronically. This is another way how we are committed to providing enhanced technology and integration solutions that in turn, support our mission.

Picnic Time Unveils New Products for 2016

MOORPARK, CA–(Marketwired – March 08, 2016) –  Living up to the slogan of “more than just picnic,” the indoor and outdoor leisure company introduces their new products for 2016. Featuring acacia wood products, a selection of clever serving stations, and an on-trend craft beer flight, pilsner box set, and growler with lace-up tote, the 2016 additions enhance the already robust selection of entertaining options within the product catalog. The new “Moreno,” a unique three-bottle wine tote that includes wine and cheese service, is perfect for entertaining on-the-go.

“We’re extremely proud of the 2016 product line,” exclaims Kevin Guy, Picnic Time’s General Manager. “We’re introducing the Festival Blanket, made exclusively in the U.S. and generating tons of advance demand, and extremely excited to get into the beer category — a completely new venture for us.”

The new product selection does not exclude the classic, name-sake picnic baskets. Guy adds: “These baskets will raise the bar of standard quality for all picnic products.” The all-new Catalina, Charleston, and Country Basket are now available in a romantic selection of new fabrics, and the already popular baskets now available in the Adeline and Dahlia collections, which feature their classic yet whimsical prints.

You can view the 2016 new products, and the entire product line, at

About Picnic Time

Living life to the fullest is more than just a phrase. It’s a part of everything we do. At Picnic Time, we are dedicated to the design and development of unique products that bring family and friends together. Picnic Time is more than just picnic; our wide array of outdoor leisure, indoor entertaining, and barware concepts set the stage for countless unforgettable occasions and inspire memories that will last a lifetime.

Get the MOST from your Service Providers

For those of you that are putting together your game plan for the PPAI Expo next week, be sure to take some time to reflect on the services for which you rely on Industry Service Providers.

It’s very likely that you may be using only a FEW available features, when a service provider may have a COMPLETE solution that can allow you to run you business from anywhere.

Start by making a list of the technical issues or pain points that you are looking to resolve, or a “wish list” of the tools that would help you to conduct business more efficiently.

Coming home from the show with tangible solutions to these issues will provide you a true sense of accomplishment.

Most often at tradeshows, Service Providers are lumped together in one aisle awaiting your visit. While they don’t have the flashiest, newest promotional item to impress your clients with, they do have valuable tools that can alleviate your biggest stressors.  A simple conversation may help you uncover ways to free up resources and time. Service providers exist for this very reason; they provide you the benefits of a full-time staff at a fraction of the price.

Do you really think that a “Technology Company” hasn’t made any new advances since you signed up X many years ago? If you haven’t checked in with your service provider since signing up for an account with them, you are missing out on the critical advances that are continually being made.

It’s the job of Service Providers to keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology and support. No small or medium sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends. Rather than being stressed about technology, small business owners such as yourselves have these tools readily available and often times for FREE.

Have a website? Is it responsive? If you do not even know what that means, it’s time to talk to your website provider.

Take advantage of meeting with the people that you rarely see. January’s brandivate marketing article Tradeshow Maximization talks about being mindful of your time on the show floor.

Step into your service providers’ booths and ask them to do a quick overview of the services you use and show them the list of your pain points. Making a personal connection on the show floor can be a big advantage. Most likely the high-level operations (a.k.a. technical gurus) are there and can offer valuable insight and might even decide to take on your project personally.

Set up follow up meetings on the spot so that you come home to standing appointments on your schedule. Hold yourself accountable for keeping these meetings afterward so that your pre-show planning efforts come full-circle to make your 2016 more successful and more efficient.

To help you get started with your list here are the top 5 reasons to visit with Industry Service Provider, DistributorCentral.

Top 5 reasons to visit the DistributorCentral Booth (#4661)

5. Brush up on the PRESENTATION TOOLS available that allow you to easily share product ideas with your customers.

4. Order ARTWORK SERVICES directly through your DC account.

3. Learn how to create and host COMPANY STORES for your top customers.

2. Download and take a tour of the DC APP for when you are on the go.

1. Demo our new responsive website builder and create a new MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITE on the show floor.

*BONUS REASON: Happy Hour on Tuesday, Jan 12th at 3:00 pm, Booth 4661*

For more information view DistributorCentral’s 2016 Distributor Tools Brochure

Stephanie Protz, CAS | Marketing Director

Tradeshow Maximization

After the merriment of the holidays comes a harsh reality: trade show season. The first major show of 2016 (ASI Orlando) finished yesterday and the “granddaddy of them all,” PPAI Expo starts on Sunday. Throughout the remainder of the winter are numerous regional shows, the TOM Shows, and finishing with Expo East in March. As a distributor attending trade shows, are you doing the right preparation to get the most out of shows you attend?

