A Transcript For The Readers:
Promotional marketing companies have always tried to connect the best products for the best use cases for their clients, but do they always make the world a better place?
One company has found success with targeting the marketing needs of clients and aligning them with products that offer a deeper and more meaningful story.
Social Good Promotions works diligently to link promotional marketing products that serve more than just simply giving a platform for a logo, they are authentically, socially responsible, and give back in some way.
On this episode of Success Stories, we’ll discuss this with Roger Burnett and discover how his passion for improving the world, providing value, and always surprising and delighting his clients has moved him to the forefront of the promotional marketing space.
So Roger, welcome to the Success Stories podcast.
Hey Marshall, thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.
Yeah, it’s going to be a blast. And, I think we’ve been doing stuff together…geez, for a long time, like 10 or 15 years. It seems like forever…
A long time ago. I believe it was my nominating you for the PromoKitchen crew…that really transitioned our relationship from the more business-related, you know, I had you decorate products for us way back in the Visual Impressions days.
And it was by virtue of what I saw you doing with sustainability there. That really was the impetus for me to want to get you involved with PromoKitchen.
So it’s been a while.
Yeah, it’s been a while. And so I’ve printed shirts for you. And, then of course we were PromoKitchen Chefs, and I’m still involved with that, although you’re not, but that’s too, that’s still cool. Right? You’re still awesome.
You’re just busier.
Anyway…you ready to get started with some questions?
You betcha… fire away.
All right. So here’s the first one. I want to start the discussion by outlining what just what you do and how it all works?
Where is the genesis of your approach and why is it so successful for you?
Yeah, so we started the business, Social Good Promotions in 2019.
And it was based on a bet that I’m making based on a year’s worth of research that I had done as part of my role in PromoCares…which we’ll talk about PromoCares in a little more detail here as we kind of wind this thing out, but the bet is that buyers of promotional marketing items want to have a deeper connection with the products that they’re actually putting their logos on and that by marrying the story behind the factory, that makes the product in a way that creates more of an emotional connection for the buyer.
I believe we then give that buyer the opportunity to take the product that they’ve just put their logo on, and make it more about the narrative of their business, as opposed to it just being a branded piece of whatever it is that happens to have that company logo on it.
So really what this is about is competitive differentiation Marshall, because every company that is in business is competing against other companies that do the exact same thing.
And in most instances, there can only be one low-cost provider. So unless you’re the lowest, you need to figure out something to allow your business to stand out.
And what we’re trying to do is teach organizations how to then be able to do that first and foremost, and then secondarily to allow that their branded merchandise items can help reflect that narrative when they’re out talking about themselves in the marketplace.
That’s so excellent because you don’t want to be the low-cost provider anyway, right?
That’s usually you’re making, you’re not making any money…
Correct. Correct. Yup. Yeah. And, and you know, it really, this bet is a passion of mine. You know, it speaks very closely to my why.
I think it’s timed well for the marketplace. So, you know, the enthusiasm and the energy and the passion I have for our business translates into my customers and my prospects feeling that for me, when we’re talking about them potentially doing business with us.
Right. So let’s get an example about a national client with an apparel order. And, uh, you know, they’re interested in sustainability or something where the better story and how that kind of worked its way through what you’re doing.
Yeah, so we sell lots of Allmade t-shirts I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that. And it’s because of the triple threat that the Allmade brand really represents when it, when you talk about that goodness, right?
So it’s made from sustainable materials, you know, recycled PET plastic is a real problem…but, uh, it makes a great thread to weave into government. It’s like, t-shirts that turn into really super soft, long-lasting, durable product…but it’s also the story behind the Allmade brand and the way that they are supporting orphanages in far-flung places like Haiti and now moving into Honduras and even India, you know, we can then have a discussion with a buyer of a t-shirt to say:
Yeah, you’re going to buy a t-shirt. Why not get the story behind the t-shirt to go along with what it is that you’re going to do from a purchase perspective, because in the grand scheme of things, while the Allmade tee may be more expensive to a certain degree than some of the other competitors out there, which are getting in the process is that narrative that comes along with the purchase that you’ve activated the social good.
