When I first entered the world of promotional products (or branded merchandise) I was so hungry to create business and opportunities that I would do nearly anything to make a sale. Oh, nothing illegal of course, but I was not choosy. I was not particular about the clients I took on or the vendors I worked with. I just needed to put food on the table, so “a sale was a sale.” In that season of my career, that was what I needed to do.
But as time went on, I learned and evolved.
I learned that one of my jobs was to curate products. That’s pretty straightforward. There are millions of options and our clients simply don’t have the time or the knowledge to sift through them all. If I could narrow the search to just a few appropriate selections, I would be serving my clients. I could help them create a cool branded campaign that fit in the budget and (hopefully) moved the needle for their desired results.
Then I realized I was also curating something else…my vendors.
After a great deal of time in the business, I realized that not all suppliers are created equal. This is not as simple as some suppliers are “good” while some are “bad.” That is a wild over-simplification. The reality is, we are all better at some things than others. Some of our suppliers have an amazing selection of low-priced branded merchandise. A few of our suppliers have totally creative art teams that can dazzle us with mock-ups. And a few vendors can turn our branded products really fast, but they are not the cheapest. Each of the suppliers has its strengths and weaknesses.
That leads me to an important lesson.
When it comes to branded merchandise, you can have it:
You get to pick two out of three.
While this lesson almost certainly applies to many industries, I can say for certain that it does to branded merchandise. As a distributor in this industry, it’s our job to do our best to guide you to the product AND supplier that can most effectively meet your need. As much as we want the industry to be amazon, it’s not. So if you want a branded campaign to be done in a week, there are options. They just probably won’t be the least expensive (or they won’t be done right).
As a side note, as I write this the challenge is doubly difficult. It seems nearly every industry is being affected by challenges in the supply chain (can’t get the product) or the labor force (can’t get people to work). It’s a reality we are all facing.
So my advice to you…plan ahead.
While that has always been the case, it’s really true right now. Stock is here today…and gone tomorrow. So please give yourself lots of time to make sure the item you want for your next campaign can make it on time. And if it’s not, it gives time to find a replacement.