Your Vendors as Partners

Your Vendors as Partners | PromoKitchen Chef Marshall Atkinson

Does price-only drive your search for vendors for your company?

While there is always attention to the notion of the importance of price in any business relationship, in the promotional item industry it is squarely focused on the idea of obtaining end column pricing.  I personally think, however,  there should be more value placed on the idea of building your relationship with your supply chain as partners in your success.

Stop for a minute and think about what you do all day.

Are you just the go between and pricing gopher for your customers when they need some t-shirts, magnets, pens, or coffee cups? Or, are you positioning yourself to be the person that has relationships in the industry that can help deliver solutions to challenges or produce creative ideas that will wow clients and their end-users?

I’m sure you’ve read articles before about “building value” and “positioning for trust", but what do you think those statements mean?

Part of what is encompassed in these statements means having a stable of go-to companies in your supply chain that are experts in their field. They have highly successful companies and the creative talent they employ constantly pushes the envelope with decoration techniques. They are master craftsmen, and they can engineer a solution to just about any problem thrown their way. 

What are they not? They are not the cheapest. They are usually packed with orders on their schedule, so they are busy. They don’t suffer fools lightly either. If they are any good, they will tell you “No” if you present something they can’t handle, that’s not in their price range, or technically impossible. Believe it or not, that’s an answer you want to hear. It means these master craftsman know their business.

So, why should you seek these companies out? The ones that aren’t the cheapest and that are always super busy?

You should seek them out because they will make you look like a superstar to your clients. These companies believe in best industry practices. They are the ones that pioneer new decoration techniques and seek out cutting edge equipment. They go beyond what other companies in their fields even think about.

Did your customer just ask you to do something you’ve never heard of, or you think is impossible? These guys nailed the solution to that problem on a job they did three months ago.  

So, where am I going with this?

I want you to have more conversations. Don’t just shoot off an email and get a quote like you did yesterday and the day before. Take a few minutes and call your vendor and discuss not only your current project, but what’s going on in their chunk of the industry. What’s the new thing? What regulation or legislation is going to affect them this year? What creative idea do they have that could make your next order stand out from the competition? What has been the best selling thing in their world in the past three or four months? How are they emphasizing safety or sustainability in their products or process? What can they do to make your life easier? What can you do differently to make it easier for them to produce your orders?

Why are these conversations important? They are important because creativity and information are king. Any goofball can present a lower quote than the next guy. It’s not hard to be cheaper. A better idea? Something more creative? An elegant solution? Craftsmanship and top quality production, shipped to meet your deadlines? Those are insanely more difficult. The only way that you get to those types of solutions is by networking and having robust conversations with people that know what they are doing and that do things in their trade better than anyone else.

These are things that you can’t learn just by shopping for answers on a website. Think about this industry as a neighborhood. The only way you know anything about your neighbors is to get out and introduce yourself.

Neighbors discussing common problems and interests can collectively help foster change, discover new alliances, and make new friends. If you talk to enough people, you get a better sense of the neighborhood. Who can help you? Who can you turn to when there’s a big challenge looming? Your new neighborhood friends can introduce you to other potential partners too. That’s how our neighborhood grows.

Or, don't, and you can be like that weird old cat lady that never talks to anyone. She just does her own thing because she’s content to just be isolated in her space with the smell of tuna and cat litter. The cat lady just uses search engine based price lists and answers to solve all her problems and then wonders why her business never grows and why she still has the same problems and frustrations she had yesterday and will continue to have tomorrow. 

Don’t be like the cat lady. Have more conversations. Partner with better people. Sell more wow.