And it’s important for us to not just sell an Allmade tee because it’s a great t-shirt. It’s twice as important for us to be able to connect the cause behind that purchase so it creates that emotional reaction we’re trying to get out of the person who ultimately is going to wear the t-shirt…and Marshall…the craziest thing about it is like my kids are all in their twenties.
And when I started showing them the Allmade brand and started sharing it with them, you know, their response to me, it was pretty much like, well, “why would you sell another t-shirt. It doesn’t seem like you would need to.”
So the direct result of me putting in the hands of Gen-Zers and late-stage millennials has been that reaction.
Well, that’s fantastic. And it really comes down to the story.
There’s a story behind something, and that story feeds into somebody’s emotions and that’s the real reason why people buy anything.
Is because…there’s a story…it connects with me. I identify with that. And then, yeah, I’m buying that…
Totally. That’s exactly the way it typically goes. And it’s so fun to watch when it happens.
So Marshall, Hanes, believe it or not…Hanes is one of the most widely recognized brands of apparel, including t-shirts from a sustainability perspective.
They are frequently lauded with accolades, for being ethical and responsible in their sourcing of their products that are great brands. And we frequently are pitching to people the reasons why Hanes would be a good choice amongst other t-shirt options that are out there.
That’s perfect. And one of the things they do, I don’t know if you know this, but they give it away like, a half a million socks every year to the homeless.
They do a lot of stuff like that.
And I think a lot of their plants are all Leed certified and that kind of stuff. So they’re all about sustainability and environmental impact and reducing…kind of facilities
So much so that sometimes in our PromoCares social media feeds, we have to be a little careful with the frequency with which we keep throwing Hanes up there because i t seems like CSR wire constantly has got a new report about something else that Hanes has done. So we try to make sure that we balance that, but it’s important that people recognize just how hard Haynes is working in that category. For sure. I’m a big sustainability nut. Right. I talk about it all the time.
I write about it all the time and I think it’s so skewing to the younger generation, you know, old. Geezers like me sometimes. Don’t really, it seems like in the business mind don’t really care about it as much, unless they’re very concerned about keeping their shareholders happy, then they’re all in, or there’s a money connection.
But I think younger generation on younger buyers are looking for that sustainable product. Do you see it the same way? It’s almost as if it’s starting to get to be table stakes. Rarely, uh, and you can usually find that out from the buyer in the first 15 minutes of your discussion with them about where they’re going to come out on that topic.
And so by moving that question up in your list, To having that earlier in the discussion, as opposed to later, you can steer a lot of your decision making about the things that you might talk to a prospect about based on the way that they answered that single question. Just unpack that a minute. So do you have like a bait?
Let’s say there’s a new client, I’m a new customer. And do you have like a checklist of questions you say, Hey, what are your thoughts on this? What are your thoughts on this? What are your thoughts on this? And that way you kind of know how to approach it. What do you do? We do a fair amount of research on the organization before we ever even get to that first discussion is what we’re wanting to try to figure out is if there is some outward demonstration of what that company believes in, and if we can draw a line from the causes or whatever it is that the organization is passionate about to then.
Marry that to the story of what it is that we may want to sell to them. So for instance, here’s a great example, right? So if that business is owned by a veteran, or if they’re really strong supporters of the military, there are a number of different factories within the promotional marketing space that have products that have some tie to the military or some veterans based organization, so that when I’m bringing product recommendations back to that person, clearly the first thing I’m going to show them are options that have that tie.
To something veterans. Cause because I’m gambling that they’re probably going to be a little bit more interested in than not then a tumbler with no story whatsoever. So really what you’re doing is you’re lurking through all of their social media posts and you’re dissecting what they’re interested in just based on the posts that they’ve made or the videos or the pictures that I’ve shared and that kind of stuff.
Right. That’s and then, so for those instances, it’s not so obvious. I will generally ask a very basic question and it goes something like this. Marshall, I have the ability and the wherewithal to grant you, Bill Gates money. Congratulations. You don’t have to worry about money for the rest of your life, but there’s only one condition you have to now devote the time and energy that you use to devote to your job, to a nonprofit or a cause of some sorts.
