the promotional products business post covid

When will it be NORMAL again?

I, like the rest of you are tired and worn out from the whole Covid-19 thing. When will it be Normal again?

Call it Covid exhaustion or Corona Virus overload but my inner voice is telling me that “I am sick and tired, fed up with all of this!” I am sure you are as well?

Personally, I can’t wait to not sell PPE. It’s boring, its not very creative and at the best its a promotional product bridge between Pre-Covid and whatever Post-Covid will look like. In short, I hate it!

What Will the New Normal Look Like in the Promotional Product World?

I am afraid to say this, but the promotional products industry we all came to love and live within will be gone forever.

Whatever the New Normal will be, it certainly will not look like the Old Normal. Here’s some interesting observations.

Many of the end user clients will not return.

It is easy to see that many of your end users will not be reopening. They may have just found the slowdown and shutdowns too much financial risk to bare.

I have spoken with over 20 distributors about this very same topic and 17 of them expect to lose about 20% of their customer base or more. How do you feel about this. (leave a comment please).

On top of this drop in clients, the other problem lurking is the amount of money owed by those end users to their distributors. Will this get paid and how will that affect business going forward?

Video- Here’s a video I did 3 months ago on this topic. ( I have lost 30 lbs since then 🙂

Independent Distributors are now more vulnerable than ever to being taken over by the mega-distributor.

With the possibility of the independent distributors being weakened by the loss in clients and potential loss in outstanding monies owed, does that mean that the Mega Distributors (aka MD) will work harder to buy and absorb those fiercely independent distributors that are still left out there?

Does the growth of the Mega Distributor reduce the amount of creativy and uniqueness in the promotional product market?

I would strongly argue, yes that it does. The MD business model seems to be, too limit the number of suppliers that they deal with. This may be a good business decision for them but is it a good deal for the end user? Is it healthy for the overall promo business model?

Does a lack of choice and innovation by limiting the variety of products shown to the end user, further push the end user to go direct online?

A Golden Opportunity for the Independent Distributor!

Being a half-full kind of guy, I like to see what the upside in all of this may be. Let’s consider the following.

Like the old Cadillac motto, “We Zig while others Zag!” is there a golden opportunity for the independent distributor to benefit from all of this change by zigging vs. zagging?

I believe that with far fewer distributors left after Covid-19 and with many of those newly untethered salespeople either opening up their own shop or aligning themselves with new partners that there will undoubtedly be some amazing opportunities.

If these new independent distributors decide (wisely IMO) to not try and follow the same playbook of the MD I think they may well create a unique and very profitable future for themselves.

3 Choices. The MD model, the Old School Model and the New Independent Model.

In my opinion, as a professional supplier to you the distributor I believe you have 3 choices to consider.

MD Model. You could join forces with one of the Mega Distributors. That road is very well known. It may make life easier for you but it also may make you less valuable to your clients? More vulnerable to being replaced.

OS Model. Once Covid-19 is over and we are back to the “New Normal” you may be just fine to stay as you were before Covid. The problem with this is several fold.

Your clients and your prospects are going to be very anxious and desirable to get back to business and to marketing their business. This is a good thing.

However, if you present them with the same ideas that you presented them Pre-Covid and the same approach as Pre-Covid they may look elsewhere. Black Swan Events like this (others include 9/11, Black Monday 1987, Housing crisis 2008) have shown us that during these times customers always start to question the status quo. How can you avoid this fate?

NI Model. The New Independent Model is a business model for the promotional products professional that will address the new realities of the Post Covid world.

I strongly feel that those distributors who accept the challenge of reinventing themselves and reinvigorating their business, they will not only survive but thrive!

Not all end users will go online. In fact there is not much difference between the MD Model and the Big Online distributors like 4imprint. All are pretty boring and unimaginative. So for those end users that now no longer want Vanilla-like promotions, where will they go?

Will they phone up their former local distributor? Probably, maybe, maybe not! If they do they will expect more, expect different and expect to pay less. Are you ready for this challenge?

Get Ready Now!

As I said at the beginning of this post. I can’t wait for Covid-19 to be done and gone. When will that happen? That question and its answers are way beyond my pay grade. But I do know some things.

Start getting ready now. When the “New Normal” hits you will need to act fast and have all your ducks in a row. Start speaking to outlier suppliers like us, we have lots of great ideas that other suppliers just don’t have.

Redo your website. This is the time for distributors clean house, rearrange the furniture and get yourself a new web site. We are currently working on our new one. It’s a very important part of your world going forward. After all, You are in the marketing business!

Stop doing the same old things and expecting a different result! What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Trust me. The Post Covid-19 world is NOT going to look like, want, expect or accept distributors and suppliers doing the same old things they did Pre-Covid.

What do you think will happen?

Please leave your comments here, call me at 250-661-4057 or email me your thoughts. [email protected]