By the end of this year, just over half (51 percent) of knowledge workers—i.e., those who are involved in knowledge-intensive occupations, such as writers, accountants or engineers—are expected to be working remotely. This projection from Gartner represents an upward shift from the 27 percent of knowledge workers working remotely in 2019.
Gartner also estimates that remote workers—employees working away from their company, government or customer site at least one full day per week or who work fully from home—will represent 32 percent of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021. This is up from 17 percent of employees in 2019.
“A hybrid workforce is the future of work, with both remote and on-site part of the same solution to optimize employers’ workforce needs,” says Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner.
Remote working varies considerably around the world depending on IT adoption, culture and mix of industries. In 2022, 31 percent of all workers worldwide will be remote—a mix of hybrid and fully remote. The U.S. will lead in terms of remote workers in 2022, accounting for 53 percent of the U.S. workforce. Across Europe, U.K. remote workers will represent 52 percent of its workforce in 2022, while remote workers in Germany and France will account for 37 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Gartner notes that India and China will produce some of the largest numbers of remote workers, but their overall penetration rates will remain relatively low with 30 percent of workers in India being remote and 28 percent of workers in China working remote.
The lasting impact of remote work is resulting in a reassessment of the IT infrastructure that shifts buyer requirements to demand work-anywhere capabilities. Atwal says, “Through 2024, organizations will be forced to bring forward digital business transformation plans by at least five years. Those plans will have to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world that involves permanently higher adoption of remote work and digital touchpoints.”
A hybrid workforce will continue to increase the demand for PCs and tablets. In 2021, PC and tablet shipments will exceed 500 million units for the first time in history, highlighting the demand across both business and consumer markets. Organizations also deployed cloud services to quickly enable remote workers. Gartner forecasts worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services will grow 23.1 percent in 2021 as CIOs and IT leaders continue to prioritize cloud-delivered applications.
Used with permission from PPAI
Sales leaders should be adaptable. Different circumstances call for different leadership styles. Some situations may call for quick action while others require more contemplative planning. Additionally, not all sales reps respond to the same kind of leadership approach. Highly skilled, experienced employees may need something totally different than sales reps who are brand new to the field.
Fortunately, you can adapt your leadership style for the sales rep or the situation at hand, says Ben Brearley, the founder of Thoughtful Leader. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Brearley’s thoughts on three basic leadership styles and when to use them.
Style No. 1: Directive leadership. This leadership style involves assigning projects and directing employees what to do. Brearley sometimes calls it “old-school leadership” because most workplaces favor more collaborative leadership styles today. In the past, employees simply did what they were told and didn’t raise any questions.
When to use it: Directive leadership still has its place, according to Brearley, especially in time-sensitive situations. When a decision must be made swiftly or a pressing issue needs to be resolved, directive leadership is often the best way to proceed. It’s quick and simple, he says.
Style No. 2: Inclusive leadership. Unlike directive leadership, where you delegate and assign specific tasks, inclusive leadership involves asking for input. In your planning and decision-making, you take time to gather feedback from your sales reps and involve then in the process.
When to use it: Brearley says inclusive leadership is valuable when you are working with an experienced and knowledgeable group. By requesting their feedback and insight, you can often improve a situation’s outcome. This leadership style is also helpful when you are not clear which direction you should take. By asking your team members for their thoughts and conversing with them, you can get a gauge on what they are thinking. When you want to motivate your sales team and show that you care about their opinions, tap into this leadership style.
Style No. 3: Coaching leadership. With directive leadership, you tell people what to do. With coaching leadership, you provide the support and assistance to help your employees solve their own problems, says Brearley. This style promotes growth and development. Consider asking different kinds of prompting questions that encourage your sales reps to think about their work differently. The idea is not to do the work for someone, but to guide them to reach a desired outcome on their own.
When to use it: A coaching leadership style is best when you have time to help train your sales reps. If you are fighting fires or under tight deadlines, it might not work so well. Keep in mind that this leadership style only works when sales reps want to learn. Otherwise, bosses and employees will only become frustrated.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to adjust your leadership style to fit the occasion. Sometimes, your sales reps need quick and clear guidance. Other times they may benefit by being involved in big decisions. And sometimes one-on-one coaching is the best approach. Try different approaches and let go of what doesn’t work. When you approach leadership with a flexible mindset, your entire team will benefit.
