It is now September. Labor Day just slipped by. It is about 4 months until the end of the year and holiday sales should already be on the top of your to-do list. The challenges this Q4 are so significant that you need to get into action NOW.
Supply chain issues, transportation, daily pricing adjustments, delivery complications and labor shortages all are affecting how we need to work with our clients. The most significant change is that ‘just in time’ delivery, getting imprinted holiday business gifts to a client just in time for them to distribute at company events or send to recipients homes or offices, will likely lead to disaster this year.
Availability of goods will continue to be an issue. Suppliers are having trouble keeping up with needed inventory. The longer a client waits to secure their goods, the greater the chance they will not be available. This is also driving up prices as air shipping is becoming necessary to resupply vendors.
Next issue to be considered is staff reductions. Many suppliers thinned their staff in response to the pandemic and have not been able to get back to pre pandemic production schedules. Adding in the holiday volume and you can expect longer production time, few,if any, special offers like free setups or no cost second colors.
With so many “lemons” we should be able to make some great lemonade!
Many times marketing is a “solution looking for a problem”. Not so this year. Problems are abundant. Your marketing strategy with clients has already been written by the marketplace!
First point: Holiday business gifting is an absolutely great way to build loyal customers.
Second point: Ordering early will guarantee (maybe) availability of goods.
Third point: Ordering early will save money.
Fourth point: Your clients will have what they want when they need it.
Any clients that have done holiday gifts with you in the past should be the first people you contact. They already know that holiday gifting is an important part of their business planning. You are simply helping them move up the timing this year.
There are some choices that are less likely to have supply problems. Food gifts, from candy to fully cooked turkeys, nuts to gourmet cheeses, food gifts are some of the most appreciated gifts. USA made items might still have some production issues but the ocean and/or air shipping is not going to have an impact. While all suppliers imprint, some also manufacture what they sell rather than buying blanks. These suppliers generally always have inventory or they just make more!
You may encounter clients that are simply going to use gift cards this year. The logic is they are easy to mail, clients don't have to mess with handling goods. There are no inventory problems and everyone can get whatever they want. Your job will be to explain what a terrible idea that is without calling your client lazy and disingenuous!
Giving a gift that screams “obligation” rather than I’m thinking about you this holiday season, diminishes the total value of gifting. The lasting value of the gift (imprinted or not) is lost as the gift card might only be around until the next fill up at the gas station. Heightened perceived value is also lost. A client could give a quarter-zip pullover that is $25 purchased from you (our industry) that looks just like the $45 one at the pro shop. A $25 gift card is just $25 - period!
One other potential benefit of ordering early is that the gifting can be designed to coincide with Thanksgiving Day rather than the congestion of late December. Thanksgiving Day also provides a great opportunity to say thanks for past business at a time when most people are receptive to that sentiment. It allows the giver to avoid any PC (political correctness) blowback from “Happy Holidays” being to generac.
So put on some classic holiday music and crank up the air conditioning to a reasonable frigid temperature to get you in the mood and start working your way through your client list. If you wait for them to call you it might be too late.
Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at firstname.lastname@example.org.