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Thoughts from a PPAI Hall of Famer…

It was nice to spend some time catching up with longtime industry friend and PPAI Hall of Famer, Wayne Greenberg, MAS. As we were talking about life and the state of the promotional products industry, I started to scribble some notes to capture some relevant information being discussed. I realized there were some nuggets here.

Several years ago, my son came to the PPAI Expo to help me with live video streaming of education session for PPAI. I came up with the idea to do a FreePromoTips “Raving Fans” at the video featuring short clips from a variety of people running around the Expo, including Wayne and some other industry leaders. Having produced relevant content since 2005, we have a few “Raving Fans.“ My son’s comment was, “Dad, your friends are old.” Right…and now we are older.

Are the views of seasoned industry veterans relevant in today’s evolving marketplace? I think they are. Here are a few thoughts from our conversation. You decide.

The landscape of buyers is changing. There is much talk about reaching these generations. The Promotional Products Association International, (PPAI) has addressed this a variety of ways, including creating the SPARK Conference that is geared towards the younger movers and shakers in our industry. This event differs from the “traditional” conferences that “older” people attend. I want to go to SPARK! I love hanging out with the cool, forward-thinking young people. Here’s some useful information on the characteristics of each generation. We should understand how each generation of buyers thinks.

Today’s distributor’s and suppliers need to adapt to a continually developing marketplace. We need to understand evolving trends and communication styles. This has been talked about for years, but how many are changing their marketing strategies? Product e-blasts have their place, but are they as effective in 2018 as they were in 2008? The business building strategies we have used in the past may not be as effective today.

Ideas and relationships matter. Clients and prospects may look to the web because they don’t know where to go for “stuff.” I addressed some of this in my commentary The Big Bad Wolf or Poster-on-the-Wall Impressive? This piece touches on Amazon and how comfortable we are buying online. (In this commentary I reveal that I bought a bed online. I would NEVER have done this a year ago.)

Face Time. In today’s fast-paced marketplace, we get less face time with clients. We need to understand the communication method of their choice. Many clients prefer text over e-mail. Some still prefer a phone call…and then there’s the good old fashioned “take-your-client-to-lunch.”

Tech Tools. What tech tools are you using that enable you to be most effective in your business?

People want to be led. Distributors who are just focusing on the “stuff” will be challenged. We all know people can buy their promo stuff online with a few clicks.

Buyers will turn to you for help if you bring tangible benefits to the table. For that to happen, a company needs to be effective at showcasing their value proposition. What do YOU bring to the client? Can you offer programs or creative services?

Tools like SuccessFit4Life! are available to distributors who are looking for different ways to enhance client relationships and increase sales in the hot health and wellness market.

SuccessFit4Life! includes a custom distributor website and marketing materials you can personalize to help you sell wellness programs and fundraising events. In place of any fee to All American Marketing Group who created the SuccessFit4Life! program you are invited to donate to the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), or a non-profit organization of your choice. This is not required, but supporting worthy causes is at the core of this program. We are also passionate about the impact that wellness has on peoples’ personal and professional lives, so we have made the program easily accessible. Contact us for details.

Whatever happened to the big focus on “green?” Environmentally friendly products are still important, but is this focus helping attract sales for distributors? What are suppliers and distributors doing to address “green?”

Wayne mentioned carbon offsets that his company, Geiger, implemented a few years ago. Geiger is very focused on this initiative and making a difference with their carbon footprint. Information on their Green Initiatives can be found here. This is part of Geiger's business DNA, and they are having a positive impact on the environment.

How will environmental and social responsibility impact your business?

Product Safety. A distributor friend of mine disagrees with me about this topic. He thinks product safety is a trumped-up thing and people don’t care about it. I believe that delivering quality safe products is essential to the supply chain. PPAI, and organizations like the Quality Certification Alliance, (QCA) have worked diligently providing education and best practice standards that, to my way of thinking, are critical to the health of our industry.

There have been a few high-profile product recalls that have made everyone look bad with significant consequences. The TA Creations 10-million-dollar judgment comes to mind:

"We are shocked that a company would knowingly sell lead-tainted lunchboxes intended for California's children," said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based nonprofit group. "The judgment sends a strong signal that companies that put our children's health at risk will pay the price."

Most businesses don’t want on the wrong side of something like this. It’s the job of the distributor and the supplier to protect the client’s brand.

All industries face challenges. Some challenges remain the same, and others evolve as a result of economic, cultural and changing business conditions. Experience is an excellent teacher. Innovation, driven by fresh thinking as we adapt to the next generations mindset, will continue to establish promotional products as a powerful marketing tool.

© 2018 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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