A favorite marketer of many in the promotional products industry – myself included – is Seth Godin. One quote from Mr. Godin that has impacted me directly is, “You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.” In fact, I like it so much it is one of the messages on the back of my business cards. When pressed about what gives them an edge over the competition, many promotional products distributors will say that they are “creative”. Frankly, it’s not enough of a differentiator to tell your clients you are creative. In fact, I don’t think it’s a differentiator at all.
There are 22,000 distributors in the promotional products industry with access to virtually the same products from the same suppliers at similar prices. Leveraging product alone to differentiate you from the competition simply won’t move the needle. To truly stand out from the crowd, you have to give your clients more – and that will take real creative thinking and effort.
One of the best exercises I teach people is WWYDIIWYC – What Would You Do If It Was Your Company? It may be a horrible acronym, but it is excellent exercise to do before meeting with a prospect or client. It’s really quite simple: put yourself in the position of your contact, anticipating the problems they face on a daily basis and how you would handle them if you were suddenly in charge. Think about their job and how they are evaluated during their annual review. Are they measured on cost-savings (Procurement), sales growth (Marketing, Sales), or talent retention (Human Resources)? This will get you thinking about how your contact will be better off because they have chosen to partner with you – and this is key.
Once you understand their personal driver – the “what’s in it for me” – then focus on the challenges they likely face on a daily basis trying to accomplish their job. What are those challenges? How have they likely tried to solve them? How do promotional products help them achieve their goals? How are they packaged? How are they delivered? What message should be used? How is the overall message reinforced?
When you start putting yourself in the position of your client, you will be amazed how you start to think differently. And when you start to think differently, on behalf of your client, you truly begin to separate yourself from the competition that merely drops off a 10 pound catalog and tells the client that their logo can be put on anything in it.