When selling supplies to offices and other workplaces, differentiating yourself is key. Not only are you competing against your peers for sales, but also against an enormous and efficient retail marketplace (see Amazon.com or Walmart) as well as the (justified) corporate mentality to keep budgets at a utilitarian minimum. In such a competitive and overcrowded marketplace, making yourself and your services stand out above and beyond the rest is your only hope of making significant sales.
But how best to break away from the crowd? "That's hard to say," said Bob Finn, CEO of Cincinnati-based Finn Graphics Inc. "It depends on who's most imaginative really," he said. He emphasized being as creative as possible, remembering that things like pens, calendars and drinkware are not just products, but vehicles to carry a message.
We here at Promo Marketing are all about message. To get you started on your creative office product journey, below are five tips to pull you away from the commodity pack and make you stand out to your clients.
1) Ditch the Pen Book
A subtle shift in how you present pens to clients can make all the difference in breaking buyers out of the commodity product mindset. "Try to avoid the old pen book that overwhelms clients with a presentation that 'throws everything against the wall and hope something sticks,'" said Bill Mahre, president of ADG Promotional Products (parent company of Windmill Planners and Saratoga Pens), Lino Lakes, Minn. Instead of the pen book tactic, Mahre recommended figuring out what a client is looking for in a pen in terms of price and marketing purpose, then offering a small selection of fitting choices. "There are many options, so if you clearly understand a client's needs you can create a very specific plan of action which makes it easy for them to say 'yes.'"
2) Think Gifts
Pitching higher-end office supplies as gifts can be a great way to increase the perceived value of your items. Gift wrapping is an option for items like drinkware and stationary, but don't forget about personalized pen engravings as well. "When you add a personalized pen to a stationery piece, or even piece of drinkware, the pen is no longer just an item someone may use for work," said Pete Catone, business development representative for Polyconcept North America, New Kensington, Pa. "It becomes an appreciated gift."
3) Be Thoughtful Year-round
Similar to pens, calendars and timeplanners offer an interesting way to add a personal touch. Mahre suggested recognizing and marking dates important to clients on their calendars or planners, such as the beginning of tax season for a CPA firm or relevant trade shows for a software company, as another way to distinguish your items from more commodified offerings.
4) Bundle Creatively
Imaginative bundling of office products, such as filling a coffee mug with treats for example, can add a compelling and person touch to otherwise standard items. "Fill [drinkware] up with something to make it more of a personal gift, like candy, a bag of coffee or tea bags," said Jason Fularz, business development representative for Polyconcept North America, New Kensington, Pa. Keep in mind as well that even conventional bundling, like including pens or key chains, can also be compelling to buyers because it not only increases their marketing reach, but can also reduce the cost of the overall order.
5) Know the supply chain
Guaranteeing product safety and compliance to buyers is becoming more and more another away to set yourself apart from your peers. "It's important that distributors and end-users know they are buying from a supplier who takes safety and compliance seriously," said Fularz. He suggested looking into your chosen supplier's polices and supply chain management to make sure what you've purchased was manufactured properly.