In The Bloom Of Health

Falling slightly from number one in last year’s report, health care takes the number two spot. Ad specialty revenue generated from this sector in 2014 accounted for 11.8% of total sales.

Falling slightly from number one in last year’s report, health care takes the number two spot. Ad specialty revenue generated from this sector in 2014 accounted for 11.8% of total sales.

Overture Premiums & Promotions (asi/288473) has its finger on the pulse of the health-care market.

From pedometers to a 285,000-piece order of custom tote bags, the volume and diversity of products Overture has delivered to organizations in the health sector is impressive. Last year, the distributor’s hardworking sales team sold millions of dollars of ad specialties to health-care clients. In 2015, the eye-popping success is proceeding apace. “We do quite a bit of business in health care,” says VP of Sales Laura Issacs.Overture isn’t the only one.

Industrywide research from ASI shows that health care is the second best market for selling promotional products, just behind education. In 2014, distributors earned 11.8% of their revenue – some $2.54 billion – from health-care sales. While the percentage share is down slightly from 2013, it is in line with the average annual percentage share of the last seven years. “Within our industry,” says Jon Borowka, account relationship manager at Motivators (asi/277780), “health care is huge.”

Here’s how sales reps are accelerating sales with this booming market.

Sell To Senior Care Facilities

The senior citizen population is increasing. By the year 2030, people over age 65 will account for 19% of the U.S population, up from 12.4% in 2000, federal statistics show.

For 2016 through 2023, continued population aging and improved economic conditions are expected to increase hospital spending by an average of 6.2% annually.

  • More than 18 Million The number of people in the U.S. who work in the health-care industry.
  • 5 Million Jobs are expected to be added to the health-care/social assistance sector between 2012 and 2022.
  • Health spending is projected to be 19.3% of GDP by 2023, up from 17.2% in 2012.

7 out of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. are in the health-care field.

Numbers like that indicate why the senior care industry is experiencing significant growth – a reality that spells opportunity for promotional product reps. “Our senior care clients have been good customers,” says Borowka. “It’s very consistent business.”

The Motivators rep relates that a senior care facility he works with has placed approximately 120 orders in the last year and a half. The client, which provides assisted living and nursing home services, has invested in everything from sunscreen, lip balm, pens and antibacterial spray to tech products like pedometers and styluses. Borowka provides tote bags too, “because they participate in trade shows. We’ve also done a stain remover.”

Pillboxes remain one of the most popular products Borowka has sourced for the client. His ability to swiftly execute an order of 5,000 pillboxes laid the foundation for the business relationship. It was the rep’s first time working with the facility, and the buyer needed the pillboxes delivered in a week and a half. He leveraged his vendor relationships and had the order completed with time to spare. “We did it in five business days,” he says.

The clutch performance earned him the chance to win subsequent business. His responsiveness, reliability and willingness to take responsibility and set orders back on track when they veered off course won him long-term loyalty. “We’ve built a great rapport,” says Borowka.

Partner With Hospital PR Personnel

Hospitals are replete with buyers. Streamline connecting with them by first targeting the institutions’ public relations/marketing teams. Often, contacts there serve as conduits to buyers in other hospital departments.

“One of our biggest clients is a hospital and we do work across the board there, but it all runs through PR,” says Howard Potter, owner of A&P Master Images (asi/702505). “They’re connected to everyone, and they review orders to make sure branding guidelines are met.”

To turn the hospital into a client, Potter began by cold-calling on the public relations department. During initial discussions, he learned the prospect’s pain points and demonstrated how he could provide better service. “They were having issues with quality, production, responsiveness and getting new ideas. We showed how we could fix all that, and then we went out and did it,” he says.

The good work has been rewarded. Potter’s strong relationship with the PR department enabled him to branch out to other departments. Eventually, he became the primary branded merchandise provider for the entire hospital. For years now, he has delivered a diverse range of orders, from scrubs to lapel pins, candy, magnets, pill cases, lanyards, mugs, pens and more.

Recently, sales kicked into a higher gear when the hospital rebranded as part of a merger with another institution. Potter and his team created an online store from which employees could order rebranded merchandise. For a press event announcing the merger, he also provided long-sleeve T-shirts that featured the new logo.

While business with the hospital was already brisk, Potter expects it to get even better. The merger means more employees and additional initiatives for which he can supply branded solutions. His prediction for the long-term health of his sales with the client couldn’t be brighter.

Look to the Calendar

In the health-care industry, specific weeks are earmarked to honor and celebrate different medical service fields. Savvy reps recognize that the special weeks are buying triggers.

Warren Spector capitalizes on the potential in health-care’s observance weeks. The sales rep at Tangerine Promotions (asi/341609) has engineered orders for clients in need of products for Hospital Week and Nurses Week.

For Hospital Week this year, he orchestrated a sale of about 1,200 infuser water bottles. “The hospital was giving them to staff,” says Spector. For a Nurses Week campaign, the Tangerine sales ace came through with 1,400 branded duffel bags. “The bags were for a hospital that was doing a gift for their nurses,” he says.

While the observance weeks occurred in May, Spector began working on the orders well in advance. For instance, he started on the Nurses Week project in early March. “Everything had to go through a committee,” he says. “The style and branding had to get approved. That requires lead time.”

Reps eager to generate revenue with observance week fulfilments should contact clients months ahead of time. “You have to get the timing right,” he says.

Observance days populate the calendar. Find out when they are, and start calling on relevant prospects with creative branding concepts that will have them eager to work with you.

Promote Patient Satisfaction

Hospitals and health networks continually vie for patients. To gain an edge, health-care clients seek to demonstrate that they are ahead of the pack when it comes to producing patient satisfaction. “It’s very important for hospitals to tout the honors they get,” says Stephanie Friedman, VP of marketing at City Paper Company (asi/162267). “The recognitions set them on a different level. They can use that as a marketing and advertising tool.”

