3 Quenching Tactics That Will Inspire Clients to Buy More (Business Planning Series, Part 2)


Whether you are a solopreneur or manage a team of salespeople, how do you do business planning that becomes more than wishful thinking? How do we make real growth happen? In this series on business planning, we’ll walk through how to make plans actionable by creating both “bottom-up” and “top-down” business goals!In our last article, we talked about ways you can increase your sales without adding new clients by maximizing opportunities with existing customers: targeting your top clients, expanding the departments you work with, and expanding the categories you sell to double your growth. (It’s critical you read that short article first to get the most out of this next installment on business planning).  Now that you’ve analyzed the activity around your top 10 clients, to expand your horizons, to capture more budget, you must build a strategic marketing campaign, bespoke and targeted to each customer. Mike Michalowicz, in his session at skucamp, talked about the difference between saturating clients and quenching clients. Saturating clients and prospects is a shotgun approach to marketing: spamming them with unwanted product sales and promotions, it’s scattered and untargeted, and it’s an interruption, and clients loathe interruption marketing. Saturating floods and kills the roots of the relationship. Much of the average distributor’s marketing tactics today are simply practices they’ve adopted from suppliers: pushing product sales and promotions, over-saturating (and exhausting buyers) with supply before there is even demand. This isn’t the fault of suppliers, in an industry cluttered with thousands of products they are simply trying to keep products top-of-mind for distributors. But distributors and suppliers are in two different types of businesses. Suppliers sell product and distributors sell purpose. Getting to the heart of purpose with your client is the key to unlocking more sales. Mike calls this approach quenching versus saturating. Quenching is where you go to a community and you educate, Mike says. So, now that we’ve identified our top clients, how can we quench the thirst clients have for education and experiences by using the power of our medium to uncover more sales? Following are three quenching tactics: 

Quenching tactic #1: Expanding the categories you sell by educating clients via pop-ups, fashion-shows, merchandise collections, and more.

 One of the challenges in this business is getting pigeon-holed by clients into what you can and cannot do. For example, your client might think you are exceptional at tradeshow giveaways and gifts, but they don’t utilize you for apparel. With all of our clients, we’re competing for space in their memory as the go-to consultant and category king.  So, how do we cross-sell into other categories with our existing buyers? What we are striving for with our clients is inspirational marketing that solves a problem and triggers a response.Let’s take apparel as an example. Most clients buy apparel for "uniforms," but the apparel product category is far more inspirational than that. Apparel is tribal. Clients buy apparel to cultivate brand champions and to allow recipients to celebrate their unity as a member of the tribe. The problem they are trying to solve is one of identity and belonging (and sometimes celebration). To discover more selling opportunities with your customers, ask them what events or significant moments they have coming up where apparel might serve as the perfect catalyst for an experience to enhance this emotion. And then, activate their imagination by designing custom collections that inspire. We once had a finance client who didn’t buy much apparel from us. Their problem was, they wanted more fashion-forward styles to encourage their team to actually wear the apparel they spent a lot of money on. The client purchased some apparel through us, but they didn’t trust our creative design or our style sensibility, which meant we were categorized in the client’s mind as a non-creative service provider, not a creative experience maker. So, we had to create a lightning strike moment in the buyer’s mind that would impress upon them our prowess in creative apparel. We put together a fashion show. Yes, a fashion show. Complete with models and a runway. We rented space at a photography studio near the customer’s headquarters, served wine and hors-d’oeuvres and they invited other key buyers (many of whom we did not yet work with) to the experience. We created spec samples in collaboration with our top apparel provider, specs that were targeted at the buyer’s demand for more stylistic wear. It was an ostentatious affair and took a lot of work, but it made a memorable impression in the minds of the buyers and, because we delivered the experience in a fashion-forward way, we forever resolved their false assumption that we could be creative and we wedged our way into the buyers’ collective mind. Now, a fashion show is not necessarily something everyone can pull off, but the important part was that we were creating an immersive experience that changed their mind about our position  and you can do the same thing in a variety of ways: virtually, through spectacular specs, curated toward purpose and beautiful design and in tandem with your supplier partners. But to make that presentation pop, you must infuse your presentation with purpose-driven solutions.Another idea: a mini pop-up at your buyer’s location, inviting other buyers to the experience. These can be more than show-and-sell moments; build an experience with tasteful invites that intrigue other buyers within the organization, craft a gift collection for all attendees, and design a custom collection that meets their initiatives but distinguishes you as unique. Think: bespoke tailoring meets a community event (not mini-tradeshow where every client-company sees the same top 10 items).Often, distributors, learning from suppliers, will provide an open house or a tradeshow-esque experience that features new products or top products but it’s untargeted and unrefined, saturating not quenching. To dramatically grow your revenue you must focus on their specific needs and build experiences bespoke for each customer. This means asking ahead of time what lacks in their apparel line-up and filling the gaps with unique apparel that meets their demand.Clients crave experiences. And millenial buyers, in particular, demand personalized experiences. Demonstrate your prowess in a new category by building a beautiful experience for your clients. The same goes for awards programs or crafting a gift collection for your buyers. Tap into the heart of what we do by designing beautiful virtuals in the categories you lack selling and then, inspire them with powerful story-driven presentations that solve problems.  

Quenching tactic #2: Expanding buyers you sell to within your client companies by developing creative, targeted campaigns.

