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I’ve had the pleasure to be part of the promotional products industry for well over fifteen years. In that time, I have seen many displays of boldness as people started businesses, took risks, and tried to stay one step ahead of the competition by doing things differently. Unfortunately, this is the exception and not the rule. In many ways, branded merchandise professionals have cornered the market on the phrase, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s been said countless times – if you do things the way they’ve always been done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Whether you’re a distributor, supplier, or a service provider in this industry, it’s time to dip a toe in the water and do things that might make you a little uncomfortable:
- Outsource – It’s simply not necessary to have granular level involvement in every corner of your organization. Realize that you aren’t an expert in everything and outsourcing things like copywriting, web design, presentation development, or RFP responses will make you much more efficient and allow you to focus on the things you do well.
- Leverage Partnerships – Strategic alliances with subject matter experts will allow you to rise above the noise. Find organizations you admire and work with them to understand how they do thing and have hurdled challenges – many times the same challenges you are currently facing.
- Utilize Tools – There are a ton of free or low cost services that can create efficiencies in your business. For example, DistributorCentral adds value to distributors with many free services – industry leading search engine, responsive websites, and complete order management to name a few – which is why leading suppliers choose to create partnerships with them. By doing so, those suppliers create direct access to their product line for distributors. This partnership also allows them to work with DistributorCentral to streamline those products ensuring all data is accurate. Tools like this create a win/win for all involved.
- Content Marketing – We are in a “give first” economy. That means that people no longer want to be sold, they want to be given something (education, entertainment, etc.) BEFORE they are asked to buy. Effective content marketing – blogs, video, podcasts, case histories – will give your audience the information they crave so when they are ready to make a buying decision, you will be top of mind.
- Realize What You Sell – If you are a distributor in the promotional products industry in 2016 and focused on selling products, you are making a disastrous decision. It’s time to realize that the end user doesn’t need another “source” for products – they are everywhere and there is little to no differentiation. What they want and need are partners who are invested in solving their marketing/sales/HR issues through the creative use of branded merchandise not selling them a product with a logo on it. Products are the vehicle for the solution – a solution you need to create in partnership with the client – not merely the end result.
Times change, technology evolves, and the buying habits of our clients fluctuate. It takes courage and grit to try new things, especially if one has a long track record of success. However, as in any business venture, if you don’t do things that are uncomfortable and allow you to grow, you’ll get the same exact results you’ve always had.
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.