Twenty-five leaders from the incentive, recognition and promotional products industries met earlier this month in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for Special Markets Dialogues, a collective discussion on pertinent business issues and strategies to address challenges in the market.
“A challenge our market faces is that it is widely diffused,” says Pete Mitchell, director of business-to-business sales at Samsonite (UPIC: Suitcase), who organized and facilitated the event. “We don’t come to the market in the same way. The dialogues let us discuss the issues at a higher level; spend less time worrying about tomorrow and more time looking at trends and what’s on the horizon.”
The Special Market Dialogues are an annual, invitation-only event that has brought industry leaders together for more than 20 years. Subjects discussed at this year’s meeting included:
- The opportunities inherent in helping clients sort out the valuable information from the “noise” in “Big Data”
- The importance of exploring a range of strategies rather than focusing on a single solution
- Rather than a huge number of choices, how clients increasingly understand that the right product and service mix, matched to the customer, is a better way to reward and recognize.
- New technologies that allow retailers to increasingly become a destination for product redemption, and that the special markets channel needs an effective response to avoid marginalization.
- What’s needed to prevent or otherwise influence the possible elimination of IRS Code 274(j), the provision that allows companies to deduct the cost of recognition and safety programs.
“The goal is not to come away with a tactical action plan,” says Mitchell. “That’s up to the individual to interpret. We’re trying to understand where the business is going, not where it is. We can learn from other people at the table and become a better resource to their clients. It’s useful for all of us to hear what other groups of people think and see how they approach the issues.”
Other issues discussed during the meeting include the outlook for 2014, an improving supply chain and responding appropriately to the needs of a steadily younger workforce—by 2015, 50 percent are expected to be younger than 30 years old—among other concerns.
Mitchell adds, “The dialogues are a meeting of experienced, tenured professionals in our business. They represent a wide swath of our business and a tremendous amount of experience and passion. Having that kind of perspective is crucial to what comes out of the discussion, as you look at things in ways you don’t normally do. If everyone thought the same way and had a similar approach to the market, we wouldn’t come out of with anything valuable.”