Promo It Right
Being a skateboard retailer, before long you will find yourself hitting your sales rep up for free promo stuff. It may be prizes for a contest, give-a-ways at a demo, or even for a skatepark fund-raiser. These are all great reasons, but your request is just one of many that the industry receives daily. Skateboard companies big and small have promotional budgets, and where they flow product will be determined by where they can get the most return on their promotional dollar. To get the most out of your promotional requests, you need to sell companies not only your event, but on the benefits of their participation. Here are some tips that will increase the odds of getting your request filled and making it a win/win affair for all parties involved.
The best place to start is to make your request for promo well in advance of the actual event. Calling just days or even the week before will only hurt your chances of getting anything on time. A lack of lead time will make your event seem disorganized to companies, and potentially not worthwhile. You are also placing a lot of burden on your vendor to act quickly, which may sometimes be difficult for them.
Short notice can also hurt you if they do grant your request; if shipping is slow and you receive the promo goods the day after your event, it does neither you nor your supplier any good. Chuck Salisbury, sales manager at Giant Distribution says, “We need at least a three-week notice in order to get promo out. Anything less is near impossible, no matter how much we might want to give our support.”
Now that you have decided to start early, whom are you going to hit up? Start with the companies you have an established relationship with and that sell well in your shop. You have a lot more pull with a company you are calling all the time with orders than someone you only call twice a year. Companies are more willing to open their promotional wallet to a shop that supports them directly through sales. Most companies will determine the promo amount based on a percentage of your orders. So don’t expect a lot if you don’t buy a lot. The size of the company and how much they send will rarely be commensurate. More often, you will find that you get more from a small company that you support regularly than from a large company that you scarcely support.
In Lake Worth, Florida, Island Water Sports Retail Manager Jason Calleri suggests also looking to businesses outside the skateboard industry for donations. “Skateboarding has the attention of a lot of companies outside our industry. Our events reach the same consumers they are trying to reach. We approached our local Pepsi distributors, and they graciously donated refreshments for the entire event.”
Now that you know whom you will solicit, how can you make your request professional and noteworthy? Start first with a phone call to give your sales reps a quick heads up that you will be needing some promo product. Tell them that you will send them all the details in a few days, so they know to keep an eye out for your request. Your request letter should be personal and cover any potential questions your supplier could have concerning the event. Sell your request and make it easy for your vendor to say “yes” by showing how your store will be promoting the event and, more importantly, them as a company.
James Newton, owner of Nags Skatehouse in Kent, Ohio says, “We detail all the types of advertising that we will be doing for the event, how many people we will directly mail flyers to, and any radio or newspaper advertisements that we’ll be doing. This not only shows our level of commitment to the event, but also the amount of exposure we can give the company.”
Don’t be reluctant to deal directly with companies whose products you get via a distributor. In the request packages include copies of orders from your distributors showing your past support. This allows th to make a more educated decision in regard to your request without having to do a lot of research on their own. You will also be building a good foundation if and when you decide to order directly in the future.
Most companies will require some type of flyer for the event. Include the company’s logos on the flyer¿this increases brand recognition. Be sure to list all the companies that are participating and leave out those that are not. There is no quicker way to sour your supplier than to forget their name on your flyer or belittle their involvement by giving props to some company that didn’t donate product.
Once a supplier has pledged their support, you should plan your upcoming order so that it and the promo items can be shipped together and arrive before the event. Doing this will significantly increase your chances of receiving promo, as the majority of it goes out in this manner. It’s not just because the company wants you to pick up the shipping, but to ensure that your customers will be able to buy their product before, during, and after the event.
Troy Morgan, president of Expedition One skateboards, says, “As a company, we donate to further the brand, but we also donate to further the store. We want the kids knowing this is a shop where they can buy our product.”
At AZP in Flagstaff, Arizona, partner Brian Harper points out, “By promoting the event and the companies, you will have an increased demand for their product prior and after the event. If you aren’t stocked accordingly, you’re missing out on easy sales.”
During the event, promote the companies that have donated and helped out by displaying company banners and thanking them for their support over the loudspeaker. Doing this creates a win/win situation for you and your supplier. You are promoting the brands that you sell, and your customers will be encouraged to buy from the companies that help support their local events. Also be sure to give away all that is sent to you. Grabbing stuff out of the promo package and selling it in the shop is a big no-no and just plain begging for bad karma. Show your vendors respect by putting their promo product in the hands of your customers.
Follow up after the event to reinforce your relationship with your supplier and make them more willing to help you out the next time. A personal call or letter expressing your gratitude will go a long way. Let them know the results of the contest, and send them pictures or video of the event to show what type of turnout there was. Damian Hebert, owner of South Shore Distribution says, “When a shop follows up after an event, it strengthens our relationship and shows us that we made a good decision in participating in their event.”
Keep a record of all the companies that helped out and sent product. This will be your hit list for your next event. If your store is involved in a lot of events, be reasonable in your number of requests. There is a limit to how much a company can donate. It’s best to work some type of rotation among your vendors, giving them top billing each time.
Promotional items go far in the skateboard industry, as in other industries. They bring attention to the brand, tell consumers where they can buy it, and hopefully encourage them to do so. When your suppliers provide you with free promo, you assume a responsibility. Mike Reynolds, general manager at Cal’s Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, sums it up: “Your job as a shop is to promote the company¿just like a team rider promotes the company. If you’re willing to do it right, the companies you work with will be more willing to help you out.”
So be professional in your appeal for free promotional product. Make it easy for your suppliers to want to be involved by showing them how both of you will profit from a partnership in the event. Build strong relationships with your sales reps, and they will become great allies. When you’re professional in your requests, you give your sales reps the resources they need to get them fulfilled. Their success is tied to yours, and when promotional items are used wisely, you’ll both prosper.