Updated March 2018

Promotional products distributors are faced with brutal competition from big companies that sell online. Some of them sell at such low prices that make it impossible to even come close. The truth is, if you are a small or medium-sized promotional products business, you don’t stand a chance of competing with those guys on price.

Despite the dominance of the giant online promotional products companies, the good news is that not everyone is looking to buy the cheapest they can find with disregard of all other factors, nor are they interested in DIY ordering. This is the group that wants to find someone like you to work with, therefore, the target audience you must identify and focus your prospecting efforts.

There are plenty of reasons for a consumer to prefer NOT to buy online on their own.  As an example, the very fact that the product is customized with their logo, in and of itself, opens plenty of room for the buyer to have questions. From imprinting, packaging, shipping, to the actual product itself, there are many things the buyer will want to know before placing an order.

In my opinion, there are three types of buyers who will stay away from buying promotional products online:

1. The Brand Conscious

Those businesses that take their brand seriously and have well-defined brand guidelines, who want to deal with a provider with whom they can discuss those with, to ensure that the products printing will meet their brand standards to a T.

2. Corporate Clients and Large Organizations

There are buyers whose organization’s buying process requires issuing purchase orders and/or several layers of approvals of orders and invoices, and online purchases are just not permitted.

3. The Delegators

These are the buyers who are not sure what they want or how to get it, and they just wish to discuss the project as a whole with someone who will listen and assist them in making the right product decisions, as well as help throughout the purchasing process.

Where Do You Find These Type of Clients?

The question has become, can they find you? In today’s marketplace, where the consumer is in charge, he/she prefers to be the one to find you, on their own time and their own terms. So you must make yourself findable…you need to be where they spend their time: online.

The fact is that technology plays a major part in our daily lives, and has totally changed the way we communicate, and the way we evaluate and make purchasing decisions, both at home and at work. When any of the three types of buyers mentioned above is working on a project that requires them to buy branded merchandise, they will go online to search for that small company where there is a human with some level of expertise on the subject, so they can have an intelligent conversation that will allow them to move their project forward. Unless they already have you…

Getting on With the Program

The real issue is that few distributors take the time and effort to build their online presence to make sure that they actually show up in searches, or drive attention to their business online in any way, thinking that’s out of their reach, something only the giant companies with deep PPC pockets can afford. However, they could easily own the local searches on a budget, with a very basic but strategic online marketing system, that would more than pay for itself time and again.

How about you? What’s your strategy to move away from DIY online buyers, and the price-cutting clients?