The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2019

The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2019

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 2019, 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. This group has been particularly hard hit by the consolidation of our industry. While supply is low, demand is low as well.
  • Equilibrium

Management

  • Experienced distributor managers find themselves with more opportunities this year than in 2018. Despite consolidation, many growing mid-tier firms are expanding their management teams. Professionals with inside sales and program experience are particularly sought after. Demand is strong and many candidates are taking a “wait and see” approach regarding industry changes, rather than seeking new opportunities.
  • Demand exceeds Supply

Marketing

  • Both marketing managers and marketing support reps are seeing lower demand compared to where they were in 2018. 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

Sales

  • 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 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 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

 

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 2019. 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 2018. 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 12 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 12 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/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

 

MARKET OVERVIEW ANALYSIS

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:

Northeast

  • The talent market of the Northeastern region of the US was one of the most active regions in 2018. 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.

Southeast

  • In 2018, 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.

Midwest

  • 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.

Northwest

  • 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.

Southwest

  • The Southwest region was been significantly quieter in 2018 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 2019? 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 our industry has to offer. Contact our team today to discuss your business goals!