There’s things we forget. And it’s good to have a plan. It’s good to be reminded of very key things that are specific, even to this industry, and just knowing the way to spot people who are actually capable of purchasing. Versus those who may love you and just aren’t capable. Or those who will just string you along. Or those who use you, just so they always have another price to show, to use the person they’re using already and that sort of thing.
So I think finding clients, developing clients, all of that, everyone could use a reminder there. And if you’re not from a sales background then you absolutely… this is like the most direct sales class you could possibly take for this industry. And just be able to really get your business moving quicker.
David: Hi. Welcome to the podcast. I am here today with Tracie Domino from Event Outfitters in St. Petersburg, Florida. Tracy, it’s so good to have you with me.
Tracie: Thank you so much, David. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.
David: You know, you and I met through the promotional products industry, but you do a lot besides just promotional products. So let’s start, just fill us in on what you do and how you do it.
Tracie: Well, I actually spent years and years, almost 20 years in the events industry. And started a promotional products business because of my need for so many promotional products for our own events. And my OCD personality took over and I wanted total control of the operation.
So that’s how we got started.
David: Ok. And so now you’re doing both?
Tracie: Yes, still for a little while. But mostly promotional products at this point. Years ago, I worked for Tiffany and Company, the one with the blue box that everyone is very familiar with. And I did their events, but I also did corporate sales for them.
And when I worked for Tiffany, it was promotional product sales. It was putting your logo on a Tiffany ice bucket or engraving it on a piece of silver jewelry and commemorating events. So those two things together kind of transitioned into all of this.
David: Right. Okay. And so what type of clients do you like to work with? What type of people do you like to target? I mean, some people will take anyone who can fog a mirror, anyone with a pulse. But you’ve been a little more selective in terms of your clientele, is that correct?
Tracie: For sure. And I mean, I’ll work with anyone who wants to work with us, of course. But we have really been very lucky or fortunate, I guess I could say. Since I did work in events for so long, there are a ton of event people who we just know, across the country, who do all sorts of jobs in this industry.
And by doing that, we’ve been able to branch out into all sorts of different events. Events that we never used to even work on. But work with our clients who plan them which has been great. And a lot of them are sports franchise owners, people doing all sorts of really kind of fun, different, interesting things.
So we’re really just blessed by our friends. In a lot of cases who would become our clients.
David: Right. So, just a couple of niche industries. in addition to just sort of a wide variety?
Tracie: Right, the people who work in the events business, are our clients, but our end clients are everywhere, and in all sorts of different industries. And yeah, it’s really, it’s just kind of everything now.
David: Okay. So where do most of your clients initially hear from you?
Tracie: Most clients now, thank goodness, are coming word of mouth, in most cases. And I think that’s because we were picky at the beginning and really try to focus on customer service. You can’t work for Tiffany and Company and not put a big value on customer service.
And to me, whether someone’s buying a high-end luxury executive gift or a trade show giveaway, the service is the same. And it’s really important that our clients think they’re one of our only clients and they get their issues accommodated and see proposals just as quickly as they could. You know, if they were trying to do some stuff themselves online.
David: Right. Okay. And so if someone is not a referral, what’s the first contact that they’re likely to have with you.
Tracie: It’s funny. I was actually training for a hike. I did this crazy big hike a couple of weeks ago. And some of the training for that, since Florida is so flat, I went up to Atlanta to do a 12 hour training hike.
Tracie: And there was a group of us about 10 of us who did that. And on 12 hours you talk about a lot of things and it came up that I’m in this industry. And four different people from that hike reached out to me and were like, “oh, I need shirts.” Or, “oh, I really need…” You know, something that they needed which was kind of fun and crazy.
But what’s so great about our industry is that almost everyone needs what we provide.
Tracie: And people want to work with people they like or have common interests with or something like that. And the ability to meet people in all sorts of fun things that you do. And just talk a little bit, not even in a sales way, just kind of what you do is interesting to people. And they’re like, “oh, I order that. I could order it from you.” So…
David: So you’re just living life and people are hearing what you do and….
Tracie: Kind of. Yeah. Exactly.
