Recently you certainly got the news that our wonderful Promotional Products Media industry was back to pre-pandemic sales figures. Totally great news! Not surprising however because what was characterized as “lost” sales resulting from lock-downs, canceled meetings and lots of working from home, was actually “delayed” sales, not lost.
New categories of merchandise (PPE) flowed through our distributors which buffered sales totals and gave a few significant increases. As the “new normal” set in, businesses that had been regular users of promotional products media returned.
We also know that quite a few people decided to leave the industry and the business they left behind was quickly picked up by those that remained.
My financial advisor said that if he only had to have client meetings once every three years, everyone would be happy! His point is that looking at marketplace activity on a shorter schedule makes us all uneasy with the ups and downs of the market. So I took a 20 year look at the promotional products media industry.
In 2003 the retail total was about $16 billion. Last year that total was $26.3 billion. Those are huge exciting numbers. Inflation in our industry over this period would generate $25.5 billion alone, so our industry saw just a 3% real growth over those years. The entire US economy experiences an average 2.47% per year inflation rate with an accumulated inflation of 59.05% or a loss of 4.05%. So our industry beat the overall market by 7% over a 20 year run!
It is the actual growth of only 3% that matters. It shows that we operate in a finite market. There are only two ways for your business to grow, increase your sales and your income. You either have to take that business from someplace else, or find a business relationship that gives you more time with clients and a greater portion of profits. Keep in mind that Promotional Products Media competes with many other advertising and marketing options our clients/customers have. If you want to gain a greater amount of the market share, you have to be more attractive to your client.
What is attractive?
The immediate answer I received from almost everyone was price. While obviously price will always be a consideration, it is not enough for you to be attractive. Anyone can meet or beat your price. You are also competing for the slice of budget allocated for “promotional” rather than the entire marketing budget. Here are eight tips on being more attractive.
Consider the DIY (Do It Yourself) customer a commodity sale. If they have already decided on ‘giving away’ coffee mugs, sell them mugs. If you think you can apply the same budget to greater effect, certainly make the suggestion, but tread gently when telling your customer you have a better idea!
Be accessible. Hand writing your cell number on the back of your business card makes your client feel important and you more attractive.
Be proactive. Just as wellness checkups have become the norm in keeping you healthy, checking in with your client to find out how their business is doing and what marketing they are planning or thinking about in the near future, will make you more attractive.
A phone call beats an email or text. One study found that a two minute phone call is 10 times more effective at building business relationships.
Use your media. Every item you use to promote your business is actually another demonstration of the effectiveness of our media - and you get it wholesale!
Use social media with caution! Avoid personal info. What you might know from private contact has no place out in public. Mentioning that it was great seeing Bob at the golf course when he was supposed to be elsewhere, will not make your client too happy!
Make referrals. Everyone loves to get referrals. Giving them to clients will be a big step towards attractiveness.
Establish a schedule of contact with your client. A weekly (or monthly) short newsletter is an easy way to stay top of mind with your clients.
Always keep in mind the sage advice that “People do business with people they want to do business with”. Be that person.
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 email@example.com.