The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2020

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 2020, here’s what the promotional products talent market has in store for you:




  • Within the distributor-side of our industry, executive-level job candidates are as limited as they were is 2019. Long-term promotional products industry professionals continue to retire or leave 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. This group has been particularly hard hit by the consolidation of our industry. While supply is low, demand is low as well.
  • Equilibrium


  • Experienced distributor managers find themselves with fewer opportunities this year than in 2019. Consolidation and the challenges facing the Executive-level have struck this group, as well. Despite an overall decrease in demand there are still some mid-tier firms expanding their management teams with inside sales experience being particularly sought after. Demand is strong and many candidates are taking a “wait and see” approach regarding industry changes, rather than seeking new opportunities.
  • Equilibrium


  • Both marketing managers and marketing support reps are seeing lower demand compared to where they were in 2018 and 2019. Distributors are slow to leverage email marketing and social media while large-scale industry changes are taking place. While demand is relatively low, the supply of experienced marketers who can really move the needle for a distributor is scant as well.
  • Equilibrium


  • The talent market for distributor-side sales reps contains two very different markets. Demand has been 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 keeping pace. These firms have fine-tuned their branding agency business model and are investing in new salespeople 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, continue to have a difficult time fully staffing their customer service and sales support 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 are not 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




  • 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 2019. True innovators, candidates who are embracing the large-scale changes coming to our industry, are in particularly high demand.
  • Demand exceeds Supply


  • At the management-level, there are more many more opportunities than in 2019. We’ve seen a lot of movement at the Director-level over the past four 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


  • Suppliers have continued to embrace marketing as an important differentiator. Over the last twelve 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


  • The traditional game of supplier sales rep musical chairs has slowed down over the last twelve 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 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, 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



Geography continues to play an over-sized role in the promotional products talent market. Supplier and distributor firms have been slow to embrace work-from-home and job candidate relocation opportunities. Interest in these kind of arrangements is very strong among qualified candidates, but firms are slow to embrace this new employment model.

Here’s a break-down of the US’ regional talent markets:


  • The talent market of the Northeastern region of the US was one of the most active regions in 2019. Suppliers and distributors have aggressively pursued sales representatives, customer service representatives, and operational professionals. Suppliers outside sales roles have been particularly active with many sales representatives moving from one firm to another.


  • In 2019, we saw lots of customer service representative hiring in the Southeast. Strong distributors in the region have identified this position as one needed to achieve sustained growth. Management roles are available in this part of the country, but candidates are in short supply. Several firms have opted to relocate hires in order to meet their talent needs.


  • Both distributor and suppliers have need of sourcing and customer service help in the Midwest. Talent geography has been a critical factor in career movement. Anyone with experience with order management, customer service, and sales support is in high demand in the Midwest region.


  • The Northwest region has more than its share of sourcing and merchandising professionals. Several firms in the region specialize in these areas. This talent pool has been one that’s often tapped by distributors and suppliers based in other regions.


  • The Southwest region was been significantly quieter in 2019 with little movement outside of southern California. Several acquisitions in the Los Angeles area have put this market into a bit of upheaval. Many professionals are awaiting word on whether they’ll be kept on board or let go. This market is a great example of the career paralysis that can occur during periods of high mergers and acquisition activity.

What are your growth and hiring plans for 2020? Do you have the talent you need to succeed?

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

Two Offers, One Choice

Searching for a new job is always stressful, but it can be even more stressful when trying to pick between multiple offers. You’re faced with making a decision between two companies, two compensation plans, and two career paths. Needless to say, it can be daunting.

Compensation should never be the lone deciding factor when choosing between offers. It’s really more about what’s best for the individual on a personal level. To pick between multiple offers, you really have to consider what is most important to you. Here are a few top things to consider when comparing offers:



This is typically the very first thing that people ask. We all have basic human needs and want to ensure that wherever we go that these basic needs will be met. One thing to consider is that benefits are actually part of your pay. I recall calculating this issue for myself at one point, when deciding whether or not to accept a new opportunity.

My position at the time paid $12,000 more per year than the new offer, but they did not contribute to employee health plans. The new offer paid 100% of all healthcare costs, which amounted to a value of $10,000, and had significantly lower copays. The new offer also doubled the amount of PTO I’d receive in a year. This leveled the playing field between the two options, as I determined pay was in reality equal once taxes and healthcare costs were factored in.



You have your work life and you have your personal life. They rarely overlap but your job is really intended to support your personal life. When picking between two offers, take into consideration the workload expectations. I had a coworker at a former company that left an employer because of poor work life balance.

She was really into spending time with her young son and very dedicated to the triathlons she regularly competed in. She took a $45,000 pay cut to go elsewhere. The catalyst was being chastised by her boss “only” working 40 hours a week (her coworkers were putting in close to 70 hours) even though her work was complete. Her boss told her “You give your son love, you give your races love, why don’t you give us any love?”

It was then that she decided her family and her races were more important than the money. She is much happier now that she is in a place where she can be flexible with her schedule and take time off as needed.