Because, we’ve realized, I think, during COVID that it used to be a lot easier. And I say cold call, not even cold call but where we used to send things to people. We don’t know where they are half the time now. and We can send something to their office and they may not see it for months. So using the people we know as an intro into new people is probably the best way for me, currently.
David: Okay. So really, what we would call proactive referrals then where you have contacts with people and you’re either asking them, “Hey, who do you know? Who is similar to yourself in terms of maybe a similar type of account? Or somebody who can use your help?
David: Okay. All right. Cool. So how would you say you differentiate yourself from other people in your market?
Because obviously there are a lot of people who do it. So how do you say, “okay, this is us versus other options?”
Tracie: Well, we just try to really make our client’s lives easier. Because we all compete against the internet. Right? And I’m not a person who believes in cutting costs. I mean, keeping within the budget, of course, but not cutting profit, I guess is really what I think. And, I’ve come to realize most people don’t really want the cheapest thing. They want the best value. And we can provide so much more value by just answering their questions, making them not have to search for items on the internet, letting them know what’s available to them.
When we see a good idea that may work for someone who’s not even necessarily interested in purchasing, or think they’re interested in purchasing at the moment, just saying, “Hey, when you’re ready to do something, this could be cool.” And sometimes they’re like, “let’s order it! So…”
David: Love it when that happens.
Tracie: Right. Exactly.
Very cool. So at this point, what would you say are the primary reasons that people give you for working with you?
I know I keep repeating myself, but I really think it’s service. And I think it’s knowing that they have a person that they could call or text who is, in some cases local to them, but in some cases not. And also, we have been very lucky with our suppliers and some of our largest suppliers who have bent over backwards on rush orders. Specifically in the events space.
I always say, you know, The day after the bat mitzvah, we don’t need it anymore, so…
David: Exactly. Right. Yeah.
Tracie: And a lot of times their end client added something right at the last second, I had a client, a client who’s an event planner in Alabama, doing a wedding in Big Sky, Montana who needed some things. Some cups, you know, like some not too crazy stuff, but, I always say, “if you’re in a pinch, give me a call. Even if you have someone else you work with, if you’re in a pinch, give me a call, let’s see if we can make a miracle occur for you.” And we’ve had suppliers help us jump through hoops and get stuff there. And that may have been a $200 cup order. But then they suddenly call you back for a $10,000 order because they know you’re going to deliver on it.
So I think that’s the difference . So I say making miracles happen, but it’s just really knowing when something really has to be urgent and telling them when it can’t happen.
David: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting when I do training sessions, like live training sessions, it’s been awhile cause everybody has been isolating, but in live training sessions, I’ll often ask an audience of distributors: “what is it that sets you apart? How many of you say service?” And probably 50 to 60% of the room will raise their hands. And then I’ll say, “okay, now look around. Okay. if you think your service differentiates you and you think your service differentiates you, can you all be right?” And you can, when you’re able to do what you’ve done, like even in your answer where you’re able to specifically talk about the points that set you apart. The way that you do things that’s different that allows your service to stand out and really differentiate you from your competition.
Tracie: And David, I’ll give you another example that I went and met with a school, a private school here in town. And they do a lot of ordering. And they had said, “Hey, we have three companies we work with. We’re really good.” And I said that exact same thing. I said, “if you’re ever in a pinch, let me know.” And the next day they called me and said, “the supplier we thought who was going to do custom boxes for this virtual gala we were going to be planning, can’t get them to us in time. Can you do it?”
And honestly, I thought we had plenty of time and they got them and they were stunned. And we bailed them out. And then they said it’s called for other things. So everyone is already ordering this from someone. And that’s, to me, a very easy, comfortable way to say I’m not expecting you to give me all your business. We’ll help you out. If we do good for you, then you’ll know what the difference is.
And there’s a good distinction between customer service person and miracle worker. Right?
Tracie: (Laughs) Well, exactly. Like we know, because I came from events, I always had a few favorite, really great top, like bands in the country. A top decor company I always want to work with You know, even like a transportation company. People, you know, are great. And you give them a lot of business all year long, and guess what? They take care of your customers at the end. So I’m always willing to try some new suppliers, but I really love some of my core suppliers because they value our business and then they make things happen for our clients, which I think is a really big deal.
