Three Common Marketing Mistakes Most Distributors Make that are holding them back





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As a business owner you wear many hats and getting new business in the door is the most important one. You know you have to get the word out about your business and have probably tried different ways to market and advertise. Or you’re not quite sure what to do.

In working with hundreds of small and medium-sized business owners over the years, across various industries and markets, I have noticed three common mistakes most of them make, that are holding them back, hindering business growth. Promotional products distributors are no exception.

Let’s take a look and those three mistakes and what to do to correct them. Stop making those mistakes and you will see a big difference in your business.

Mistake # 1

Lack of Differentiation


Mistake # 1: Lack of Differentiation

If your brand looks like everyone else’s you are blending in with a sea of distributors. Too many settle for their product-oriented industry provided websites. By doing so, they position their business as “just another promotional products outlet”. When you look like anyone else, the only point of comparison is price.

Standing out from the crowd is vital in any business. But in a mature market such as promotional products, it can be really, really difficult. There are several challenges to overcome, the biggest one is that promotional products are perceived as commodities. Because they are available from a huge variety of sources, it’s no surprise that price often becomes the primary deciding factor.

Additionally, there are many companies promising the cheapest price right on their home page. A prime example is the giant online companies. They cater to consumers who are not that concerned with anything other than price and are willing to do the legwork.

But there is a whole market looking for partners who will assist them in the sourcing of products, in more of a hands-on way. They value other qualities besides price. These are the buyers you want your brand to appeal to. Whether they found you online, or someone referred them, you want them to feel that YOU are the provider they’re looking for. Because, even if someone referred them, you can bet they will check your website out and “grade” your business by it.

Most distributors have taken the time to create a great looking logo. But that’s as far as their branding efforts go. When that logo is placed on a generic cookie-cutter website, it doesn’t matter how cool the logo is, you have just positioned yourself as a me-too distributor. You don’t give your prospects any reason to choose you over your competitors, other than price.

Understand what your clients value in working with you.

Nobody wants to pay more for the same exact product, but there are other considerations that come before price when choosing a provider. We’ve all heard someone say at one point or another “It costs more but I’ll gladly pay because it’s worth it”. Maybe you have said it yourself. So the question is, what can you provide so your clients feel that you are worth more?

Most non-price shoppers are looking for convenience, and that’s one thing they’ll value about working with you. But it’s best to ask your clients, so you know for sure. Maybe you show great attention to detail when it comes to adhering to your client’s brand guidelines. Or/and you are obsessed with the quality of the items you provide and refuse to sell anything that’s substandard. Or you are very familiar with their industry and their jobs, and how and when they use branded merchandise. The list can go on and on, but you want to make your own list of how you help your clients, beyond procuring items printed correctly by a deadline. This is what everyone else does. Yo want to show what else you do besides the obvious.

Let your perspective and personality show through

We live in a time of authenticity. There was a time when people did business with companies. Nowadays people do business with people. Those looking for new providers want to find out as much as they can about the people behind the business before making a decision. Understand your values and put them out there. Show your knowledge and expertise every chance you get. Express what your business stands for.

Communicate Your Value.

Your marketing message must connect with your ideal clients, and communicate that you are the provider they want on their side. This usually takes time to master, but it’s vital to your positioning and differentiation. You want your message to convey that you understand your customers’ concerns. That you are a branding expert and they can trust you with their brand. That you are, by far, a much better choice that your competition.

Mistake # 2

Marketing to Everyone


Mistake # 2: Marketing to Everyone

This is another common mistake that minimizes marketing effectiveness and hinders business growth. Most small distributor business owners fail to identify who their best customers are and end up targeting the general public. Or they tend to think that because they can get over 1 million products they should offer them all, not to miss out on any potential sale.

In an effort to reach everybody you end up with a very generic marketing message that doesn’t address the needs and wants of anyone in particular. Not to mention the fact that the sales conversation revolves around product features and price. And you miss out on those prospects looking for a partner rather than a commodity provider.

Narrow Down Your Target Audience

When you get to know your best clients well, you can narrow down your products and services to those that best suit them. You can learn about their target audiences and marketing goals, and the role that you play in their marketing implementation. It becomes easier to find opportunities to increase the value of the client. This means increased sales, up-sells and cross-sells while becoming a valuable partner. It also stimulates referrals of more customers like them.

One Last Thought on The Subject

In today’s information age, where people do their research online before making a decision on whom to contact, buyers will choose specialists before average providers. The information they find about you must communicate that you are THE expert they are looking for.

Mistake # 3

Inconsistent and Fragmented Marketing


Mistake # 3: Inconsistent and Fragmented Marketing

Small business owners don’t usually have a marketing plan, distributors included. This leads them to try different things, at different times, and not stick to any for very long. This lack of consistency builds no momentum and produces little to no results. Plus a lot of wasted money and time.

The lack of plan leads to reactive marketing. They’ll buy a self-promo to take advantage of a great offer, without thinking how they’ are going to use it. Or they’ll signup for a single video creation offer, without having a clue how they’ll use it to promote their business. Or they’ll post daily on social media but not direct traffic to their site. You get the idea.

But it’s understandable. With so much information about marketing tools and tactics, it can be easy to try many different things. But there needs to be a strategy behind those tactics, so they move your business towards your goals.

How to Start Creating Consistent Marketing

• Start by setting a couple of hours every week to work on your marketing.

• Brainstorm all the ways you could reach out, and select only one to work on.

• Beginning with the end in mind, list all the tasks required to implement your program.

• Don’t start a new program until the one you are working on is fully in place.

For example, let’s say you want to start a prospecting program using direct mail. Your tasks might include researching prospects, designing and ordering marketing materials, sending the packages, plus a series of follow-up activities. Then, your weekly marketing activities might look like this: research 15 prospects, send 5 packages on Fridays, follow up 4 hours 3x week. By having a routine such as this you create consistency and build momentum, and with it, soon will come the results.

The point is that you don’t just do it once and then never again. That’s like going to the gym once and complaining the next day that you didn’t get results. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.


As a business owner, your most important job is getting new business in the door. In today’s digital world buyers like to do their own research on their own time. It is vital that they FIND YOU. It is also vital to differentiate your business showing how YOU provide the value they’re looking for.

Let’s have a 20-minute conversation so you can tell us where you are in your business, where you want to go, and how we might be able to help. Schedule a phone conversation to get started.

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