One of the (many) attractive things about the promotional products industry is a low barrier to entry. If you are driven and willing to learn, you have a great chance at success in this industry.
Unfortunately a lot of promotional product professionals start off with a price-based business model. Basically, you source products and put logos on them for the lowest price possible. You can get away with this because your initial costs are low.
Double-unfortunately, that model has limitations in scalability and competitiveness. When you start to scale, you add costs and can’t offer the same low prices anymore. You are also competing with big e-commerce players who specialize in low-cost orders. These players have deep pockets, great SEO, and big volume. In other words – David, meet Goliath.
There is a logical growth-based next step. Move your distributorship strategy from price based to agency based. Some folks call it “consultative selling.” In the agency model, you work to become more embedded in your client’s strategy. This in turn allows you to collaborate on their marketing and promotional products needs in a more rounded way. And, add bigger value.
As you make the shift from order-taker to creative partner, you will also want to review some of your business processes.
These three documents will help you define your model and protect your business.
An intellectual property disclaimer
When you stop competing on price and start competing on ideas there can be a nasty side effect. Your clients start shopping your ideas around for lower prices. It’s not usually hard to tell if this is happening. They often still include you in the Bcc when they forward your (exact) deck around.
Intellectual property is part of your business value. Period. Stress the importance of this property for two reasons:
- It increases the financial worth of your company.
- It reinforces the value of the services that you are providing to your customers.
New habit: Add an intellectual property disclaimer to your pitch decks or presentations.
A creative services invoice
You should also draft a creative services invoice. If for no other reason, it reinforces the importance of your time and ideas. It will also help train your clients in the value of promotional products.
A more strategic use for creative invoices is to weed out clients who waste your time. This is the type of client who always asks for quotes, but never places the order with you.
There’s a good chance that a client like this has a preferred vendor that they work with. They are probably asking you for a quote because they have to. Some companies have rules saying they need to get 3 quotes before they can place the order.
This type of client can waste your time (and money) for years.
So, you send over a creative services estimate when they ask for a quote. Make a note that explains your fee will be waived when an order is placed. If the client is serious about considering your company, they will sign-off. If they don’t sign off, they aren’t willing to give you the business. Now you can focus your effort on a better prospect or client.
One final note. Sometimes you need to teach your clients the value of your creative services. We recommend that you add a line item onto your invoices with a time and/or service cost. Then, note that the cost is waived. Adding a specific cost to your documents, shows clients what your time is worth. And that it is valuable.
An approval form
The last form you need for your distributorship is an approval form. Orders can take many paths from planning to completion. You have phone calls, email, IM’s, text messages, and maybe the occasional carrier pigeon.
Your approval form is important because it gathers the details in one place.
It should outline things like:
- in-hands date
- shipping and billing addresses
- pricing including artwork fees, if applicable
- product information: type, size, colors, decoration methods, quantity, design
- terms: including shipping, payment, and overage/underage
Your promotional products distributorship should always be growing and changing. That’s how you stay current. How you stay competitive.
You might be looking to scale. Perhaps you want to focus your client base. You could even want a completely different go-to-market strategy. Whatever you are looking to do, your processes and forms should grow with you. Make a habit of reviewing them regularly.