Question: A Distributor Asks: I’d love to hear your experience of joining/belonging to your local chamber of commerce. Has it been helpful for meeting new clients? Any other thoughts on the experience?

So, I have found my local city one to be a bust. I joined a regional one, which led me to a national one, and both have paid dividends. My experience is that chambers of commerce can be a hit or miss. See if your local chamber has any regional partnerships – that’s where the money is.

Howling Print & Promo
Chardon, Ohio
PPAI 593536, D1

I believe if you’re in a big city it can be a great way to get clients. When I first started in promo, I went to networking events every week. I got two of my biggest clients that way, and another big client who was a speaker at a networking event also became a client. Just about all my business came from networking. Like everything else, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. When people get to know you, you will get business.

I would also recommend offering to be a speaker at one of the chamber events. You can share ways for members to promote their businesses. It’s a great way for members to get to know you, like you and trust you.
The Promo Biz Coach
Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
PPAI 438212, A1

Like most things anyone joins, you get out of it what you put into it. Many people join, don’t participate in events then complain they never got anything out of it. I belong to two local chambers and try to be relatively active by attending special events, ribbons cuts and banquets. I’ve also sponsored some smaller events, participated in a leadership program and served on committees. I have been happy with my ROI, and it also gives me a non-sales opportunity to be in front of clients, prospects and referral partners.
BrandStorm Promotions
Augusta, Georgia
PPAI 795934, D2

Question: A Distributor Asks: How would you react to notice from a client that they acquired a product sourcing account and will do their purchasing internally?

I had this happen years ago. The client didn’t know how to write POs properly or understand how to submit art, so orders would just get put on hold. The last straw was when their employee placed an order for mousepads direct from an overseas “supplier,” paid upfront and they showed up wrong. We now work with the client again, and they understand that we are in business to make a profit.
Vice President of Sales
Initial Impression
San Diego
PPAI 358140, D5

Speaking as a distributor, there are so many moving parts to our industry that they’ll wind up, most likely, wasting a lot of their time and resources and getting frustrated. The barriers to entry on the distributor side are so low, so every year people enter and eventually leave our industry because they find out that it’s not as easy as it looks. My advice is to focus on delivering value to your customers and stop wasting your energy on things like this.
The Manko Company
Mendenhall, Pennsylvania
PPAI 221758, D4

Our business model is old and outdated. I think our industry has a hard sell on new customers on price. Our only option is to sell handholding and product/design vetting services and think of ourselves as consultants versus “promo” people. People don’t like our markup and will find deals. With the internet, it’s not even that hard.
Cheaper By The Dozen
Newberg, Oregon
PPAI 795934, D1