It's Time to Find a Niche in Ad Specialties
Distributors develop creative solutions to select promotional product suppliers.
Uncertain times and a changing industry have forced some traditional forms distributors to diversify their products and services in hopes of surviving these economic times. As a result, one area that they've ventured into is promotional products, in which they are having to face some formidable giants.
The biggest obstacle distributors say they faced when beginning to sell ad specialties was tackling the different vehicles for sourcing products. Once companies had a handle on what was available to them, they needed to figure out how to choose manufacturers and release that information to their sales reps. Although redesigning a company's infrastructure is usually a wise investment, it's not always cheap.
Wayne Martin, director of vendor relations, American Business Forms, Glennwood, Minn., noted, "We've invested $3 million to $4 million per year for the past couple of years to develop new internal technologies like sourcing programs and databases."
These internal technologies are the tools that help sales reps stay cognizant of the promotional products and suppliers available to them. Other resources include trade shows, conferences and seminars, while some distributorships enlist procurement teams to notify reps of new products or vendors.
"We created a procurement department that focuses on promotional products, and we use several online tools to search for those products," said Jeff Scott, vice president, Merrill Corporation, Monroe, Wash. "We use our creative group to design themes for marketing strategies."
At American, sales reps go to the main office twice a year to attend business meetings, conferences, vendor-sponsored seminars and trade shows that have more than 150 vendors.
"A tremendous amount of networking takes place at our trade shows. We hear from vendors that they are the best shows they attend because of the relationships they have with our reps," said Martin.