Question: Getting The Word Out
A DISTRIBUTOR ASKS: I’m new to the promotional products industry and am looking for ways to bring awareness about my new business to my local community. I have a connection with many local businesses in my area because of my former profession. How do I best make these contacts aware of my new business? Do I call them? If so, what is the best pitch? Do I put together a nice presentation folder with an introductory letter and a flyer showing some of the products and suggestions of how and when they should use the products? What steps have worked successfully for others?
First, create a self-promo [product] for your business along with a nice brochure or rack card that shares your vision. I would opt for a promo piece that could easily be mailed. Depending on the type of businesses you’re calling on, you may find it more effective to call ahead and schedule an appointment, or simply drop by. After speaking with each, thank them for their time and leave behind your self-promo [product] and brochure. If appointments and/or drop-ins aren’t an option for some, you can always mail your items and follow up with a phone call. As for the best pitch, be authentic. Speak from the heart and share with your prospects the advantages they’ll have working with you. Good luck!
CAROL C WEATHERSBEE
TC BEE, Inc. PPAI 666528
The first thing is to realize that you are not in a product business. Your question is typical of a significant number of distributors who behave based on the incorrect labels used to describe the activities in the industry. While our suppliers are in the “promotional products” business, distributors are not. We are in the promotional advertising/specialty marketing business. Even the term “distributor” really is not an appropriate one. We don’t distribute, we help clients (customers) reach objectives. We consult, advise, design and help implement marketing messages delivered on the promotional products our suppliers offer. So, use your own media to do the marketing for your own company. If you use other ways to communicate with potential customers, it becomes tough to explain how specialty advertising is so successful if you aren’t using it yourself. If you do choose to run ads in publications or online, be sure to include an offer of a free gift so you will still be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of promotional specialty advertising.
Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Kaeser & Blair, Inc.
It sounds like your first project as a new branding professional is to write a branding plan for your own new company. Make sure, before you begin your outreach, that you already have business cards, self-promotion products with your company name and logo on them, and an easy-to-navigate website that tells your story. Your website is your most important calling card these days that legitimizes your business.
Then, draft a news release about your new firm and who you plan to serve, and send it to your local media, business groups and the industries you previously served, as well as to your former best contacts. You can email it to a list you develop or try creative “lumpy” mail for added impact, and of course, include a promotional product that ties into your announcement and what makes you different.
Update your LinkedIn profile with the new company, and announce it via a LinkedIn update. Then work the leads and referrals that develop. A folder with sales sheets is not necessary today. Just send them to your website. The very best way to let past clients know about your news is to call those you already have a relationship with, but you can also reach out to them via LinkedIn messaging or via email. Then get out and network like crazy!
MARY ELLEN SOKALSKI, MAS
The Scarlet Marketeer
Be purposeful and targeted. This is where strategy will play a big part. I would use an integrated strategy. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it needs to be a personalized and one-size-fits-one approach. I may be different than most; I would never do a presentation folder, letter and flyer. If you are going to give them anything, come up with a clever self promo with a fun piece that ties to it. Depending on how deep your connection is [with your former contacts], you should highlight that first and foremost. I would come up with several different ways to reach them. Again, be targeted. Frequency and reach still applies. Pick 50 or 100 of your closest prospects and hit them 10 to 15 times with your core messaging. Do it with email, direct mail, phone calls and events, and think of other ways you can reach them in a purposeful manner.
President & CEO
Rothschild Marketing Group
I suggest you invite your local contacts and potential customers to an open house. Make the invitation brief and the message simple: We are in business to help you grow yours! Send it by email, and on a postcard. Then follow-up with a personal call to your local business connections. No sales pitch, just a sincere invitation. When your event begins, tell your guests who you are, what you do and why you’re doing it. That matters more than the products you provide, and it will separate you from your competition. Good luck with your new venture!
DAVID J. HAWES, MAS+
First, welcome to the promotional products industry. If your intent is to join this industry and sell products, my advice would be to get out as fast as you can. To make your contacts aware of
your new business, you need to use promotional products. Be clever and unique so you get their attention. There are many ways to do this and your selected supplier will help you. After you have their attention, then call them. You need to educate them on the power of promotional products, and PPAI has a wealth of information showing how promotional products work and why. You are not selling products, you are helping them invest in their company. Once you have that meeting, sit and listen so you will know exactly what their needs and expectations are. Contact the suppliers you want to work with because they are the experts in the items they provide; you do not need to be the expert in all the items available. It’s impossible—that’s why we are here for you. Best of luck—you will be great.
National Sales Manager
Alexander Manufacturing Co.