Source: Ben Brearley is the founder of Thoughtful Leader and is an experienced leader, AIPC and PRINT® certified coach and MBA passionate about developing thoughtful and effective leaders.
Our industry is a three-legged stool. Each leg has interdependence on the other. When one leg doesn’t bear its weight, has a wobbly performance, the others feel it and the whole thing gets a little shaky.
Our three legs - Supplier - Distributor - Client - work together so well much of the time when each is at full strength. Partnerships develop when each leg decides to trust each other. It requires that we assume positive intent.
The success of each leg is dependent upon the success of the others. A distributor needs successful suppliers and has a vested interest in the ongoing success of their clients.
To ensure their own growth and strength, it is incumbent for suppliers to build strong distributor relationships. Even though they are connected through the distributor network, suppliers must have products — as well as ideas and services that facilitate end user success. Supplier performance has a direct impact on end user perception of the industry and their decisions on where to spend their marketing dollars.
Clients are also stronger when they nurture and build their distributor partnerships. Even though their connection to the supplier leg is through their distributor, trust strengthens the stool. We’ve seen this work in the growth of end user shows. When I was a distributor, I had clients who developed brand preferences for some of the suppliers and supplier reps with whom I partnered.
Each leg is an expert in areas and can provide services with degrees of proficiency, efficiency and value that the others cannot touch. Suppliers are the experts on trend-watching, importing, warehousing, decorating, and logistics. End users know their industries, markets, strategies, objectives, plans and vision. It is the distributors’ role to connect these to create valuable solutions to the problems of the marketplace. They must create sensible solutions that reach the right markets, at the right time at the right price.
So it does none of the legs any service to knock or weaken the other. We are in a unique imperfect storm that is disrupting all three legs in different ways. A worldwide pandemic has recked havoc on supply lines, transportation and labor forces. As the pandemic subsides, pent-up demand and a rush for new events has overwhelmed systems in multiple industries including our own.
It is as important to you to strengthen the other two legs as it is to keep your own organization healthy.
Each of us need to treat each other with grace and understanding and recommit ourselves to being our best in these difficult and challenging times.
Paul Kiewiet MAS+ is an industry speaker, writer, consultant and coach. He serves as the executive director of MiPPA. Kiewiet was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame and the MiPPA Hall of Fame. He served as Chairman of PPAI in 2007. A former distributor, he founded Promotion Concepts, Inc in 1982 and worked with some of America’s most valuable brands including Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, and Whirlpool.
Used with permission from PromoCorner
“Mindfulness” has become an increasingly popular buzzword over the past year, with workers suffering from pandemic-related burnout and record high stress levels. But what does it really mean?
Mindful.org defines mindfulness as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us. Sounds nice, right? Practicing mindfulness can help you stay focused, flexible, and think in a healthier and less stressful way, which helps to make your life at work easier to handle.
Every person already has the ability to be mindful – you just have to learn how. Here are a few of our tips for increasing your mindfulness at work:
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment instead of operating on autopilot. When you’re consciously present at work, you can give your full attention to the task you’re working on, which helps improve your quality of work and makes it easier to stay on track. But a wandering mind is normal and natural, so when your thoughts start to shift to wondering what’s for lunch or considering the latest office gossip, what are you to do?
When you catch yourself beginning to lose focus, it’s important to acknowledge those thoughts instead of just trying to shake them out of your head. Recognize your thoughts and emotions, and then bring your attention back to the task at hand. I know, I know… easier said than done. But mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to be perfect 100% of the time – you just have to try to stay aware of what you’re doing and what you’re feeling.
The humble king of taking it slow: the tortoise.
Slowing down and taking the time to give your feelings and thoughts space might seem counterintuitive to working well. However, relaxing a bit can make you happier, healthier, and more resilient, making you more efficient and productive.
Anyone who’s ever tried to complete a last-minute project in a panicked rush knows how much your work can suffer when you try to get things done in that state. It’s just not good for you! Even though it might seem a little backward, slowing down a bit to refocus can put you in a mindset that allows for sound decision-making and action-taking.
