Rare is the opportunity for suppliers to see their products in action. You create new products and market them to your distributors. You field requests for samples and you write quotes. You source products or you make them yourself. You carefully decorate them, box them up and ship them to an event. You have spent so much time and effort to produce and deliver tangible branding items, but you almost never see the most important part of the process: When that cared-for product is received. Not received by your distributor partners nor their end-buyer clients, but when that product is put into the welcoming hands of the final audience. Whether with the tradeshow attendee, the employee being recognized or the shopper incentivized by a gift-with-purchase, you have zero visibility on the final destination of your hard work.
And you miss the moment when the magic happens. You miss the reaction of the person getting something for free. You miss the effectiveness that you created in extending the reputation of a brand. You are absent at the time when your product matters most. Thus, it is quite possible that you don’t completely understand the value of your contributions to the world of effective marketing. And maybe more importantly, it is possible that the marketing you use to communicate to distributor clients is totally wrong.
“This one comes in 12 different colors!” “That one is new this year!” “These ones are on sale!”
When marketing like that, you reduce your products to being just “stuff.” News flash: No one needs more stuff. Brands don’t need to pay millions of dollars for stuff. Target audiences don’t need to fill their event bags with stuff. Distributors have no value by selling stuff.
Brands do need ways to communicate with their audience and encourage participation. Target audiences do need ways to learn more about their options as customers. Distributors do have value when being a good partner in enhancing and extending the brands of their clients. So why are you just selling stuff?
Want some insight? Attend a tradeshow outside our industry. Find promotional products being used to encourage purchasing in a retail setting. Start asking your distributors how these products are employed by their customers. Then you will understand my point. After spending the better part of a week at a massive tradeshow, I can tell you that brands using promotional products don’t care about stuff; they do care a lot about promotional products that help to draw a crowd, create excitement and extend relationships with their audience.
I was a supplier for a long time, and I know how easy it is to focus on the stuff and not on the result. Complicating the problem, many distributors don’t know how their clients are using the products; therefore, they are unable to provide you with an understanding for the true value of your products as vehicles for branding.
So you make catalogs with pictures of stuff, you fill webpages with beautiful images of stuff. But you miss the magic. Apologies if my tone is harsh, but I’m trying to wake you from a nightmare you don’t know you’re having. Your products are effective, they are valuable and, as I could see with my own eyes, they are coveted—both by brands and their audiences.
Find the marketing value in the products you make. Lead with that. Market that. Define yourself not by the stuff you make, but by the incredibly important role you play in creating effective promotions.