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News Analysis: Promotional Distributors Need to Pivot

Anyone who is banking on a return to the good old days in promotional products is taking a big risk.
By Bruce Bolger
As experts in finding solutions for marketing and human resources departments, distributors should thrive in an era when organizations will need more solutions than ever to achieve business objectives. Never has it been more critical for organizations to engage their sales and non-sales employees, distribution partners, customers, and communities and to build greater brand loyalty across the enterprises, no matter what the size or type, and never has it been more critical for distributors to find new solutions for their clients.
A recent Promotional Products Association International survey of suppliers found that first quarter 2020 sales fell 45%; second quarter sales, by 78%, and that 40% of suppliers expect further sales decreases in the second half. The saving grace: 24% of suppliers pivoted to PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment), for whom the category now represents on average 30% of sales.
The survey found that only 9% of suppliers have maintained full employment and hours, but that 60% maintained a majority of their staff and hours. On the other hand, 38% of suppliers are worried or very worried about their business viability in the next six months.
As many have observed, the pandemic is accelerating into two years many changes that ordinarily would have occurred in 10: there were already troubling signs in the promotional products field as more companies began to question the environmental sustainability of unrestricted use of product giveaways in marketing, too many of which were ending up in landfills. 
Unfortunately for at least some suppliers, it will be difficult to pivot, but for distributors, the world is wide open for opportunity—there are numerous growth areas into which to expand beyond PPEs, including brands for virtual events, sales door openers, dealer added-value programs, and employee rewards, as well as a plethora of engagement technologies and other solutions to help organizations motivate people and better tell their stories in a new world in which people matter more than ever in business.
It will require distributors to identify the new needs of customers and the tools to help them, but otherwise requires little investment. 
For More Information
Bruce Bolger
Enterprise Engagement Alliance 
Tel. 914-591-7600, ext. 230

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Education, Certifications, and Information to Activate
Brand Media and Enterprise Engagement 

A complete learning, certification, and information program and a course syllabus for educators.
Resources: The Brand Media Coalition, the only guide to the story-telling power of brands and where to source them for business, event, promotional gifting, and rewards and recognition. Enterprise Engagement Solution Provider Directory. The only directory of engagement solution providers covering all types of agencies and tactics as well as insights on how to select them.
Communities: The  Enterprise Engagement Alliance and Advocate and the  Brand Media Coalition free resource centers offering access to the latest research, news, and case studies; discounts, promotions, referrals, and commissions, when appropriate to third-party solution providers from participating coalition solution provider members.
Training and Certification
Enterprise Engagement Alliance Education: Certified Engagement Practitioner; Advanced Engaged Practitioner, and Certified Engagement Solution Provider learning and certification programs on how to implement Stakeholder Capitalism principles at the tactical level. 
International Center for Enterprise Engagement: The only training and certification program for ISO 30414 human capital reporting and ISO 10018 quality people management certification. 
A CEO's Guide to Engagement Across the Enterprise cover
The EEA offers a complimentary course syllabus for educators.
In Print: 
This is the definitive implementation guide to Stakeholder Capitalism, written specifically to provide CEOs and their leadership teams a concise overview of the framework, economics, and implementation process of a CEO-led strategic and systematic approach to achieving success through people.  (123 pages, $15.99)
The first and most comprehensive book on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. Includes 36 chapters detailing how to better integrate and align engagement efforts across the enterprise. (312 pages, $36.) 
10-minute short course: click here for a 10-minute introduction to Enterprise Engagement and ISO standards from the Coggno.com learning platform.
•  The Engagement Agency at EngagementAgency.net, offering: complete support services for employers, solution providers, and technology firms seeking to profit from formal engagement practices for themselves or their clients, including Brand and Capability audits for solution providers to make sure their products and services are up to date.
•  C-Suite Advisory Service—Education of boards, investors, and C-suite executives on the economics, framework, and implementation processes of Enterprise Engagement. 
•  Speakers Bureau—Select the right speaker on any aspect of engagement for your next event.
•  Mergers and Acquisitions. The Engagement Agency’s Mergers and Acquisition group is aware of multiple companies seeking to purchase firms in the engagement field. Contact Michael Mazer in confidence if your company is potentially for sale at 303-320-3777.
Enterprise Engagement Benchmark Tools: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance offers three tools to help organizations profit from Engagement. Click here to access the tools.
•  ROI of Engagement Calculator. Use this tool to determine the potential return-on-investment of an engagement strategy. 
•  EE Benchmark Indicator. Confidentially benchmark your organization’s Enterprise Engagement practices against organizations and best practices. 
•  Compare Your Company’s Level of Engagement. Quickly compare your organization’s level of engagement to those of others based on the same criteria as the EEA’s Engaged Company Stock Index.
•  Gauge Your Personal Level of Engagement. This survey, donated by Horsepower, enables individuals to gauge their own personal levels of engagement.
For more information, contact Bruce Bolger at Bolger@TheEEA.org, 914-591-7600, ext. 230.
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