The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2021

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 had 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 twelve 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 2021, 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 much more available than they were in 2020. Most of these candidates are in senior management positions and are weathering business downturns with their current employer. These are the people in the $160,000 to $225,000 compensation range. They’ve been smart to stick with their current employer during the pandemic but are looking to make a jump at the nearest available opportunity.


Experienced distributor managers find themselves in for the long haul with their current employers. These folks face a bit of a logjam. Most distributors have made a concerted effort to bring in relatively young, savvy senior managers from outside the industry. Unfortunately, many of these candidates find themselves with little room to advance and a job market that they don’t quite trust yet.


Demand for marketing managers and marketing support reps fell off a cliff in 2020. Many distributors still struggle to grasp the real ROI of their marketing efforts and often view marketing as a cost center. With most distributorships tightening their belts, marketing expertise has been pushed to the side until end-user spending stabilizes.


The talent market for distributor-side sales reps continues to tell the story of two different models. Both have taken their lumps during the pandemic. 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 or adjacent experience. More and more we’re seeing veteran reps swing to the agency model for financial stability.

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 remain very sought after in today’s talent market.

Vendor Relations/Sourcing/Merchandising

Vendor relations, sourcing, and merchandising professionals were highly sought after on the distributor side throughout 2020. Unlike marketing, most distributors view vendor relations and sourcing expertise to be critical to their cost controls. We expect compensation for more senior roles to creep into the six figures by the end of 2021.



Despite the effects of the pandemic, the game of musical chairs has continued on the supplier-side of our business. This movement was due mostly to mergers and acquisitions that continue to change the face of our industry. Several top 40 firms are looking to expand or make changes to their executive team in 2021. Real innovators, candidates who are embracing the large-scale changes coming to our industry, are in particularly high demand.


At the management level, there are far fewer opportunities than in 2020. We’ve seen very little movement at the director-level over the past six months. This is largely due to the pandemic as even unhappy professionals are hesitant to make a risky career move.


Suppliers recognize marketing as an important differentiator. However, due to instability within the industry, suppliers have been standing pat with their marketing teams as currently constructed. Owners are scrambling a bit to find new ways to set their businesses apart without taking on new costs.


The traditional game of supplier sales rep musical chairs has been replaced with a large number of out-of-work promotional products professionals. There’s a significant pool of experienced and successful supplier sales reps who are seeking their next career opportunity.

Customer Service

Suppliers are no longer adding staff to their customer service teams. Layoffs haven’t had a significant effect on this group as suppliers understand the importance of providing distributors with positive customer service experiences.


Vendor relations, sourcing, and merchandising professionals were in high demand throughout 2020. Suppliers have been quick to seek out new vendors as they work to cut costs and pivot to PPE sales.


Last year our State of the Promotional Products Talent Market analysis provided insights into the promo job market for five separate regions of the US. It took a global pandemic, but our industry has finally embraced alternative officing (remote or work-from-home). Technology has made this move relatively seamless for most distributors and suppliers. We’ve talked with many distributors who have closed down their traditional offices and will be 100% virtual moving forward. It will be interesting to follow this trend over the coming years and see which companies opt to go back to traditional office spaces.


What are your growth and hiring plans for 2021? 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!


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 and hiring process. It’s a challenge to build it up and 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 number one 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 that 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 is 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 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.


How to Make Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Making Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Our industry, like many others, has a rapidly aging workforce. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing. There are thousands of promotional products industry professionals with decades of industry knowledge, connections, and expertise. This experience and expertise has greatly improved the service that we can provide to both customers and end-users. Experience is invaluable, but all industries require new talent in order to survive.

Where do you find the new, young talent your organization needs?


Engage with the career center of your local college or university. Most institutions will welcome you with open arms.


While onboarding your new intern, establish a schedule of activities to include a company overview, short-term and long-term projects, and a rotation through sales, sales support, marketing, and operations departments.


Special focus should be given to the intern’s major and how education translates to real-world applications.


Unlike a permanent hire, with internships, you must begin with the end in mind. Plan the beginning, middle, and end of the intern’s workload.


Assign an experienced mentor to monitor your intern’s daily activities.


Assign an executive to provide training input and broaden the intern’s view of the business and industry.


Pay your interns and expect them to provide a return on your investment. You will be amazed at what they can accomplish!


Stay in touch with past interns and keep them engaged in your business if you wish to bring them on as permanent employees.

Establishing a successful internship program is a very attainable goal. However, it does require commitment and investment. Focus on making the experience a win-win for both your organization and the intern and you have the opportunity to bring some strong new talent into your business!

Are you looking to add young, energetic promotional products professionals to your team?

Contact our team today to discuss how you can effectively cultivate and attract new talent.


Steve Jobs on Hiring

Is Your Job Description Scaring Away the Top Talent?

Steve Jobs on Hiring

There is a war for talent going on. This war has been raging wildly in the promotional products industry for some time. It shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The survival of your business depends on your ability to meet the needs of your top performers. If you fail to meet their needs, they’ll leave you for a competitor that’s crafting a more compelling story. In the war for talent, the business with the most differentiating factors and the ability to sell those factors wins.

In HR, as in sales, you need the proper bait to land the big fish. The big producer. The bright, young executive. The rainmaker. They have no lack of options. You have to separate yourself from the rest of the industry. Buzzwords like “creativity”, “branding agency”, and “industry leadership” don’t really count for much. Oftentimes, what you need to set your business apart is a job description that cuts through all the fluff. These job description best practices will move you ahead of the competition.

