executive perspectives: Problem Solving
A lot has changed since the 1980s. Computers, for example: Back then, they were big, clunky boxes used by young Matthew Broderick to almost blow up the world; now, they're pocket-sized multi-tasking tools used by an older Matthew Broderick to play Flappy Bird, probably.
Still, some things have remained the same—and Jill Varricchio is proof. After getting her start in the promotional products industry in the '80s, she saw economic ups and downs, the rise of Internet marketing and a slew of industry shake-ups. But while the products and markets might have changed along the way, her consultative sales approach did not. Listen to clients and sell them solutions, Varricchio believed, and you'll be successful. Now, as president of Concept Promotions, Daphne, Ala., and account executive for The Vernon Company, Newton, Iowa, it's clear Varricchio was onto something. The '80s are long gone, but she has never stopped solving problems for clients—or expanding her business.
Read on as Varricchio talks shop.
Print+Promo (P+P): How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Jill Varricchio (JV): Both my sales and business goals are crafted based on our required volume, margins, and return on my effort and time. We review and compare to prior years with an eye on what worked, and identify any key factors that impacted outcome. Then, we quarterly target each market segment and region. Since we are in the creative solution business, I like to weave "new, hot, trendy" into my sales mix. A fresh thought to this process keeps it interesting for all involved.
P+P: How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
JV: It's evident each sector is struggling to keep adequate marketing/promotional budgets and staff. Less money and less staff stresses the decision-making process—yet delivery dates and timing of decisions result in short production times. Heightened response rate is key today. Reliable, stable suppliers with adequate inventory, with production times of less than five or 10 days, now compete with those that have 24-hour service. Every step in this process requires efficient timing, otherwise both supplier and distributor/salesperson run the risk of losing relationships, time and, of course, revenue. But all is not lost. Despite reduced budgets, seasoned, smart marketers in many segments grasp the value of this industry. We just have to find them!
P+P: What are some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
JV: I believe fierce, global, competitive marketing contributes to a few key challenges. For example, balancing today's technology without contributing to our customers' info overload is an art. We need to be creatively relevant to that single client, as well as balance a universal appeal and promise that we and our suppliers are credible, consistently reliable, and there when [the client] needs us. As for suppliers, as they grow and become mega-suppliers, they will have to ensure adequate inventory levels, shorter production and delivery times, [and] well-trained staff.
P+P: What keeps you up at night?
JV: Uncertainty in this industry preys on all of us. Managing expectations—from the availability of the compliant selected product, to perfect graphic design of the client's logo, to the on-time delivery date—all impact the final experience. For example, this past quarter, we twice had to rescue orders when the delivery truck hauling the promotional goods across the country broke down. The extreme weather and mechanical problems jeopardized delivery and our credibility. Fortunately, we were still able to hand-deliver the items in time for our clients' event.
P+P: What is the most exciting thing your company is doing right now?
JV: It's investing in reaching our best clients with the latest upgrades in technology. We are getting trained at all levels, including data security. We know Internet-based communication and mobile apps are here to stay, and this investment allows us to keep pace and stay prominent in the eye of the client.
P+P: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JV: Being aware of all the stressors and making recharge time a priority, I resort to exercising six days a week and golfing in a women's league during the summer, and I attend classes at the School of Practical Philosophy.