SOI 2018: Sources of New Business in the Promo Industry

Modern strategies are helping distributors make gains, but there’s still work to do.

Referrals remain the top way distributors are getting new business, as 82% of respondents used them in 2017 to earn deals. Distributors with sales between $1 million and $5 million leverage this strategy the most: 91% of firms in this group said referrals helped them score new clients.

State of the Industry 2018 Index Page

While referrals continue their reign, other approaches to winning over prospects are increasingly popular, data shows. In 2014, just 19% of distributors said social media networking was part of their new business strategy. In 2017, that number jumped to 33%. Another riser in recent years: websites, which 29% of distributors said aided them in acquiring customers in 2017.

Successfully using these more modern strategies, though, requires both a plan and the resources to execute it. In particular, making websites a lead and deal generator takes investment, including spending some money in online advertising, according to distributors.

“Invest in sponsored advertisements and boosted posts,” says Kayla Wright, marketing director of Pro Design Graphics Co. (asi/590153). “You can easily track data through your social pages and websites to see raw data. This data will answer your questions in regard to who’s viewing, when, and for how long they’re engaged.”

Once they land on your page, Gregg Emmer, chief marketing officer for Top 40 distributor Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600), says customers are more likely to place an online order if: a website quickly and succinctly explains what’s in it for them; they’re offered a free gift with the initial order; and it only takes a couple clicks to make that order.

“If you get someone to your website, tell them why it matters that they deal with you,” Emmer says. “They can increase store traffic, build customer loyalty, improve employee performance, lower insurance rates and introduce new services. The goal of any website should be to generate a phone call.”

“The goal of any website should be to generate a phone call.” Gregg Emmer, Kaeser & Blair

Emmer suggests using a line on a landing page like: ‘Get our quote and a free gift.’ This “will secure better results from any website, and a good site will allow a customer to place a reorder” quickly and easily, he says.

Wright believes the odds of earning an online order come down to one word: usability. “It’s the ease at which users can navigate through your website and find what they need to quickly and efficiently,” she says. “Usability is crucial on desktop and mobile.”

In a recent look at her company’s analytics, Wright noticed users were leaving her firm’s website within 30 seconds of visiting. “This was an insight that helped us learn we needed to create the most user-friendly website we could,” she says. “Our hope is to increase the amount of time spent on our page and increase engagement.”

Wright has used expert help in order to achieve this goal and suggests small and mid-sized distributors do the same, as the opportunity for web-generated business is there. “I recommend investing in a creative agency or creative person to build the website and social landing pages to your expectations,” she says.

Increase Your Email Conversions

Small distributors are generating less business through email campaigns. Learn why, along with what you can do to yield better results.

Are you tired of seeing your email account littered with non-personalized messages from random companies? Your prospective clients probably are too, and that’s why email blast campaigns just aren’t as fruitful as they used to be. In fact, just 14% of distributors say email campaigns generated new business for them in 2017 – down from 19% only three years ago.

“We’re currently living in a transitional generation where most people use email like billboards on the highway: You toss up a ton of the same images, put some bold graphics on there and send a mass email to a list of hundreds or thousands of folks. Anyone with any available creative or valuable content is lost in the shuffle,” says Jacque Lee, CEO of Silva Screenprinting (asi/326062).

Lee says many of these emails don’t even make it to the intended client – they’re caught by spam blockers that automatically send them to the junk folder. “The new generations of decision-makers don’t want mass anything,” she says. “They want customized emails, messages and products.”

But not all hope is lost. Kayla Wright, marketing director of Pro Design Graphics Co. (asi/590153), says the first step in getting more out of these campaigns “is to use software that lets you see who’s opening your emails and who isn’t,” she says. For those who aren’t reading, Wright recommends a trial-and-error approach. “What gets them to click? Is it a 50%-off deal? Is it free shipping? Play around a bit to find out this information,” she says.

Wright’s company has experienced success by adding a personalized touch to emails – specifically, learning about upcoming events relevant to each client and connecting those events to a promotion. “One of our latest campaigns was to create a graphic where the user could click through to order a personalized graduation banner for their student’s celebration,” Wright says.

A good rule of thumb: simply blasting generic info is a good way to get your email deleted. “What hasn’t worked for us has been random sales or promotions that aren’t tied to a deadline – for example, ‘Get 10% off your order with a promo code.’ There’s no sense of urgency or purpose there,” Wright says. “You want to put ideas in their head for upcoming needs and not bombard them with spam mail.”

Click here for a larger image of the above graphic.

Click here for a larger image of the above graphic.

6 Tips for Being More Visible on Social Sites

Few distributors have well-defined social media strategies, according to our SOI survey. Here, active social media user Natasha Rawls, an account executive for Sourcepoint powered by Proforma (asi/300094), shares tips for bolstering your presence on popular platforms.

1. Prioritize LinkedIn postings. “LinkedIn can take a post from having 100 views to having close to 100,000 views in a relatively short time,” Rawls says.

2. Like, comment and share others’ posts. “If my competitors share something, I totally comment on it. I know it helps when I like and comment on other people’s posts – and when they do it back, it helps me, too.”

3. Pitch less. “It’s not always about selling on social media; it’s about sharing and engaging. When I see unique case histories, whether I did it or not, I’ll say, ‘Hey, look at how cool this is.’”

4. Run contests. Rawls loves running giveaways on LinkedIn. Case in point: a recent backpack design contest she ran yielded dozens of entrants, comments and new leads. “Contests do work,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll spend my spec sample budget in social media efforts.”

5. Commit to consistency. “Every day, it’s great if you can give 10-15 minutes and post one or two things. You’ve got to stay consistent. The more you put in, the better the reward will be.”

6. Make it easy to connect. “I always share my email address to make it easy for people to get a hold of me if they see something they like. That incoming lead is what we want.”