Creativity is Fantastic
In a recent interview with Jeff Bowles, co-president of Proforma Promotionally Yours, he explained something to me that others I’ve spoken with have touched on―the concept of commodity items. I’ll do my best to paraphrase his definition.
Basically, a commodity item is something that’s traded according to its quantity, as opposed to its quality. Things like rice and corn are commodity items, because they’re all the same in terms of quality (rice is rice is rice). Other items, like plasma TVs or paintings or cars are not commodity items, because there is potential for great variances in quality (some cars are awesome, some are okay, and others are terrible).
It was interesting for me to think of some promotional products that way, because I'd never really considered how scale and item complexity can interact with sales. I assume there are a number of important consequences of some promotional products being commodities, but there's two I'd like to mention specifically. Josh Hayes, business development manager for Ball Pro/Golf Plus, touched on them in another of my interviews.
Hayes explained that with certain commodity items, like golf balls, it can be harder to make a profit because everyone offers them and there aren't many qualitative differences among them, so it just becomes about who can sell them the cheapest.
He also pointed out that commodity items aren't always the best promotionally. Because certain more elaborate items are better at creating personal, memorable experiences than their commodity counterparts. This makes sense if you think about how much more likely you are to remember how you got the nice pair of golf shoes, as opposed to the golf balls.
I realize that all this is likely pretty elementary stuff for most salespeople, which is why I almost didn’t write on this topic. But, I thought Bowles' and Hayes' ideas were pretty intriguing, and the solution they both suggested is an area where I can actually provide advice.
Bowles and Hayes both recommended creative approaches, or “thinking outside the box” when trying to sell items that are less conventional and more qualitatively varied. And while I may not know much about selling, creativity is an area where I suppose I count as a “professional.” I am a writer after all, I do basically make my living off my quirky little brain. I’m not saying I’m like Dostoyevsky or anything, but since his advice would probably be to drink a lot, all alone, in an old shack in rural Russia, that’s probably for the best. Selling golf balls from southern Siberia is likely pretty tough.
Next week, I'll write up some tips about how to get your creative side going and working for you that don't involve lonely hermitage or abysmal, existential despair. Shocking, I know, that there are routes outside those old standards, but I suppose you'll just have to check in next week to see for sure. (In the writing business, that's what we call a cliffhanger.)
*Charles Plyter Fact of the Week: Charles doesn't like guinea pigs. He says they “freak him out.” Not in a way that he's scared of them or anything, it's more that he finds them a little gross. I, on the other hand, don't like guinea pigs because they get sick and die too easily, which depresses me. I'll leave it to you all to judge who is more psychologically damaged, the person who finds something cute repulsive, or the one who can only worry about them dying. (Hint: the answer is Charles, because guinea pigs are adorable.)