This is not your typical “wear comfortable shoes” or “drink plenty of fluids” trade show post. Rather, here key strategies to focus before, during, and after the show to maximize your investment:

Before the Show

  • Know exactly what you want to achieve at the show. Going to a show hoping to see “new ideas” is a quick way to minimize the impact a show can have on your sales year. Instead, look for specific products to solve specific challenges for specific clients. In other words, be specific.
  • Plan your booth visits and organize them as “must see” and “want to see.” There are many time vampires at trade shows; so by prioritizing your booth visits, you can assure yourself that you will see the most important suppliers and service providers.
  • Attend education sessions. At almost every show there is free education to help you grow your business. View the available sessions online and attend the ones you feel will have the most impact on your business.

At the Show

  • Be laser focused on what you want to accomplish. There will be countless opportunities to socialize outside the show hours. Work your plan and avoid the casual chatter that can derail that plan.
  • Stop waiting in line at crowded booths. If a booth you have on your target list is jam packed, move on. Waiting in line for even five minutes is a complete waste of your most valuable asset – time. Instead, go to the next booth on your list and make a note to come back to the busy booth later.
  • Carry as little as possible. Dragging around 28 pounds of catalogs won’t do your back any favors and will only serve to slow you down. Ask exhibitors to scan your badge and to send you the catalogs you feel you need.
  • Leverage technology. If you see a great idea, use your smartphone or tablet to take a picture. Then, so you remember why you took the photo in the first place, send it to yourself as an email attachment with a few notes so you can draw it back to a specific client project.

After the Show

  • Implement select key learnings from education sessions. Trying to take in and apply all the information you learned at education sessions is like drinking from a fire hose. It’s far better to take one or two ideas that will truly and positively impact your business over the following three months.
  • Follow up with your clients. This one is both obvious and overlooked at the same time. Far too often distributors try to follow up with all their clients the day they get back from a show. Plan to follow up with a few a day until you’ve communicated with each and every one.
  • Follow up with exhibitors. Similar to following up with your clients, get with exhibitors after the show to ensure you receive the samples or information you need to add value to your clients. With their hectic travel schedules, they will appreciate a friendly reminder.

Taking some time to plan your time at a trade show can dramatically improve the quality of the information you receive while you are there. If you don’t institute – and execute – a strategy before, during, and after the show, your ROI will vary greatly.

Have a great show!

Bill Petrie

About brandivate

Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business.

A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, Vice President for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients.

Effectively Responsive

One of the more trendy buzzwords in business in the past year has been “responsive.” As it relates to technology, the discussion centers around responsive web design (RWD). RWD is an approach to building websites that provides an optimal viewing experience across multiple devices – from desktop computers to a trusty iPhone.

Google made RWD a critical business issue in April of this year when the search engine announced that non-responsive websites would see a significance decrease in mobile search results. In other words, websites that can be viewed easily on both desktop and mobile devices would outrank sites that do not – pretty important when you consider the client-facing web experience is generally the first impression a potential consumer sees about an organization.

When the same word is applied to sales teams, it has a much different – and often, misinterpreted – meaning. To the vast majority of salespeople, being responsive means they must reply IMMEDIATELY to every inquiry, voicemail, email, text, tweet, or Facebook message from a client. These are the salespeople that struggle to finish quotes and client presentations on time because they have dedicated themselves to being the fastest responsive gun in the industry.

Responsiveness in sales is much more than being fast. Here’s an example:  a lead arrives from your (hopefully responsive) website and, to show how quick you are to respond to any inquiry, you call them within three minutes of getting the initial email. However, if you can’t answer any of the questions they pose, your speedy response time is not only irrelevant, it’s bad business.

If you don’t give relevant information or content that speaks directly to the needs of your customer, responsiveness has no value. A salesperson who is effectively and responsibly responsive knows that it’s a delicate balance of speed, quality, and control: 

Speed – Stop trying to break the record for fastest response time; instead, define reasonable expectation metrics for how long it should take you (or your team) to respond to emails, voicemails, and leads – and stick to them. 

Quality – In our information society, speed over accuracy has led to a dramatic erosion of quality. Think about how foolish media outlooks appear as they fall all over themselves to the first to report a breaking news story. Your clients would much rather you take a few extra minutes to provide them quality information than have you be the quickest to respond. 

Control – Clients who give you multiple projects at a time are notorious for contacting you numerous times a day for updates. A better solution – and one that your client will appreciate – is for you to take control of the communication process. Commit to sending an email at the end of every business day to provide status reports. Coach them to respond to those emails with any questions of clarification. They will welcome you leading the flow of information and you will enjoy the time saved by not responding to 12 emails a day.

Being responsive is much more than a simple exercise in quickness – it’s helping your client move through the buying process by balancing the speed, quality, and control of information. Doing so will help forge stronger and longer lasting relationships with your clients.

Bill Petrie


About brandivate
Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership position at leading promotional products distributorships. In addition, he launched brandivate – the first executive team outsourcing company solely focus on helping small promotional products companies responsibly grow their business. In March of 2015, Bill began a partnership with Proforma to assist their Owners growing their individual distributorships.
A former speaker at the PPAI Winter Expo and current member of the board of directors for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), Bill has extensive real-world practice coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and delivering RFP responses, and successfully presenting promotional solutions to Fortune 500 clients.