A Distributor Asks: What are some creative ways to break through the never-ending nightmare of unreturned calls and emails in today’s busy electronic society?

What would you tell a client who asked the same question of you? Use promotional products, of course! Create a clever direct-mail campaign. Research the intended recipients to confirm you have the correct contacts. Consider sending to multiple contacts in the same company. When the campaign is strong and the merchandise of value, you’ll create a buzz. Choose creative packaging or delivery methods that make the recipient want to open your mailing. Select product that’s timely, clever and interesting. Just as you teach your clients, the enclosed promotional items must coordinate with your message or theme. The purpose of the product is to communicate your capabilities and creativity. How much better will that ultimate appointment be when you don’t have to tell the client what you can do, because he will have already experienced it?

Marsha Londe


Tango Partners

UPIC: TangoP


If people aren’t returning your calls or emails, you simply haven’t captivated their attention to the point where they feel it’s in their best interest to respond. Instead, dazzle them with something you sell—a promotional product. By utilizing physical advertising through the vehicle of direct mail, you show them that you value what you are trying to get them to purchase and use. For example, you could send them a mousepad in the shape and design of a pizza in a similar-sized pizza box. In the box, you could have a page describing the “menu” of services you provide. When you get their attention through promotional merchandise, you’ve already shown them they can replicate the same results with their target audience.

Bill Petrie





This is one technique that I have heard many people use, although it’s not strictly electronic. It’s really simple. Along with a hand-written letter asking for further communication, send:

  1. a wine glass, and tell your contact you’ll bring the wine for their meeting, or vice versa.
  2. a pen, and tell them you’ll bring the paper.
  3. an inexpensive time piece, and ask them to pick a time to call.

Jeffrey Batson, CAS


Next Products, Inc.

UPIC: nextpro


Ask yourself this: “Have I done enough to earn a callback? Have I done anything to separate myself from competitors?” Guilt is an awesome motivator. If you have impressed the person with a string of spec samples (once every month, once a quarter), or if you sent any “thank you for your business” appreciation gifts (maybe with their logo so as to not classify it as a bribe) then most decent people would feel really bad not returning your call or email. Those who still don’t are probably not the ones you want to do business with anyway.

Niv Ben-Haim


Dgroup Trevelyan

UPIC: dgroup

Nobody has time to weed through a long email or listen to a rambling voicemail.  Streamline your message and make it easy for the recipient to respond quickly by incorporating the following techniques:

  • Be strategic about the subject line: Use the subject line to make your request or need clear and help the recipient prioritize. Some examples: Need Your Feedback or Please Respond by Tuesday.
  • Get straight to the point: Don’t put a lot of non-relevant information in the email or message but make sure to be friendly and cordial.
  • Give deadlines: To prevent your email or message from dropping down the recipient’s inbox list, provide a specific timeline for when you need a response.
  • Provide your recommendation: If you are looking for a resolution to a problem and need the recipient’s decision, provide a few different options plus your recommendation so they can quickly act upon the information.

Chris Stumpf

CEO & Managing Partner

Stumpies Marketing Group

UPIC: stumpies


In an age where it seems that everyone carries multiple devices (smart phones, iPads/tablets etc.), compounded with the heavy volume of emails, texts, voicemails, etc. and the possibility of human error, there is no one answer. We all have multiple projects going on at all times so keeping a list of project communications is a must. On my list I keep track of names, projects and all communication along with the dates noted. Everyone seems to have their own preference of communication. Whereas my preference is email, it is important to find out my customer’s preferred method and stick to that method with them. Understandably, things can get accidentally deleted or an email address may be incorrect, so following up using alternative methods is important. Regardless of if you are a supplier or distributor, continual communication is critical. Even if there is nothing to report, appropriate communication is absolutely necessary.

Shelley Bednarski

Southeast Region Sales Manager

Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant



In today’s environment of unreturned phone calls and never-ending emails, it is more important than ever to build solid relationships with your customers, suppliers and even prospects. It is so easy to delete an email and never look back. The key is developing your relationship so the recipient of your call or email understands the value you bring to the relationship. A creative introduction or other gimmick may work on occasion, but relationships drive long term success.

Jeff Gilfand


Corporate Imaging Concepts, LLC



Physically walking into the client’s or prospect’s office with a unique “challenge” item has worked very well for some of my customers. For instance, the company I represent encourages our distributors to fill one of our vacuum drinkware pieces with ice and leave it behind with the client/prospect. They ask the client to call or email them when the ice has melted. The idea is to a) illustrate the quality of the drinkware heat and/or cold retention and b) create a touch point that compels the client to want to respond to that vendor.

Kim Reinecker, MAS

Regional Sales Manager, Texas and Oklahoma

Starline USA



With voicemail messages I try to be very brief, clear, and I sandwich my contact information at the beginning and the end. It is also very important to be enthusiastic. Then, I follow up with an email, or when appropriate a written note. With emails, I get the best response by sending them early in the morning. I try to keep them simple with only one topic, very short, and I use a unique subject line if possible. For example, this weekend I sent an email with the subject line: Sticky Gum Guy. The email went to an interesting person I sat next to on my flight home from New York City. I promised to follow up. Because I mentioned that there was sticky gum on my seat when I sat down, I knew the subject line would work. I got a response early Monday morning.

David J. Hawes, MAS+

Brand Architect


UPIC: geiger


I have used texting when possible to be less intrusive as they can read and response at their convenience. And we know those texts are never discarded quickly.

Joe Nguyen

Senior Vice President of Marketing/Product Development

Fields Manufacturing


A Distributor asks: Recently I quoted a potential client on a product and was told they had received a lower price from another vendor. What do I do in this situation? If I’m not willing to lower my price, should I ask what that price was? Can I ask who the vendor is? It would be very helpful to know how far off my quote was and what my competitors are charging. What do other distributors do when faced with this scenario?

What’s Your Answer? Email answers along with your name, title and company name by December 22 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.

Julie Richie is associate editor for PPB.