This is probably not the first blog or article you’ve read about mindfulness, and you might even already be aware of all the benefits that practicing mindfulness can offer. However, if you’re not actively remembering to be mindful, even if you already know all there is to know about mindfulness, you’re missing out!
This might be the best tip out there for solid mindfulness practice: set yourself a reminder. Choose a time of day to set aside and give yourself a few minutes (even just 5 minutes can make a huge difference in your day!) to step back and refocus on your surroundings, your emotions, and your state of being. Take a few deep breaths and reflect, and we promise you’ll feel ready to get back to your work with a clear head.
Have you ever heard that people are far more likely to leave a review online when they’ve had a negative experience than when they had a great one? This is called a negativity bias. We’re more likely to remember and dwell on things that went poorly than the good things in our lives. Practicing gratitude as a part of your mindfulness is a great way to combat this.
Writing down a few things you’re grateful for each day is a simple way to practice mindfulness.
There are so many things to be grateful for in a typical day, and taking the time to identify the little things that you have to be thankful for can help you focus on the good in your life, even when things get tough.
Mindfulness isn’t all closed eyes, crossed legs, and “ohmmmm”s. You don’t even have to meditate to be mindful! Taking just a few minutes each day to refocus on your intentions, thoughts, and surroundings and practice living in the moment can help you feel happier, healthier, and perform better at work.
Used with permission from SAGE
How well do your sales reps take care of their clients after a sale? Long-term clients are critical to your organization’s success. Existing customers know you and like working with you, and they’re also more likely to spend more on your products and services. The longer you retain your current clients, the more profitable they can become to your organization.
It’s important to continue serving and nurturing clients after they sign on the dotted line. This could mean connecting with them on social media, checking in to see how a campaign went or sharing a helpful article.
In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we highlight a post from The Center for Sales Strategy blog explaining why post-sale service is so important.
1. Post-sale service allows sales reps to shine. Sales reps have educated, encouraged and guided their clients throughout the entire sales process. They put in the work to get their buyers through the sales funnel. While the heavy lifting is done, the post-sale period still reflects on sales reps’ performance, according to the blog post. When teams deliver on promises made during the sales process, the buyer diverts some of the credit to the sales rep. The opposite is also true. The post-sale service period is a chance for your sales reps to solidify the relationship.
2. Post-sale service is a chance to help the client succeed. The best sales reps care about their clients’ long-term success. To them, it’s not just about making a sale and earning a commission—it’s about making an impact for their clients. While sales reps may have done an exceptional job answering buyer questions, responding quickly and defining value, the post-sale period is equally important. According to the blog post, the post-sale process is an opportunity to set the customer up for success through proper education, accurate information and prompt service when needed.
3. Post-sale service could lead to maximum-value contracts. If your clients have a subpar experience with your team after the sale, they likely won’t return for repeat business. However, if your sales reps impress buyers all the way through the process, including after the sale, you position your company for upselling opportunities and continued profits from this customer.
4. Post-sale service helps build loyalty. When clients buy a product or service from you, they are buying a solution to a problem they face. They want to trust that your sales team understands their needs—including those that may arise during the post-sale period. According to the blog post, buyers will often complete repeat purchases knowing they don’t have to worry about potential obstacles after a purchase.
Taking care of your clients after the sale is important for them—and for your sales team. When clients have a positive experience with the products or services they purchased or received from you, they are naturally happier. They get the results they were looking for and are more likely to return for repeat business.
Source: The Center for Sales Strategy blog. The Center for Sales Strategy is a customer-focused selling and talent-focused management consulting company.
Executive presence—that certain gravitas and innate ability to inspire and influence others—is a key skill to develop when you work in sales. When you have a strong executive presence, you know how to draw people in and compel them to keep listening. This skill serves you well whether you are pitching to prospects, presenting to clients or meeting with your sales team.
According to leadership expert and executive coach, Joel Garfinkle, extroverts aren’t the only ones with strong executive presence. He says many introverts possess a more subtle but equally important version of the elements of executive presence.
Whether you want to help those on your sales team or strengthen your own executive presence, Garfinkle says there are four key points to know. We share Garfinkle’s thoughts on the four components of executive presence in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
1. Confidence. The first key component of executive presence is confidence—and just the right amount. If you appear overly confident, it may come across as bravado or bluffing, says Garfinkle. Introverts usually exude a tamer version of confidence than extroverts. Rather than talking just to be heard, they state their opinion when they have something valuable to say. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, you can improve your executive presence by remaining calm and collected and making yourself a reassuring presence to those around you.
