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!

How to Ask for a Raise

In today’s workplace, if you want a raise, you’ve got to ask for one. However, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably never asked for a raise. The first thing you need to know is that it’s perfectly normal to ask. Here is a guide that will help you get the salary you deserve.


When to Ask

Like with most things in life and in business, timing is critical. You don’t want to catch your boss on a particularly busy or stressful day. On the other hand, if you’ve just closed a big deal or saved the day for a major client, it could be time to capitalize on those accomplishments. A good rule is to wait for the one-year mark of when you were hired or last promoted.


Build Your Case

Once you’ve decided that now is the right time to ask for a raise, it’s not enough to be prepared to simply ask, you must be prepared to persuade. Outline your accomplishments over the year, point out the ways you’ve gone above your job description, and highlight the projects you want to take on in the future that also go beyond your official duties. Here, numbers mean more than anything else. If you’ve made quantifiable impacts for your company, be sure to cite those specific numbers.


Know Your Number 

Don’t just ask for a raise in general. Be specific about the increase you’d like (either in dollars or a percentage). Do your research and know what the market rate is for your skill set.


Don’t Make it Personal

You might need more money for any number of reasons. However, your boss doesn’t need to know and likely won’t care. Expect any raise to be given out based on merit and your impact on the company, not life circumstances. Keeping the conversation business-focused will only help your chances. 


What to Say

Your request should be fairly brief. Focus on why you think you’ve earned a raise. Most of the time, something like this is sufficient:

“I really appreciate the opportunities you’ve given me to take on greater responsibilities. I’ve been getting great results in those areas over the last year and have exceeded the goals we created. Could we talk about adjusting my salary to reflect this higher level of contribution?”


“No” or “Maybe”

If you get a “No”, follow up with questions about what additional responsibilities or improved performance your manager feels would warrant a pay increase. If you get a “Maybe”, make sure you’re clear on what the next steps are. Whether the plan is to pitch your proposal to HR or reconvene to discuss things in more detail, find out what else can you do to further make your case.


Don’t give an ultimatum

You should be confident and assertive in making your request for a raise. However, you don’t want to come across as too demanding. The last thing you want to do is give your manager an ultimatum. Unless, of course, you are willing to follow through with it.

It’s totally normal to ask for a raise. You need to know when to ask and how to build a compelling case for yourself. Know what number you want to get to and don’t bring your personal situation into the discussion. Prepare what you are going to say in advance and how you’ll respond to an answer other than “Yes”. 

Best of luck! Now go out there and get what you deserve.

How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

Every career is built on two things: performance and relationships. Maintaining existing relationships is fairly straightforward, but how do you get your foot in the door to develop a new relationship? It’s as simple (or as daunting) as just starting up a conversation. Follow the tips and best practices that we lay out below, and you’ll become a networking master.


Introduce yourself

This opening seems like a no-brainer, but it’s very often skipped. The standard “Hi! I’m (your name). Thought I’d introduce myself.” is really all it takes. It takes some bravery to walk up to someone and be the first to talk, but your listener will respect your confidence and open up.


The formula for good conversations

Ask a question + Listen to the answer + Respond in the form of a statement


Well, what question do I ask?

  • Why they work where they work
  • Why they chose the neighborhood where they live
  • What brings them to the event you are both at
  • What they enjoy about their work or a hobby


Keep it open

Open-ended questions work great. Make sure that it’s a question that will lead your listener to a positive place.


Body language

Don’t just listen with your ears. Body language plays a critical role in any conversation. Smile. Look your listener in the eye. Make sure that your physical cues show that you’re engaged. 


It’s about feelings

Your listener won’t remember many of the details of your first conversation. However, they’ll recall precisely how that conversation made them feel. Find out what your listener is passionate about and hone-in on that subject. The most important thing is the emotional state of the other person and how well you can relate on an emotional level.


Additional tips

  • Ask for your listener’s opinion. Everyone has plenty of opinions and people love to share them!
  • Ask for their advice or recommendations. Make your listener feel important in any way you can.
  • Connect over a mutual acquaintance. This is a great way to find common ground.
  • Bond over a shared experience. Again, common ground is a good thing.
  • Put your listener on center stage with a thoughtful compliment.
  • Share your story. Everyone has one, and they are always interesting!

The lasting, genuine relationships that will aid you throughout your career are all built on mutual connections. The formula and tips listed above will help you  find and make many new connections that will grow and develop for years to come.

Let’s keep the conversation going! What are your favorite conversation starters?

