According to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), there were 23,021 promotional products distributors in 2015 (2016 numbers will publish soon).That means 23,021 different companies you can choose to buy promotional products.
However, not all distributors are created equal. As with every industry, there are great companies, mediocre companies, and bad companies from which to choose. The promotional products industry is no different.
I’m more interested in being a great company that offers much more than simply a place to buy promos. I want my company to be extraordinary. I want our employees to be excited to do their jobs so they pour that excitement into developing awesome marketing campaigns for our clients. I’m interested in going way above the typical eCommerce website that only offers a point and click service to buy promotional items.
So how do you identify a great distributor with which you want to do business?
Part of choosing the right promotional products distributor includes knowing some of the bad habits of promotional products distributors, which are often red flags that limit their creativity and may negatively impact the quality of the suppliers they use for your promotional items.
Bad Habits of Promotional Products Distributors
- Low Balling Their Pricing – Sure, sometimes it is appropriate to lower a price; however, if all of their pricing is too good to be true, I can promise you it’s low for a reason. With a minimal profit margin, that distributor can’t afford the appropriate amount of staff to monitor your order to make sure the final product is just right. Additionally, you have to watch out for product substitutions, which some distributors will do. They replace the product you ordered with a cheaper substitute from a sub-par manufacturer. Distributors who charge abnormally low prices cheapen their reputation, which requires them to take shortcuts that cheapens the experience and overall results for their clients. It’s important to have fair pricing that creates a win-win for both the company and the client.
- No Regard For Product Safety – It’s true that the majority of promotional product distributors have no real concern for product safety. It never crosses their mind. They are overly focused on getting the sale. They never take the time to ensure sufficient testing has been done when necessary. The best distributors eliminate the thousands of promotional product manufacturers who don’t focus on product safety leaving only high quality, safe products available.
- Poor Communication – Effective communication is a key indicator of a true professional. Promotional product professionals should be effective in answering your questions, rather than short, cryptic answers that are vague and easily misinterpreted.
- Slow To Respond – As a consumer, you need what you need when you need it. That means you don’t want to wait days on end for a response. When you have questions about products, you should receive answers within a timely manner. You should be able to get a call back or response to an email quickly. If you don’t, it may be foreshadowing a pattern of long response times, which could mean missing your deadline.
- Lack of Connections With Other Industry Professionals – I love meeting other promotional products professionals. In fact, I don’t consider other industry professionals competitors. There is plenty of business to go around, so I prefer to collaborate and learn from others within the industry as much as possible. However, I have met so many distributors who have no real connections with other professionals within the industry. This lack of connection limits their industry knowledge and restricts their ability to help clients with the latest trends from around the country.
- Poor Listener – If you constantly have to repeat yourself to your current distributor or if his answers don’t answer your question, it may be time to find a better listener. In order to meet your goals, active listening is critical. Effective use of promotional products is much more than simply supplying a product. It has to do with matching the right product at the right time with your subset of recipients.
The promotional products industry is shifting from uninspiring commodity dealers toward creative agencies. In order for your company to stand out among competitors, it’s all about who is using the promotional items in a more creative way. Putting multiple items together in nicely branded packaging is much more effective than simply handing someone a pen or coffee mug.
Using those promotional items in a way that encourages engagement with your customers and prospects is more meaningful and, therefore, more memorable. You don’t get that service from someone who simply sells promotional products. You only get that from a creative agency who understands how to effectively intertwine the world of promo and advertising into a stimulating campaign that makes your company memorable.