At a Harvard program I enrolled in many years ago, the great Marty Marshall taught us the three most important words in the marketing lexicon: What’s going on? Starting with those simple words we learned a disciplined process to identify problems and opportunities – issues or threats in the marketplace that might enable us to gain a competitive advantage.
In our industry, concern about product safety is an important thing that is going on and a problem that could easily become your opportunity. Ever since the summer of 2007 and those massive recalls of Chinese toys containing too much lead, the world of product safety and regulatory compliance has been turned on it ear. Complicated and sometimes ambiguous laws have been passed at the state and federal level, testing labs have been swamped with new business and corporate America has been put on notice that cheap products imported from China can be risky.
No shortage of problems here: Complex new product safety regulations sometimes different from state to state, uncertainty and confusion from buyers, an industry scrambling to learn compliance and even the experts trying to wrap their heads around this juggernaut.
But as Marty Marshall taught, problems can be golden opportunities for enterprising marketers.
Corporate America needs promotional products. And because of the risks, because of these problems, they need a knowledgable and conscientious distributor to guide them, protect them, to act as a fiduciary for their most valuable asset – their good name – to ensure that it only goes on quality products that are safe and compliant and is never put on a product that might cause risk or embarrassment. In short, they need a trusted advisor. You.
We’re a commodity industry. Many of our products can be obtained from a seemingly limitless number of suppliers and distributors. But as a trusted advisor you change the paradigm. Instead of price driven sales, yours are value driven sales. Now, instead of losing business to low-bid competitors your clients often select you without bidding, because they trust you. They understand that you’re selecting appropriate products from suppliers with rock solid compliance programs and that you’ll never risk putting their name in harms way.
You don’t have to be a product safety expert but you do need to learn the basics. PPAI has a broad range of educational materials and webinars to help you get started. If you have questions, send me an email or give me a call. Within a short time you’ll learn the issues and be well on your way to becoming a trusted product safety advisor and a very savvy promotional products marketer.
Author note: Sadly, in the course of researching this article, I found that my old professor had passed away. Marty was a brilliant marketer, a motivating teacher and his legacy will live on for many years.
Marty Marshall Article: http://www.hbs.edu/news/releases/martinvmarshall.html
PPAI Product Safety page: http://www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/product-safety/