9 Reasons Why Great Candidates Are Lost

No matter what role you’re hiring for, qualified job candidates are valuable. How do you keep your candidates moving along the interview and hiring process? Well, for starters, you can avoid these nine common stumbling blocks that will surely lose you your prized candidate.


Loss of momentum

Momentum is critical to the recruiting process. It’s a challenge to build it up, but it can be lost very easily. You need to keep recruited candidates posted on what the next steps are for them. If they are left for more than 3 days with no communication from you, they will begin to sour on your opportunity.


No communication

The #1 thing that all candidates want is feedback and communication. This is very easy. Tell them what the next steps are going to be and execute on those next steps.



Indecision on the candidate’s part is understandable. However, indecision on the part of the company can stall and ruin the hiring process. You need to be committed to hiring the best candidate available.


Treating a recruited candidate like a normal job seeker

Recruited candidates should not be treated like a normal job seeker. A recruited candidate didn’t seek out your opportunity. It was brought to them and presented to them by a recruiter. The recruiter began the process of selling the candidate on your opportunity. It’s up to you to continue the sales process.


Compensation brought up too early

Compensation should be brought up later in the interview process. The candidate and company need to establish rapport and develop a mutual interest. Bringing up compensation early will only hurt you.


Unimpressive interview

A recruited candidate will be evaluating you just as much as you are evaluating them during an interview. Your office needs to be clean, your staff needs to be friendly, and you need to have prepared for the interview in advance.


Lack of market consideration

Whenever making a talent decision you need to consider the macroeconomic environment. The US is at full employment and has been for several years. Odds are that your local talent market in at full employment, as well.


Wrong compensation package

Many companies create compensation packages in a vacuum. Instead, these should be the result of a careful analysis of your talent market, the position, and your level of need.



Counters are not as common as you may think. A strong onboarding process needs to be in place to get your candidate excited to join your team. An excited candidate won’t be nearly as susceptible to counter-offers.

First Impressions Count: Onboarding 101

First impressions are important. We strive to put our best foot forward during our interviews and certainly try to impress our new employer on the first day. If first impressions are so important, then why don’t we apply this concept to a new hire’s first impression of what it’s like to work for your organization?

We have all experienced some form of onboarding, some good, many not so great. The first day is often associated with being a little stressed, unsure of what to expect, and the dread of boring videos or endless paperwork.

(Source: Society For Human Resources Management).

With the impact of onboarding being so significant to the return on investment per hire, here’s some simple best practices to get you headed in the right direction from the start.

The Week Before

Remember your first day at your current job? Was your computer ready, basic office supplies set up, and were you greeted upon arrival with a warm welcome? If you did, you probably had a positive experience, and are still in that same organization. If you didn’t experience this, think about how it would change your opinion of your employer and how it may have an impact on the sense of belonging and loyalty.

To get this started right, have the basics ready. Business cards should be ordered and ready on the first day. Name plate should be in place if applicable.  A cheat sheet of logins and common contacts should be available.

Day One

Arrive early to ensure everything is set up and ready to go. Greet the new hire warmly and show him or her around, introducing everyone. Make certain to discuss what is acceptable and is not, such as headphones in the workplace, eating at your desk, cell phone policy, late policy, and more. Try not to make it completely process oriented and keep it conversational and informative (Source: saplinghr).

It might be a good idea depending on the position to assign a primary point person to help out the new hire during the learning process. This encourages the individual that it is alright to ask for help and lessens the fear of being a bother.

Two Weeks

By the end of the second week, most people have a feel for whether or not the job is for them. Most employers stop the onboarding process by this time, which is a mistake (Source: HCI). This is actually the perfect time to have an informal meeting regarding the level of hospitality among coworkers, any training he or she may feel would help, and to give feedback on where you see them headed within the position. This is the time to answer any questions that may have come up since the first day.

Preparedness is key in a good onboarding experience. Preparing a plan for new hires ahead of when new hires are needed is a great way to ensure that the onboarding process goes smoothly and increase chances that your new hire will stay long term, bringing more experience to the team.

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile in 6 Steps

These days you see social media almost everywhere you look. There are new social media platforms being launched every day. We even have our own industry specific platform called commonsku. Despite its ubiquity, you need to use social media carefully in order to make the right impression to employers and colleagues.

When it comes to your career, LinkedIn is by far the most important social media platform. Because LinkedIn is a professional network, you need to toe the thin line between sharing too much and not sharing enough. However, it can be tricky to find that line and to stick to it. Below, you will find some tips and tricks on how to optimize your LinkedIn in order to look for the job you really want!