Do you have one in mind?
Aha. And what I would say typically tell you is that the answer is measured in seconds and people who are under the age of 35 almost immediately, already have something that they’ll tell you, and people who are 35 and older have to think about it for a while.
Yes. That’s. That is so true.
All right. That’s awesome. So, so how are your customers reacting to this?
Is it, is it working for you? I mean, do they really value this stuff? Just sometimes it’s just a dead-end brick wall. And what do you do then? Do you just like sell them something anyway? Or do you say, Hey, not a good fit? Good luck. See ya.
Uh, so there’s, there’s some nuance to that.
So clearly nothing like a global pandemic to maybe cause some acceleration in some changes as, so slowing down and some other changes. But ultimately what we’re seeing is. Now that people are starting to think about the business of doing business on a more regular basis.
We focused a lot during COVID on trying to build our trustworthiness to be seen as a credible and trustworthy source so that when people started spending money, again, maybe we would rise up the ranks of the people that they would want to call. Now that they’re back to having that be what they’re thinking about, and that has it worked so.
In the process though was really interesting is by the time we get to product selection, Marshall, a lot of times the customer will say to me, Roger, just tell me what I should buy. So I know that that’s working from a trustworthiness perspective because that wasn’t happening in my days at a hundred million dollar promotional products, distributorship, it’s working at a very different level now that we’ve re-crafted ourselves in this way.
But to answer the more thorny topic which is, do I still sell them stuff anyway?
What I typically will do is the way we set up the product selections that will show a client clearly are front-loaded with suppliers that have a product-based, give-back attached. We then move. The second group are businesses that the product itself doesn’t necessarily have a give-back, but the company has demonstrated some level of CSR activity that we believe we can defend organizationally. That’s what somebody wants to pick.
And then thirdly, Social Good Promotions always gives away a portion in 25% of our profit is reinvested into pro bono marketing services work for nonprofits, our area.
So even if we can’t ultimately do something from a factory perspective, we’re still doing it as an organization, but if somebody wants to buy something that I don’t personally believe we can stand behind, I will not sell it to them. And I will say that much.
And there have been instances where people have approached us about buying a specific product that they wanted to have at a specific price. And we passed on that transaction because it wasn’t a good fit for us.
Good. So it’s good to have some ethics. I like that. Yeah.
We didn’t believe that we can stick around and Social Good Promotions for very long if we were cutting doors, cutting corners, doing side deals that ultimately would blow up in our face.
So we have to be very, very purposeful and thoughtful about who the clients even are. And can we have a good conscience about whom it is that we’re actually doing business with?
So I would guess that if you’re doing a good job for one client and, uh, according, you know, we all do a good job for our folks, but because of the story behind things, when those people network and do stuff, it kind of, they let the cat out of the bag a little bit and recommend you because guess what?
You’re not just putting a logo on something you’re actually helping other things. You’re helping other organizations and other people. And then there’s all that whole backstory thing, which is such a good story that people share doesn’t that lead to more referrals for you than maybe normal?
Definitely. Definitely. And the fun part for me to watch is there’s been instances where I’ve been with my clients in social settings, where someone who doesn’t know. The nature of our relationship will remark on like that. Oh wow. That backpack is really awesome. And it’s so fun to watch when the person who bought the backpack for me is like, Oh my God, let me tell you about this backpack.
This Backpack is a base camp backpack. Yeah. They support the Wounded Warrior Project. And Roger from Social Good Promotions got me hooked up with Sweeda who sells this bag and I bought it from him. And I love telling the story because every time I carry my backpack, I think about Dan Nevins and the Wounded Warrior Project and how we’re supporting what they’re doing.
That is so cool. Cool.
And so we have gone so far Marshall as to have recorded videos with suppliers that we work with at expo in Vegas last year. And we invite prospects and customers to watch these videos and these interviews between me and. Those factories to hear firsthand from them about the work that actually happens when somebody makes a purchase.
You know, what we’re really trying to do is to get our customers to fall in love with these brands so much so that they are feeling that pride that I just described to you when they’re making a purchase. And when it works, it works so nice. It works so good.