 Distributors who serve their clients well have the one thing that is the most difficult to get and the one thing that provides them leverage into more business: trust. Your buyers trust you. And within your top accounts are other buyers. In fact, many distributors might think they are getting the lion’s share of a budget when in fact, they could be missing out on revenue opportunities because they are not working with all the right departments. Marketing is not the only department that buys and in some cases, it might even be less than other departments, depending on the industry. At one time we worked with mostly marketing and communication departments but we had one client, an energy client who had an “office services” department that purchased all promotional products. We thought this was an anomaly, so, with other energy companies, we kept targeting “marketing,” only to discover, eventually, that most energy companies had an “office services” department and they, too, bought more promo than “marketing.” Make sure that you are touching every department and think holistically about the problems you are trying to solve for your client-company.One important stat to note: 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral. But how do you ask for and leverage referrals from your existing accounts? By using the power of promo. Through your relationship with your buyer, plus using LinkedIn to research other contacts within your client company, you can unearth a trove of new buyers (see our previous post to discover other departments that use promo). But you still must activate the minds of these buyers in a unique way.Your key buyer, the one who loves working with you, is too busy to do the heavy lifting for you and simply “make a referral.” They can and sometimes will, but they might not know who else buys. But they can provide you leverage through their word of mouth testimony which you can then use to print on a self-promo campaign to deliver to other buyers. It has to be done stylishly way that the buyer will respect, but it’s a unique way to make a memorable impression in the minds of new buyers.Distributors have had much success through the years with self-promotion campaigns, and these campaigns are effective. But we don’t want to merely interrupt the client with our advertising; we want to create a bond, we want to cement our company in the minds of potential buyers. An incredibly effective way to do this is to incorporate stories, case studies of successful projects that you have done for clients, with a self-promotion campaign. Stories about what you have done with other customers, through their perspective, have the power to transform minds.Another idea: sometimes, we would create a self-promotion campaign in tandem with the client’s logo, building creative copy around the partnership. This took approval from the client, but the juxtaposition of your logo, along with the buyers and some unique copy built a bridge of trust. In any self-promotion campaign, the messaging is key. In fact, you should spend as much time on the messaging as you do on your product selection. Caryn Kopp, in her presentation at skucamp, talked about creating a “Gap Sales Message,” by filling in these blanks: Anybody can _. But not everyone can for example, __. Gap messaging is the difference between what anyone can say about their product and services, versus what you can say that would cause the prospect to feel you have more value. When you add your gap sales message with a client’s testimonial, or a customer story, it’s another lightning strike moment that immediately differentiates you in the hearts of buyers. And when you use our medium -the greatest form of reminder advertising- to deliver the message, you can achieve results, Language + delivery = outcome.” 

Quenching tactic #3: Target other media. No, I mean, actually do it. Don’t just talk about it. 

 The studies have circulated for years from both PPAI and ASI about how promotional products are less expensive and more effective per impression than any other media, but what you have done with this information?Most of us process this news, nod in assent, maybe share it on social, or, at best, share this anecdotally with our customers. But very few of us have sat down with our buyers to educate and specifically ask: What is your budget for broadcast? Online advertising? Print? Mobile? Mike Michalowicz said that we must quench our buyers through education, and the opportunity to shift spend from a poor performing category (like digital ad spend) to superior forms of advertising like promotional products is where you can uncover more revenue.In an article in AdWeek, 3 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on Ads No One Sees, the author wrote, “It’s time to stop asking how many ‘impressions’ an ad got. Brands and agencies both need to refocus on delivering experiences that people will appreciate and trust.” There are those words again, words that are perfect for the promotional products world: delivering experiences that people will appreciate and trust. Promotional products are the only advertising guaranteed to deliver an experience and the one "ad" a recipient will thank you for and will keep. A few ideas: develop a self-promotion campaign focused on the results from these studies. Rather than just dropping a self-promo item on the desk of a potential buyer, send a message. Messaging is key. Or, in your six-month review process, develop a carefully crafted presentation, per client, with their ad spend about how you will effectively use promotional products to replace other forms of poor performing advertising. This will require some research with your customer to uncover spend, but once you have this data, it’s gold. This is also your opportunity to recession-proof your relationship with your client by making sure promotional products are a part of the media spend that is driving sales on behalf of the customer. I was once invited to a presentation pitch that an ad agency was giving to one of our top clients. The agency did just this, they took the client's numbers on ad spend and built a presentation recommending what they would do better. At one point in the presentation, the agency targeted the promotional product spend and suggested shifting this away from promo to another category. I’ll never forget it because, as I sat there frozen, the presenter (a friend of mine), turned to me in the presentation and said, “sorry Bobby, I had no idea you would be in here.” And the room laughed. I laughed too, on the outside. Agencies are doing this all the time with the promotional products category.  The recent article published in Fast Company, It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag would be an easy target for agencies to use to shift spend. It’s time promotional professionals, for all their talk about being “agencies,” perform like agencies and advise their clients on their total advertising spend. And if a full presentation with a customer is too daunting or demanding, even just having the conversation with your customer is a great step toward shifting budget from areas that don’t work to areas that do.These ideas we shared are just a few. You are creative and imaginative, that’s why you’re in this business, you’ll think of your own unique spin but the key to remember is that the fastest way to grow with existing clients is to intensely focus on their specific problems and then use the power of promo to resolve those problems. Whether you are introducing a new category to your client, greeting a new buyer, or educating about wiser budget spend, quenching your clients is about inspiring your clients through education and inspirational merchandising experiences which will ultimately drive sales.
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