David: Right. Particularly when you’ve created a business that is doing exactly that for your clients.
Tracie: Right. I mean, how can you say it if you don’t believe it. That’s the scariest part of being a distributor, right? It’s just crossing your fingers that everything’s going to work and there’s not going to be a weather delay on UPS and like a hundred other things, like all things outside your control.
But knowing everyone cares about that order, getting out the door, the same amount you do it means something.
David: Yeah, absolutely. So at this point, what would you say are the biggest challenges that your clients are dealing with today?
Tracie: Well, we’re hearing about everything last minute, so I’m assuming they are.
And a lot of times. They’re not the CEO of the company. Right? So their boss is putting something on their lap and they’re like, “is there any chance this can happen?”
And it’s happening across industries. And a lot of times, even on repeat events, which is kind of eyeopening. Because it’s like, well, you’ve done this for 10 years. What do you think you’re going to do it? And they really did not know that they were going to do it again this year.
Tracie: Sometimes it’s even silly, like… We have one client who every year gives Thanksgiving turkeys to all their employees with other side items. So they need to print a bag, like a nice grocery tote for that.
But last year they didn’t do their turkeys because not everyone was at the office. So this year it was like a last minute, “are we doing the turkeys or not?” And that, as a combination with the supply chain, Is challenging, of course. But that’s the biggest thing. Because the budgets, I feel like are there in a lot of cases. And a lot of times the budget is there because they’re not doing something else. Like they’re not having a Christmas party. So they’re doing Christmas gifts for all their employees.
David: Right. Makes a lot of sense. So over the past year, obviously things changed a lot in the promotional products industry, you were able to sort of zig and zag and adapt a bit?
Tracie: Yeah, I think so. My joke has always been, if there was anyone who could roll with the punches it’s an event planner. And that is kind of true, right?
Like we never know what’s coming at us. And every four years there’s going to be a presidential election, weather disaster, everything. There’s always going to be a thing. So you could blame COVID was a big thing, but it’s also like before that it was the tariffs in China. And before that it was something else.
So there’s always going to be something coming at you. And I think our clients do really well when we just are very transparent with them and let them know what’s going on and tell them why things either are, or are not happening and giving them a solution. I’ve never liked going to someone with a problem that I could not solve.
And sometimes it doesn’t work. Like, it’s not what they want to hear. But at least it’s an alternative solution. And I think most people are willing to roll with the punches with you. If you’re going to solve their problems, at least 99%.
David: Yeah. One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about working with you is the fact that you are absolutely an action taker.
You’re an implementer. You actually do things. You know, there are a lot of people who talk a good game, but then don’t take the actions necessary to create the results. And I think that’s gotta be something that your clients see in you as well.
Tracie: Well, I hope so. And I think a lot of things that could take a while just because of the technology that is available now. We can just do things faster and reply to people faster and be more available than the alternatives for them. And if you ever really go on a consumer product website, good luck finding the phone number, really.
So, If you are just sitting in an executive office somewhere and your boss wants A Yeti cooler or a mug that heats up on its own or something. The time you’re going to spend just trying to figure out who to talk to is more of a hassle. Like, get it off your list, send it over. We’ll make the phone calls. We’ll figure it out. As far as you’re concerned, it’s crossed off your list. And I think that’s a big differentiator.
David: Yeah. And I think that points to the fact that today there are really two types of clients as well.
There’s the do-it-yourselfer, who is willing to spend hours doing their own research. Potentially to think they’re saving a few pennies. And there are those who say “I would rather go with a professional and have that person handle it.” And it seems to me that more and more, these days, those are the people we’re looking for. The ones who actually understand, value and appreciate what we bring to the table for them.
Tracie: Well, and they don’t want to, like a lot of times when you buy online, you don’t know what supplier it’s really coming from. Right? And if anyone’s ordered something on their own online and was disappointed when it arrived, they don’t want that to happen ever again. So sure. We still send samples.
