Big Competitors, Disloyal Clients and the Pandemic Got You Down? It May Be Time to Look in the Mirror
I had a friend in high school—not the closest of friends, but we would hang out from time to time and had a few classes together. He was quick-witted, reasonably athletic and decent-looking enough to blend in, which is another way of saying he possessed all the ingredients for success. However, he never seemed to pull it all together to move forward and, instead, would lament how unfair the world was:
- “I’m sick of being on the JV squad—the coach plays favorites.”
- “I am failing all my classes because I got sick with mono, and the professors don’t care.”
- “I got fired from my job because my boss is an (unmentionable name for a PG-13 blog).”
In his mind, the world was simply against him, and there was precious little he could do about it. Candidly, I see the same thing happening in the branded merchandise industry where the following is written on social media on an almost daily basis:
- “I can’t compete with 4imprint—they are killing me on price.”
- “My clients have no loyalty.”
- “The pandemic killed my business.”
The common thread between my high school chum and the many who lament the lack of business success is that every failure is laid at the feet of anyone and everyone but themselves. Here’s some earth-shattering news: The world is not against you. Sure, there are the ups and downs of the daily grind, but life doesn’t pick and choose who fails or succeeds.
At some point, you need to look in the mirror and realize it’s you.
The reason you can’t compete with 4imprint is that you choose to go toe-to-toe with them in the first place, trying to beat them at their own game. Instead, focus on clients who sincerely value what you provide: level of service, creativity or even something as simple as fast response. Those clients are out there, and you can grow with them while leaving 4imprint to handle the $120 order for flying discs at the Johnson family picnic.
The reason your clients have no loyalty is that you’ve not given them enough value to pledge their allegiance to you. It’s no longer good enough to put a logo on a product, ship it on time and invoice accurately. Everyone does that. If you want to create loyalty, start identifying client solutions before they even realize a problem exists. This shows clients you care about their success and paves the way for more than just loyalty. You’ll create devotion for your brand.
The reason the pandemic killed your business is because you allowed it to happen. That’s right, it’s your fault if you blame the global shutdown for destroying your company. Why? Because everyone else on the planet had to deal with the same situation. Some stuck their heads in the sand hoping we would get “back to normal,” while others intentionally created success. Some temporarily pivoted to PPE; others developed new revenue streams based on the client demand. Others took risks that paid off, such as hiring a dream team, investing in equipment or starting a new enterprise.
The bottom line is that you—your attitude, how you respond to outside forces and your work ethic—are the most critical factor in determining your success. Realizing that you are ultimately responsible for your prosperity—or demise—is the first step in creating a brand that matters to your clients.
As for my friend in high school, after graduation he attended a well-renowned university but was asked by them to pursue academic excellence elsewhere (aka failed out for a semester before returning and graduating), got fired from a good job, and stopped believing in himself for longer than he would care to admit. It was only after he fully accepted that he and he alone was solely responsible for whatever the rest of his life would be that he started really finding success in life.
For those of you scoring at home, I’m the high school friend, which is to say I’ve lived the life where I blamed everyone else but myself—and I never got ahead. The moment I stopped being that person and took full accountability for my life and career is the moment I became intentional and purposeful. Of course, there will always be outside forces and things I can’t control that negatively impact me. However, as we all do, I have the power to choose how I react to them, which gives me an incredible influence on whatever challenge tomorrow may bring.
At this point, it’s me.
Bill has over 20 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products companies, always working collaboratively to achieve the “wow” desired by the target audience.
A Managing Partner at brandivate, a full-service marketing services and advertising agency, Bill is featured speaker at numerous national and international events, a serial creator of content marketing, and co-host of the industry-leading podcast, Promo UPFront. Bill has extensive experience defining brand strategy, creating successful marketing campaigns, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients.
A fierce advocate for the Promotional Products Industry, he is the Immediate Past President of the Regional Association Council (RAC) board, has worked closely with senior leadership at Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) on many committees and work groups. In appreciation of his years of service to the promotional products industry, Bill was named as an inaugural PPAI Fellow—a program designed to recognize influential individuals who have actively supported the industry through personal involvement.
Bill lives in Franklin, TN with his wife of 26 years, Sandy, and their 17-year-old twin boys, Drew and Mitch.