Distributor and sales trainer Danny Friedman told Education Day attendees at ASI Chicago that specializing in niches and markets is one of the fastest ways to grow business in the promotional products industry. “If you sell to one business in a market, you become an expert in it,” he said. “You have to have that attitude and confidence. Start with one and then build off of that.”
In his session called “Mastering Markets,” Friedman offered tips for selling into the promo industry’s two largest sectors – education and healthcare. For starters, Friedman gave these ground rules for finding success in both markets: create goals and write down a plan, be consultative and provide prospects peace of mind, understand how customers want to communicate, and quickly find out who the decision-makers are within companies you’re targeting. “The first person you talk to is probably going to be a gatekeeper,” said Friedman, president of Chicago-area firm DANNY Inc. “So how do you learn who the decision-maker is without being condescending? Ask them: ‘Who besides yourself makes the buying decisions at your company?’ By the way, who knows – next year, that gatekeeper could become the actual decision-maker.”
Speaking on the education market, Friedman suggested not only calling on schools, but also testing companies, publishers of textbooks and booster clubs. Recruiting is also a growing area within the sector, he said. Friedman explained that he breaks down the education market in tiers of promotions: mass, targeted, online and fundraising. A mass promotion might include giveaways at education fairs; targeted promos can be prospective student or teacher gifts; online efforts may relate to merchandise sales through dance or music school sites; and fundraising applies to spirit groups, for example.
On healthcare, besides pitching to hospitals and physician groups, Friedman recommended selling promos to rehab facilities and insurance companies, especially as the wellness boom continues. He encouraged his audience to segment healthcare promotions into larger giveaways (at health fairs), targeted programs (current patients) and employee promotions (like anniversary gifts). As many doctors and healthcare groups focus on retention, a simple promo “like a stress ball after a check-up visit” can be a worthwhile recognition idea, he said.
What other specific products should distributors pitch to education and healthcare clients? Friedman advised that new items are always the way to go, at least at first. “Look for two or three promo products at this show that you’ve never seen before and can take back to customers,” Friedman said. “They might not be the products you wind up selling, but they can get the conversation started.”