Whose Fault Is It?
In my last article, "No Single Raindrop Believes it is to Blame for the Flood," I touched on a nerve. That wasn't really a surprise. We assumed some might be offended and that we would receive some good comments. We received some great feedback. If you missed the article, it can be found here.
Even as a commodity, what we sell is a branding and awareness-building staple. It's fascinating to me that those who degrade our industry with fervor STILL use these products.
In California, Gov. Brown ordered state agencies to stop buying items like California coffee mugs, flashlights, bumper stickers, water bottles and other items known as "swag" or "stuff we all get."
"Having these plastic doodads or whatever they are, we don't need them. They cost millions of dollars. We don't need that stuff," said Brown. (Ah...but the Governor used these "doodads" and got elected!)
President Obama signed an executive order drastically cutting federal spending on promotional products. Federal agencies will be expected to cut spending by 20 percent in five areas: travel, technology, vehicles, printing and promotional products, which the release labeled as "swag" and "unnecessary promotional items."
"The executive order directs agencies to stop wasting taxpayer money on non-essential items used for promotional purposes, such as clothing, mugs, and non-work related gadgets," the White House said in a statement. (Ah...but the president used these "non-essential items" and got elected!)
The proven effective branded products we sell are branded as "plastic doodads" and "unnecessary." Do people understand the power of what we sell? Are we not effectively communicating the value of effective promotional marketing? Whose fault is it that our industry is not respected?
Suppliers, how do you show distributors how your products provide innovative, beneficial marketing solutions? Distributors, how do you show your clients how the products you sell provide innovative, beneficial marketing solutions?
We received excellent input on this article and many brought up good points, which we would like to share with you. There is some great insight here!
Popular industry educator and the sales/marketing consultant for iPROMOTEu, Cliff Quicksell, shared these thought provoking comments:
"I never comment on the majority of these posts but this one struck a nerve. I must say that you are spot on with what you stated and I believe that the issue starts with us. We make a conscience decision to either base our model on product/price vs. solutions/high profitability. I also think that the part of your site you created for product and price for those that want to go that route is BRILLIANT!" (Note: Cliff is referring to the GP2: Good Products - Good Prices section of FreePromoTips.com.)
"Let me say, that it is most important that we demonstrate our innovation and creativity; just telling people that we are creative is NOT ENOUGH. It's no different than being married and telling your spouse you love them and never demonstrating your affection... it's just words."
"At a recent event where I moderated an end-user panel the panelists were blown away when they saw the different creative marketing campaigns that I've developed. They said they had NO IDEA that our industry could do these types of campaigns. The distributors that invited the panelists there each stated '...we've told you we can do the creative...' and the panelist responded, '...but I've never seen what you can do...' After the meeting the panelist each gave their respective consultants 2 projects each that were along the lines of creative and NOT product."
"The fault lies with us, not knowing how to identify creative opportunities and being comfortable with the status quo. We need to take the advice of the brilliant marketer Seth Godin of 'becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.' That, my friend, is where the real profits lie. I know I'm preaching to the choir."
Philip Peden, business relations administrator at Newton Manufacturing Company commented:
"Your article makes me want to ask a few questions: Do customers only want to know price and product when speaking to promotional products salespeople?"
"Do customers care about how the value of the product can be increased tenfold if you focus on the message, design and experience of giving an imprinted product? Or when it comes to promotional products, do they just want their logo on as many inexpensive products as possible?"
"Are customers open to discussing marketing campaigns and branding strategies with their promotional products sales people?"
"It's easy to say you bring value to the sale, but its far more challenging and time consuming to actually follow through with it. Salespeople that can overcome the stereotype of 'trinkets and trash' will differentiate themselves from the pack and thrive in a commodities-driven market and hopefully get the respect that they deserve."
Glen Rapoport, partner, Proforma Instant Promotions astutely notes:
"This is a multi-dimensional problem. However, I can assure you that the blame falls squarely on our side, not the client side. When we engage in selling products, we've already lost the battle. It does not matter that these products have intrinsic marketing value—if we are selling only a selection of products then this is the result. What is needed is a proper business discussion with the client that is followed with proposals that encompass turnkey solutions beginning with stated objectives, outlining strategy, specifying execution and concluding with metrics."
"If you don't want to be perceived as a seller of stuff, you need to expand your offering to include all the necessary components to be able to deliver complete promotional campaigns—that is how you establish value and take the focus off of price. It becomes very difficult to cost compare a complete proposal versus a selection of products. Educating your clients on the value of promotional products, great service etc., is not a differentiator nor is it really adding value, it barely sets you apart from the online sellers. In order to add value you have to CREATE value!!!"
These savvy industry professionals get "it." We just need more people in the industry who think like this and present our industry this way.
How can you get "it?" There is help... you can read trade publications, attend webinars, or education experiences like FreePromoTips SuccessTracks and get involved in your Regional Association. Attending the industry's premier industry event, The PPAI Expo will have a positive impact on your business. Those who are serious about having a competitive advantage should attend this event. Register NOW!
We have two great SuccessTracks Education Experiences coming up. On October 10 the amazing Danny Rosin from Brand Fuel will share on "The Business Fulfillment Project." On October 25th, Phil Martin from Warwick will show you how you can "Create an Annuity for Your Business". More information and the links to register can be found here. Take advantage of these learning opportunities!
Jeff Solomon, MAS is affiliated with a Top 10 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 follow them on twitter and connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.