Yeah. And, uh, I actually watched you film one.
It was so fun. It was so fun.
All right. So nothing ever happens without a challenge, cause nothing always is perfect.
There’s always some problem or challenge along the way. So I want you to kind of share some of the mistakes you’ve made along the process where you’ve, you’ve kind of pivoted and you’re into this new way of doing it.
And, uh, what did you learn from those mistakes?
So we started the company with actually three different lines of business, not just promotional marketing items. We actually our sales and marketing consultants as well. And then we would have liked to have been an event producer, but again, something called COVID put the kibosh on in-person events.
So we’ve had to pretty quickly learn a lot about virtual events and assisting businesses who are interested in now taking what it used to be an in-person event and trying to learn how to do that virtually. So that’s not a simple process. And even for those of us who are in the traveling trade show industry, like the promotional products marketplace is, you know, we were so accustomed to in-person events that, I mean, all of us had to get our minds wrapped around. How do you do something different than that? Because we need you in person with those people to hand out that promotional marketing, so that you’re going to need more for us, which is the engine that drives the promotional marketing $26 billion engine than it is.
So that’s been a major challenge for us trying to one, learn it ourselves, but then to be able to be seen as credible and trustworthy in that space as someone that people could hire.
So that’s been a massive undertaking for us to try to do. And then, because we have three economic engines, Marshall, we don’t always do a great job in making it clear to people what it is that we do. And it’s because they’re interrelated in so many ways. That makes perfect sense to me, but obviously not to people who maybe don’t quite get it the way that we do.
So we are consistently refining and improving our messaging. Try to get that out more clearly in a way that a buyer of what we sell would go: “Oh, okay. I totally get that.”
Now in Donald Miller’s fantastic book, StoryBrand, there’s a great quote, which is “If you confuse, you lose.”
Yeah. Well, and when you know that the guy you’re talking to is a StoryBrand certified guide, spent all of that money.
And yet, because we have three engines. You know, it’s almost like you need three landing pages for your website to tell the story of each of the different things you do, because the minute you try to start telling people, all three of them, they get completely, it doesn’t make sense to me and they want to take off.
So yeah, I mean, you, you got to be clear, you’ve got to be concise. You’ve got to be succinct in your messaging and you know, Donald wants to talk about that transformational identity. Not really what you sell. It’s what you want people to think about themselves after they’ve made the purchase that you’re trying to activate in people.
And that’s why the tide is Social Good is so strong for us because we believe that it’s very aspirational for a lot of people to feel like their dollars are making the world a better place. So that’s why we’ve got to make sure that we tell that message as quickly as we can.
Yeah. Since we’re on the topic of StoryBrand since we’re talking about social good.
One of the things that’s in StoryBrand is the whole idea that your customer is the hero and you are the guide. And I think what you’re doing is exactly that you’re guiding people into making better decisions where the better story, so they can be the hero like that person you told about the, you know, the backpack story.
Right. They’re happy to share that whole story because now they’re the hero because they were able to do that with that backpack. That is exactly correct. And now the bat that we are trying to play out here for the rest of 2020 is how scalable is this approach?
Because it’s just a hobby. If we’re not making a fair amount of revenue selling this strategy this way, I believe now that because of what’s happened with the pandemic, that people are going to be a little bit more careful with what they spend and if you can attach the story, so the product in a more meaningful way, I believe we get that dollar from that buyer in a way that may be a competitor of mine might not necessarily get it.
So when we’re talking about apparel, let’s just use that as an example, since this is an apparel show, right?
It’s not just the story, but it’s also what you’re putting on it. So are you doing anything with the decoration method? Like if you’re selling a sustainable blank, are you also doing somebody that’s sustainability certified to do the decoration? How are you linking that up?
Yeah. So this is where my long-ago experience in traveling the country and visiting decorating shops.
Like the ones that I encountered you at really given me a leg up on knowing who it is that I would want to be. Doing business with, on the apparel decoration side, and then nothing like having this shirt, lamp tribe, kind of at my disposal to understand, you know, who are really the top-notch guys, again, what’s out there that really get what it is that we’re talking about.
