How to get started in the profitable world of promotions
By Carol Katarsky
Opportunities abound in the fast-growing promotional product market. The most recent estimates put total sales at $12 billion--and increasing fast. To help navigate some of the choppier waters, Business Forms, Labels & Systems brings you this three-step guide to mastering marketing.
1. Gaining Access
One issue many distributors encounter when they first begin selling promotional products is winning the trust of vendors.
"The problem [when you're first starting out] is proving you're not an end-user," said Ron Natinsky, vice president of SAGE--Quick Technologies, Dallas. "You can use other suppliers as references or use your industry affiliations, such as DMIA membership, to establish that you are a legitimate two-step distributor."
Getting listed with the Ad Specialties Institute (ASI) is not a necessity, but can sometimes help with credibility.
"ASI or another outfit helps when you're starting, [but] there are other companies that have cheaper annual fees," noted Brian Goodwin, senior vice president at Southern California Envelope & Printing (SCEP), an Augua Dulce, Calif., distributorship. "After a year or so of doing promotional products, you'll have developed your own vendors."
"You don't need to have an ASI number to sell promotional products, it's a private company, not an association--there seems to be some confusion on that point," said Natinsky. "For a forms distributor, the cheapest and easiest way is probably to join either the Pro-motional Products Association International (PPAI) or one of the regional associations."
"A certain percentage of manufacturers won't work with you if you don't have an ASI number," said Lee Marvin, CAS, general manager at Hugo, Minn.-based AdImages Promotional Group. "Mainly because, if you're ASI-listed it means you've been through the screening process, so they know you are a legitimate distributor and they'll be able to access ASI's credit reports on you. But, for every manufacturer that won't work with you, there's one that will. You just have to make the phone calls until you find them. Don't get discouraged if the first three suppliers you call aren't interested."