Sh*t Happens In Promo—Here's What to Do When It Does (and How to Get a Lifetime Client Out of It)
On the most recent episode of the Promo Marketing Podcast, we talked to Sam Brown and Eric Nelsen of BrandVia Alliance, who had some great things to say about organic growth, company culture and more. It was a wide-ranging discussion about how to plan for future promo success, something Brown and Nelsen know a thing or two about. (BrandVia was one of the biggest climbers on our 2018 Top 50 Distributors list.) But one of the most interesting and, frankly, fun parts of our conversation was about the stuff you can't plan for. And, believe it or not, there's a way for promo distributors to turn mistakes and unfortunate circumstances into big business wins.
Here's how Nelsen framed it:
Sh*t happens in this business. A factory screws up. We screw up. My mantra to my team is it's not how you handle it when things are going well. It's how you handle it when things go wrong. And that's what's going to make a difference with you making a customer into a lifetime client.
That makes sense. Everyone knows things don't always go according to plan. But it's one thing to understand that, and another to explain that to a client. So what's all this business about turning disappointed clients into lifetime customers?
For Nelsen, it's simple.
"Whatever it takes to make that client happy, we're going to do it," he said.
When a tech company was gearing up to open a new facility in Dublin, Ireland, it needed some promo items. It was a high-profile launch—senior executives, the Dublin chamber of commerce and the mayor of Dublin would all be there—and BrandVia was to supply 150 shirts. The shirts were set to ship on Friday for the Monday event. Only, they didn't.
So BrandVia did whatever it took. The program manager booked a Saturday flight to Ireland and hand-delivered the shirts. They made it on time, and what could have been a disaster turned into a win.
"The lifetime cost of that client is invaluable," Nelsen said. "They won't remember the fact that you delivered 99 out of 100 correctly—they're going to remember that you didn't get the T-shirts to Dublin on time. So we do whatever it takes."
That's a good customer service philosophy, but BrandVia has gone a step further. The distributor has turned its mistakes—and its solutions to them—into a major selling point for potential clients. Nelsen told us how:
[I was] sitting in front of a client recently, trying to get a big program, and she goes, "Do you have some references?" And, you know, everyone gives references where things have gone right. I looked at her and I said, "I'm going to do something different." ... She goes, "What?" I go, "I'm going to give you three names of three prominent clients where I have screwed up. And you ask them if they're going to continue to work with me." She goes, "Really?" And I go, "Again, sh*t happens."
And we got the business. Because she called up, found out that yeah, things did screw up, but we went the extra mile to make sure it never impacted their programs.
It's a valuable lesson for promo distributors. Mistakes happen, but it's possible to turn them into positives if you handle them the right way and do whatever it takes to make your clients happy. And, as BrandVia has shown, that can have a long-lasting impact on your business.