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5 habits of successful promotional product importers

By Li Zhang

Promotional product importers are different than your average importer. They frequently work on a wide range of products and aggressive time frames.

Unlike a product developer that may deal in a singular product, promo product buyers have to defer a lot of judgement to their suppliers. Because of the wide product range, promotional product importers frequently aren’t experts on production processes.

Those importers who successfully import, have habits that set them apart from the common promo product importer who “wings it” for lack of a better term.


1.)  They prepare

The successful promo product distributor who treads offshore, doesn’t treat the process the same as if they’re buying domestically.

Successful importers spend time in preparing their inquiries. Whether it’s clearly laid out specs or detailed mockups, they’re ready to use visuals and measurements to show the supplier exactly what they need.

Successful importing, regardless of the industry, avoids as much guess work as possible from the supplier.


2.)  They communicate

A successful importer, especially in the fast-paced world of promo merchandise, knows to be quick on the follow-up. There shouldn’t be a ton of downtime between emails.

When a supplier has a question, the successful importer is quick to provide insight.

When samples arrive, they keep your vendor updated on the sign-off process.

The successful importer quickly lines up their freight forwarder and there are not lags which ruin an otherwise successful order.


3.)  They keep perspective

Promotional product importers who keep perspective on the bigger picture by growing long-term relationships with their suppliers have more success. They aren’t always out shopping the next vendor hoping to save $200.00.

They realize that a 1-time order with a first time supplier is not going to be a smooth as when they deal with the same supplier over and over.

This importer of promo merch who is no stranger to success, realizes that they are dealing with a developing nation in a different cultural context.


4.)  They know their products

They know more about their production line than the average promo importer. Yes, they may not be experts, but they practically apply fundamental knowledge that a factory expects when dealing with an importer.

This importer works arm-in-arm with the factory on design, on calling out material specs and in reminding the factory what problems to keep an eye out for.


5.)  They’re experienced

A distributor who goes offshore for the first time will run in to obstacles.

Success in importing promo items really comes over time.

This success comes with experience and the successful importer of branded merchandise rolls up their sleeves and doesn’t stop after the first try.

The experienced importer’s success isn’t tied to what the supplier did or didn’t do.

They’re solution-oriented even when the supplier didn’t take the best path.

In working with China, any importer deals with times when suppliers take an ill-advised step or makes an error.

Promotional product importers don’t fall to pieces but figure out a plans of action.

Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.

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