Throughout my volunteer service to the industry's association, many people have made comments about the demographics of our practitioners. When you look out over a promotional products trade show floor, you may be struck by the lack of diversity, by the balance of attendance by gender, and by the relative aging of the people in the industry. That is not to say that we have no young people. I'm excited about the crop of new, young energy entering our ranks and stepping up into leadership roles. But the fact remains that for the most part, a good number of us have celebrated at least one birthday where our more cruel friends have brought black balloons and "over the hill" pins.
I've always pointed out that for a large number of people, our industry was not their first career. Among our ranks you'll find retired military, parents returning to the workforce, former bankers, former teachers and former corporate ladder climbers. All of whom have discovered our wild, wacky, crazily creative, frighteningly frustrating, ultimately rewarding and addictive world of stuff! So for many of us, marketing may be a new discipline and advertising something we paid attention to only during one big football game per year. (Go Giants, Go Patriots - I don't have dog in this year's fight). I think this is why my CAS-required courses, Advertising and Marketing Overview Parts 1 and 2 are so wildly popular (and being required also helps!).
In classic marketing curriculum, four critical elements are identified as being components of marketing:
Product: There must be a product or service for marketing to take place. We may take it for granted that our product is our ability to source products for our clients. What is it that you are offering? A product, service or offering must meet a need in the marketplace. How much time have you spent really digging into defining what need you are filling in the marketplace? What problem do you solve? Why are you the best solution to that problem? What pain do you take away for your clients? Why are you the best pain reliever? Find the Pain. Be the Aspirin (or Tylenol, or Advil, or Morphine)! If you can solve problems and take away pain, you have a viable product. If you can solve problems and take away pain for clients, they will never shop you, will be loyal to you and will view you as an indispensible member of their team.
Price: Every marketer must have a pricing strategy. For Wal-Mart, this strategy is lowest price, always. For Nordstrom, it is never discount except for two and only two sales per year. For credit card companies it may be 0% interest for the first year (and then 25% thereafter, lol). What is your pricing strategy? I contend that just as product sourcing is not a good product, the lowest price is not a good pricing strategy. Having the lowest price is a race to the bottom and a zero sum game. Zero sum game is a fancy business writer phrase meaning there are no winners. (Now if I can somehow work in paradigm into this article, I'll have a MBA-speak bonus blog!). Define your pricing strategy understanding that it is not how much that you sell that matters. It's how much you can keep. Profit is the life blood of your business. But profit must be earned. You must be solving problems and adding value. See "product" above. Instead of a discount strategy where you reduce the perceived value of your offerings, you could try a value-added strategy. A value-added strategy always gives a little more — whether that more is service, product, measurement, publicity, or other support you can offer to solve problems and relieve pain.
Place: Traditionally, our "Place" has been in our buyers' offices or maybe a showroom. Today, many buyers prefer the place be on their computer screens. How have you adapted to that shift? How is your "place" defined? How do you set it apart from anything your buyers have ever seen before? Rain Forest Cafe, took a restaurant and turned it into a jungle adventure experience. Is there a way you can turn your showroom into an experience? Distinguishing yourself with ultra creative open houses, with a trade show experience in a parallel target industry, with a web experience that makes your clients' jobs easier are a few ideas of how you can work on your third "P" and make Place a competitive advantage. Even your visits to your clients can be a Place Experience if you focus on how you can bring positivity, creativity, innovation and smiles into their offices every time you visit.
Promotion: How are you making your clients' and prospects aware of the powerful solutions that you offer? You are in the promotion business. Hopefully, you are not just in the products business. As a promotion expert, your work on your own promotion marketing should be communicating constantly that you know what you're doing. If you can market yourself creatively, your prospects will see what you can do, will recognize how you caught their attention and will want you to do for them what you do for yourself. If you want to sell more trade show traffic building solutions, put on a trade show or participate in one and show your clients what you've got. If you want to sell more direct mail campaigns incorporating creative products, put together a direct mail campaign for your distributorship. If you want to sell loyalty programs, put together a loyalty program to reward your best customers. If you want your clients to have a promotion budget and spend it, have yourself a promotion budget and spend it.
These are the classic four 'P's of Marketing. I like to add People, Purpose and Passion for a total of seven. When you get very clear about the first four and engage your people around your vision and give them something more than business like a Purpose or Meaning to their daily efforts, you can inspire a Passion that will drive your business to new levels of success.