Perspectives: Finding The Positives In The Pandemic
I’ve always been a “glass-half-full” kind of person but I’ll admit—some days it’s a struggle to look on the bright side of life. Even so, my natural response to the pandemic has been to try to find the silver lining. The good news is—there are a lot of positives out there.
Using PPAI’s PromoPolls, I asked members what kinds of positive changes, if any, they were seeing in their own companies during the pandemic. While 30 percent said they hadn’t noticed anything positive, 70 percent did see some good changes. Of those, 30 percent said the pandemic made them rethink and improve their marketing and company image, 19 percent said it made them change the products they offered, 16 percent said it made them rethink the way their staff and the office are organized, and five percent said it revealed new talent and leaders within their companies.
Wanting to dig further, I also reached out to members through PromoConnect to uncover some examples. Kathleen Stanfill, CAS, at distributor Congratulations! in Jacksonville, Texas, told me her bright spot is the rekindled interest in made-in-the-USA products. “We have had to really screen items to find true made-in-the-USA promos (the sanitizer is made here—we were just waiting on those imported bottles) and we’ve curated a great list of suppliers. Many of those are right here in Texas. Now, people are reaching out to us,” she says. “We’ve advertised this niche since 2012 and finally, in the midst of a pandemic, our phones are lighting up with bigger and better orders and amazing opportunities. American-made is great again!”
I also heard from Larry Newman, owner of Quality Printing in Visalia, California, who was happy to report stronger sales. “The biggest benefits to our company are the profits I was able to gain from selling personal protective equipment. I will put much of that back in my business to expand. I have also purchased a long contract for web design and web support, and I have been able to rebrand. And, of course, I have gained many new clients, specifically large hospitals. I know this will end up being profitable after this pandemic ends.”
Shari Hoffman, founder of Las Vegas distributor Neon Collection, didn’t sit around and hope things would get better. Instead, she and her team hit the streets for sales. “It became clear that large events were cancelling, and budget cuts were hitting everyone. Instead of standing still, we put deep thought into items that we wanted as individuals. We discovered that certain items, sold in smaller batches, were a huge hit. Our director of business development took an old-school approach, contacting smaller businesses, offering mini buys of things like multi-touch, no-contact tools and masks. We bought smaller batches (250-1,000) of each and took them door-to-door (in business parks) and we had a huge demand. We sold out of the multi-touch tools in one day and needed to order more. People loved being able to buy five to 10 items and we did well on volume. It was more legwork, but better than sitting around waiting for clients to call us. We just took the products to them.”
For suppliers who were constantly on the road, like Bob Heintz, director of national sales for California-based Terry Town, the pandemic abruptly halted all travel. But Heintz, who’s based in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and has been at home with his wife and three of his four sons since March, had to find a way around it. Although most businesses in California were shut down, Terry Town was considered an essential business because of the textiles it produces and remained open. With its in-house cut-and-sew capabilities and the team all pulling together, the company transitioned to produce three kinds of face coverings within eight days and got them into the market. They also found seamless ways of operating virtually. “We learned every aspect of Zoom and how to present an effective webinar,” he says. “We stepped up to the challenge that we were not going to find a rug, crawl underneath it and wait for all of this to be over. We had to accept it for what it is and make the best of it—and recognize and capture the opportunities that have been presented to us.” As a result, he says business has started coming back, sales in some months are on par with last year and the company has increased its product line.
Finding the positives in this pandemic is not just about attitude—although that helps—it’s about taking action and controlling your own destiny. If you don’t determine your fate, someone else will.
Tina Berries Filipski is PPAI's director of publications and editor of PPB.