It seems like just yesterday we were scraping New Year’s Eve confetti off our shoes and checking the weather for snowstorms. But, thanks to time’s ability to fly, 2019 is almost over. And many distributors are deep in the throes of planning for their fourth quarter sales. If you’re not, that’s OK! But now is the time to start thinking about what your clients are looking for at year’s end.
Oftentimes, customers need gifts for not only employees, but customers and clients of their own. This can mean appreciation gifts, employee recognition and more. Thankfully, this can be a wide variety of products for you to offer.
Think about items like custom-printed cards wishing them a happy holiday or thanking them for their patronage. Think snack tins to find the quickest route to their hearts. Or, how about a neat little electronic device to harbor some goodwill during the holiday season?
The choice of what you offer is up to you and your client. But, just like pro basketball or football players, your presence in the fourth quarter could be a make-or-break moment in your career. Let’s get it right together, shall we?
To provide a little inspiration and wisdom, we spoke with Tom Riordan, president of Maple Ridge Farms, Mosinee, Wis., about what items are popular in his own company, and what end-buyers are looking for as the year winds down.
It’s Not What, It’s When
You might be thinking that you have to pull out all the stops and impress your end-buyers with something flashy. It’s like how parents end up trampling each other and getting into fist fights on Black Friday over the toy that’s been dubbed the “hot new thing.” No one wants to do that, right? Riordan said that it’s not so much that distributors should be selling specific products as year-end gifts—they should just know that the certain items they sell all year long grow in popularity seemingly overnight.
“Our gifts that are priced between $10 (C) and $20 (C) are popular year-round as gifts for sales meetings and other events,” Riordan said. “During the fourth quarter, they explode.”
For Maple Ridge Farms, those items include English butter toffee, chocolate sea salt caramels or roasted cashews, all packaged in a gift box and ribbon. With your client’s branding on the box, it automatically jumps up from any other snack to a memorable gift from a valued partner.
That’s where Riordan says you can differentiate yourself from the competition. Chances are, you sell products that other distributors can also provide. In the supplier world, there are plenty of other companies that sell candy, chocolates or even deli meats as branded gifts. No one has a monopoly on these things.
But what you can do is sell them better. You can make the whole experience more special, and you can deliver it in a way that makes your client look good. After all, if they look good, their customers give them more business as a show of appreciation. That all but guarantees repeat orders for you, the distributor.
Riordan’s personal experience comes from specializing in food, but the advice rings true for electronics, apparel, drinkware—you name it.
“Be proactive!” he enthused. “Customers think of you for promotional products, not food gifts. They immediately think of companies like Harry & David, Hickory Farms, Mrs. Fields and the other giant food gift companies. If you want their business, and you should—companies spend $7.2 billion on food gifts with an average order of $2,500 (C)—you need to be proactive and explain to them that you are their best source for food gift programs. Don’t wait for them to contact you, because they won’t.”
If you’re not already familiar with the concept of a company store, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Companies like Amazon offer branded items, such as apparel, bags, water bottles, etc., for their employees. A lot of the time, companies implement incentive programs for employees to cash in points for branded merchandise at the end of the year.
Some of you might think, “Why would someone who works for a company spend their hard-earned cash on branded merchandise for that same company?” That’s a valid question. But, the answer is that these companies have been creative enough to offer items their employees actually want to buy.
Back in April, Whataburger tied in an annual, employee-only event with a branded merchandise stand, and it was so popular that one person bought all of the shoes that were available. In March, Tesla launched an employee-only pop-up shop as a form of employee appreciation. Because the prices of jackets, caps, tote bags and more were heavily discounted, the items flew off the shelves.
This results in employees who want to spend their paychecks on items with their employer’s logo on it. It shows pride, and helps create a bond between employer and employee. If you can nail a year-end gift that makes the end-user feel connected with your client and feel appreciated enough to advertise their logo as part of the team, that’s about as successful as you can get in this situation.
There’s the old gift-giving adage that it’s the thought that counts. That rings the most true when it comes to year-end promotional products sales. You want your end-users to feel like they received a thoughtful present from your clients. Everyone has probably received something that was obviously a last-minute-gift-at-the-pharmacy pickup. That feels crummy.
If you can put that extra thought into your product offering and into recognizing what products can sell at a good price point to maximize your year-end sales, you’ve finished the year on a high note.
This article was originally published in the August 2019 issue of Promo Marketing, the sister publication of Print+Promo.