But a lot of times they’ll just say like, is that a good t-shirt? You know, like… Is that a cozy t-shirt? Are people gonna want to wear that t-shirt? And they just want to talk to someone and someone say, “Yeah, I sleep in a Bella t-shirt or a Next Level or whatever it is and just know what we can do. And it’s that, I think, on a lot of products. Have you seen this? How little is that? Is that cutting board big enough? Or is that going to look puny when I give it out.
David: Right. Yeah, and I think that’s what people don’t always realize is missing when they try to do it themselves. You see something on screen, it looks really nice.
And then you order it and you get it in your hands. You’re like, “oh, this isn’t at all what I thought it was going to be.
David: And that’s even pre-internet stuff. I remember dealing with that with catalogs. You order something, it looked really good in the picture, and then you get it and you’re like, “oh, this is cheap,” and the imprint rubs off,
Tracie: Right, well, yeah. Oh my goodness. Yeah, that’d be terrible.
David: Yeah. All right. So you participated in our Total Market Domination course, and that’s where we really got to know each other better. Because, as I said, you were an implementer. I mean, you really would take actions on the recommendations.
One thing in particular that you did, he ran that Facebook post that was designed to get leads. You posted one thing and you got a whole bunch of people responding. Tell me about that. Walk me through that process for me,
Tracie: Well, we had had this company for a while, but we hadn’t really talked too much about it, because we were mainly solving our own problems.
But when I started talking about it and said, “Hey, this is what I’m doing now,” and then a few months later came out and said, “we’ve put together an exclusive holiday gift offering. Anyone interested?” Which was definitely from your idea to, you know, put something together that we could send out as like a way to bring leads in.
Tracie: It was great. And what was really kind of great about it was I went through that list of people who replied and there were like, they’re probably about 50 people who replied. Probably about like 35 who had a legit role in a business or on a nonprofit board or a school. And I ended up sending them all stainless steel, vacuum tumblers as a gift, but also as a way to like really get something on their desk, with a letter that just said, “Hey, this is what we’re doing. Thanks so much for being supportive.” And I can’t tell you how many pieces of business came as a result of that.
And some of it, a lot of it on referral that was like from someone who heard about us from that. And that was a really interesting takeaway to me from the course, because that was absolutely something that I would’ve not thought of to do if it wasn’t from the course. But I think what was interesting is when I was trying to originally decide who would be a target I’d go after? I think I was looking at whose business is like doing great right now and all of that. But in the end, I was really trying to talk to strangers. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But your odds of hitting with strangers is just going to be lower than when it’s people you know. And if we all look at how many Facebook friends or Instagram followers that we have, we know a lot of people, right?
And you don’t sell something, that’s that strange. So a lot of people need it and they could tell people about it. So that was really when I kind of switched in my head psychologically from going after people who are going to be a lot harder to reach to, let’s just start talking about this amongst people we know, or just try to offer value.
You’d be shocked how much people complain about things that they have to do at work. Right. So if you’re just listening, I can solve that for you. I can do that. And I think also a lot of people didn’t realize that people in our industry can do kitting and drop shipping.
And that was eyeopening to me, because I had done that, even as a customer. But when a promotional product comes in a poly bag and shows up bulk…
Tracie: …it’s not that glamorous, no matter how expensive it really was. But if it was in a pretty box, With a note. Now it’s a gift, right? So it really elevates things a lot. And maybe that’s a little blue box training I had previously.
But we do a lot of kitting and drop shipping with our suppliers. Because, we want our clients to think of us, not just for when they say “chotchkies” right? I want you to think of us for your incentive trip gifts and your executive gifts. And when you have a board meeting and all of those sorts of things, too.
David: Yeah. And for those who are not familiar with the term, kitting, it’s about putting things into a kit. Right? So…
Tracie: Right. Take an item, putting it in a box and sending it out. Or a couple of them,
David: Making it look better. making it go from something that’s in a box, in piles, to a gift. Really transforming it into more of a gift.
Yeah. Right. Cool. So, that particular post that you were talking about. It was one social media post, and you had 35 people who actually engaged with you, who were interested in talking about, or potentially buying things.
Tracie: Right, and it was a really like, soft sell kind of message to my Facebook friends.
