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Every year for Promo Marketing's Top Distributors feature (out now!), I interview a handful of presidents and CEOs from the top-earning companies. It's one of my favorite parts of my job. I guess I shouldn't be surprised given the subjects' statures, but I'm still always amazed at how interesting and insightful these executives are in their interviews. Their personal anecdotes, how they perceive the industry and business overall, and what they credit their success to, it's all so fascinating to me.
Unfortunately, print space in the magazine is finite and I can never print all the interviews I want. Interviews get shortened so they'll fit on the page, or sometimes dropped entirely. This year, my interview with Jason Black, CEO of Boundless Network (#19 on this year's list), was cut from print due to space, which is a shame since he's routinely one of my favorite interviews every year.
My entire interview with Black is reproduced below.
Promo Marketing (PM): How did you get your start in the promotional industry?
Jason Black (JB): My early mentor, Frank Krasovec, who was the Founder of Norwood.
PM: What changes do you see in the near future for the promotional industry, and what impact do you see them having?
JB: This industry is long overdue for change—and potentially a complete transformation—within 10 years. As for the immediate changes within the next 24 months, I see the following: 1) Technology playing a larger role in the customer/buyer experience (millennial buyers want more than a pretty face) and 2) Successful B-to-C players that have built a successful business in an ancillary industries will start to "dip their toe" into the $20B promotional space. Their mindset: "The promo industry is completely fragmented (and dominated by mom-pops ) ... we can take market share."
The impact will be similar to transformation in the travel agent business in the early 2000s. My belief is: 1) Traditional mom-pop distributors with no strong technology backbone will continue to lose market share (and eventually be limited to boutique merchandise needs) 2) Outsiders that have expertise in both the B-to-C space and business process will drive a new consumer experience that will be more consumable than the offline mom/pop services and 3) A player like Alibaba could come in and displace the supplier network which would have major negative implications to the distributors core service.
PM: Could you describe the B-to-C companies you're talking about more?
JB:Yes, but I will not mention any names. There are several very large B-to-C businesses that have build great technology for low quantity product offerings (stuff consumers want). Over the last 5 years, these B-to-C companies have started to hit their ceiling with their core line of business ... thus now starting to evaluate new markets to expand their platform. The promotional product industry is the perfect "play" for a large player to take significant market share. They see an industry that is dominated by mom-and-pops with very low barriers to entry and very limited technology ... and their mouth starts to salivate.
PM: What's one trait of your company that you think has made it such a success, and why do you think it's had such an impact?
JB: Two-fold—our vision and culture. Both feed off each other ... with a strong commitment to innovation and a continual quest to leverage technology to provide a higher level of value to both the end-customers and our distributor partners (sales organization), we are committed to being the leader (currently have 4 patents around our GroupBuy and Portal Platform) in this category and will continue to invest as we learn from our customers' needs (those pesky millennial buyers).
From a culture standpoint, our focus is on partnering with sales partners that are frustrated with the traditional barriers within the industry.
To see more interviews from the Top Distributors feature, click here.