We are all looking for that sense of fulfillment and progress in our lives. When we enter the workforce, we have big ideas of where we would eventually like to be. Finding a place that will help you sharpen your skills and develop new ones to help you move forward is invaluable.

Take a look at how each offer could help you on your desired path.

  • Does it make logical sense in helping you reach your long-term goals?
  • Does the company promote from within?

One way to check is by taking a look at the company’s LinkedIn page and seeing how long employees stay with the organization and if they’ve had title changes throughout their tenure. You could also ask your interviewers where they see the company heading and if new opportunities will be created as the company grows.



Comparing two job offers is a challenge in self-knowledge. What matters the most to you? Flexibility or opportunity for promotions? Low co-pays or casual Fridays? Performance bonuses or a high salary? There are too many variables to measure and track. Analyze them as best you can and go with your gut. At the end of the day, the only person who really knows what best for you is you.

Career Advancement Reading List

Blog Title - PP - Career Advancement Reading List

To say that “Knowledge is Power” is the height of cliché. It’s also undisputedly true. The more you know, the better off you are. Few forms of knowledge are as beneficial as a firm understanding of how to develop yourself as a person and advance your career.

With that goal in mind, we’ve compiled our list of the best career and professional development books that we’ve read:

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

What Is It About?

  • Written by the COO of Facebook, Lean In covers the obstacles, both internal and external, facing working women. Sandberg examines gender interactions in the workplace, the idea of “having it all”, and how to make the best career choices.

Who Is It For?

  • Both women and men

Most Important Lesson?

  • Increasing the number of women at the top of the business world will benefit everyone.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

What Is It About?

  • Gladwell examines the upside of our disadvantages and the downside of our advantages. He talks through dozens of historical examples of how underdogs best powerhouses and the hidden advantages of being the little guy.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone considering taking a leap

Most Important Lesson?

  • Don’t wait. You have all you need to get started. Start today!

Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

What Is It About?

  • Never Eat Alone could be the How to Win Friends and Influence People of our generation. It’s full of short, impactful chapters on how to connect with others and build your business or career by forging and managing relationships. Networking isn’t about collecting contact information, but sharing your expertise and providing value for others.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone who wants to expand their network

Most Important Lesson?

  • Be bold and go after what you really want.

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

What Is It About?

  • Co-written by the founder of LinkedIn, The Start-up of You instructs you how to take control your professional future. To maximize your career, you have to know what you’re good at, what you want to do, and what the job market values. Merge all three and you’ll set yourself up for the best career possible.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • You’re the boss of your career.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

What Is It About?

  • In Smartcuts, Shane Snow dismantles the idea that climbing the corporate ladder is required to reach the top. He argues that waiting your turn and paying dues is not only the wrong way to get ahead but can actually hinder your progress. With case studies and real-life experiences, Snow makes the case for “lateral thinking”. “Later thinking”—solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, is highlighted as the way that most successful people have made it to the top.

Who Is It For?

  • Professionals who feel stuck and are open to alternative routes to success

Most Important Lesson?

  • Shifting gears and continuing to add to your skill set is very often the best way to get ahead.

Knock ‘Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Handbook by Martin Yate

What Is It About?

  • Martin Yate is considered the job search guru. This book and its companions are the handbook that every job seeker needs. They provide a step-by-step, in-depth understanding of what hiring managers want, how to sell yourself, and win the job you want.

Who Is It For?

  • Each and every job seeker. If you have a resume, you should own this book

Most Important Lesson?

  • It’s not what you know, but who knows you that will land you your next job.

More Best Answers to The 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. and Nanette F. DeLuca

What Is It About?

  • While Knock ‘Em Dead covers the A-Z of the job search, More Best Answers guides you across the goal line. It’s a tactical and practical handbook for interview prep, interview strategy, interview follow-up, and compensation negotiation. It gives readers the tools to land the interview, feel more comfortable and in control during interviews, and answer tough interview questions that cause other job seekers to stumble.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone with an interview coming up

Most Important Lesson?

  • Interviewing is a skill. It can be taught and learned. The recipe for becoming a great interviewee is one part preparation, one part observation, one part improvisation, and one part negotiation.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

What Is It About?

  • First published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s the spiritual successor to Dale Carnegie’s famous How to Win Friends and Influence People. Universally applicable business and networking advice is abundant, as Hill tells of his journey from the poor house to prosperity.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • The power of positivity

What have you read that has added to your career or professional development? We’d love to hear from you!

Networking for Your Next Job

Networking for Your Next Job

Networking for Your Next Job

Effective networking is the most direct method to find your next job. The problem is that most networking is done incorrectly or is considered too intimidating to attempt altogether. Networking is the catch-all term for making new connections, selling yourself to existing contacts, and asking for favors.

If you can’t ask someone for a favor they aren’t really a contact and aren’t in your network. This is one of the main ways in which doing favors for others pays off. One good turn deserves another and in most cases you can expect favors to be returned at some point in the future. When the time comes for your job search, it’s time to call in as many of those favors as you can.


