How Printers Can Use Promotional Products to Increase Their Income
Read this entire article! Don’t scan it, jump around or just read the last paragraph. Take six minutes and read this, but only if you want to greatly increase your income.
For about 18 years, I owned and operated a commercial printing company that serviced a wide range of clients from mom-and-pop grocery and convenience stores to Procter & Gamble and Kroger. During that time, however, I saw my business change from “printing” to “graphic communications.” Initially a publisher of numerous fundraising cookbooks, weekly church bulletins, monthly community newsletters and millions of letterhead, envelopes and brochures, we began working with clients in new and interesting areas.
The transition first occurred when a large wholesale food distributor—a client at the time—needed suspended signage for a trade show and had only a few days to get it done. The client asked me if I knew of anyone who could pull that off. I did. I had a 16' circular canopy sign with wraparound graphics ready to hang in four days, and that was 38 years ago.
The important part came next. That same client approached me with another question: “We need hand-out stuff for the trade show with our logo, can you help with that, too?” I contacted a company specializing in pressure-sensitive decals that I had worked for in the early 1970s. I remembered that it was a supplier to the specialty advertising industry, and could tell me where to find something for my client.
I was surprised to learn that there were a number of these suppliers right in town, and I found several items that worked quite well for my client. I also found one of the best profit centers for my business.
Initially, I had to discover more suppliers, and I got set up to distribute their items. The process was not easy. I had to establish credit with each of them. I had no special pricing programs offered to me. My orders were not expedited through production. I was a little guy trying to find a way into a very secretive industry. It took a few years, but I eventually succeeded in establishing promotional specialty marketing and advertising as a huge part of my business.
The merger and acquisition fever of the late 1980s was not kind to my business. Three of my largest accounts were taken over by other companies, and I lost their business. I received an offer to lease the office building where my company was located, so I sold the business, leased the building and had to figure out what was next.
I reached out to a company that I was familiar with as a competitor and set up a meeting. I sat down with the owner, and we talked for five hours. I ended up joining the company and still work there nearly 27 years later.
This company helps printers (graphic communications companies) become active in the promotional specialty advertising industry without all of the pain, work and years I put in back when I got started. This organization provides front- and back-office support, sales tools, education and financing. It basically gives you the profit center, and you start generating income immediately.
I coined the term “specialized distributor” for businesses like my employer. These companies provide the support for independent businesses to be active in the promotional specialty advertising industry. They do not sell to customers directly, but only through the businesses they serve. There are several other large specialized distributors in addition to the one where I work. Each will be a bit different in how it operates, shares and distributes profits, protects you from bad debt and product liability and more. It is important that you interview these specialized distributors and work with one you trust.
But do investigate this profit center. As a printer, you may have a month or more advanced information about what your customer is working on. You may even be involved in developing logos, brochures and other support materials for upcoming events and campaigns. Why let some other company provide the promotional components when you can do that—and at margins two to three times what printing has?
If you already have been helping customers with concepts, graphic design and marketing strategies, you will find that using promotional specialty marketing in that mix will bring your client stunning results and bring you stunning profits.
So, how do you get started (or make a change for the better)? Again, find a few specialized distributors and interview them. If you don’t know where to look, let me know, and I’ll give you some names to check out. A good distributor will have a program that will remove most or all of the administrative work from your plate. They will finance your business. The best distributors will advance your profits when you book your orders. My company puts your profits in your designated bank by direct deposit on the day you place your customers’ orders. The distributor should have a highly trained and knowledgeable staff to help you source whatever you need to help your customers reach their goals. You should be able to access proprietary catalogs online and in print. Your orders should be able to be entered directly to the distributor using a dedicated intranet and allow you to manage your promotional profit center from that same web utility. There should be no cost to you to partner with the distributor.
Your search should include a D&B credit check on the distributor to ensure you get paid. You also can find important information from the Better Business Bureau. Most of all, you need to find a specialized distributor that makes no claim on your accounts, and that puts in writing that you can leave the arrangement any time for any reason, or for no reason. That allows you to try out the arrangement without any fear of complications.
The promotional specialty advertising and marketing industry is a $22 billion business. The most successful people in the business work with their customers on concepts and build programs that will reach the objective of the client. People with printing backgrounds have a distinct advantage in this area, as every job you do is about meeting a client need, providing great service and helping clients grow their businesses. Your focus is not about selling products, but rather improving your clients’ businesses. That is a perfect fit for promotional specialty advertising and marketing.
Don’t put this off. Start investigating this profit center now. Every day you wait is income you won’t generate. And on top of all that, you will have a tremendous amount of fun!
Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president for Kaeser & Blair Inc. (K&B). He has more than 40 years of experience in marketing and the promotional specialty advertising industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B dealers. Contact Emmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.