Read Time - 5 Minutes
I like trees. They give us oxygen…They give us shade…And they’re just darn purty.
I also like fall. Football season...The World Series… Cool nights. And scaring the daylights out of the neighborhood children under the auspices of Halloween. (I DO take the chain off the chainsaw! And the blood on the hockey mask is mostly fake.)
But what I don’t like is the combination of the two. As in the equation Trees + Fall = Frickin Leaves. I frickin hate frickin raking frickin leaves. It doesn’t help a bit that I might be a tad OCD (which should be CDO so it’s in alphabetical order.) OCD to the extent that one leaf on the ground is too many. The only upside is that raking leaves is a beer sport. As most outdoor chores are.
Anyway, Leaf War MMXVI commenced this past weekend. It always starts with a smattering of leaves—easy enough to clean up quickly. But as I stood back and admonished the offending maple for daring to litter my yard, I could see it turning red—I imagined in laughter. The damn tree was mocking me! Rocking back and forth…chuckling. Holding its big belly full of leaves that would be barfed out on me and my fairway-worthy yard at any moment. A gazillion leaves. Maybe more.
Which posed in my mind the question: How many leaves ARE on that tree? So I pulled out my phone and summoned the magic Googly genie, which begat this site… http://www.walterreeves.com/gardening-q-and-a/tree-leaves-calculating-the-number/
So the formula goes like this: Approx. # Frickin Leaves = Radius in feet of the circle comprising the area beneath the tree squared, multiplied by pi, multiplied by 4, and multiplied by the approximate number of leaves it would take to cover a square foot.
Plugging in the frickin maple tree’s variables yielded this equation and approximate answer:
15 x 15 x π x 4 x 8 ≈ 22,608
Okay, I guess I’ll buy that. Not quite a gazillion, but still plenty. (I’ll be sure to count them as I go.) 22,608…hmmm…how can I make that number somehow tangible in my mind? I got it! 22,608 happens to be about the same number of promotional products distributor companies in North America! So each of those leaves represents one distributor. I wonder which ones are my customers? I wonder which ones should be my customers? I wonder which ones should be raked into a pile and burned? (Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but I’m sticking to the whole leaf motif. “Leaf motif”…that’s funny.)
So, as a promotional products distributor, how do you avoid being scooped up and discarded with the rest? Is there a way to tell if the leaves of your business might be going dormant?
Here are some signs that your business may be headed for a great fall:
You sell products, not solutions
Ask yourself how the stuff you sell fixes a problem or improves your customer’s well-being in some way. If you can’t pinpoint it—or don’t know—then it’s just stuff. And you’ve positioned yourself as little more than a commodity provider.
You find more and more of your time is spent answering RFPs and bid requests
How many of these have you actually won? And how many of the ones you’ve won do you wish you hadn’t?
You never ask your customer “Why?”
“Purpose” is one of those funny words that becomes pretty obvious when you think about it. To have a purpose, you must do it with a purpose. Ask your customer why they want what they think they want. Your mission is to deliver a solution, which you can’t do if you don’t understand what the objective is in the first place.
You are losing volume to online entities and low-cost providers
Embrace tools and knowledge like SEO, SEM, CRM, content marketing, inbound marketing, account-based marketing, Google Analytics. Try www.websitegrader.com. (Don’t feel bad if your site scores a 47 like www.brucefox.com did 6 months ago.) You must create and communicate relevancy. And the only way to be relevant is to go where the buyers are. Online companies are taking market share because buyers are, well, online.
You never seem have enough time to get it all done
Next time you’re feeling the pressure and the ticking of the clock becomes deafening, ask yourself who is setting that maddening pace? If it’s you, try some time management tools. But if it’s your customers, then you need to take back the wheel. Set expectations with your clients that set distinct barriers between the concepts of “right” and “right now.” And pledge to work at what’s right.
I’m sure there’s more, but that frickin maple tree is back at it, so I gotta grab my rake. Or maybe I should put the chain back on the chainsaw…
Dave Miller is VP of Sales & Marketing at Bruce Fox, Inc. and a professional writer by virtue of the fact his company is paying him to write this blog. He has been with Bruce Fox since 1990, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the year at 2,633. The process that leads to colorful leaves is called “abscission“. The goal of his blog is to “edu-tain” (educate + entertain) promotional products distributors, with a focus on custom work. Dave finds it very awkward to write about himself in the third person.