Fortunately, branded merchandise is ideal for invigorating the marketing efforts. Not long ago, a health system with multiple hospitals that Friedman works with earned Magnet Recognition. Developed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Magnet Program recognizes health-care organizations that provide the quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovative nursing practices. “It means they are the gold standard,” says Friedman. “They wanted to tell people about that.”

To excite hospital employees about the achievement and to help them spread the word, Friedman came through with T-shirts, buttons, lanyards and more. Additionally, stickers, balloons and keychains were among the items the hospital distributed at community events. The products featured the client’s logo and messaging about the Magnet achievement.

There were multiple rounds of orders. Overall, the client purchased between 5,000 and 10,000 of each of the various products, depending on the item. “We did tons of great stuff for them,” says Friedman. “The project was a real success.”

Generate Employee Retention

Health-care providers don’t just compete for patients; they compete to attract and retain top medical and administrative talent. That’s good news for distributors who can earn sales by providing awards and more for retention efforts.

“Retention is a top priority, and you can really impress your clients by helping them show their doctors and other staffers that they are appreciated,” says Friedman.

She speaks from experience. One of her clients held an annual recognition luncheon for doctors and administrators. The organization didn’t simply want to send an email inviting the honored personnel to the event. The buyer wanted something more personal. To meet the need, Friedman delivered an elegant three-part invitation that had an invite message addressed to each recipient. The centerpiece of the package was a lapel pin that featured the client’s logo and the number of years the recipient had worked for the health network.

Every year, the client ordered between 250 and 500 of the invitations and pins. “The package told a full story and created a good feeling for the recipients,” says Friedman.

To best support clients’ retention efforts, talk to them about specific events they have planned. Mine as much information as possible about the intended end-users. Then, keeping in mind what you know of the buyer’s tastes and the client’s brand, suggest products and branding ideas that will resonate with the target personnel.

Fire Up Fundraisers

Health-care providers and their partners routinely engage in fundraising activities. Promotional products can help propel the success of these initiatives.

Just ask Kim Lawrence. The owner of Branding Solutions, an authorized Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) dealer, has annually provided 10,000 custom coloring books for a fundraising campaign that a hospital client engages in with the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit that raises funds for children’s hospitals. Known as the “Big Change Round-Up”, the campaign centers on getting children across Vermont and Northern New York to collect loose change. Distributed at schools and launch parties for the campaign, the 16-page books encourage fundraising, educate kids and show how their efforts will help children’s hospitals. In particular, the fun books include drawings of different medical personnel from the hospital along with the institution’s mascot. Plus, they feature activities that teach coin counting, as well as a goal sheet to help guide kids’ collection efforts. This past year, children also received a “loot bag” and a bandanna – products that playfully reference that students participating in the fundraising campaign are Big Change Bandits. “We just completed our second year,” says Lawrence, noting that products displayed branding related to the campaign.

Another hospital that Lawrence helps with fundraising through a turnkey employee apparel program, which includes a seasonally updated online store and twice-annual onsite pop-up stores. What makes the program especially unique is that Lawrence donates a percentage of the profit earned from the apparel sales back to the hospital. “The marketing team loves that we take care of everything,” she says. “The employees feel good because they know they are giving back to their employer’s fundraising efforts.”

4 Tips for Healthier sales

Pay Attention to Product Safety: Being associated with unsafe and/or recalled products would be disastrous for a health-care organization. Therefore, cultivate product safety knowledge so you can steer clients to high-quality products that meet regulations. Do this by building partnerships with reliable vendors, getting objective/documented assurances from suppliers that products are compliant and staying abreast of new product safety rules.

Know Their Marketing Calendar:  Develop a thorough understanding of your health-care clients’ upcoming promotions, events, sponsorships and more. Do this well in advance of the initiatives, and you’ll be better positioned to suggest creative solutions that drive ROI for your client – and more robust earnings for you.

Lead With Creativity: “Health-care organizations get solicited day in and day out,” says Kim Lawrence, owner of Branding Solutions, an authorized Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) dealer. “To get their attention, you need to think about what will give you an advantage.”

Be a Vendor at a Health-Care Trade Show: There are trade shows for all aspects of the health-care industry. Exhibiting at a show will cost you initially, but can be offset by the business you generate from contacts you make. Target events where you’re more likely to meet decision-makers, such as conferences for nursing administrators/executives.

Case Study

Key-In On Chiropractors

There are approximately 77,000 licensed chiropractors in the U.S., making chiropractic a sizable niche within the health-care sector.

Naturally, chiropractors need to promote their practices. Everything from branded pens, tumblers and keychains to hand-shaped massagers and pocket sliders about backache prevention will invigorate the promotional push.

The opportunities don’t end there. Earlier this year, Howard Potter and his team at A&P Master Images (asi/702505) designed a chiropractor client’s logo and provided the doctor with signage that included a vinyl banner. Additionally, Potter supplied the chiropractor with apparel, such as T-shirts, hoodies and embroidered dress shirts, as well as business cards.

Case Study

Power Partnerships and Sponsorships

As part of marketing efforts, hospitals sponsor events and participate in promotional outreach with strategic partners. Reps like Jon Borowka stir sales by providing branded merchandise for these initiatives.

Recently, the account relationship manager at Motivators (asi/277780) fueled a joint promotion that a hospital did with an arena football team. Working within a tight timeframe, Borowka brought to fruition an order of 2,500 sunglasses. The shades featured the team’s branding on one arm, while the hospital’s branding was on the other.  “They gave them away to fans of the team at a game,” he says.

Christopher Ruvo is senior writer for Advantages. Contact: Follow: @ChrisR_ASI