2024 PPAI Expo Crossword Puzzle


The promotional products’ industry as a marketing industry generally fails when it comes to marketing in the 21st century. Promo companies are still using social media for their shout-outs which no longer generates the engagement like it used to.

The exception is YouTube, but most promotional product companies do not budget for informative, engaging and creative content for distributors to help sell their products. Additionally, most companies also fail in making product highlight “templates” that distributors can brand EASILY and share with their customers.

Let’s talk about your website! OMG!  Are you still using that template from Sage or ASI?  Come on!  Who is managing your detailed analytics? What pages are you customers visiting most and least and why?  Do you have regular monthly specials posted on your website or in Sage/equiv?  Are you regularly posting testimonials on your website?  And, if you receive a review in SAGE, do you take the time to reply?  Probably not which is a big fail!

Also, the #1 impedance for business in 2024 and moving forward is the cost of shipping. How many promotional product companies are STRATEGICALLY meetings with UPS and Fedex and strategizing on how to design the next gen of boxes that minimize the costs of shipping? Lastly, passing on those credit card fees to distributors means you lose.

Suck it up buttercup and show some love to your distributors.  Even though we are a smaller promotional products distributor, our main business is successful marketing.  2024 is going to be a tough year – will you survive or thrive?  Connect with us today!


Swagman vis-à-vis North Star Multimedia currently hosts and manages over 70 WordPress websites.  We have been building commercial websites since 1996!  Yes, a lot has changed over the years.  What hasn’t changed is the strategic design of navigation on your website.  We cannot tell you HOW MANY promotional product dealer websites would rate a D or F for their websites navigation and that potentially translates to lost sales.  Connect with us for a professional consultation today!

So, typically, decision makers in large companies are OLD PEOPLE.  Old people are slow to adapt.  As social media was ramping up around 2010, it probably took another 5 years for many mainstream larger promotional product suppliers to budget for social media as a way to connect with distributors. It makes the 70+ year old founder feel proud to say, “YES, WE HAVE AN INSTAGRAM PAGE..”  Those days are long gone.  Social media for the most part yields very low ROI.  The exception is developing a YouTube platform with PROFESSIONALLY produced :30 -:90 product videos that distributors can then share on their channels. The ol’ IPHONE of the VP (who is probably the owner’s wife) video does not count! Are you in it to win it?  Then, connect with us and let’s strategically work on a video platform for your brand in 2024!

We still get the occasional thick and beefy printed catalog.  Why?  It actually comes off very out-of-touch with today’s green-obsessed world.  Keep making them but make them available as a PDF on your website and ideally generically brand them, so the distributor can brand the catalog and print out in small quantities and give to specific customers like the “Look-Book” that ETS Express produces and we rebranded .

We get it – The ease of using Mailchimp or Contant Contact to stay in touch with your customers.  Barely %.01c per contact and blast away.  Maybe your view rate is %10 or less. Still very efficient.  BUT, believe it or not, we are seeing a trend where direct-mail postcards with a variable address and coupon code can produce a 15%+ ROI.  Are you ready for ol skool success?

North Star Multimedia first opened its door in Alaska in 2000.  The first 7 years until we relocated to Las Vegas, our #1 expense and variable for doing business was the cost of shipping product to Alaska.  Easily an extra 20-40% just for shipping in the eventually quote to the customer.  Up until the last couple of years, with the cost of fuel and other variables, shipping within the lower 48 will be the #1 issue affecting sales growth in the next 36 months.  Vendors will absolutely need to survive by reevaluating their packaging dimensions and methods to remain competitive.  Follow the Amazon model and maybe many of the orders can be shipped in durable bags versus boxes?  Maybe the box sizes need to be reevaluated AFTER you have conversations with FedEx and UPS and USPS?  USPS is now a legit shipper; is your company offering USPS as a shipping alternative?  SAGE, are you listening?

We get it!  Everyone wants a piece of the pie, so just pass along those credit card fees to your distributors.  Yep, that is a good business decision on paper.  But, if your company is doing at least $5M in annual sales, just suck it up buttercup! When the local casinos decided to charge for parking, even for locals, you never acclimate to the extra costs.  Many of us then refuse to go to the Las Vegas Strip just for that reason.  Sure, the casinos are addicted to the additional revenue, but what is the net cost of business?  As a smaller distributor, I will easily and quickly choose who I do business with if I have to pay a credit card fee or not.

As a creative marketing agency, the absolute #1 tool or marketing mechanism I try to get my customers to embrace is to tell their customers THANK YOU for the business.  100% of all of my customers would receive a D or F for their efforts in this regard.  The most expensive customer is the new customer, the most profitable customer is the repeat customer.  Many vendors ask us to give them a review on SAGE.  Of the 30+ reviews I have written passionate reviews for on SAGE, NOT ONE has replied in SAGE to my review.  You just missed hitting a home run, Mr/Ms Supplier!  I suspect most suppliers have not taken the 2-3 minutes to learn how to do this.  Regardless, get off your butt and thank your distributors publicly – they will love you long time for it!

Swagman got started in the Promotional Products industry, spending the first 8 years within a Master Distributor umbrella.  Even though my net profit was extremely low, I did appreciate some of the services they offered.  For smaller distributors finally taking on larger orders, there is an obvious risk if product is damaged or not delivered, etc.  Now that we are a smaller, independent distributor, it would be a nice feature if, let’s say, an order over $10K, the supplier could offer at an additional and reasonable cost insurance for that order.  Sort of like what retailers do partnering up with Allstate, etc.  Sure, you might say that is OUR responsibility as the distributor to our customers, but, the supplier has more resources to automatically add and track that in the invoice. NO SUPPLIER IS CURRENTLY OFFERING THIS, will you be the first?

Today, we are all busy.  I mean, like really busy! I am busy, the supplier is busy but, it seems there is a bummer trend that fewer suppliers will actually answer the phone.  “Send us an email….”  UGH.  Beyond frustrating.  But, let me use Hub Pen as an example.  My inside person is always busy, but I can call in to their general customer service phone and someone always picks up fairly quickly and always answers that quick question I need answered to complete booking or quoting some business.  Suppliers, invest in answering the phone – it should really be non-negotiable!

lady faxingPROBABLY NOT. 😂 So update your customer forms and remove that question! The fax machine has been a business staple for over a hundred years. With the advent of the internet, however, many predicted the demise of faxing. This was due to the widespread use of email and the rise of digital document formats like PDFs.