The Times They Are A Changing
This past Friday we launched a new feature on the FreePromoTips Facebook Page called "Happy Hour Friday (Because It's 5 O'clock Somewhere)." Each Friday we encourage industry people to post anything they want there. It can be serious, funny, videos, insightful quotes, business horror stories, supplier promotions ... whatever! The best post wins an iTunes card.
In the end, a post by Mark Flyten from Image Builders in Minnesota was our first Happy Hour Friday winner. Mark shared a marketing focused rewrite of Bob Dylan's classic song, "The Times They Are A Changing." Understanding that we are living in a season of change is something we will continue to address and Mark's post gives us the opportunity to do it again. Thanks and congratulations Mark!
Change is something that many of us have a hard time with. And times they are a changing for our industry. In fact, I truly believe the way our industry operates now is fast becoming obsolete. That may sound harsh, but please hear me out.
Our industry is faced with many challenges. Legislation and product safety issues create new obstacles to overcome. The long-standing supplier/distributor relationship that has been the cornerstone of how we do business is in jeopardy. Overseas factories are courting the larger accounts to sell them direct. Distributors will continue to go direct to the factories when it best suits their needs. End-user buyers often shop online where they can find a cheaper price from a company who can operate on a tighter margin than the "promotional consultant" with a family to feed and overhead to meet.
In an economy that is being crushed by outrageous fuel prices and tighter budgets, sometimes it is all about price. While many of us built our businesses on relationships, creativity and quality service, it's painful to think that these things may not mean so much in this new economy.
Some of you might be thinking I am being just a bit negative. But actually, I see it as being realistic about what's happening in our industry. For the most part we continue on as if everything is the same when it's not. As long as we ignore the changes happening today and continue to do business as we have done in the past, we will just become obsolete.
As a person of faith and vision, what I see is not a negative viewpoint, but an opportunity! There are huge opportunities for those who can embrace and adapt to change instead of resisting or ignoring it.
Like many of you, I have been in business long enough to feel somewhat comfortable with my past success, and that's dangerous. Instead I choose to see the new reality and have taken our company into directions that work well in these changing times.
One big change is in the way the world is communicating. Communication is taking place more and more on social media sites. This causes anxiety for many. There seem to be two distinct camps: people who get it and people who don't. It takes time to learn something new and most of us don't have the time or the desire to explore these rapidly changing communication strategies. I truly believe however, we need to adapt or not survive.
Both distributors and suppliers want to embrace it but are looking for immediate gratification in the form of sales and typically that doesn't happen. Social media is about engagement and content. A few supplier companies do a great job on social media and it's been very effective for them. However, many more are doing it poorly, making me cringe at their misplaced efforts.
Distributors are discovering new ways to create interaction with clients and prospects, too. Many are having great success by building their online communities. They are being creative, using video and contests to stand apart from their competitors.
When my wife was a sales manager at a large company many years ago, the principle asked her, "Do you think there is anything to this World Wide Web thing?" We know the answer to that question and can ask a similar question now. Do you think there is anything to this social media thing? How you answer the question may determine your future in business.
Companies that choose to embrace and adapt to change will be the companies who will thrive in the new economy. Going back to our Happy Hour Friday contest entry winner, we should note that Bob Dylan was a strong voice and proprietor for change during the 1960s. Social order in the 1960s is relatable to businesses growth in the present ... the times they are a changing.
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