I’ve had the pleasure of being part of the promotional products industry for just over 22 years. In that time, I’ve witnessed many displays of boldness as people started businesses, took risks, and tried to stay one step ahead of the competition by doing things differently. Sadly, this boldness is the exception and not the rule. In many ways, promotional products professionals have cornered the market on the phrase, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s been said countless times – if you do things the way they’ve always been done, you’ll get what you’ve always had. Whether you’re a distributor, supplier, or service provider in this industry, NOW is the time to dip a toe in the water of doing things that might make you a little uncomfortable:
Outsource – It’s impossible to have granular-level involvement in every corner of your organization and function optimally. Realize that you aren’t an expert at every aspect of your business - no one is. Outsourcing things like marketing, branding, web design, or social media to recognized experts will not only help you accelerate market penetration and grow sales, it will make you much more efficient and allow you to focus on long-term strategic plans. Leverage Partnerships – Strategic alliances with subject matter experts will allow you to rise above the noise. Find organizations you admire and work with them to understand how they have grown and overcome challenges. Many times they are the same challenges you currently face. Culture Club – Do you reallyunderstand the culture of your business and how it does (or doesn’t) align with both employees and clients? The reason companies retain talent is the same reason they have long-term relationships with clients: alignment of culture. This is another area where engaging an independent outside consultant can help you truly comprehend how your current culture impacts the business and how to alter it best to improve short and long-term results. Realize What You Sell – If you are a distributor in the promotional products industry in 2022 and still focused on selling products, you are making a disastrous decision. It’s time to realize that the end user doesn’t need another “source” for products as they are readily available from any number of competitors - on and offline. They want and need partners who are invested in solving their marketing/sales/HR issues through the creative use of branded merchandise, not those interested in selling them a product with a logo slapped on it. Products are the vehicle for the solution – a solution you need to create in partnership with the client – not merely the end result.
Times change, communication methods evolve, and the buying habits of our clients shift. It takes courage and grit to try new things, especially if one has a long track record of success. However, as in any business venture, if you don’t do uncomfortable things that allow you to grow, you’ll get the same results you’ve always had. Is that what you want?
My guess is no, so start by asking yourself, “when was the last time I did something for the first time?” Then, if you do that once a quarter and force yourself to do something you’ve never done before, the results will speak for themselves.