How to Succeed (and Fail) in the Promo Industry

Maple Ridge Farms Team

40Years_Halloween2019.jpg

This photo was taken pre-pandemic. Remember life before masks and social distancing?

Just over forty years ago, we stumbled across the promotional products industry, and we’re so glad we did. What a journey it’s been! We’ve been inspired by our peers, made lifelong friendships, given back and grown tremendously. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons, so we want to share them with you. Read on for five key do’s and five key don’ts to succeed in the industry we call home!

DO learn every day. Our industry is constantly evolving and changing, so you have to keep learning to keep up. Challenge yourself to grow through education and experience. Be open-minded to different viewpoints, new concepts and fresh ideas. Attend webinars and educational sessions at industry events to expand your knowledge. New skills, experience and knowledge can lead to new opportunities.

DON’T grow stagnant. You’re an industry veteran, so you’ve decided that you know everything you need to know. When you close yourself to growth, you start declining. Our industry is constantly changing and evolving, so you need to pursue personal and professional growth to continue to help your clients. Look for new ideas and fresh perspectives so you can approach each challenge with the tools you need to solve it. We can all benefit from the excitement and wonder of a first-timer’s experience!          

DO get involved. The promotional products industry is a big family. Sometimes we disagree, but we love to come together for the common good. Join your regional association to meet fellow professionals in your area and enjoy numerous benefits. Be a mentor or find a mentor through PromoKitchen. Give your time and talents as a volunteer with PPAI. Mentors have helped our company during our time in the industry, so we’ve always tried to help others and pay it forward. Today, we have a mentorship program on the Farm, and we’re active in regional associations, PromoKitchen and PPAI, among other groups. There are so many ways to get involved, do good and meet new people!      

DON’T be a lone wolf. There’s power in collaborations and partnerships, and there are so many opportunities to work with others today. Even if you’re a one-person shop, look for ways to expand and grow. Develop relationships with fellow professionals in your area that you meet through your regional association. Get to know your go-to supplier representatives, so they become part of your team. Find your tribe in our industry, so you’ll always have people to bounce ideas off of and receive feedback when you need it. We’re a niche supplier, but we love to collaborate with fellow supplier friends to showcase the power of #PromoTogether.  

DO work closely with your trusted supplier partners to produce successful projects for your clients. We’re here to help! Tap into our tools, knowledge and experience to exceed your clients’ expectations. Ask about tools and resources available to help you learn, market and sell specific product categories, vertical markets and more. Go on virtual factory tours, or schedule Zoom presentations for your team. From creative ideas and concepts to successful delivery, we’re with you every step of the way.   

DON’T loop in your supplier partners at the last minute or after everything’s been decided. We love to get involved as early as possible, so we can contribute critical information or help you and your client make the best decisions. Sometimes a minor tweak can save your client a lot of money or a major hassle. Take advantage of our expertise in our product line, packaging, shipping options and more.

DO provide creative solutions to your clients’ challenges. When you’re working on a project, talk to your client about what they’re trying to achieve. Dig deeper past the quantity and budget so you can develop a better understanding of how to help. Who are the recipients? What message or takeaway do you want them to receive? How will this project support their brand? Defining your clients’ objectives first will lead to higher budgets, more creative solutions, less brandfill and stronger customer loyalty.

DON’T sell on price alone. Budget is a critical part of any project, but don’t focus on the price. There are no winners in a price war because you can’t win a race to the bottom. Someone will always be less expensive or willing to make a smaller margin. Sell your value by showing how you can help your clients achieve their objectives and solve their pain points. You can become a trusted marketing partner with your expertise and relationships.

DO be kind, and treat everyone with respect. We all have bad days and encounter stressful situations, but we choose how we react to any event. You’re a professional and should conduct yourself like one—in person, over the phone, on social media and on video calls. We’re living through stressful times, so take care of yourself, including your mental health. Remember to take time for yourself to relax and recharge. Reach out and get help if you need it, so you can enjoy better times ahead.    

DON’T be unethical or attack others in the industry. While we all have competition, it’s important to be civil and engage in ethical business practices for the good of the industry. We all benefit when our industry succeeds, and we can contribute by being the best versions of ourselves. Don’t instigate a fight or use negative advertising attacking others. Focus on sharing your story and how you can help your clients accomplish their goals and chase their dreams.

BONUS: Be environmentally conscious, so you’re aware of how your actions and lifestyle affect our planet. Look for sustainable products and processes whenever possible. Less than 3% of Maple Ridge Farms’ product goes to a landfill, and we're working every day to get to zero. We’ve also taken numerous actions to reduce our environmental impact on the Farm, including switching to reusable dishes and silverware, recycling over 50 tons of paper and corrugated annually and printing 75,000 fewer catalogs than in the past. Learn more about our commitment to the environment in our Social Impact Story. We can all take steps, big or small, to reduce our impact on the planet. 

These key do’s and don’ts have served us well in life and the promotional products industry, and we’re confident they’ll help you succeed, too. What do you think of our key do’s and don’ts? What would you add? Share your industry advice or key do’s and don’ts with us on social! Tweet us or tag us in your post on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or commonsku. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!  

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