2. Boldness. Introverts aren’t traditionally considered bold. However, when they overcome their natural tendency to hang back, they can set themselves apart as bold. This boldness goes a long way at developing executive presence. Garfinkle notes that the presentation doesn’t even need to be flashy. The important thing is to become known as someone who makes a decision and stands by it. Once you make the leap to own your position, you can handle whatever comes your way.
3. Trustworthiness. Another important component of executive presence is trustworthiness. Since the introverts on your team are probably less likely to have a showy persona or participate in gossip, they are probably viewed as trustworthy professionals. The challenge, says Garfinkle, is allowing others to see that their character and personality matches their words and actions. This is difficult for professionals who come off as a closed book. Remember that people need to know a little about you and where you stand in order for them to trust you, Garfinkle points out.
4. Insightfulness. Professionals who have the ability to hang back and observe a situation before responding are demonstrating a strong executive presence. This is where introverts tend to shine more than extroverts because they are accustomed to listening before speaking.
Garfinkle says it’s important for professionals to share their insights, though. Many people don’t speak up thinking that no one wants to hear their thoughts, or they need more time to put their ideas together. Remember that people want to hear what’s on your mind—and they want to hear now, not later. Garfinkle recommends that professionals practice being clear and concise on the fly in order to develop their executive presence.
Executive presence is the special sauce that can separate ordinary sales reps from the extraordinary ones. While extroverts may regularly demonstrate the components above, introverts also have what it takes to build a strong executive presence.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Joel Garfinkle has written seven books and is recognized as one of the top 50 leadership coaches in the U.S. As an executive coach, he has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Amazon and Starbucks.
Used with permission from PPAI Media
In late March, beloved fast food chain SONIC partnered with Detroit-based sign painter Kelly Golden to release a new merch collection called Local SONIC Swag that’s got a little something for everyone (or everyone who lives in one of the 46 U.S. states where SONIC operates!). The tees have been a hit with fans of the burger chain and generated hundreds of social media posts on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and more.
You don’t have to be a seasoned promotional products whiz kid to know that it takes more than a fantastic product to have a successful promotion. So, what makes this clever promotion so popular?
Instagram post with the #MySONICSwag hashtag from user @alegriajimeniz.
Good promos invite people to connect and engage with your brand, and that’s just what these tees from SONIC do. With a custom-designed tee for every one of the 46 U.S. states where SONIC serves customers, this promotion offers fans a unique way to connect with the brand on a personal level. By combining local pride with fun designs and classic SONIC drive-in imagery, these tees invite patrons to show off their home state and their favorite fast food restaurant with a unique and quirky fashion statement.
Just a few of the 46 unique tees available at sonicswagshop.com.
What makes these tees so unique is the carefully considered individual designs for each state. From Alabama to Wyoming, these tees combine the things that make each state special with SONIC menu items to create whimsical graphics. The classic, vintage-style sign painting art of Kelly Golden fits perfectly with the 1950’s nostalgia of a drive-in restaurant like SONIC.
The Tennessee tee features a country-music playing raccoon whose drum set is a tater tot and onion ring, a clear homage to Nashville’s rich country music history. There’s a cowboy riding rodeo-style on a chili cheese coney for Texas, another classic SONIC menu item. Rhode Island gets its quintessential clam with a cute peppermint in place of a pearl, a wink to the state’s culinary and economic icon, and to the sweet post-meal treat that comes with every meal ordered at the drive-in snack stop. And that’s just a few of them! Every single SONIC State Swag tee has clever reminders of each state’s specialties mashed together with tasty treats, all wrapped up in cohesive designs that are fun to wear.
When you add your favorite tee to your cart on sonicswagshop.com, there’s a note to share your state swag look on social media with #MySONICSwag, and this is included in their own social media posts about the shirts as well. Social media is a crucial component of every successful promotion, and this one is no different. Flipping through the hashtag on Instagram will greet you with cute family and couples’ photos set to the background of the iconic yellow and red drive-in, but that’s not the only social media success this campaign has had.