Perfect Your Pitch

A critical part of effective networking is being clear about your goals. Know your goals and be able to succinctly communicate your message. Be compelling and make people want to know more. Also, be sure not to make it all about you. Your pitch needs to focus on what you plan to accomplish in the next phase of your career and the value you can provide to your next employer.


Track Your Conversations

Keep records of all your networking activity. Who? What? Where? When? What’s the next step? Concentrate on strong follow up and the next steps you need to take.


Give as Much as You Get

In many cases, you’ll be asking your networking for leads, referrals, or job search advice. However, always remember that successful networking is a two-way street. You are utilizing your network to find a new job, but you need to care for it and provide your contacts with value as well.

Sending a thank-you note, asking about the family, or emailing an article you think they might be interested in, are all free ways to add some value for the people in your network. By nurturing these relationships through your job search and beyond, you’ll establish a strong network of people you can count on for ideas, advice, and support.


Don’t Forget about Social Media

Social media has made access the new aloofness. Companies and leaders who thrive on social media do so because they give access to their followers. You can get in touch with people on Twitter or Facebook who would never return an email from you. Leverage this fact. Follow people who can help your job search. Listen to them on social media and share things they might find interesting. From there, it’s an easy conversation about opportunities within their organization.


Secret Advantage of Networking

Many jobs are not published on company websites or job boards. These positions are known to only a handful and HR managers and recruiters. Networking is the only way to get your name in the running for these unpublished positions. Let your contacts know that you are on the job hunt and let your network do the work.

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

A resume is an ink and paper representation of your career. During the job search it can be the key to your next job. Like most things in the business world, it’s a good idea to stick with proven best practices. Below are several time-tested rules of resume writing.

Keep it simple and clean. Your resume should be built on your experience and accomplishments. It doesn’t need graphics, artwork, or “personality”. The structure and font that you choose does make a difference. Keep it orderly and easy to read. Nothing should detract from the content.

Include all pertinent contact information. This includes your cell phone number, personal email address and home address. Some younger candidates include social media handles. That can be helpful, but isn’t necessary in the promotional product industry.

Tell the reader what you want. This is your objective. Your objective needs to be a strong, bold statement about 1-2 sentences long. Follow this with your summary. This should be 4-5 sentences and tell the reader what they can expect to get from you.

Focus on your accomplishments, not your duties. Don’t tell the reader what you did, tell them what you got done.

If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. In the world of resumes, numbers are king. You grew your sales? Great. How much? You managed a team of sales rep. Cool. How many? Put a number to everything!

Many employers and recruiters will load your resume into a database immediately. They’ll use this database to search for job candidates just like you and I use Google. Take advantage of this and make sure that your resume contains keywords that make sense for the position that you want.

Your resume is not one size fits all. You need to customize, customize, customize! Customize it for each job and each company that you are applying for.

No matter what job you are applying for you have to highlight your qualifications for that specific position. Make it very obvious to the reader that you have everything they could want in an employee.

Resumes can quickly become stale and out of date. Set a recurring reminder to update your resume every 3 months.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, looks worse than grammatical or spelling errors in a resume. It shouts “Unprofessional!” Please proofread and have 2 others proofread it as well.

Promote yourself! Resumes are not for being humble or giving credit to others. Own your accomplishments and SELL THE READER! Provide all the evidence needed to convince even the most skeptical reader that you will be a difference maker for their business!

7 Tips For Making Your Job Change A Breeze

For many people changing jobs can be a nightmare.

Work days that were once filled with confidence and routine, became full of anxiety and questions. Am I the low person on the totem pole? What was my password for this CRM program I have no idea how to use? What’s that guy’s name again? How does this stupid coffee machine work?!?!?!

If you’re going to take one thing away from this post make it this: A job (or even a career!) change is nothing to be nervous about. It is inevitable!

Use these 7 tips to hit the ground running at your new job!

  1. Act like you are still being interviewed. Don’t get too comfortable too early. You are still being evaluated. You need to continue to impress and prove yourself.
  2. Get to know some of the team before your start date. Happy hours and company events are great for this. Spending time with soon-to-be co-workers outside of the office is less formal and you can get up to date on current projects. It’s also a great insight into the company culture.
  3. Take notes. This one seems really obvious, but lots of people ignore it. During your on-boarding you’ll be hit with a ton of information. Some of this will be fluff, but we advise taking notes so you don’t miss the useful parts.
  4. Volunteer for everything that you can. Community Service committee? You need to be on it. Party Planning committee? Yes, please. Get involved early and often. This shows that you’re in for the long haul and can increase your exposure to your bosses and their bosses.
  5. Be proactive! Don’t wait to be given an assignment or told what to do. In 2014, no employer wants drones. Stay 30 minutes late each day to work on a project that you came up with. The project may not get off the ground, but your boss will love the effort.
  6. Be yourself. You’ve got the job already! It’s not time to slack off, but don’t act like a perfect employee robot either. Enjoy your work and have fun getting to know your co-workers.
  7. Work your butt off!