Paranoia & the promotional products industry

2 min read

I have a bone to pick with the concept of “paranoia” in our industry.

I believe that our industry is more transparent (and less paranoid) than we give ourselves credit for. Look at how public social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have broken down traditional barriers between end users, suppliers and distributors. It took platforms that emphasized the power of personal relationships to finally crack this code.

In a business where personal relationships are so highly valued, I struggle with this concept about distributors not trusting suppliers with information about their business. I understand why paranoia exists, but I question whether it’s as prevalent as we think. I believe that with the right tools in place and the right sorts of information shared, that paranoia will continue to fade into the background.

Suppliers don’t need client names as much as they need to know the industries you are servicing. Suppliers are experts in several industries as many of them track product sales against industry segments already. You working with Citibank is less important to a supplier than you working within the Financial Services industry.

This lack of information exchange in the pre-sale phase simply compounds the problem we have between distributors and suppliers. Armed with the right information in the pre-sale phase, suppliers can act as an extension of the distributor sales force.

I loved Steve Woodburn’s take on this very communication divide between distributors and suppliers as it highlights many of the things we need to move past if our supply chain model will continue to thrive.

There is a movement afoot in the industry to break down the walls between suppliers and distributors. PPB is writing an article on examples of effective supplier-distributor partnerships. PromoKitchen was born from a desire to share best practices across the industry. The education curriculum at PPAI and ASI events regularly celebrate information exchange across the industry. RIGHTSLEEVE, via commonsku, shares information about client projects and opportunities in real time with suppliers.

How about you? Is the current level of paranoia justified in our industry? What does the concept of “partnership” mean in this industry? What is the right information to share between suppliers and distributors? What needs to change in order to have better information flow between suppliers and distributors?

I’d love your thoughts.


commonsku is social enterprise software for the promotional products industry.  We marry a social network with powerful crm and order management to connect the supply chain.  Please stop by to say hi on  twitter facebook , or  pinterest .