A Distributor Asks: When someone asks what you do, what’s your quick response? 

Most always, someone is wearing something with a logo on it, so it doesn’t take long to explain.

Dottie Bessette, MAS
Project Manager, Lahlouh
Burlingame, California
PPAI 803510, D5

“I can put your logo on anything.”

Melissa Cam

Owner, It’s Magic Ink
Thousand Oaks, California
PPAI 766985, D1

A Distributor Asks: What website are you using for your business? How are your clients able to order?

SAGE is connected with PPAI, our nonprofit professional industry association. Personally, I prefer it. ASI is a for-profit company to sell you goods. While not a terrible thing, I choose to support the professional association that works for us. I also like SAGE better than ESP. SAGE also creates blogs and other things for social media. 

Lee Ann Peter
President, FIF Marketing
Barrington, Illinois
PPAI 313094, D1

I have a SAGE website. People can request quotes through the website, but I don’t let them place orders on the site. Orders are placed via email after official quote is given.

Heather Nelson
Owner, Image Inkers
Rigby, Idaho
PPAI 698549, D2

A Distributor Asks: A longtime client had me do hours of research on a bag only to tell me, “I ordered them online because they are on sale and free shipping.” I wasn’t even given the opportunity to match or beat the price. Although I refuse to be in a bidding war (in a race to the bottom), it would have been nice of her to give me a shot. And her business is about empowering other women in business. How do you weed out the time-wasters, looky-loos and other non-profitable people?

First step is to self-check if you have a relationship that includes open communication. Could you call this client and ask about this situation? Could you both discuss how she can support you as another woman in business? Can you be candid, and would you be open to hearing why she may not have thought of you before ordering elsewhere? If your answers are NO, then how would a client know the value of working with you?

Not judging, just saying that trying to demonstrate value just by implication, assumption and hope is not going to be as successful as finding out what she thinks is valuable and mutually determining whether you can provide that. Also, to offer what you think is valuable, and she may learn or reconsider what she really could gain. Before you write her off, pick up the phone and see if you can establish a different bond. If not, nothing lost, and you can decide if you do move on or if you do want to offer what she seeks. If the call does establish a new and different, then you can both give that a try!

Isa Cocallas
Owner, 3Koi
Kihei, Hawaii
PPAI 240572, D2

We should be charging an hourly rate for our time. That weeds them out. Offer a no charge for time if they order. That is the way this industry should have been set up from day one. I have tried to change our platform, but it’s too late.

Ellen Castaldo
Co-owner, Promo Xperts
Yorktown Heights, New York
PPAI 194482, D2

“Client” and “wants the lowest price” do not go together. She’s not even a customer – set her free. “Clients” are exclusive with you – just like they are with their attorney, CPA, heating/AC guy, etc. This is the equivalent of having you prepare her tax return, then taking the docs and filing online “because it’s free.” She has stiffed you for your work. I’m sorry that happened, but you do have the power to make sure it doesn’t happen again with that customer or any other. Client curation keeps many issues away from your front door, and this issue is at the top of that list.

Craig Sahli
CEO, Graphics Network
Tulsa, Oklahoma
PPAI 670721, D1

A Distributor Asks: Why does it seem like so few suppliers have online portals where we can view previous orders/details?

As a distributor, we maintain our own history that is searchable by supplier, project, product, customer and contact name. All information, art, proofs and communications related to the project are instantly available rather than logging into suppliers and looking at their chosen format. For those who would like to make that customer-facing, there are ways. We tried it. Our clients did not like that they had to look up information rather than just have us provide it.

Bruce Reissaus, MAS
Co-owner, Advertising Specialties Alliance
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
PPAI 222672, D2

Turning the question around: Does your distributor website have a login where your customers can view order status, prior order history, prior approved art or art on file, etc.? Before I sound too snarky, ours does not! But I’m with you. With a few exceptions, I work only with suppliers who have distributor login, live inventory, order history, status and every possible piece of production information I could ever need right there on the site. I want to push for a similar setup for our clients via our site, because clearly this is the new normal/expectation.  

Allison Bendis, MAS
Account Manager, Klondike Advertising
Anchorage, Alaska
PPAI 591557, D5