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We attended the ASI Orlando show in January and I got the unique chance join a few education sessions. I was especially intrigued by the session “Preventing Selling on Price.” The session quickly transitioned to a how-to on becoming an expert and go-to person for your clients. I personally couldn’t agree more with the strategy, but I saw a room full of 1,000 people that were struggling with how to do that.
The problem became really clear when the speaker asked a couple of questions. The first question asked, based on a show of hands, how many people have a blog. Again there were at least 1,000 people in the room and not a single hand went up. With this response, the speaker followed up with an additional question asking how many people do an email newsletter. This time there was a response of about 8 hands out of 1,000. This made me wonder how most distributors are going to market.
This post is designed to shed more light on this issue and give some solutions to promotional product distributors that are seeking ways to differentiate themselves. First and foremost, to be an expert or go-to person, you have to present yourself as an expert on what you are selling. It isn’t about the next hottest stylus pen or moisture-wicking polo. To be an expert, you have to provide ideas and solutions that help a company accomplish one thing, make money.
This is a true concept for any industry. It was first told to me by the Chairman of the Board of Astec Industries. Astec is roughly a $1 Billion company that sells heavy equipment for processing asphalt for the paving industry. Don Brock simply said, “We don’t make equipment and we don’t sell paving technology, we build solutions that help our customers make money. If they aren’t making money using our equipment then we aren’t going to be in business.”
If this rings true for someone that makes heavy equipment, then it couldn’t be more true for the promotional products industry. After all, promotion is in the name of our industry and a promotion involves an “activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim.” At least, that is what Google states. To put it another way, it is an activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of making your customers more successful or profitable.
Distributors that are simply pushing product are missing the chance for true clients and stable growth. The next time a customer asks you if you can get them a pen or t-shirt ask them for what it will be used and how they are going to use it. Then pitch them a solution that will help them accomplish their goal. Always be sure to present the product in a way that directly or indirectly contributes to what your customer wants to accomplish.
Customer: I need a pen.
Distributor: Where are you going to use the pen and what do you want to accomplish?
Customer: We are doing a trade show and I need a giveaway.
Distributor: That’s great, what type of trade show? Are you targeting a specific industry? What is the primary message you are trying to deliver at the show?
Customer: That is a great question. We are going to Dream Force which is the big show for Salesforce.com. We are pushing our new app that integrates our primary software platform with customers on SalesForce. We really want to showcase the ease of integration and the flexibility of the app.
Distributor: Sounds like a big opportunity. You need to consider something that the attendees will want to hang onto and the message needs to drive them to an action. Does the application on Salesforce also include an iPhone or Android app?
Customer: Actually, yes that is the big thing we are showing off at the show.
This conversation can go on to include the number of people they are expecting to come by the booth and the budget. At the end of it, the distributor has a host of information that allows them to provide a solution instead of a product. The solution goes all the way down to the level of tieing it all together through a call to action on the products imprint.
Asking these open ended questions will open up limitless conversations and earn referrals based on the simple fact that you are no longer the necessary evil but the person that helps them succeed. If you simply ask your customer how many they need and their budget, you are only going to be a commodity and it will always be a price war. It is the way your position the product towards their goals that will separate you from the pack.
So now you want to know what this all has to do with blogging and email blasts? It is simple, if you ask open ended questions, your customers will give you the information you need to write a valuable newsletter or blog post. Write about the solutions you presented and how you helped your customer reach their goals. Then supplement with content from other places. It is all legit if you simply provide a blurb about the content you want to share and directly link them to the original source. If you are strategic in what you present, your content will be specific to industries that you are targeting. In time, you will have built yourself into a go-to expert.
Let the new Gold Bond website make your next project easy! From finding tracking numbers to having invoices at your fingertips, the new Account Dashboard is designed to keep your order information easily accessible. If you haven’t logged in lately, try it today! We believe these features will be a key reason why you continue to rely on Gold Bond.
On July 15th, Promo Marketing magazine announced the winners of the 2014 Supplier Excellence Awards, with Gold Bond receiving Gold in the Golf Products category.
You can find the full story here.