Starting Elements

Every job description has to have these elements in some form or fashion. Verbiage can be different, but the general idea needs to be there.

  • Job Title – This is just a title and a few sentences on why the position exists within your business.
  • Core Functions – List the top five responsibilities that candidates are expected to perform. Keep it short. Go with bullet points.
  • Skills/Qualifications – What skills or experience are necessary to complete the core functions of the job?
  • Company Overview – Honestly, a decent candidate should be able to do homework on their own, but this provides them with a good start. Feel free to toot your own horn and brag a bit. This is the first impression you get to make with the candidate. Make the most of it.
  • Location – Where is your office located? Is work from home an option? Also, include your business hours here.
  • Employee or 1099?
  • Salary/Benefits – Many businesses hold back here. That’s a mistake. During the job search process, employers hold nearly all the power. Meet your candidates in the middle and give them a fair idea of what’s in it for them.
  • Contact Info
  • Desired Start Date

Beyond the Basics

So you have the basic elements down and you’ve filled in all the details based on what you know about the position. There’s a 99% chance that what you’ve written is a very boring, dry, internal HR document.

Take the above list of basic job description elements and head over to marketing. A great job description is a piece of marketing literature. It’s the result of a combined effort of HR and marketing putting their heads together.

Great job descriptions, the ones that get real attention, help candidates to imagine themselves working at your business and compel them to act. The goal is to “hook” candidates with your job description so that they spend their own time learning about your company. Don’t overload candidates with information. Instead, motivate them to learn more. Strong candidates will do plenty of research on their own to fill in the gaps.

It’s OK to hunt around on the internet and find bits and pieces from other job descriptions, but you need to make the final product uniquely yours. The more unique, the more it will resonate with your ideal candidate. This is a good time to mention that great job descriptions turn some people off. That’s part of the deal. Those who are put off weren’t the right person for the job so it’s no loss.

Make it Personable

We get it. A piece of paper or an HTML page can’t be personable, but what you write on it definitely can. This is where you separate yourself from the pack and draw the top talent to you.

  • Customize your “About Us” information. Each department needs its own version. Details that will entice a sales rep are not the same as the details that will entice an accountant. Speak to their respective motivations and you’ll get more interest.
  • Insert keywords where you can. Most job board searches are performed using keywords selected by the job seeker. You, or marketing, should have a good idea of what these words are.
  • Add these 3 elements to the list that was provided above.

Opportunity – What’s in it for the candidate aside from a paycheck? What experience or tools will he or she develop in this position? What positions might be a fit for him or her after a few years of success? Appeal to their ambition and career focus.

Future – Where is your business going? What’s the mission? What does success look like?

Personality – What’s the personality of your office? Corporate culture is usually HR mumbo jumbo. Keep it simple and straightforward. What’s it like being in your office?

  • Make it about them. This is copywriting 101. You have to sell top candidates on the job. Keep the focus on the reader and what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for your business.
  • Be upfront and transparent. This will save you from wasting a lot of time interviewing the wrong people.
  • Just like this blog post, make liberal use of bullet points

What great job descriptions have you seen?


5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Product Business

5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Products Business

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.”

– J. Paul Getty

Most businesses are only as good as the people who work there. If your team is sub-par, your business will be sub-par. In some rare cases, a terrific team can become more than the sum of their resumes and unite to form an exceptional business. It’s a challenging task and finding the right people in a timely fashion is incredibly important to achieve what we all strive for—a great team.

Finding great employees in the promotional products business has always been difficult. Here are five resources that you can use to make it easier and increase your chances of assembling an exceptional team.

Networking – For years, this has been the default method for finding talented professionals in the promotional products industry. Word of mouth is free, it’s also extremely unreliable. You can ask around for months before you see results. It’s a crapshoot. Because our industry is built on relationships this is a reasonable tactic and a good place to start your search, just don’t expect speedy results.

LinkedIn – Think of LinkedIn as a job fair with 332 million people in attendance. It’s the most professional social network and our industry is well represented there. The benefits of using LinkedIn go well beyond the search for great employees. If you aren’t on it and active, you are missing the boat.

CareerBuilder – Along with Monster and Indeed, CareerBuilder is a very popular resume board. Indeed is the largest of the three, but CareerBuilder is the most well-known. CareerBuilder boasts over 45 million resumes. The trick is fine-tuning your search to provide you with just the right candidate pool. Too broad and you’ll waste a lot of time, too narrow and you’ll miss out on strong candidates.

Internal – Odds are you have plenty of talent in your organization right now. Are you making the most of it? A well-managed business should have some sort of succession plan in place. Who has the potential to advance? Who can excel with some additional responsibilities? Before looking to add new members to your team, make sure that you are making the most of what you have.

Competitors – When it comes to employers our industry is full of compensation and benefit variables. These variables make up the chief differences from one distributor to another or one supplier to another. Some of the major areas of variance are:

  • Commission percentage
  • Pay schedule (paid on booked, paid on shipped, paid on paid)
  • Sales support
  • Marketing support
  • 1099 vs. W-2
  • Room and support for advancement
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Honesty & integrity

Promotional Product Industry Jobs

Analyzing these variables is difficult to do. Most positions tend to fall into the middle of the job spectrum and can be considered “fair/good”. If the jobs that you are providing your employees are on the low side of the spectrum, you are a sub-par business and are at risk of losing your people. Being good to your employees isn’t that difficult. It simply takes common sense and the desire to make it the cornerstone of your business.

Our next blog post will discuss how to attract talented people to your business!