And then, you know, in some instances we’ve even gone so far as to invite some of those decorators to come participate in our content. So that in addition to the same way as we want them to fall in love with the product brand, if we can marry that into the decoration, that part of the story as well, then we’re just making the cake even that much sweeter.
Right. So you’re just creating your own environment, your own circle of influence with it.
Yeah. And we even went so far as to give our suppliers and decorators their own sub-brand within the Social Good Promotions, a narrative they’re called the So Good Supply Company. And we actually even have given some of our factory reps…we give them little gifts, little promotional products.
Like we did this big campaign where we were handing out chapsticks during trade show season, before COVID hit, because we know that, uh, traveling most people’s struggled with having that product available to them. So give them little things, not expensive, you know, but letting them see that we care about them in a special way, because unlike other distributors who just kind of do business with whomever, you know, we’ve been very purposeful about who it is we want to work with, and we want those people to feel a sense of belonging as a part of our brand as well.
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So what’s next for Social Good? What are you really excited about right now?
Well, um, you know, my work with PromoCares, which started in 2018 really was largely the impetus for why Social Good Promotions as a business was started.
And it was the time in 2018 that I spent serving as PromoCare’s chief reporter that really gave me the confidence to believe that we could start a business like Social Good Promotions with a supply chain.
Like the one that we’ve organized around. And it was during that time in PromoCares that my very good friend, Daniel Rosen introduced me to a guy by the name, Stan Phelps.
And Stan Phelps is an author of a series of books that are goldfish. So there’s the Red Goldfish, Green Goldfish, Diamond Goldfish, Purple Goldfish.
There’s all of these tools, all different books. And each of them are built on the idea that businesses can make small changes in order to effect. Really outsized change and the, and the colors are all about different disciplines within a business that you can focus on to make these small changes to make your business better.
So the book Red Goldfish that he wrote is about motivating sales and loyalty through shared passion and purpose. Stan gets introduced to me by way of Danny.
He’s watching what I’m doing with the PromoCares stories and approaches me and says, “Hey, would you like to write a specific version of Red Goldfish about the promotional marketing industry and all of these stories that you’ve been able to detail in promo cares and Marshall, the book comes out in September.
Yeah. So we’re very excited to be able to now take stories that we’ve told in somewhat bite-sized formats between PromoCares, social media, and then the PromoCares radio podcasts. Can we count and hosts now and add this longer form book into the lexicon of the ways that promotional marketing businesses are truly making the world a better place.
And what we’re hoping is that by virtue of getting this book in front of as many buyers as we possibly can. And maybe what we might be able to do is raise the credibility of the promotional marketing, advertising, medium in comparison to other ad spends that people have been using historically to get their personal and company brands out and get some notoriety.
So there’s a book launch team coming, you know, we’re working on getting the book launched and there’s a digital edition that we’re gonna send out much the same way that you’ve done with the content that you’ve created. So. You know, obviously more to come about that. You’ll see me talking about it pretty much every day until now, and for the rest of the year, because in 2021 at PPAI Expo, Stan and I are actually going to be there and we’re going to give an hour-long presentation at Expo about this project and the different ways that it’s manifested itself.
So it’ll be interesting to see how September, October, November, and December go, once the book has been released.
And what color is that goldfish?
Red Goldfish promotional marketing edition.
Okay. That’s all awesome. I certainly hope, uh, we actually have PPAI Expo this year or next year or January or whatever.
Yeah. It’s going to be interesting for sure. There’s a, you know, it’s gone as it stands today. It will be a two-day event, as opposed to three, there will be a limit to the number of suppliers that we’ll be able to display there.
There’s going to be some, uh, governing on the number of attendees that are going to be allowed in the facility at any one time. And they’re also adding digital components prior to it.
And after the actual physical event to make it be somewhat more of a big top circus kind of atmosphere for people who don’t want to go all the way out to Vegas for a trade show.
Right. Well, if it’s there, if it’s there, I’ll probably go. Cause that’s just a couple of hour drive for me. So anyway, so before you go. I would really love for you to share your networking, uh, candy trick with everyone listening.
Oh, ah, so when I go to a networking event, I will typically bring promotional branded, really tasty candy.
