Plug in the scissors and show creativity
Nowell C. Wisch
Have you been seduced by one of the computerized high-tech proposal machines being marketed by a number of industry organizations, both for and not for profit?
You know the ones I mean. They have lots of products in their database and you can print out a nifty sheet with a photo, price and quantity chart, additional costs and extras that can be spirited off to your client for approval. These do-it-all programs are very nice, and, very expensive. The sales pitch is that you cannot afford to be in business without them.
Well, there is an alternative you can use before you build the cash flow necessary to pay for one of these electronic marvels. The alternative is advertising pages.
I am a huge believer in magazine advertising. When I first started selling promotional specialties back in the late ’70s, I began calling on people who were involved in industries of which I knew nothing. It was difficult carrying on a conversation with a buyer because I didn’t know the ‘lingo’ of their business and couldn’t relate to their needs. I was violating a cardinal rule of selling: “Sympathy, sometimes, Empathy, always!” This was because I had no mental “map” of their business landscape.
My remedy for this malady was easy. As I cooled my heels in waiting rooms around the country, I browsed the trade publications on the coffee table.
More specifically, I started reading trade advertising. As a result, I became an instant expert on whatever industry I was prospecting, as long as my knowledge was not tested. People thought I was very smart. They didn’t know that I was really very dumb, but played at being smart. My advantage was that I knew the secret to successfully appearing smart was to look toward trade advertising for knowledge.
At their worst, trade ads merely inform. At their best, they offer concise, well written copy that tells a product story in a few hundred words. They get right to the point and say, “Buy Me” or “Sell This” and tell you why you should. Read a trade ad before your next cold-call and instead of starting Out the conversation, “Tell me what your company does,” you can ask, “Do you exhibit at the NAPD convention in September?” This creates an instant impression of knowledge and empathy with the prospect.
A properly done ad photo can help a distributor sell product in this Internet age. While they cannot do the same job that product-display software can, advertising photos are effective presentation tools. If your client has little or no imagination, a well-crafted ad photo can give them a great idea of what a garment looks like on a live person. If that garment has a logo in the right place, it will be doubly important. Simply showing a catalog may not land a sale beyond a point. You can show them the fashion, but you cannot show them the promotional value of the garment. For that, you need a logo.
While most of our trade advertising only shows product, the right ad photo begs to be cut from the page and taken to the client as an example of the concept. If you do not have a computer program, you probably have scissors in your drawer.
As more advertisers change their photos toward product presentation and away from product depiction, the ads will become selling tools for the selling distributor. Instead of just showing a shirt, imagine an ad for the newest, ringspun-mercerized-doubleknit-voerunder-pique-placket-pocket-polo-lo ngsleeve-chambray shirt that teams great advertising copy extolling the benefits of the fashion with a great photo showing it embellished with a top-notch embroidery job. It will knock socks off.
First, it would generate some excitement over the product features. Next, it would give the benefits of those features. Finally, it would demonstrate an application and spur the client to action.
Take an ad with three nicely attired corporate types in immaculate polo shirts with the woman in the right placket. Without a logo, it could be a Land’s End direct selling catalog. With a logo, it will be an effective demonstration of the power of promotional wearables. Put one model in a shirt with a generic “company logo,” another in a shirt with a “sales goal’s met” incentive logo, and the third in one using a “dot.com” sleeve imprint and you have one presentation for three or more uses within the same company. This type of ad will show the product and give the client several useful ideas. It might also educate the salesperson in where to take the product and how it can be sold.
Perhaps we can kick our advertising up a notch or two in the next year. As we start doing creative work on our next catalog, instead of focusing on fashion, let’s focus on promotion and use wearables that promote the identity of a client, the service they provide or one of hundreds of other uses the product can be put toward. Plain shirts are just plain shirts. Blank product cannot answer the questions, 1) “Where can I sell this product?” 2) “How does a client use this product?” and 3) “Why should I sell this brand over another brand?”
I know that many supplier companies simply take retail photos and stick them in an industry-coded catalog because it saves thousands of dollars in creative costs. However, doing that does not help distributors sell more product as effectively. If you add $5,000 to your catalog production and the distributor sells several hundred thousand dollars more as a result, then it is an investment rather than an expense. The longtime suppliers show logoed fashion. The newcomer only shows shirts.
Look for logos
This focus on promotion will pay off in other ways. When the dot.com companies force the price issue, they concentrate on the product, not on the use. They depend upon the imagination of the customer, not the creativity of the distributor. They only answer the question, “How much is that doggy in the window?” They say very little about the value of its shaggy hair, its loyalty or its value to the user. This gives the distributor a chance to uncover clients who are interested in the entire range of services we offer, not just on the price.
Distributors can help this transition occur faster. Start by looking at the ads in this month’s Wearables Business. Look for fashions with logos and cut the ads out. Put them in your briefcase (after removing any addresses or web site URLs) and use them to sell product. As these suppliers’ sales start to rise, the work will get around and more advertisers will change their ads.
Then, we will create a bandwagon that everyone will want to jump upon, and the entire industry will sell more wearables!
Our industry’s long-term survival will be assured because the people who look only for the cheapest price on the Internet will be less effective with their promotions than their competition who is consulting with a promotional product distributor.
While each solution will be built around a product, the distributor will bring creativity and imagination to the client need. Rather than trying to sell cheap fashion, they will be selling fashionable promotions.
Wow! We all win!
Nowell Wisch, CAS, is Editor-at-Large for Wearables Business and a long-term veteran of the promotional products marketplace.
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