For many people (teens especially!), the news of this cute promotion broke on popular social media app TikTok in a viral video with over 1.1 million views from user @nixswede. In this video, @nixswede shares her favorite SONIC state tees, which no doubt inspired plenty of people to check out the tees and order their own. The success of her first video inspired @nixswede to make a whole series rating all of the SONIC state tees, each to the tune of 15 to 115 thousand views and likes a-plenty.
Screenshot from sonicswagshop.com featuring info on their give-back program.
Not only are the SONIC tees adorable and a great way to flaunt some state pride, but they also give back to a good cause. For this promotion, SONIC is giving $1 from every t-shirt sale to help fight childhood hunger through the SONIC Foundation. The SONIC Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit division of the Inspire Brand Foundation and works to spark brighter futures for America’s youth by supporting education, community, and the ending of childhood hunger. By partnering their promotion with a good cause, SONIC’s fans can feel good about their purchases knowing that they’re helping their communities.
Innovative promotions are multi-faceted and exciting, and that’s just what the #MySONICSwag campaign accomplishes. Depending on what state you want to rep, there are still tees available in many sizes on their site (sorry, Texas, you’re so popular that all your tees are out of stock right now). The SONIC state swag promotion is an excellent inspiration for your future campaigns!
No doubt about it, the pandemic has forever changed the way we do business and the promotional products industry is no exception! If you’re like many in the industry you saw a significant decline in sales in the past year. Here’s the good news, vaccination rates are up; many mask mandates have been lifted and businesses are reopening in record numbers. As a promotional products sales-professional you are in a great position to help these businesses thrive post pandemic!
If you’re looking to grow your sales quickly, here are five hot promo markets to pursue!
1. Work-From-Home. The pandemic forced businesses to allow their employees to work remotely. These days many companies have decided to keep WFH as a permanent option and many employees are excited about the opportunity to work remotely from anywhere in the world. As a promotional products consultant you can provide the products that keep remote working employees connected, happy and productive. Products such as flash drives, power chargers, logoed apparel and gourmet snacks are needed and appreciated. This is a market that’s not going away!
2. Travel and Leisure. Travel practically “ground to a halt” with the advent of the pandemic, but not anymore. Airports and airlines are full, and cruise lines and popular vacation destinations are being booked in record numbers. What does this mean to you as a promotional products consultant? Competition is plentiful and all these companies want to stand out. Gifts of appreciation such as luggage tags, travel bags, journals and gourmet snacks are popular with this market as well as a multitude of other items.
3. Health and Fitness: The pandemic emphasized for many people the importance of taking care of their health. Gyms may have closed during the pandemic, but many people kept up their fitness routines at home. Items such as yoga mats, strength training bands and weights and fitness clothes are big sellers as well as essential oils and candles. I believe this is a market that will continue to thrive.
4. Real Estate: Interest rates continue to be low and home sales are booming! Real estate agents are always in the market for gifts for new home owners. It’s a highly competitive market and gifts for referrals as well as signage and unique business cards are always in demand. Vertical markets such as mortgage brokers and title companies are also thriving and a great to pursue!
5. Events: Concerts, trade shows, non-profit fund raisers and cultural performances are all coming back in droves and your help is needed to promote these events. Everything from T-shirts to water bottles to high end gifts for donors are needed and you, as a promotional sales-professional, are the right person to help make these events even more successful!
Start concentrating on selling to these thriving markets and your sales are sure to increase. If you’re looking for even more inspiration and ideas check out my latest FREE webinar on How to Double Your Sales in a Post Pandemic World (https://promobizcoach.com/double-your-promo-sales-post-pandemic/) where I share not only the hot markets to pursue but also proven strategies to get your foot in the door of those markets.
Here’s to your post-pandemic sales success!
© 2021 Rosalie Marcus
Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach, is a promotional products business expert, sales coach and top-rated speaker. Combining her skills and years of experience in promotional sales, she helps her clients sell more at higher margins to better clients. Get FREE up-to-the-minute sales tips and a FREE On-Demand Webinar 5 Must-Know Strategies for Selling in the New Normal at her website: www.PromoBizCoach.com Reach her at Rosalie@promobizcoach.com.
