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Although the Internet has created whole new industries like social networking, what it's best known for is revolutionizing current business models. Amazon completely changed how we shop for books. Google completely changed how we find information. Like these two companies, most other Internet companies simply upgrade a current industry.

An Industry Ripe for Change

The promotional products industry is stuck in a rut. Sure, it’s moved from local screen-printing shops to online websites. But everything is still done the same, inefficient way. Here’s the typical 10-step process for ordering promotional products:

  1. Shop around for a few reputable companies to compare
  2. Select a product
  3. Select a quantity greater than the minimum (12, 24, 72, 144, or more!)
  4. Figure out how many colors to use in your design (it affects the price)
  5. Submit your artwork
  6. Get your artwork manually approved
  7. Choose sizes and colors
  8. Get a quote by calling or requesting a quote online
  9. Pay upfront for all the products
  10. And finally receive the bulk shipment weeks later.

If this isn’t enough of a headache, you still have to figure out how to give away the promotional products you worked so hard to acquire! And no promotional company is going to deal with complaints, returns, and exchanges from the recipients of the merchandise—your customers! Although this process is fairly clunky and time consuming, it can work okay if all your customers are in a single location, such as a trade show. But what happens if your customers are all across the country, or more likely, across the world? The old model falls apart. You’re stuck with two options: either go through this clunky process and do the distribution yourself (have fun at the post office!) or don’t do it at all.

Just like other industries revolutionized by the Internet, the promotional products industry needs an upgrade. Companies shouldn’t have to deal with minimum order sizes, how many colors are in their design, and the management of inventory. They should be given a simple web interface to design their products, choose recipients of the giveaway, and get back to their real business. Inventory management, distribution, customer questions, and exchanges should be handled by the promotional products company.

As the world moves towards specialization, companies should be very hesitant to take on projects outside their core area of focus. The traditional promotional products industry forces companies to take on a much bigger role than necessary. The industry needs to realize this and wake up. It’s time to start taking complete control of the promotional products process so businesses can focus on what they do best, not the logistics of a promotion.