Sorry If This Offends You Part 2

After experiencing the two major January trade shows and talking with dozens of industry professionals, in this commentary I ask the question, is YOUR distributor or supplier business relevant? Sorry if this offends you. This is a follow up to my first commentary Sorry if This Offends You.

Before blowing off the question, seriously, take a close look. What are you doing differently than you did a few years ago? (News Flash! The market is different.)

The reason I ask is based on what I’ve been hearing. The market is being challenged in many ways. That’s a good thing! Change is healthy for the industry. Those who rise to the challenge will succeed. Those who don't won't. 

Many seem to be lost as to what to do in our evolving marketplace…so they don’t do anything differently at all. Is that going to be effective going forward? I don’t think so.  

Distributors who have built a business based on selling promotional “products” should think past products and consider what it takes to be relevant in today’s marketplace.   

Suppliers who have built a business by showing up at trade shows, along with all the other suppliers who sell promotional “products” should consider what it takes to be relevant in today’s marketplace.  

What communication tools are you using to share your value proposition? Communication delivery methods are changing. 

FreePromoTips.com reaches a large audience through our E-Newsletter and we get a good open rate, but this “classic” communication method is being challenged. We share relevant industry content along with easy to share, end-user safe video from some quality suppliers. FreePromoTips features products, which is the core of our industry, but we also offer the valuable selling tool of short end-user safe video. That’s a win for distributors and suppliers.

Is focusing on products without offering promotional solutions relevant today? This is what many distributors and suppliers do. Sorry if that thought offends you. 

FreePromoTips has worked diligently to build a significant social media following. We’ve done it by sharing a variety of content. Love it or hate it, social media is a relevant communication tool. Social media exposure has little or no cost. What positioning do you have online?

Distributors and Suppliers, what are you sharing online that makes you relevant in today’s marketplace? If you are posting a steady stream of product specials, you are missing the opportunity to create meaningful engagement, which is what ultimately will drive business relationships.

We get an amazing, tangible result directly posting videos to Facebook, because of how their algorithms work. Some may “reach” well over 1000 people with hundreds of views. That means HUNDREDS of people watched these videos. In many cases, we are showcasing a company, as we offer useful, relevant content. SUPPLIERS take note, what does it cost you to reach hundreds of people?

Ah…but the social media landscape is changing. What’s working now won’t work forever. If you desire to be relevant you need to be aware of what’s happening. FreePromoTips will continue to monitor these changing trends. Those who don’t won’t be relevant. Sorry if that offends you.

Product safety is SO important; I find it amazing that suppliers and distributors are not using it as a selling tool. At a recent industry event, two suppliers that I know have a focus on product safety, made a presentation to a packed room of quality sales people. One mentioned their focus on this as a reason to sell their line, the other didn’t. Our industry seems to be more focused on the product. The product is important of course, but in today’s business climate product safety is also important.

Obviously, everyone can choose how they want to run their business. As an industry, I believe we have a responsibility to protect our clients brand. Despite the significant efforts of PPAI in this area, it seems many still don’t get it…and they lose the opportunity to be Product Safety Aware.

The Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) is made up of a group of suppliers who have made a significant investment in delivering quality, safe products. This effort is being supported by a Distributor Advocacy Council who are dedicated to responsibly sourcing products. It’s good to know who these companies are and what they are doing.

I think suppliers and distributors are missing the boat not focusing on this important issue because this is just good business. Sorry if that offends you.

PPAI has done a great job with Promotional Products Work! Week. They have also created the Get in Touch! industry-wide initiative encouraging advertising buyers to recognize the power of promotional products and allocate a larger share of their marketing dollars to the promotional products industry. Are you taking advantage of the tools our Association has invested in?

In candid conversations with many seasoned industry professionals we’ve discussed an apathy and lack of joy that seems to be more common these days. One colleague noted that people don’t laugh anymore. Some are not happy and are tired. I get that. While there are many who love what they do, for some the joy is gone. Sorry if that offends you.

We are in an amazing industry with powerful tools that help our clients in many ways. Industry leader Mark Shinn was part of a compelling Promotional Products Work video that will be featured for two months on American Airlines flights. This is the type of messaging that our industry needs to share.

With the launch of the sales generating SuccessFit4Life! a select group of savvy distributors and suppliers will bring something of real value to businesses and organizations. It’s no secret that health care costs are rising and a focus on wellness is hot.

We’ve created SuccessFit4Life! WELLNESS PROGRAMS and EVENTS that are driven by product sales. If your focus is just on selling “stuff” this is not for you. Sorry if that offends you. If however you are interested in engaging with your clients and offering some that benefits them in many ways, you can learn more here.

Sorry if any of this offends you, but as a seasoned veteran, I see the changes, struggles and opportunities we have. If you want to build your business and be relevant in the marketplace you can think differently and make it happen.

© 2017 Jeff Solomon, MAS

Comments

Doesn't offend me

This does not offend me. I find it refreshing when you tell it like it is. This industry is radically changing. Those who want to survive better change with it.

Nailed it!!

Jeff, you are so right. I don't think industry is ready for this new market. Some are, but most aren't. That's good for me!

I love your commentaries.

I love your commentaries. This one is very thought provoking. Doing the same things will not work today. I think we are all trying to figure out what will work with today's buyers. Your videos are great and we use those. They are great to share on our Facebook page.

Is it time to re-configure and re-boot?

If no association of independent suppliers and independent distributors serving the promo industry existed today, and one was being started from scratch, in the Internet age, how would it be set up differently than the way the current PPAI membership network - that was set up 100+ years ago - works?

I believe answering this hypothetical will help PPAI and its members find both weaknesses that exist today and 'new paradigm' opportunities to pursue that could create a new 'status quo 'for the industry going forward that is more fitting for the Internet age, for everyone - suppliers distributors and buyers alike!

For example, in the internet age, starting from scratch, would suppliers accept being 100% dependent on distributors for sales communications with prospects for their lines? (I think not.) Or would they want their in-house experts to be able to speak directly with prospects, in general or in select specific circumstances?

And if suppliers required having direct interactive access to impress/persuade buyers directly, when, what trade offs, guarantees, stipulations, etc would distributors agree to and expect in return for 'trusting' partnering suppliers to communicate directly with their clients and prospects (buyers)?

And lastly, suppose in this hypothetical about building a new Internet age status quo, that promo buyers were given a seat, voice and say. What would they think, ask, recommend and want to see 'change' in the ways that they get information, ideas, support and service from promo suppliers and distributors?

Hypotheticals are often not worth considering but again I sincerely believe pursuing where this 'what if' leads can prove very beneficial to PPAI members and the promo industry at large. Good luck to all!

Too big to innovate new paradigm services

Jeff, it dawned on me that in reality, though PPAI is innovative-minded obviously, most likely it is too big to be able to consider something as revolutionary as I've suggested above. And so it might be best for a small group of suppliers and distributors to experiment with the idea to see if it makes sense, and if it does, form a new 'network' that (selectively) for the first time 'routinely' involves suppliers being in direct communications with both distributors AND end users (buyers). Perhaps if it is proven successful, PPAI would adapt it for the industry at large. And perhaps someone as forward-thinking as you are could lead the effort?!

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