It was not like, “Hey, if you want to order some stuff.” Like, it wasn’t like I’m selling it. And it wasn’t like a reach out to individual people. It was a general post and people reacted. And then I just followed up, which I think was a key detail. Cause you could have easily just been like “great,” and then they would have forgotten, you know, 10 minutes later. And followed up really in the mail with something of value that wasn’t too costly to me to do. And got great reaction again, once it arrived. So I think that is a really good formula.
David: It’s also a testimony to the relationship that you have with the people that you’re connected with on Facebook. Because there are people that may have hundreds of followers and they post something and it just completely gets ignored.
And the fact that your people looked at it, read it, responded to it, and then you were able to follow up with them and convert that into sales. For a lot of people, that’s a really missing element in their social media. People post things all the time and they feel like they don’t get results from it. You were able to post one thing and you were able to get a bunch of response from it, and actually convert it into sales.
Tracie: And it will say, based on the Facebook algorithm which I’m not an expert on, but I posted that on my personal page. And I think that’s a key difference. It’s really hard to get traction on a business page on Facebook.
But now I don’t do that regularly. I did that once last year and haven’t really done it at all since. Cause I think that that gets a little overwhelming .And no one wants to see the person who’s always selling things all over social media.
David: Right. Yeah..
Tracie: But I think if you do it every so often then it feels like you’re actually helping people out. It doesn’t feel like I’m advertising necessarily, which I think is the key difference there.
David: And you weren’t actually pitching product. You’re basically saying, “Hey, I put together this buyer’s guide. If you’d like to have a look at it, let me know in the comments below.” And then the people who let you know, you followed up with them, you got them the information and it went from there.
So it wasn’t really like pitching. It was just basically saying, “Hey, if you’re interested in this, let me know.” So it was very non-threatening.
Tracie: And whoever’s familiar with like Oprah’s favorite things, it was kinda like Tracy’s favorite things. I mean, I didn’t call it that, but that’s kind of what it was. What I thought were the best holiday gifts for last season.
And I think everyone always is in a bind when it comes to that, like, what do you get your brother-in-law? What do you get your grandma, you know? People need ideas. So, my intention at least, was to solve a problem for people. More in the corporate space, of course, but for whoever it helped.
David: Maybe this year, you can do a gift guide of products that are actually available, right?
Tracie: By the time it’s together, I’ll be gone.
David: That’s true, yeah. It’s kind of crazy. Well, so as far as the training itself was concerned, what would you say were some of the other takeaways or most helpful aspects of the course when you took it?
Tracie: I think something that was really helpful and anyone who’s been in sales for a while probably does know this, but it was a really good reminder is that some people will kind of string you along forever and whether they can’t buy or don’t want to is kind of beside the point, they’re just not gonna. So to recognize that if we want to believe that pretty much every business could be a buyer, then let’s not waste too much time with people not buying.
Tracie: Because there’s plenty of people who can be. And I think in my business and probably similar for a lot of people in kind of any business, no matter what they do, 80% of the sales come from 20% of the people. So you’re better off spending some really good time on your people that you either think have the capability of purchasing more, and selling within their company. Like you’re already in the door. Once your kind of on the list, it’s a little easier if you already have credibility. And they introduce you to someone in another department, you don’t even have to explain who you are. They already know that you’re the person. And sometimes the department you’ve got in with in the first place, maybe buys 1% of what some of the other departments do.
So it just depends on how valuable of a service you’re providing and how much they want to mention that. On the same note it’s interesting to see how sometimes your clients change companies. And if they like working with you, they bring you along with them, which is, I think, really kind of great too.
David: Yeah. And when you establish the kind of relationships, like the ones that you’ve established with your clients, that’s likely to happen.
Tracie: And I think it’s important, it sounds kind of silly, but if you are Facebook friends with these people, say happy birthday to them on their birthday. Like Facebook reminds you, it’s not that hard to do.
And just as a reason to reach out. You don’t have to send something in the mail, I don’t think. You just put like a little quick note on social media. I think people appreciate that. And then they remember that and that’s really, A, easy to do, but a good way to kind of keep that relationship going.
David: Yeah. A lot of it, I think is really just about being authentic and having actual communication, as opposed to just hitting people with stuff constantly.
