The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2018

Finding great people is always a challenge. However, your odds of finding and hiring great candidates are significantly increased if you have a firm understanding of the talent pool that is available to you. In other words, knowledge is power.

Our team of sourcers and recruiters have hundreds of conversations with hiring managers and job candidates every week. To provide managers and candidates with a better understanding of the promotional products talent market, we’ve tracked these conversations over the past 12 months. The results of our analysis have provided the insights below.

If you’re planning to grow your firm and add to your team in 2018, here’s what the promotional products talent market has in store for you:

 

DISTRIBUTORS

Executive-Level

  • Within the distributor-side of our industry, executive-level job candidates are not available in the same abundance as they were last year. Many long-term promotional products industry professionals have retired or left the industry. Distributor executives continue to be challenged with ownership changes, private equity involvement, lack of movement within the C-Suite, and rapidly aging skill sets.
  • Equilibrium

Management

  • Experienced distributor managers find themselves with fewer opportunities than in the past. Over the years, many growing mid-tier firms expanded their management team but are hesitant to add new six-figure salaries due to concerns about future growth. Supply chain and international sourcing managers are the only group in high demand. Many distributor principals are taking a “wait and see” approach regarding economic and trade changes. Hiring of distributor managers will remain slow until firms are more certain of what the future holds.
  • Supply exceeds demand

Marketing

  • Both marketing managers and marketing support reps are in higher demand than they were in 2017. Distributor principals have embraced social media and email marketing to increase their business with end-users. Still behind with regards to cutting edge data-based marketing, distributor firms are sticking with what has worked in the past. Many firms are hiring email marketing professionals from outside of the industry. Creative marketing managers with graphic design skills are in strong demand.
  • Demand exceeds supply

Sales

  • The talent market for distributor-side sales reps contains two very different markets. Demand has been (and always will be) very strong among distributorships with a commission compensation structure. The reason for this is simple economics. Demand for sales reps with firms using a salary plus bonus compensation structure is growing, as well. These firms have fine-tuned their boutique-style business model and are investing in new sales people with promotional products experience. The time has never better for experienced reps who wish to move from a commission model to a salary plus model.
  • Commission compensation structure – Demand exceeds supply
  • Salary plus bonus compensation structure – Equilibrium

Customer Service

  • Distributors, large and small, are having a difficult time fully staffing their customer service teams. An increased customer-focus within many distributorships has put these job candidates at a premium. The growth of many distributorships with a commission compensation structure also adds to the demand for these candidates. Experienced, knowledgeable customer service people are very valuable in today’s talent market.
  • Demand exceeds supply

Vendor Relations/Sourcing/Merchandising

  • Vendor relations, sourcing, and merchandising professionals are highly sought after on the distributor side. There just aren’t a lot of job candidates who have strong experience in this area. Those candidates who do have experience in this area are highly concentrated in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
  • Demand exceeds supply

 

SUPPLIERS

Executive-Level

  • Despite the high number of mergers and acquisitions on the supplier-side of our industry, executive-level candidates aren’t in high supply. Many of them are kept on board during mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, their backgrounds and experience make a transition outside of the industry far more likely than their distributor-side counterparts. Several firms are looking to expand or make changes to their executive team in 2018. True innovators, candidates who are embracing the large-scale changes coming to our industry, are in particularly high demand.
  • Demand exceeds supply

Management

  • At the management-level, there are more many more opportunities than in 2017. We’ve seen a lot of movement at the Vice President and General Manager-level over the past six months. Supplier management roles are no longer jobs for life, as they have been in the past. Suppliers are taking chances by hiring younger, forward-thinking National Account Managers and Sales Operations Managers for roles at the management-level.
  • Demand exceeds supply

Marketing

  • Suppliers have continued to embrace marketing, as an important differentiator. Over the last 18 months, more and more suppliers are putting their money where their mouth is and investing in marketing talent. Most firms have seen these investments and new hires pay off. Despite the high demand, candidates who understand the promotional products industry and the trends of modern marketing are very rare. Suppliers in need have had to reach outside of the industry to hire young, savvy marketing talent.
  • Demand far exceeds supply

Sales

  • The traditional game of supplier sales rep musical chairs has slowed down over the last 18 months. In general, sales reps are staying put longer. Additionally, there’s a significant pool of experienced sales reps who are underserved by their current supplier.
  • Supply exceeds demand

Customer Service

  • While not suffering the same sharp shortage as distributors, suppliers are adding staff to their customer service teams. An increased customer-focus that has brought on these new positions. Distributor sales reps are placing more and more importance (as are end-users) on communication, responsiveness, and results from suppliers. A customer service rep makes it easy for distributors to do business with suppliers. They are, also, few and far between.
  • Demand exceeds supply

Sourcing/Merchandising/Purchasing

  • Sourcing, merchandising, and purchasing professionals are in even higher demand than they are on the distributor side. There is a significant shortage of experienced job candidates for these positions. It’s a real challenge for the suppliers looking to squeeze savings out of a more efficient supply chain. Suppliers have had to look outside the promotional products space to get the needed talent for these roles.
  • Demand exceeds supply

 

RELOCATION

Geography continues to play an over-sized role in the promotional products talent market. Supplier and distributor firms are slow to accept the need for relocation allowances. This number is growing but remains small compared to similar industries. Candidates in the center of the country hesitate to move to higher CPI cities on the coasts. Remote employment opportunities continue to grow in our industry.  Technology has made staying connected and activity tracking much easier.

 

What are your growth and hiring plans for the rest of 2018?

PromoPlacement has the insight, network, and expertise to ensure that your team is made up of the best our industry has to offer. Contact our team today to discuss your business goals!