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3 Things I Learned at the 2017 PPAI Expo

For five days, professionals from every facet of the promotional products industry flooded the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the PPAI Expo, the largest promotional products tradeshow in the world. Distributors, suppliers and even inventors of the latest brand-able gadgets attended the Expo in droves, all hoping to make connections and learn the latest industry trends and happenings.

  1. 2017 is Going to be a Good Year

PPAI has released their predicted industry growth for 2017, and the outlook for both the supplier and distributor sides are positive. Suppliers manufacture the goods, then sell them to distributors who sell them to businesses. EmbroidMe is a distributor, the company who produces the blank t-shirt, like Under-Armor, is a supplier. The supplier market is expected to grow 4.1% this year and the distributor side is expected to increase 6%. These numbers are a large increase from 2016's +0.3% for suppliers and +2.9% for distributors.

No matter which side you're on, supplier or distributor, 2017 is expected to be a banner year for the promo products industry, and for that reason, the overall vibe of the conference was very optimistic.

  1. Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR) and Why You Need to Pay Attention

By now you've seen the headsets. Maybe you've written them off as being just a toy for "gaming," but as new mediums of entertainment emerge, the marketing landscape will change along with it. The manufacturers of these headsets are huge companies like Sony, HTC and Facebook, which is giving advertisers the confidence to invest in using the tech as a potential advertising tool. Large companies are already using AR & VR to create engaging experiences for users. It's only a matter of time before SMB's begin to look at AR & VR as potential promotion vehicles.

AR vs VR - what's the difference and what does it mean for marketing? Virtual reality is what you're probably most familiar with. With VR, the user is immersed in a virtual world. Marriott has already begun capitalizing on this by creating virtual getaways, transporting users into to amazing locations, inciting desire by giving them a taste of what they could experience.

AR stands for augmented reality. AR is rapidly showing up in mobile phone applications, placing virtual things over the actual world, making the two look like they're interacting. You know that Pokemon GO game? That's augmented reality. Wayfair, an online home goods store, is using AR to give customers an idea of what a piece of furniture would look like in their room before they actually purchase it.

The two technologies focus on creating a new depth of customer experience and relationships, appealing to their senses in new and clever ways.

  1. Avoid a One-Size-Fits -All Approach to Sales

Have you ever lost an important sale and wondered why? It could be because you are selling the same way to every prospect. Humans are complex creatures. Everyone is different. Part of being compatible with a prospect is a willingness to treat them the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to treat them.

In a seminar with Todd Novak, a top sales and motivational expert, EmbroidMe store owners learned the importance of subtly changing their behavior to make their prospects feel more comfortable. In other words: know your audience. Customers have different personality types and receive information based on their personality types, not yours.

During your first interactions with a potential client, engage them in a conversation and listen. While you're listening, identify their personality type and alter your pitch accordingly.

In Closing

2017 is predicted to be a great year for the economy and for the promotional products industry. Make sure that no matter what industry you're in that you are poised to capitalize on the economy's projected growth by fine-tuning your sales techniques and embracing new technologies earlier than your competitors.