What Drives This Generation?

Reaching Millennial's and an evolving marketplace is of interest to many. The next generation of distributors, end-user buyers and suppliers will think differently from the older boomer generation, as well as Gen X and Gen & that currently make up a large part of the promotional products industry.

My son Ryan, a great kid who is working and going to college, fits into this age group. Our family loves animals. With the loss of our precious dachshund, Spud, he wanted to get a dog that he could hike with. Although we prefer an older dog without a year or two of chewing and the adolescent dog lifestyle, Ryan wanted a puppy.

He found Kona, a 5-month-old female Husky/German shepherd that was available through a local rescue group. There is quite a bit involved in adopting this dog both in time and money. Ryan filled out paperwork, visited with the dog for about an hour, agreed to a home site inspection to make sure she fits in with our other animals. Kona also had a minor medical condition she was being treated for and needed to be spayed. In addition to everything that went into adopting the dog, this rescue organization, run by Millennial’s, also included 5 training sessions.

The cost for all this…$175.00. In my business focused mind, I’m thinking, “How do they make anything on this?” It seems to me they are losing money.

My son and I had a discussion about this. He explained that it’s not always about making money. His generation wants to do good things. In this case, it was about finding the right home for this amazing dog that a few families wanted. We got her! While some expensive shoes have been chewed up and there has been other damage my son is paying for, Kona is slowly developing into a really great member of the family.

This made me think about what drives this generation? What are the next generation of end-user buyers looking for in a “promotional consultant”? How do they want to be communicated with? What will attract new people into our industry on the supplier and the distributor side of the business?

I had an interesting discussion about this with Cary Winston, President of Winston Promotions. He astutely noted that there is no training for people who want to come into our industry and believes there is a need for a promotional products training academy.

While it may seem like this is a simple business, we all know it’s not. Through the years, I’ve been through many employees. Providing custom branded products to clients is complex. We need to find the right product, find the right suppliers, put the artwork together properly and understand a wide variety of decorating methods. Then the order needs to be processed, proofs approved, we need to follow up on the production and make sure the product is delivered on time. In addition, the accounts receivable and payables need to be taken care of.

For distributor salespeople affiliated with a large company, some of this is handled, but you still need to be knowledgeable on the front end to make the sale. How do people learn all that?

Recently, someone reached out to me with a question on entering the promotional products business…and it speaks to questions people may have about our industry:

“I'm not sure if you're open to giving me feedback but I thought I'd give it a try. I'm considering getting into the Promo Industry through a company (Distributor Company Name Here). I'm as green as they come with little sales related experience.  What attracts me to the opportunity is potentially being able to build a book of business and have no barriers or ceilings. If I made this decision I would be all in.

My questions for you are: Do you think most companies are utilizing the internet and bypassing the local dealer? Any thoughts on (Distributor Company Name Here) or the challenges coming in the industry with zero prior experience? Is it still a career path you would recommend?”

Cary’s idea to have a training academy is a good one. You would think distributors of all sizes would welcome the opportunity to hire people with some understanding of the industry and should be willing to pay to support training like this.

Brands understand the importance of connecting with this new marketplace. Hilton Worldwide is introducing a new midscale hotel brand, Tru by Hilton, aimed at appealing to consumers of all ages who share values around what the company refers to as the "millennial mindset." 

We all need to change and grow to remain relevant in today’s marketplace. Consider what you will do to adapt and thrive!

© 2016 Jeff Solomon, MAS

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