David: Yeah. Cool. So what would you say to somebody who may be considering participating in the Total Market Domination course, having done it yourself?
Tracie: Well, first of all, it absolutely pays for itself. That is like number one, but I think no matter how much you think you know about sales and I thought I knew a lot about sales. And as I say, say I went to Florida State where they train salespeople. but I think there’s things we forget, and it’s good to have a plan. And it’s good to be reminded of very key things that are specific even to this industry. And just knowing the way to spot people who are actually capable of purchasing. Versus those who may love you and just aren’t capable. Or those who will just string you along. Or those who use you, just so they always have another price to show, to use the person they’re using already and that sort of thing.
So I think finding clients, developing clients, all of that, everyone could use a reminder there. And if you’re not from a sales background then you absolutely… this is like the most direct sales class you could possibly take for this industry. And just be able to really get your business moving quicker than if you’re trying to just do like trial and error.
David: Yeah. Right. Trial and error. That’s brutal. And I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there.
Tracie: Well, you do too much trial and error and you’re exhausted. Right? And you’re like, “maybe this isn’t the business for me.” And that’s not, I don’t think that’s what most people want. Right? Like they want to have success and they need to be able to find the people. And no matter what your own personality is, there’s a group of people, with your similar personality, who purchase these products.
Tracie: And it’s a matter of finding them, understanding them. Like if you worked in, I don’t know, engineering before, or something, you can speak the language of engineering companies. Or if you worked in insurance before, you understand the needs of people in insurance. Those are your people. Go talk to them.
They already know you. So I don’t think too many people come to promotional products straight out of college, but I guess maybe some do. But you probably know some people from something you’ve done previously.
David: Yeah, that’s something else I’ve always done in live training sessions. I basically pointed out the fact that nobody sets out to be in the promotional products industry.
Nobody, when they’re a child says, “when I grow up, I want to be a promotional products distributor!” Right? We want to be astronauts. And we end up selling promotional products. But most of the time, the reason that happens is because people recognize the opportunity. They see the ability to be able to help customers who need help promoting their business, creating awareness, getting more sales, attracting business, differentiating themselves. And they realize that promotional products allow them to do it. So…
Tracie: Exactly. I don’t think anyone even thinks they’re ever going into sales. Even in college, unless you’re in the business school, you don’t take the professional selling class. And as my dad would say, no one plans to go into sales.
People just step backwards into the world’s most highest paid profession. Which is, I think really funny, when you consider like being a doctor or a lawyer or anything that would require so much more school and outlay of money.
If you can do sales, we can work from anywhere and we can decide what amount of days we have off in a year.
And you don’t ever, ever ask anyone else for a raise. And I think by having any additional sales skills can put you more on that path to be able to have the life you want. And I think that’s a really key thing. At least in my life it is. My daughter’s four years old and I want to be able to go to her dance class and pick her up at school.
And I still answer plenty of phone calls in the car, which know you probably shouldn’t do. But, this is an industry to be in for lifestyle. And I think the program allows you to more quickly get to the lifestyle you would like. And that is why I would say you should absolutely do it.
David: I’m also thinking, once you get to that dance recital, you’re probably going to meet 15 people who are going to want to do business with you, anyway.
Tracie: Funny you say it. I do the shirts of the dance recital.
David: There you go. Exactly. I knew you wouldn’t let that one slip by.
Tracie: Well, the guy was talking about it one day and I’m like, “I can handle that for you.” It was like, “oh really? Okay. I was going to have to order them anyway,so…”
David: Yeah, what’s the quote? “80% of success is just showing up?” But it’s showing up in the right places. It’s saying the right things.
Tracie: Exactly. Exactly. And recognizing the need, seeing, of course, this business is going to need things. And it’s always funny to me too. Businesses that you find out about that you never even knew were a business. Like, that was a thing people did. And that’s kind of fun to me. I enjoy that.
David: Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. Okay. So if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to do that?
Tracie: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracie: … will be the best way.
David: All right. Perfect. Thank you so much, Tracie. It’s great to see you and keep up the great work.
Tracie: Thanks so much, David.
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