Typically use Maple Ridge Farms. We have lots of factories, but I’m partial to Maple Ridge because of the work that they do with habitat for humanity, Wausau County, and Wisconsin.
So there’s a, there’s kind of a Social Good Promotions, testimonial, and action. But I’ll walk up to people who are, uh, talking with one another. And I just ask people if they’re a savory or a sweet kind of person and.
Most people will answer it right away without even knowing like, thinking twice about what it is I’m asking them. But if someone asks me sort of a clarifying question, I’ll say, you know, like some people tend to prefer savory sweets and some people tend to prefer more sweet, you know, treats and more, more often than not.
I’ve only really ever had one person refuse to answer the question and I’ll bring along a savory and a sweet guy, yeah to give to people along with my business card.
And what I typically say to people is you’re going to enjoy this.
This is the moment of truth candy, because when you go out prospecting and you hand out candy, most of the time if the candy is really good, people will remember you.
And so it’s worked really, really well and you know, so much so that a lot of times when I see those people that I, that met that way next, a lot of times, their first question to me is like, so do you have any of those Prosecco gummy bears?
Are more people savory or more people sweet?
Uh, guys are savory. Girls are sweet. That’s what it tends. That’s how it tends to go.
Ah, That’s great. Well, cool. Well, thank you so much, Roger. I really appreciate your insights and sharing your story of success with us today. If someone wants to learn more about what you do or how you can help them, what is the best way to contact you?
I am proud. It’s a good old fashioned email. Roger, email@example.com.
But. So she’ll get promotions has all of the social media accounts that you could ever want to follow Instagram, Facebook, that sort of thing. And then obviously if you’re in the decorated apparel industry and you’re wanting to learn more about these factories that we are using, you know, promocares.org is really the place that you would go for a clearinghouse to find that information.
And then Sage has a search tool that you can click a filter. That’s a social good. And that will return all of the factories and products that then meet the criteria that you’re searching for.
And PromoHunt is a Chrome extension that you can add that has a collection built into it.
And Distributor Central also has a feature that you can filter on in order to be able to get down to those actual products that you might want to sell. And if you’re really looking more for the stories, you can go to PromoCares and listen to the PromoCare’s radio podcasts.
Those are highlights of both distributors and suppliers that are doing this kind of thing. Or if you really want to watch those. So Good Supply Company interviews where I did those last January in Vegas.
Those are at the Social Good Promotions website under So Good Supply Company.
That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
And because you’re on my podcast was talking about yours, “So you’re in sales?”
Yeah. So, you’re in sales?” is a three-plus-year running over 15,000 listens to date. I think we’re coming up on our 90th episode and we examine all of the different things that make successful salespeople successful. So from meditation to using big data, to, you know, uh, selling through a pandemic, we’re exploring the different ways that organizations and their leaders are trying to stand out from the competition in their own market. Yeah. Places. And it’s been. So intriguing to over the arc of the three years, to hear the stories behind the reasons in the ways that people have gotten themselves to the pinnacles that they’ve been able to achieve.
We’ve had authors on, we’ve had business leaders on and we’ve had volunteer leaders on you were on everybody’s, you know, so many people. And if you’re interested in coming and telling your story, reach out, because I’m always interviewing every two weeks, I need a new guest. So we’re always looking for people to come to bring on the show and talk about the ways they’ve been able to achieve what they’ve been able to achieve.
That’s awesome. And where do I find that?
That’s on some cloud or it’s hosted on SoundCloud, but Stitcher, Apple podcasts, you know, anyway that you typically listen to your show is you’re going to be able to find so you’re in sales by searching that way.
Great. And, uh, this podcast is everywhere too. So wherever you like to listen to this one, You can find Rogers there also.
So, alright. Hey, thank you so much, Roger. Appreciate you and everything that you’re doing. Keep it up. Thanks man.
Thanks for having me out Marshall. Really appreciate it.
Alright, see ya.
Well, that’s our show today. Thanks for listening. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can stay up to date on the latest Success Stories episodes.
Have any suggestions for future guests for topics? Send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we’ll see you next time.