Guest Rant: Is Specialization the Dying Trend?
In an effort to practice what I preach, I've been away from the FreePromoTips World Headquarters spending some quality time with my family. This rant has been put together while we are on The Big Island of Hawaii. If you are interested, I've posted a few images on the FreePromoTips Facebook Page and have tried to stay away from sharing our more typical business oriented content.
Most of you are unaware that there is a brain behind my Rant's. That is my friend and industry colleague Glenda Stormes-Bice, MAS. Glenda cleans up the grammar and structure of what I write. We seem to be on the same page regarding most of topics I cover. She does help guide me should I get too far off track. Glenda is a great writer and with me lounging on amazing beaches and having a great time in Hawaii, it's appropriate to share this piece that she recently wrote for her own company. Enjoy!
Last month a cover for The Economist magazine featured a photo of Rodin's "The Thinker" sitting on a toilet with the caption "Will we ever invent anything this useful again?"
Having spent the past two months surfing through catalogs and going to shows big and small, I am thrilled to report that innovation in the industry is not dead. There are some great new products this year. But the industry has changed. There are not as many new products as there used to be. I don't think its invention fatigue; I think it's a tougher economy. The cost of invention is high and the risk/reward is uncertain. Everyone is more careful now.
The smartest (and my favorite) suppliers make up for this by creating improvements on products that are successful already, and also being more innovative on the most important part of any product...the DECORATION.
But there is a supplier trend out there that doesn't impress me. I call it the "Look-we-now-sell (insert product here)!" trend.
There are some great supplier lines that have a diverse set of products. For the most part, those suppliers have years of experience knowing what imprinting processes they are skilled at and continue to develop/source products that work with those skills. Those suppliers are good at what they do and I turn to them regularly.
I also use a lot of suppliers who are experts in a specific product. For instance, I only sell pens from suppliers who manufacture pens. With them I can have an educated conversation on why their pens are better quality, where the cartridges are sourced, and what the write-out is on the ball points vs. roller balls. This is valuable information that helps me sell their product more effectively and more importantly, gives me the knowledge I need to best meet my customer's needs. But I ask those same questions of a supplier who just happens to have expanded their line by adding pens, and all I get is a blank stare or a fumbling of ums and uhs.
This year the addition seems to be bags. And beyond the "Look-we-now-sell-bags!" sales pitch, you will find a lack of any real knowledge about materials, construction, or detailing—all very important factors to know when trying to meet a client's needs. If you can't tell me WHY your bag (or pen, or whatever) is better or different then someplace else, how can I feel a level of confidence with offering it?
I don't fault suppliers who are looking to increase their revenue stream. My issue is with the "me-too" method. An attempt at grabbing market share by trying to sell everything just dilutes a supplier's worth as specialists in anything. There is no value with suppliers all doing the same thing. Who is an expert in that situation? No one.
In this job, I often need to become knowledgeable on any number of topics in order to be successful. I appreciate being able to turn to the experts in our industry to get the understanding I need. From now on, when I see product and line experts, I am going to stop and thank them for being so good at what they do.
I am also going to tell them I hope they continue to invent cool new things and improve methods to print on them. I just hope none of them try and add toilets to their product line next year.
Glenda Stormes-Bice, MAS is the head zookeeper at Glendandy Marketing, Inc., an Iowa distributorship proudly partnering with Banker Advertising Company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Jeff Solomon, MAS, MASI is affiliated with a large distributor company. The FreePromoTips.com website and e-newsletters he publishes are packed with beneficial information and exclusive FREE offers from a few forward-thinking supplier companies. Don't miss out on what's happening! Opt in to receive their e-newsletters! LIKE their page on Facebook and follow them on twitter. Jeff can also be found on Linkedin.