Top 10 ways to grow sales of promotional products

If you’re a newcomer to the promotional products industry, and looking for a good foundation from which to start selling advertising specialties, there are some lessons all successful distributors have learned.

With help from the Facebook ‘Promotional Product Professionals’ group, here are our top 10 picks:

1.    Know WHY you want to sell promotional products.

There’s a brilliant TED talk by Simon Sinek where he demonstrates the power a brand has when it puts the ‘why’ at the center of the business. This is not a corporate or even a practical objective. It’s a from-the-heart sentiment.

Watch the talk to help identify your ‘why’, and when you do, you must be both able to communicate it, and actually communicate it in everything you do.

Do promotional products work2.    Be armed with facts and figures.

You need to understand the value of promotional products in order to persuade someone that these are a better use of their budget than, say, an Adwords campaign or newspaper advert. Stats of the sort shown in this amazing infographic from Dynamic Designs.

If you have any graphic design skills, do some research and create your own infographics – it’s the sort of content that builds brand awareness and boosts credibility.

3.    Get educated about print methods.

Most people know you can’t embroider a mug (well, durr!), but what about the difference between debossing and embossing? Do you know what print methods are best for what product, and how can this affect the client’s logo?

You don’t need to have all of the answers right away, but you need to have some of them so you can make recommendations to your clients. I found this article from IMS Branded Solutions helpful.

4.    Select a small number of suppliers and get to know them.

Not all suppliers are going to be ideal partners for you, and some have fairly long-winded processes for setting up a trade account, which you don’t want to be doing after your client has placed an order.

So pick a small number of suppliers – as few as 5 to start with – and ask to open a trade account. If they request additional proof that you’re a genuine distributor, you can sign up for a free UPIC number which identifies you as such.

If they’re local, see if they offer factory tours, or have a representative who can meet with you to talk you through what they have to offer. You’re effectively their field sales staff, so it’s in their interests to help you out.

If you have no idea where to start when it comes to selecting suppliers, I’d suggest the QCA accredited suppliers.

Promoto Marketing on iPad5.    Invest time in your website.

A lot of distributors win business through networking and word of mouth, which is great, but it doesn’t help you when a stranger happens across your website for the first time.

If their first impression of your company isn’t positive, you’ll most likely never get the opportunity to speak to them.

Your website is your digital sales person. It needs to be presentable and engaging. It needs to give people a reason to buy from you when they have 1000s of other options.

Invest the time in compelling home and ‘about us’ page content (based on the ‘why’), and above all make it easy for people to contact you.

6.    Leverage your existing network.

If you already sell a service to businesses, contact them to let them know that you have a new string to your bow, and invite them to contact you about their next campaign requirements. If they already trust you as a provider, they’ll at the very least be intrigued to learn about your additional services.

If you don’t have a gigantic customer base, take the time to send personal messages via email or LinkedIn. They’re more likely to get a favorable response than a mass email.

7.    Flex your consultancy muscles.

“Order takers” are a dying breed, because customers who know what they want are going online to get it. Customers who don’t know what they want are seeking a deeper consultancy experience where their problems are discussed, and several solutions presented.

So on the face of it, distributors have a choice to make: to learn how to optimize your website to get a bigger share of the online ordering pie, or to seek out customers who are looking for a consultant.

In reality, a successful distributor needs to be able to do both. The convenience of internet shopping is attracting more and more B2B buyers, and you can’t afford to ignore that.

Your website should be working away alongside you, bringing in those quick, easy deals, while you’re investing your time in the bigger clients who warrant and require a personalized approach.

Social media engagement8.    Use Social Media for the purpose for which it was intended.

Waaaay too many distributors have a Facebook page where once a day (at most) they’ll post a link to a popular product on their website, and that’s it. Uh, it’s called SOCIAL media. That means it’s a conversation, not a billboard or an advert.

I have to be honest, I’m not as good at social media as people 5, 10 years younger than me. But my (10 years-younger-than-me) team educated me about the right way to do it.

It’s about liking and commenting and sharing your customers’ posts (believe me, if they’re a small business too, they will notice you doing this).

It’s about posting content that if your customers were to share it, would make them look good / funny / educated.

What it is not is a pitch for your services. Pretty much ever, unless you have something exciting to share about your business, or a kick-ass promotion they’d be mad to miss. It’s digital networking, and the opportunity to humanize your brand.

9.    Faithfully record all conversations in a CRM system.

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a simple enough concept. By recording information (size, industry, how they market their business etc.) about your customers in a software program, you can invest your time better in the most promising and profitable leads.

Moreover, once you start to build up a database of prospects, you’ll be able to create mailing lists based on shared criteria.

CRM SoftwareA simple example is to send everyone in healthcare an email promotion on pill boxes, pedometers and stress toys.

A more fun example would be to send everyone in your home town a promotion on appropriately colored stadium cups, flags and cushions a few weeks before a big game. Even if they’re not in the market, they’ll most likely appreciate the sense of community.

Start out as you mean to go on, otherwise you’ll end up with a huge pile of business cards with notes scribbled on the back, that you never get around to entering into your computer.

10.    Never stop learning.

Promo Marketing sends out a daily newsletter with news and articles from the industry, and has a great print publication too. The experienced distributors and suppliers who contribute to PromoKitchen’s newsletters will open your eyes to new ways to engage with customers.

The Customer Focus blog, if we do say so ourselves, has a bunch of well-researched content specifically designed to help you succeed, the best of which gets collated into a weekly newsletter. All are free.

If you’re a distributor and you have other suggestions for our readers, or just want to feedback on the above, please leave a reply!

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