4 things your promotional products software should do


Every week I sign-up and demo at least one new software to see what it has to offer.  Part of it is professional curiosity to see how other applications look and feel. But, the bigger reason is that I love to learn how other people think.  How they do things.  What their workflows look like. If I can pick up on any efficiencies, tips and tricks, or new ideas along the way, I'm all over it.  Demoing new software is a great way to discover new ideas.

With my software assessment hat on, I sat down and pounded out 4 things to look for in a business management software for promotional products distributors.

1. Simplify

The promotional products industry is notorious for having multiple, patchwork, systems in use for distributors.You know what I'm talking about, Word documents filled with links to supplier websites, excel files where information is manually copied and updated throughout the sales cycle,  and stacks upon stacks of printouts, folders, and faxes filled with product, pricing, and order information.So, the first thing your promotional products software should do is simply your process.It should combine (or completely replace) varied and disparate systems into one cohesive unit, for your whole business.  There are a lot of niche products out there that focus on one part of the system, such as sales, data entry, or order management - go for one system to manage everything.A modern software platform should eliminate duplicate work and streamline the process.

2. Encourage Collaboration

Any modern software should have collaboration cooked into it, because social software is here to stay.  In January of this year, Gartner published a study that backed this premise by saying "Enterprise social networks will become the primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to carrying out work."I'm not saying that all of your employees should immediately jump onto Twitter or try booking G+ hangouts with their clients. No, they should only do that if it makes sense for your business.But, collaboration makes sense for everyone.You can be set-up in a work from home business, or a larger enterprise, but collaboration is becoming more important in today's economy.  Teamwork, idea sourcing, and staying connected are powerful ways that promotional products distributors and suppliers can fight commoditization. And, we're having to fight that fight a lot more often nowadays.In person meetings are great if you're lucky enough to gather all of your staff together at the same time, but collaboration in the promotional products industry needs to go beyond external collaboration.  Bringing the entire supply chain together -- distributors and suppliers -- for as much of the process as possible is an important step to solidifying the future of our industry and offering a seamless, positive experience to end-users.Distributors constantly tell clients that we can provide better service if they bring us into their promo buying process earlier.  Well, It's time for us to heed our own advice and buy into deeper relationships with our own suppliers.

3. Provide Freedom

The Millenial Generation is changing the face of business.Millenials have grown up with technology usage of computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones, smart phones, email and social networks as part of their DNA.  They don't remember the clicking and beeping of a dial-up connection, they might not even remember when you needed a wire for internet access.  They are used to mobility and freedom and are changing the workplace because of their expectations.These workers are also used to out of the box software solutions that provide them exact interaction with the places and people that matter most to them.They have Hootsuite to mange their Twitter and Facebook accounts.  They have Pulse to gather important news and deliver it directly to them.  They have Gmail and Google Drive so they can access their important communication from anywhere.  Their business software needs to be equally accessible and ubiquitous.Millennials are the custom generation.  They want a custom tool for every need and the ability to use it from anywhere with equal ease.

4. Focus on Data

Data is talked about so much nowadays that's it's become a generic word.Social has data,  Sales has data, big data has small data.   There's too much data in the world and not enough context.A modern business software needs to focus on managing and serving up the right kind of data.  For sales, it needs to offer customer data and interaction as well as pricing and product data.For admins, it needs to offer real-time aggregated information because that can mean the difference between making an event date or missing it.For management, it needs to tell you if you're making quota or not.The ability for everyone in your organization to access the data that's valuable to them is one of the most important aspects of a modern business software.This could probably be a number five, but I'll just comment briefly on making sure your software is adaptable. Currently, even huge corporations like Adobe and and Microsoft are moving to cloud-based versions of their legacy, and quite profitable, downloaded software solutions. Moving to subscription-based, cloud software allows for more frequent updates, quicker product enhancements and overall product improvements.  So, you'll want to keep that in mind too.
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