Every day, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for you. They have opportunities available and need someone with just your skillset. If you’re open to new opportunities, the best thing you can do for your career is to make your skills stand out.

Use the headline section to sum up your current role and area of expertise. List the skills you use on a daily basis. Show your passion! Make note of your major contributions to your current company.


Choose your profile image wisely! Employers, recruiters, and colleagues will see this picture of you often. It’s always helpful to be able to put a face to a name or voice. No, you can’t use your wedding photo and definitely not the photo of you in a bathing suit. Your outfit should be work appropriate. Many companies will look at your image and begin making judgements about you. Make sure that those judgements are positive ones.


Focus on pertinent professional information. It’s great that you’re a cat lover. But stick to the professional parts of your background on LinkedIn. There’s also no need to include anything from your high school days when you worked the drive thru. The rule with a resume is that it should go back 10 years, and the same rule applies here.


Recruiters and employers search for candidates using keywords. Leverage this fact by peppering keywords that describe your work expertise and career aspirations throughout your profile. The correct keywords play a huge role in getting your profile found by hiring managers and getting you considered for that next big opportunity.


If you’re actively sharing your resume, make sure that your resume and LinkedIn profile are in sync.  There are hiring managers out there who will deny you an interview because your resume and LinkedIn don’t match.


Make sure to set your profile so that it is visible to recruiters. This means you need to make sure your “Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities” toggle is set to “Yes”. This makes sure that recruiters like us can find you when we search in our LinkedIn.  This will also ensure that you get the best possible visibility during your job search and that you see the wide range of positions that we are looking to hire for.

As always, with all social media, be sure not to overshare or share anything you would like to keep private.  Also, be sure to avoid sensitive topics when sharing or writing posts. Avoid politics, religion, and sexuality.  These could be red flags to employers when they look at your profile.  LinkedIn is supposed to be strictly professional, let’s keep it that way!

Follow PromoPlacement on LinkedIn to get great career insights, job opportunities, and promo industry news!

How to Leverage Your Career Growth

What if there was a surefire method not only to advance, but to maximize, your career?

You know how when you start a new job, you’re super excited? Your brain is a sponge, and you’re just trying to soak up everything about the company, position, and industry that you can. It’s called the honeymoon phase, and it lasts for six to twelve months. During this period, you’re highly engaged and gaining terrific experience.

After the honeymoon phase, you continue to gain experience and remain engaged. However, after two or three years in a role, the novelty and excitement that you once felt levels off. In other words, what was once interesting and challenging becomes routine. Once you hit this phase, it’s time to push for either a promotion or a new opportunity with a new company.

The graph below provides a visual of how you can maximize both your experience and your engagement by picking the best time to leave one opportunity for another. To get the most out of this method, timing is critical. Two to three years in a position is ideal. Four to five years is too long.

You might be thinking that two or three years is too often to change positions. Isn’t that the kind of “job hopping” that you’ve been warned against? You’re exactly right, this is “job hopping”. However, if your career trajectory continues to rise, and if you’re putting yourself in a position to maximize your experience and engagement, you won’t need to explain yourself to a hiring manager. They’ll understand that you have made yourself into a professional of great value. “Job hopping” or not, they will want you on their team.

So, where does your career fall on this graph? Is your career trajectory trending in the right direction?

10 Things to Know About Recruiters | Client Edition

Our mission at PromoPlacement is to connect supplier and distributor clients with great promotional products industry talent. Our team brings over 40 years of promotional products and recruiting experience to each search we undertake. Understanding your business, the function of various positions in your business, and the unique business challenges you face are help us to deliver g on our brand promise.

Below are 10 things to keep in mind when working with a recruiter:


As a contingency recruiting firm, we work exclusively with promotional products firms to help you find the talent you need to succeed. We treat each client relationship as a true partnership with the goal of hiring the best possible candidate for your firm.


We take confidentiality very seriously. The name of your business is not shared until you agree to interview a candidate. Confidentiality is critical to protecting both clients and candidates and ensuring the integrity of the search.


Each candidate search is unique. We conduct a thorough search for candidates for each opportunity we’re presented with. PromoPlacement targets only the individuals who fit the candidate profile. This profile is developed with your assistance.

We won’t send you a big pile of resumes to review. Our work is done with a laser, not a shotgun. Our goal is to provide you with 2-4 competent candidates for your to choose from.


Searches are extensive and time consuming. During a search, we utilize email, social media, phone, and thousands of industry contacts to develop the talent pool from which your new team member will emerge. We don’t run ads. The highly successful candidates we want don’t read ads. They become aware of a great opportunity with your firm because we contact them directly and present the opportunity to them.


