Some distributors are seeing their best year ever despite the economy
By Debrah Rosen (05/21/2008)
In a perfect world, promotional products would be a line item on every organization’s budget not to be scratched come bad economy or cutbacks. They would be thought of as an investment, not an expense. And their inherent value would be understood by all. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. But PPAI Chairman of the Board Stan Breckenridge hopes to get us all a little closer. Through his post, Breckenridge aspires this year to spread the message of speaking with “One Voice.” Here’s the pitch: We all know the value of promotional products; therefore, we take them for granted. Likewise, we are competing with every other advertising media for the all-coveted dollar. But, if we espouse the values of promotional products in one large, loud voice to our clients, friends, family and prospects, we can create a culture where they are an essential part of every organization’s budget and intrinsically included in every marketing plan.
“I have been saying in meetings and discussions with clients that now is a time when the value of promotional products is really illustrated,” affirms Vince Terracina with TAG Marketing Ltd. in Austin, Texas. “If you truly believe, like I do, that the value of promotional products exceeds the value provided by other advertising mediums, then the ‘bang for the buck’ argument carries more weight in periods of economic instability.”
As it turns out, this period of economic downturn may provide an opportunity to follow Breckenridge’s industry philosophy of speaking with one voice and creating a utopia with clients. Some of your peers are doing just that and, despite the tough economy, are profiting. At a recent event, one distributor explained he has picked up new clients who began their own businesses only after being laid off from their previous jobs. Another peer speculates that it’s primarily those who have focused on the recession who are feeling its bite. Terracina says TAG began the year with more orders than last year, but average order size was smaller. “I think that as a general proposition, if you were to take a snapshot of our clients’ economic mood, it would be fair to say that they are more cautious than in the last five or six years, but still optimistic and mindful that there are plenty of opportunities for growth available.” Kim Stack with Geiger in Phoenix is enjoying her best year ever. “In the first three months (this year) my sales were up $33,000 over the first quarter last year, and last year was a banner year for me,” she shares. “I surpassed all of the goals that I’d set for myself.”
The success Stack is experiencing seems to be due to good, old-fashioned hard work. “I’m really not doing anything different,” she maintains. “I’m refusing to participate in a recession. I have chosen to ignore it and consequently am continuing to work hard to increase my sales.”
But when an economic trend is as pronounced as the one we’re seeing this year, no one is totally immune. Stack has seen clients lose their jobs, but she’s inadvertently grown her client base as a direct result. Most of these clients have found new jobs in similar positions, and they’ve brought her in to work with their new employers. Meanwhile, she’s almost always able to form a relationship with whomever takes over the departed person’s responsibilities at the original company. “In several cases the new person ended up using me for more things than the original one did,” she says. Stack says the majority of her clients are not cutting back, but she also is fortunate to have a diverse client base from which to draw. Her top 12 clients are in totally different industries, “so all of my eggs aren’t in one basket that is affected by the economy,” she says. Much of your clients’ stability will depend on their market. One of Terracina’s clients in the home-inspection business, for example, has seen a direct influence on its business from the current mortgage crisis. “Due to the general drop in home sales, they have certainly seen the impact on their business,” he says. “Fortunately for them, they are nationwide, so they’re not completely vulnerable to some of the hardest hit markets in our country. In fact, some markets haven’t been hit too hard by the current economic conditions and have offered them a little insulation.” If you want to keep up with these guys, consider the way Stack runs her business. She puts in a full day at the office Monday through Friday and remains tuned in to clients and their needs. Through all this work, the requests have kept coming, she says. “I make sure I’m easy to reach and react quickly to what they need.” Sound like good distributor work? Well, Stack has not had the time or felt the need to prospect this year, but she has picked up new clients through referrals. “The only thing that I’ve found to be trying is keeping up with the business that’s coming my way.”