Many of you may know that my faith and values are important to me. Reluctantly, I must share that I've done something I normally don't do. I lied.
In addition to publishing FreePromoTips.com, I’m a distributor. These days, I focus on my key accounts and referrals. In the past, I was very active in our local business scene.
Through the years, networking has been a big part of growing my business.
Recently, a friend asked me to help with a Chamber networking event at a very cool venue not in my community. It has been a while since I have done something like this, but being of service is seemingly in my DNA. I was happy to help and went with a business building mindset. You never know who you might meet at an event like this.
Everyone has a different style of connecting at such gatherings, but some of the intro lines took me by surprise. One man asked me “What do you enjoy doing?” Catching me off guard, I almost jokingly replied, “Long walks on the beach, a candlelit dinner and soft music.” Instead, I fumbled through an acceptable answer that led to a conversation about motorcycles.
Another one that threw me was, “How do you like to shop?” That was a thought provoking question. My wife works with an amazing business, The Grocery Game and is a superstar shopper. Two days before, she bought a pizza, salad, and buns at our market for NOTHING. Typically, we save 50-60% on groceries and I shared that, but FREE is pretty good.
I wasn’t sure what would come next, but the question was, “How do you buy consumables, like soap?” Here again, I had an answer, explaining the way The Grocery Game works is by matching coupons with the items on the sale item list they prepare. This enables us to save big money on laundry soap, toothpaste and “consumables”. That’s the truth. It’s simple. Come to find out, this lady wanted to sell me home delivery of soap and other stuff that I believe was a multi-level marketing program. My solid answer saved me from a further “text book” marketing pitch.
When approached by financial planners, insurance salesman, and contractors, I found it easier to simply say my brother-in-law was in that particular business. I confess that these were lies. In reality, there was no harm done and it saved them time they wouldn’t waste on me. This experience did get me thinking about how networking and showcasing our businesses is done. A few years ago, I wrote a commentary entitled, I Won a Chip Clip and Invested 100K!
It was a snarky piece touching on how business expo vendors often give away “stuff” just to give away stuff, regardless of it being effective in conveying their desired message. I did win a chip clip on a wheel spin game at an investment brokers booth…but I did not invest 100K with the company. Even if I had 100K lying around, what had the company done to earn my trust in sensitive financial matters? What did they do to show me they were good at what they did? They gave me a chip clip.
While our business is in many ways about selling “stuff”, it’s also about providing marketing and branding solutions. There is nothing revolutionary in that thinking. You can make a case for why, as distributors we should show our “stuff” at expo type events. But for me, I’ve never wanted to be known as that person.
Many years ago, we created a Marketing Toolbox concept…all the tools you need to build your business. Our booth was a business construction theme with a real A-frame road sign and a flashing yellow light. We created “Business Construction Zone Ahead!” signs and talked about our ability to provide the right tools help businesses grow.
Our Marketing Toolbox presented our branding message with promotional products like screwdrivers, stress hammers, compressed tool shaped t-shirts, all with relevant imprints, like measuring tapes/levels with the message: "Business Measuring Up? Let Us Take You to a New Level!" These were often delivered in a toolbox graphic printed cardboard box that supported our “Let Us Help Build Your Marketing Toolbox" message. We won a PPAI Pyramid Award and an ASI Spirit Award for this branding program.
This positioning has served us well. At networking functions I’ve been known as “Marketing Tool Guy.” I’m OK with people asking about getting the screwdrivers and other products I consistently hand out because my overall brand of being a marketing expert has also been delivered. I prefer that positioning over being the guy who “sells the promo stuff” and handing out products that don’t really convey a consistent brand message.
At one point in the evening I was able to share some creative ideas with someone who approached me to sell security services. He said he was in a networking group with a promo products person who never shared anything like what suggested to him.
He commented on the MAS (Master Advertising Specialist) designation on my card and noted that it seemed I really knew my stuff. I am good at what I do, because I have invested time in learning to better serve our clients. We all can learn by taking advantage of education opportunities and attending trade shows. Come to find out, this security business was open to buying promotional marketing, but no one had been able to suggest the right products. Probably because no one was talking to him about what his message really was and how to deliver it. That’s sad really.
Volunteering at this business event was fun and quite eye opening. I confess I lied to save some people time trying to sell me something I wasn’t going to buy, but I don’t carry any guilt for that.
This was a very positive experience for me. It reaffirmed the benefits of not being a typical promotional products distributor. I have positioned myself as a solutions provider; able to demonstrate the ability I have to help business and organizations. To be effective doing this, I move beyond the selling “stuff” positioning and think creatively. We all will benefit from thinking outside the box in how we share our value proposition.
© 2014 Jeff Solomon, MAS