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!


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