Life in the Promotional Marketing Biz

“What do you do?” We all face this question on a regular basis. Though I spend the majority of my week doing more typical marketing work (I was a freelance copywriter), I have the most fun telling people about my work on the weekends. Friday through Sunday I work for a promotional marketing company as a trainer, an event coordinator and, when needed, a product demonstrator.

“You know those people who hand out samples in the grocery store? I train them.” That’s usually the answer that I give. It almost always sparks a conversation about the experience that person has had with a product demonstrator. For me, it’s a thrilling conversation because I love hearing these stories and I love educating people about the promotional marketing industry. Even though we live in a technologically rich world, nothing beats the experience of trying a new product with a friendly engaging brand ambassador there to answer your questions or banter with you. Let’s be honest, it is the surest way to convert a follower into a customer.

I was first introduced to promotional marketing by my friend Saundra who recruited me to join her on a Cholula hot sauce mobile tour around the east coast soon after I got out of grad school. She had been in the promotions industry for a couple of years by that time and already had a hefty number of mobile tours under her belt. Her partner Vito had been in the industry for even longer. I learned a lot from both of them as they told me about past tours and gave me tips on how to be an exceptional brand ambassador. They infected me with their enthusiasm for this industry and re-enforced that I have a natural ability to quickly connect with people (which is a prerequisite for excelling in promotions). It wasn’t a surprise to me when they told me this fall that they were founding their own promotional marketing company VIP Talent & Events. While I worked with them I saw that they have the vision to conceptualize a tour, a knack for choosing good people and a smart, efficient approach to event planning and management. Though I loved working with them, life on the road full-time is not for me. That is what led me to my current role for Elite Marketing Interactions as a Regional Trainer & Event Coordinator (to put a title to my description).

Working for a company that primarily does in-store promotions instead of mobile tours allows me to be more grounded than Saundra and Vito who live on the road for a majority of the year. While I do travel for my job, I am able to come home every night.

It might seem like a big leap that I went from studying philosophy and earning an entirely academic master’s degree to marketing –to those of you who know that part of my story. I should mention that I brought with me 4 ½ years of translatable experience. I planned and executed my first campus wide event during my first semester of college and by the end of that semester I founded a student organization.  That organization became one of the largest on campus by the time I graduated in part because I wasn’t afraid to shamelessly and constantly promote it for four years. My experience leading that organization and then overseeing all of the student organizations at my college led me to a graduate internship in Programming & Leadership at Fordham (which was more like a staff role as opposed to those internships where you’re mostly an errand runner). Since each of those positions involved print and online marketing, face-to-face promotion, managing and training staff/ leaders and event planning and execution it wasn’t that much of a leap to enter the marketing industry.

A large part of what I love about promotions is its diversity. Every tour that Vito and Saundra tell me about is incredibly different just as each week for Elite is different for me. Some weekends I train new staff. Some weekends I set-up and run a booth at community events and tradeshows. Some weekends I organize and orchestrate high-profile in-store events. Some weekends I perform product demonstrations (often wine/beer – which are my favorite) at understaffed stores. What is always consistent in this business is that you are challenged to make a positive first impression on hundreds of people in just 5 – 20 seconds with them. Yes, there are people who will hang out with you for much longer than 20 seconds. You can have some incredible conversations but these people are the exceptions. Most people will only give you just a few seconds of their time. The challenging of figuring out just the right hook to bring people in and make them feel at ease and engaged is part of what makes every day in the promotions industry exciting.

I want to share this passion with you because I love this industry and because I want you to understand that I’m not exaggerating when I bring up how I can to anybody.