I have a vivid memory of sitting down with a wily veteran sales guy on one of my first days on the job in the Promotional Products Industry. He pulled out a piece of paper and scratched out three words: Price, Quality, and Service.
He proclaimed that he was about to teach me a very valuable lesson.
"Young Blogstein, It is important to understand that the customer can never have all three of these things. You can have a low price and fast service(delivery) but not good quality because it takes time to do things right. You can have great quality and service, but you will need to pay a premium for it because the supplier has to drop everything to deliver the order. And if all they want is good quality at the lowest price possible they are going to have to wait for it because you just can't make money at it otherwise".
At the time this was actually really sage advice, and over the years I admit that I also used this argument with clients and rookie sales people. Now to correctly frame this; at the time PO's were mostly still sent by mail or courier, artwork was provided on transparencies and also had to be mailed or couriered as did paper proofs.
There was no Fax machine let alone email or the Interwebs Machine. Every human interaction in the process was transacted in person or by telephone(it was actually pretty nice). A typical order turnaround was 6 weeks and a Rush meant 3 weeks.
Technology has significantly impacted every industry in a very short period of time and Promotional Products is no exception. Online retailers like Amazon.com have changed the game. Consumers have become accustomed to not only getting Price, Quality, and Service, but also Convenience.
Technology has impacted buying behaviour as well. When it took 6 weeks for an order to be produced, the client would begin to plan several months in advance, and the sales person would start to call and pitch ideas three months in advance. We have all become accustomed to being able to get whatever we want when we want it, and Promotional Product Suppliers have answered the bell by investing in their production systems to provide services like virtual samples and 24 hour delivery.
I could go on, but the crux of it is that I believe that the Price/Quality/Service triangle no longer applies to the Promotional Products industry. It is certainly alive and well in other industries, Starbucks and Apple seem to be doing pretty good offering only Quality and Service for example. Some would even argue that our industry has shot itself in the foot by continuing to innovate while focusing on driving down prices.
Whether this theory holds water is irrelevant at this point. The question we need to ask ourselves as an industry is what else can we provide to continue to prosper, because you can be certain that the consumer "Wants it All".
I would love to hear your thoughts and what additional value you think that you bring to the game that keeps you relevant. Is it Creative Ideas, Pinpoint Execution, Killer Technology, Really Nice Shoes? I want to know...
@dannybraunstein or email@example.com