This article is an excerpt from Paul Kiewiet’s new book, Summit: Reaching The Peak Of Your Potential, available on Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle ebook. The tome is a collection of Kiewiet’s popular blogs and articles, and the 60 bite-sized chapters are packed with the lessons he’s learned and the strategies he’s used to build a successful, nearly 40-year career.
You are a brand. Your brand is you and you take it with you wherever you go, whether you work for yourself or for someone else. It even follows you if you change industries. But here’s the thing, "Brand You" is constantly evolving, and you can continuously build your brand.
My favorite definition of brand comes from one of my favorite business thinkers and writers, Seth Godin. I’ve modified it just a bit to relate to your personal brand as a promotional professional. “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a client’s decision to choose one provider over another. If the buyer doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that buyer. Your brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”
So how do you go about building your personal brand? Here are nine suggestions:
You must always be stretching beyond good. Never be satisfied with delivering a good product at a good price on time. Everyone who is still in business does those things. Those are the costs of entry into the game. With every interaction with your customers, you need to leave them feeling great about themselves and about you. Set a standard for yourself to be fascinating, remarkable, outstanding. Create high expectations for yourself and then deliver.
What are the little extras that you can do to make your interactions with your clients memorable? Your customer will remember the handwritten thank-you note that you send. She’ll remember the extra spec samples that you had made up to show her what her logo would look like on some additional ways to help her achieve her goals. He’ll remember that you took the time to provide a post-project review of what worked, what could be better and the results of the program. They’ll even remember that your invoice was accurate, timely and conformed to their corporate requirements. Your brand is built with the details and the extras.
People love stories. Tell them. From earliest childhood and going back through history, it is the storytellers who become leaders. How can you reframe your presentations into stories? Use case histories. Ask your reps about successful uses and applications. Make the stories personal, funny,compelling, and you’ll gain a reputation of someone who understands his business.
Always make it about the relationship. Get to know your customers and you’ll learn what is important to them. You will just naturally be looking out for their best interest. You will take the Golden Rule and move it up a notch to the Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would want done to them. Friends do favors without keeping score. Friends genuinely like each other. Friends have something to talk about even if there isn’t an immediate business project at stake.
If your brand is to be known for something, you need to define it. Choose honesty, integrity, reliability, of course. But go deeper. What is it that you stand for and then be uncompromising on your principles. Become known as being impeccable. If you know what you are worth, charge for it and never lower your price without taking something back in return.
A specialist in any profession makes more money and is in higher demand than any generalist. With the hundreds of thousands of products and hundreds of categories available in our industry, you simply cannot be the best at all of them. Choose your niche, choose your product category, choose your client industry and then work at becoming world-class at them. It will mean sometimes saying “no” to a tempting client or project. Define yourself and become the favorite brand in your category.
Brands are built over time. Being consistent means that you follow your principles always. It means that you are authentic and transparent. It means that you remind yourself every single day of who you are, why you are doing what you are doing and that you provide value. Every single day you need to be turning strangers into friends, friends into customers and those customers into raving fans.
Get serious about becoming a brand. Buy a domain name that is uniquely you. It can be your name, your nickname, your brand name, even what you do. If you have a unique name, make that your brand name. Or create a combination of your name and your specialty. You may even create a logo for yourself. But your mark can be your colors, your apparel, your briefcase, your scent, sound or any of the senses. Just as major brands change and update their logos, you can as well. Be noticeable and be noticeably consistent.
You’re in the advertising, marketing and promotion business. You must promote. Promote your brand by providing useful content—like a friend would—free. Use your social media presence to extend your reach, but make sure you are following the previous principles in all of your promotion. Be yourself and be true to yourself.
Work constantly on becoming the preferred brand in your category. Build it and they will become raving fans.
