The Industry “Disruptors"—How Do They Affect You?
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect of on all the things we are thankful for. I'm thankful for my family, my health, my business and the opportunity to have a positive impact on the community around me.
Recently, I was blessed to be able to attend the ASI Power Summit, which is a gathering of industry leaders. I’ve also been privileged to attend several PPAI Leadership Conferences. The time spent at events like these is always productive. ASI put together a thought-provoking slate of presentations for this Power Summit.
The session, titled “The Disruptors: Who's Changing the Game?” was quite eye opening. This session featured Michael Lee from Alibaba and Don LeBlanc from Vistaprint. Henrik Johannson from Boundless Network talked with Jason Kang from Zazzle about their affiliations.
Alibaba changes the distribution model in our industry. The platform connects end users to overseas factories. Although good for some, it is not for everyone and has its challenges. Alibaba wants to build a “healthy” supply chain and remove "friction."
Vistaprint is a company that is well known for providing free business cards. Its goal is to leverage its micro business in printing to the bigger corporate market and offer a wider variety of products. This is a natural extension of growth for it. Its systems enable it to be profitable on a $150 order. It can thrive on low-cost and low-quantity business.
Zazzle is an on-line technology platform company that allows for ordering personalized gifts in smaller quantities. It has the ability to do custom imprinting on one item, but also have the infrastructure to sell large quantities. This makes its affiliation with a more traditional, tech savvy distributor, like Boundless Network, beneficial.
E-commerce technology solutions drive many of these new models. Decoration and automated order processing are key components. Offshore, low-cost support is also part of these models. These are examples of how a global marketplace is changing the way business is being done.
Each of these “Disruptors” affects business as we have known it. Does this scare you? Have you thought about how these emerging business models will affect your business? Have you made steps to embrace the new opportunities they are taking advantage of? Have you considered how you could change your business to be more effective in this business environment?
The point was made in the session that all companies have unique assets. It seems that distributors and suppliers need to build on those assets ... whatever they are.
I commend ASI for inviting “The Disruptors” to share how they are approaching today’s evolving marketplace. This is the elephant in the room.
In my role as publisher of FreePromoTips.com I have a unique perspective of things. I see that there is a fear permeating our industry. Much of the fear is driven by what “The Disruptors” are doing.
Some fears are well founded and some are not. There have been online groups dedicated to "outing" business models that differ from what they are comfortable with. These people would be terrified by “The Disruptors’” discussion. I hate to break it to them, but we can't stop change, even if we are not comfortable with it.
There is also fear and lack of trust about the supplier-distributor relationship. You know … suppliers selling direct and distributors buying direct. It's an old topic that has been beaten to death.
On our YourPromotionSolution.com website, you can find end-user-safe videos we have created that showcase suppliers products in short, 40-second-or-less videos. This website and the videos have no contact information. These easy-to-share videos simply talk about the features of the product with the supplier’s logo at the end. The distributors who use these videos love them, as shown in this short video testimonial.
I was surprised to hear from a large distributor company that felt these videos were not really end-user-safe because the supplier’s name was featured. I am not sure how this is different from a distributor showing a catalog or sharing a web link. There are those that won’t share anything with a supplier’s name. These days, it’s pretty difficult to keep someone from figuring out where a product came from if they are willing to spend a few minutes searching on Google.
If there is so little trust between suppliers and distributors, then the supplier-distributor-end-user model we talk about breaking must be truly broken. But, I still believe there are opportunities for distributors of all sizes to coexist and build businesses based on their value proposition.
Suppliers also have the opportunity increase their value propositions by helping distributors effectively showcase their products. They can do this through sharing case histories via their representatives and social media. I’m a fan of short video as well. Video has proven to be an effective marketing tool. If suppliers care about helping distributors of all sizes to sell their products, they should move beyond just promoting specials and help them do it.
While there is a focus toward online business and using technology tools, there is still a value to simply providing useful information that distributors can use to promote products from their suppliers of choice.
In addition to the eye opening “Disruptors” session, a highlight of the Power Summit for me was “Inspirational Mini-Talks.” Will Knecht shared how his company, Wendell August, a Made-in-the-USA supplier, recovered from a devastating fire.
Shelene Bryan, a Hollywood producer, has changed lives through her organization, www.skip1.org. I bought her book, Love, Skip, Jump, and it’s been an eye-opener for me. While the book is faith-driven, the simple concept of skipping one thing to make a significant difference in other peoples lives makes sense to me. Check it out!
I'm thankful for a few FreePromoTips supporters who enabled me to attend this thought-provoking conference. Here I would like to acknowledge and thank SnugZ USA, AIA, Ad-A-Day, Southern Plus and Warwick. These are great companies who understand the vision of what FreePromoTips is all about. What we do benefits suppliers and distributors. We care about sharing beneficial, relevant business building content.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I close with the thought that we can all be thankful for our position in the industry—whatever it is. Hug your spouse, your kids, your dogs (even your cat) and enjoy the blessings you have. Have a great Thanksgiving!
Jeff Solomon, MAS is affiliated with a Top 10 distributor company and also publishes FreePromoTips.com, a popular industry resource. The PPAI-award-winning FreePromoTips.com website and twice-a-month e-newsletters are packed with beneficial information. You can opt in to receive these informative, twice-a-month e-newsletters here! Check out what’s new in the GP2: Good Products-Good Prices section of the site. Take advantage of free, end-user-safe product videos you can share from the YourPromotionSolution.com website. You can stay connected to FreePromoTips on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or me personally on LinkedIn, my personal Twitter account. Google+ and my Instagram account. Follow my occasional live broadcasts on Periscope: @JeffSolomonMAS