We work exclusively with promotional product suppliers and distributors and provide only experienced promotional products industry talent. Our exclusive focus on the promo industry allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of our talent market.


Due to the nature and thoroughness of our search, it can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to complete your search. Planning your staffing needs in advance is critical.


We don’t recruit distributor sales reps. During our first year in business, we had strong success in this highly competitive and challenging field. We now focus solely on salaried positions and can assist you with any role from mailroom clerk to CEO.


Our days are pretty jammed packed. We’re busy but will always make time for our clients. Even if this means working nights and weekends. Our clients are our number one priority and for you, we are always on the clock. We’re on the phone most of the day, so email is often the best way to get a quick response.


If we present a candidate who doesn’t quite fit your needs, don’t hesitate to say so. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and you’ll help us to find better candidates for you in the future. We do ask for clear feedback on where the candidate misses the mark.


Prompt communication is critical when is comes to discussing job candidates. The faster we communicate, the faster we can fill your position. Slow communication can cost us candidates who accept other positions with companies who respond faster.


PromoPlacement wants to earn your business. By working together in partnership, we can take recruiting off your plate and find you the best industry talent available.

To read more about how recruiters work read our candidate edition on this topic.

Contact us today to get started with PromoPlacement!

10 Things to Know About Recruiters | Candidate Edition

Every recruiting firm works a little bit differently. Each company has varying areas of specialization, unique candidate databases, and different services that they provide for their clients. However, one thing that all recruiting firms have in common is their commitment to finding great opportunities for great people and great people for great opportunities. There are plenty of challenges along the way, but we, at PromoPlacement, have spent the last four years perfecting our process and getting terrific results.

Below are 10 things to remember when working with a recruiter:


We’re a recruiting firm, not a placement or employment agency. Our business is client-driven, rather than candidate-driven. That being said, we pride ourselves on doing everything we possibly can to assist job seekers.


Our days are pretty jammed packed. We’re busy but will make as much time as possible to connect with you and to get to know you. Even if this means working nights and weekends. Our candidates and clients are our number one priority. We’re on the phone most of the day, so email is often the best way to get a quick response.


When we connect, be sure to highlight your strengths. It is achievements, successful projects, and accomplishments that help us sum up your background to the hiring managers that we work with.


Don’t hesitate to share your career goals with us. What position do you aspire to hold one day? Do you have a plan about how to get there?


Triple check your resume. Then, send it to a few close friends and have them review it as well. Hiring managers hate resume mistakes.


If we present an opportunity that isn’t quite up your alley, don’t hesitate to say so. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and you’ll help us to better target opportunities for you in the future.


If you suddenly can’t make an interview, please let all parties know as soon as possible.


If we’re unable to identify the right opportunity for you at the moment, be patient. There are several ways that we can create the right opportunity for you. It just takes time and patience. Be sure to stay in touch and keep us posted on your job search so that we can best assist you.


If we’re able to help you find the right opportunity, the best way to say “thank you” is with referrals. Referrals can be rewarding for you as well. We actually offer a $500 referral bonus if we can place the candidate you refer.


The way to build the best possible relationship with your recruiter is to be completely honest and transparent. The more candid you are about your career goals and your hopes for the future, the more likely it is that our relationship with bring you the career success you deserve.

To read more about how recruiters work read our client edition on this topic.

What has your experience been with recruiters? How can we improve to better serve you?

PromoPlacement Launches Promotional Products Career Hub


Chesterfield, MO (December 12, 2018) – PromoPlacement, the leading recruiting firm to the promotional products industry, announced the launch of their Career Hub. Through the Career Hub ( products industry professionals will have easy access to every career page published by both distributors and suppliers.

“We’re thrilled to bring the Career Hub to thepromo industry,” said Kevin McHargue, CEO of PromoPlacement. “It’s the result of our analysis of 35,000 promotional products industry websites and will bring 1,250 career web pages to our visitors’ fingertips.”

Additionally, Kevin McHargue added, “We’re really excited about the opportunity to bring this portal to promotional products industry job seekers. It’s a big part of our long-term plans to enhance the careers of talented industry professionals.”

About PromoPlacement

Founded in 2014, PromoPlacement is the leading recruiting firm to the promotional products industry. The company’s mission is to enhance the careers of promotional products professionals everywhere. PromoPlacement currently partners with dozens of distributors and suppliers throughout the country. For more information about PromoPlacement, visit our website at