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I HAD to Write This

As a seasoned industry veteran (think old), and a writer, I am blessed to be able to put my thoughts, for whatever they are worth into words.

In this commentary, I’m going to touch on a couple of things that bug me, and maybe they bug you. These things are common in the industry, and it’s not likely that anything I write, or you think that will change things, but maybe it opens up some eyes to how certain practices are perceived.

At our recent regional trade show, I unfortunately missed the opportunity to opt out of pre-show e-mails. Some may love these, but I don’t. Come visit us in booth 123 does not motivate me to visit a company in booth 123. Why? What do you offer that is compelling?

Of course, there are special deals and samples which can be attractive. But these things aren’t the motivating factor for me. Trade show time is valuable, and I want to use it to connect with my supplier partners and look for what is new and exciting. I probably won’t find new and exciting in the flood of pre-show e-mails because they are impersonal and anything shared of value will probably be lost.

I understand that suppliers are simply trying to maximize their trade show investment, and this is an easy, inexpensive way to reach attendees. But is it effective? Not for me. What’s an option? How about an old-fashioned, personal PHONE CALL? I’d be so stunned if a supplier called, I would visit them and want to learn more about their line. In our industry we talk about “lumpy mailing,” yet few do it. It is expensive but can be effective.

There is no easy answer for suppliers to connect with distributors, but another thing that would help is to be truthful in their marketing efforts.

To that point, as part of the trade show shotgun marketing strategy, some suppliers send follow up e-mails thanking me for stopping by their booth. I didn’t visit these booths. Some share that it was nice to meet me. I didn’t meet them.

Beyond this last flurry of e-blasts from my regional show in California, I’m now getting e-mails from suppliers thanking me for visiting them at the HPPA Association in Texas: “It was great meeting you at the HPPA Show yesterday!” You are welcome, but I was not in Texas, I was away at the beach with my wife in California for our 25th Anniversary.

Most of us have experienced these marketing “strategies.” Honesty and integrity are business traits that are important. These are traits that play a role in who I choose to do business with. Suppliers who market this way are generally not on my list.

I understand that these companies and reps are doing the very best job they can. Their contact management software may be failing them. I don’t mean to be too critical, but some may not even realize that there can be a negative impact on this strategy.

The volume of e-blasts also needs touched on. How many impersonal e-blasts are enough? Some suppliers send multiple times a week. How does that support a mutually beneficial supplier/distributor relationship?

Spamming the target audience with insincere, generic e-mails may not be the most effective way to achieve the goal of generating business. I love our supplier partners, but because this has been done for years and it’s cheap, it may not translate to being useful communication. In some ways, it negatively impacts any relationship we might have.

The point, which should be relevant for distributors and suppliers, has to do with being authentic in our marketing efforts. We are in the business of selling products. Many suppliers sell similar products, and all distributors have access to the same products, so what stimulates a buying decision? There are many factors, but one I believe has to do with being authentic in how we choose to connect.

This is what is behind the FreePromoTips Character Counts focus, where suppliers share about their company character and values, not just their products.

In a crowded marketplace, company culture, character, and values count.

Take it for what it's worth. Sorry, I HAD to write this.

© 2018 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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