7 Things You Can Do With The Supply Chain Challenge

This blog was written in November of last year…and has been updated in January of 2022.

It’s affecting all of us…in nearly every industry.  We are seeing the challenges in our businesses…and our personal life.  Most of us have not spent nearly any time thinking about our “supply chain,” and now we hear about it every day.  It doesn’t matter if you are trying to buy a car, a computer, a t-shirt or a loaf of bread.  The issues are everywhere.

The Supply Chain is currently broken

I am not interested in placing blame here.  There are plenty of theories about that.  The problem with just placing blame is, for most of us, there is little we can do about any of that.  We are not heads of state.  And to be honest, the supply chain is not “owned” by any one organization.  So even if you are a “head of state,” that won’t get you very far either.  The supply chain is broken…and it’s not getting better soon.  It’s an “is.”

So what can we do about it?

If we accept that the challenges are there, then it’s a reality we all have to deal with.  So what can any of us do about it?  While we can’t really affect change with the problem, there are some things that each of us can do to help our businesses navigate these times more successfully…and with less stress.  Here are 7 things you can do to deal with the supply chain challenges that we are all facing.

Expect Price Increases

We hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but it’s coming (or here).  With suppliers aggressively trying to bring products into the United States and the port congestion continuing, we will all start to see costs rising on promotional products.  We are already starting to hear from customers that products they have ordered previously are higher.  Part of this is basic “supply and demand” economics, but it goes well past this.  The cost to ship a container of goods into the United States went from $4,000 to $32,000 in some cases.  This has a trickle-down effect, that will touch all of our purchasing…not just your branded merchandise.

I know.  I know.  It’s not what any of us want to hear.  But it’s important that we are prepared.

Action Step:  Be prepared to either increase your budget on these items or get ready to adjust items or quantities.

Plan Ahead

Updated: Many of our customers listened in the 4th quarter of 2021 and it helped!  But here’s the thing…just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the supply chain woes are fixed.  Rush orders are still going to be a challenge to be sure.  As we said then, these supply chain issues are not going away on December 25th.  Now is the time to begin thinking about your 1st and 2nd quarter (and beyond) initiatives.  Just like with the pandemic, “waiting for this to be over” is not a great strategy.

So we all need to continue to plan further ahead.  It’s imperative if you want to have items for your next event.  The good news is, we are moving back to having events again.  But we will need to plan out further if you want to have your branded merchandise in time.  As we said last year, if you used to plan 2 weeks out, double or triple that timeline.  You will be glad you did!

Action step:  Take the time to plan out the events you know are coming next year, and get the ball rolling now.

Have Plan B (and C)

Even if you placed an order when there was stock, that inventory might disappear like manners on Black Friday.  We talked about this here.  You need to have a few alternative options as you plan out your marketing ideas.  If you have selected a plan b and c, then you can move to those without having to start the creative process over again.  The fact that the item you really wanted is out will still be frustrating (because it is), but you will be able to move on and still get something in time for your event.

Action Step:  When selecting your first option, take a little extra time to select a “just in case” item as well.

Buy What IS In Stock

We have all been at a conference and come across that “perfect pen,” or seen a competitor with the exact promotional item we want for our brand.  I have certainly been there.  And to be honest, most of the time that is great for us.  In those cases, you have done the research for us.  All we have to do is go and find it!  But this is not the time to search for a specific item to put your logo on.  If you are this specific, you are destined to be frustrated.

Instead, this is the time to think about the emotion you want to elicit or the goal you want to achieve.  Start there.  Then work backward to what you want to achieve…with the items that are in stock.  That is why we created our “In Stock and Ready to Rock” shop.  We are updating this each week.  It’s not perfect because the numbers are changing all of the time.  But it’s better than searching for an item that is already out of stock and will not be back in inventory until March (or June).

Action Step:  Think about the goal you want to achieve.  Then start here for options.

Be Open To Alternatives

That leads nicely to keeping an open mind to new ideas.  While you might have always used a Nike polo for your sales team, this might be the year you need to think differently.  Be open.  Who knows?  You might find a brand you like just as well.  Or, what about a custom apparel piece?  If it’s going to take 8 to 10 weeks anyway, this might be the time to think “outside of the box” and create a custom solution.

Action Step:  Now is a great time to be open to new ideas that might hit the mark.

Act Quickly

Once you have decided on an option, act quickly.  The inventory numbers are not changing day to day…they are changing minute to minute.  This is not the time to “take it back to committee.”  If you do that, there is no guarantee that what you want will still be there.  This is not a sales pitch.  You just need to act quickly in order to get the items you want.   You need to act quickly and then be patient.  It’s not fair.   But it’s true.

Action Step:  Make a decision.

Be Kind

Being a frontline worker today is harder than ever.  These are the folks that are handling the calls and the frustration of the public.  They did not cause the issue, and to be honest, they can’t do much about it.  So screaming at them does nothing to help you.  The good news is, we have been blessed with very kind (and patient) clients for years.  We have not run into this.  But it’s a real thing that people are dealing with.  So please just be kind.  You can be “disappointed” and “not a jerk” at the same time.

Those are 7 things you can do to help with the supply chain challenges.  If you want to chat further, we would love to help.  Head here to set up a time to chat!

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.