May 2020 Question: How To Move Forward Amidst The Uncertainty

A Distributor Asks: My home state just closed everything down and issued a stay-at-home order. Included is the closing of all suppliers in the state, including some I use. I understand why it was necessary, but just as soon as I thought I had a new strategy to try and survive this pandemic, I was thrown another curveball. So, today I started cold-calling for the first time. How are other distributors finding business in the midst of these new challenges?

Here’s some cold-calling advice: With a single product in mind, call every plumber and offer magnets shaped like their vans, or call every nonprofit and offer a direct mail magnet postcard they can use to request donations.

Be patient. My largest client came on my 25th call of the day (20 years ago).

Cut yourself some slack. We’ve all been working our behinds off for years. Know your best is plenty good enough and we are all hurting during this time. 

Karen Alcorn Herzog
Adco Marketing
San Rafael, California
PPAI 217279, D5

As this progresses, the reality is that the vast majority of businesses are going to be spending every available dollar on keeping their doors open and trying to retain employees. To some areas of the country it's still somewhat business as usual, but that is changing and will continue to change every day until we hit some sort of stabilization point. I'm in the New York City area and to be honest, it's close to being a total shutdown. I know many people who have already been laid off. We will get past this, but unfortunately, promo items are at the bottom of the priority list, as they should be. I have strong relationships with my clients—I still do both print and promo—so I am touching base, but I couldn't attempt to "sell" anything in good conscience during this time. Hopefully, we'll at least start to approach some semblance of "normalcy" in a month or so.

Tom Bruno
Vice president
Spectrum Plus
Little Falls, New Jersey
PPAI 368258, D2

Personally, I would not even think of cold calling right now. People have other fish to fry.

Judith Skinner Peacock
JHT Associates
Oxford, Maine
PPAI 190136, D1

Take this time to improve your infrastructure, workflows and workspace. Work on your future email and Google ad campaigns. Work on your website, draw up specific sales actions you’ll be taking once this thing runs its course. Sales are in dormant mode right now, with no real activity as we hunker down and ride this out. My opinion is that you should be using this time to detail specific action plans to come roaring out of the gate when things start to spin back up again.

Scott Cappel, MAS
Sorrento Mesa Promo
San Diego, California
PPAI 609965, D1


With supplier businesses affected by economic slow-down and business closures, remaining forward-focused seems to be the way through.

A Supplier Asks: I’d like to share some thoughts from a supplier’s viewpoint. Thankfully, we are open, but we have that troubling fear every day—will we be open tomorrow? We are obviously taking precautions and those who can work remotely at this point are, as I truly want to minimize any loss of productivity. We have adopted a sort of rush policy to try to get orders out the same or next day, if possible, because of this fear. While that seems good, it does stress our workflow and sometimes stresses us. I’m curious to hear from others on both sides of the table, not about your official practices, but what’s going on in your head and what things you have changed daily because of this.

Note: This question and responses were current as of March 19. They reflect the situation at that time. 

I bring home checkbooks and stamps, so if I need to stay home, I’ll still be able to pay bills. It sounds silly, but that’s what I mean.

Gavriel Soltan
Magnets in Print
Lakewood, New Jersey
PPAI 587500, S1

Things are a little quieter here at Suntex, as well. We have all our employees, production and office staff working at our facility. We also wonder whether it will be this way tomorrow. We are taking things day by day, but we also understand that we may have to make some decisions. We are currently promoting USA-made items and decoration methods—something we produce in-house to keep from going overseas.

Gwen Kelly
Sales and marketing administrator
Suntex Industries
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
PPAI 113094, S5

Things are quiet here. A few quotes and small orders but with the uncertainty of when this will end or when restrictions will be lifted, I think everyone is hesitant. I do have forward-thinking clients that are preparing for June and July, but most are just concerned with what this means for their businesses and how to keep revenue coming in. It is giving me the opportunity to work on marketing my business, which has sometimes taken a backseat. It is allowing me some time to take care of personal obligations without looming deadlines and event dates. I also had an excellent January and February, which is rare for me.

Dawn Loiacono Nakash
Chief operating and administrative officer
Daybreak Marketing Services, LLC
Raleigh, North Carolina

I’m trying to take as many precautions as I can while planning for the future. I’m also trying to keep as close to a normal day as possible. Keep control over those things that you can and those you can’t, let go.

Walter Kurt, MAS
Three K Consultants, Inc.
Houston, Texas
PPAI 260216, D2

Same fears and we’re doing the exact same thing in regards to processing orders as soon as possible and clearing the deck quickly. The uncertainty is tough, but my head is in the worst-case scenario and planning on a contingency to still continue production as much as possible even during a shutdown. I’m building out secondary production sites from multiple residences to use in a pinch, if needed. While a good chunk of business is dead right now, we have seen an increase in certain sectors and we’re trying to stay available for them. 

Josh Robbins
Vault Promotions
Henderson, Tennessee
PPAI 547406, S3  


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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