Paul A. Kiewiet, MAS+, founded a sales promotion agency in 1982 and has worked with some of America’s most beloved brands including Elmer’s Glue, Krylon Spray Paints, Kellogg’s, Coca- Cola, Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid, Borden, Hush Puppies, Rocky Shoes and Boots, Wyler’s, Soup Starter, RainDance, Kroger, Dow-Brands, Tobler-Suchard, Mentos and many more. He served on the PPAI Board of Directors and was chair in 2007-2008. Kiewiet was inducted into the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 2015. A frequent and popular speaker and educator, award-winning writer, industry consultant and coach, Kiewiet has won 14 PPAI Pyramid Awards and two ASI Spirit Awards including Marketer of the Year. Kiewiet has also won the President’s Award from the National Premium Sales Executives and a Golden Key Award from the Incentive Manufacturers Association, along with many other awards. He is currently executive director for MiPPA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The impostors posed as a legitimate end-buyer – a scheme crooks may increasingly be advancing against promo products firms.
By Christopher Ruvo
A promotional products distributor is on the hook for 10,000 branded flash drivers after scammers swindled the company in a con that’s being increasingly attempted against industry firms, according to the victim.
The same distributor, which is new to the industry and based in the Northeast, detected two other similar scam attempts, at least one of which was from the same individual or criminal group that executed the first.
“Basically, the scheme is the same: order branded merchandise with a fake purchase order and never pay for the product,” said an executive with the distributorship, which ASI Media is keeping anonymous.
Executives said the conning serves as a cautionary tale for distributors and suppliers to be vigilant as crooks appear to be ramping up efforts to rip off promo firms by taking advantage of companies’ eagerness to rebuild business in the wake of COVID-19’s economic ravaging of the industry, which saw collective annual sales decline by about 20% in 2020.
“These schemes are specifically targeting the promo industry, and we need to make as many people aware of this as possible,” the executive at the victimized distributorship said. “The financial and emotional loss will be devastating for any small business who is trying to recover from the long pandemic.”
The scam that snared the distributor involved a criminal emailing the company and pretending to be a procurement manager from Ohio University, Michael Pidcock, who wanted to buy 5,000 branded flash drives. Pidcock is an actual individual who works in procurement at the university – something the distributor looked into by checking on LinkedIn and on the educational institution’s website.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the real Pidcock, but an imposter.
The emailed quote request from the scammer had a few red flags, including the email address, but the distributor felt it ultimately seemed legit.
There were a few red flags. The email address from which the imposter had sent the message was “ohio-edu.org” – instead of what should have been just an “ohio.edu.” It was difficult for the distributor to get anyone on the phone to verify things, though they tried, but even that wasn’t a major surprise given COVID realities. “Most schools are closed due to COVID and it was understandable,” the executive said.
The executive continued: “It seemed legit. We continued to communicate via email, discussing logo artwork format and more. He changed the Pantone color. He always emailed back quickly. The purchase order was a bit amateurish, but since we communicated a lot, we didn’t give it too much thought.”
The order came with a 30-day net payment policy and a request that the flash drives be sent to an address in Ohio that was a FedEx store rather than the school campus. That raised an eyebrow. “I was a little suspicious, but thought FedEx might provide gift-dispensing services and did not pursue it further,” the executive said.
So, the order shipped. About a month later, in mid May 2021, the scammer again contacted the distributor with a request for another 5,000 flash drives. While the distributor had not been paid for the first order, the firm decided to go into production on the second order, as it followed up trying to get payment for the first.
Those collection attempts finally led the distributor to make phone contact with an actual accounting manager at Ohio University, who conveyed that the orders were frauds. According to the distributor, the real purchasing manager, Pidcock, also confirmed he did not submit the orders. The real Ohio University and its representatives are not accused of having any part in the scheme.
The swindle was now plain to see, but the realization had come to late.
“We had shipped the first 5,000 flash drives and have the second 5,000 sitting in our office with the university’s logo on them and we can’t resell them,” the executive said. “We have huge bills to pay.”
The third scam attempt involved criminals pretending to be buyers from Harvard University. They submitted what the executive described as an “obviously fake” purchase order and resale certificate for 2,500 vacuum water bottles. The distributor quickly spotted this scam for the con it was.
“On the PO, the delivery address was in New Jersey, which was very suspicious,” he said. “The email domain did not end with ‘.edu.’ Still, the fact that whoever is behind this is taking their time to forge these POs is chilling.”
The distributor said that he hopes by sharing his story, others will not fall prey.
“Our business is OK, and we will survive this with support of family and friends,” the executive said. “I have always considered myself computer savvy, but it looks like we all have our weak moments. Lesson learned the hard way.”
Used with permission from ASI
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