In my prior blog post about Anything-as-a-Service, I covered the recent trend of offering pretty much anything as a subscription service, from email marketing to enterprise infrastructure to lawn maintenance.
It makes sense in almost every aspect of business. Why would I want to own “X” when all I want is the utility, or the benefit of “X?”
If I occasionally need a car but I don’t really have a desire (or funds) to own a car, I can leverage Car-as-a-Service with Car2Go. If I occasionally need a private jet, but I don’t have the desire (or funds) to own a jet, I can use Jet-as-a-Service with JetSuite. The examples are countless.
Could this philosophy translate to our industry? Your initial reaction may be “Of course not, you sell customized products, not services. People can’t subscribe to that.” If so, consider that our customers are buying products for a purpose, and that purpose is the ultimate benefit they are looking to receive. If we can deliver the benefit rather than just the product, wouldn’t they rather buy that?
For example, a buyer in a sales organization may be buying products to send to prospects after meetings, with the ultimate goal to drive lead generation. What if a company could deliver a “lead generation service” instead of just the promotional product to help drive leads? Do you think the buyer would prefer to purchase that?
Before answering that, let’s take a step back and look at what the promotional product industry has done in this vein to date, and then look at what’s ahead!
In some ways, the advent of the original online store was a first version of Employee-Merchandise-Management-as-a-Service. Companies no longer had to buy, store, and manage their own promotional merchandise, but instead leveraged a “service” to do it for them. Historically, most online store programs have been inventory-based where either the customer or the distributor has to purchase and own a certain amount of product inventory. This inevitably causes issues such as stale products and costs the company excess money for storage and leftover inventory. But with recent technology advances, decorate-to-order stores are becoming commonplace, eliminating the issue of inventory and allowing customers to only order and pay for what they actually need, quite similar to SaaS.
Even more reminiscent of a SaaS, modern incentive programs (such as employee recognition and service awards) could be classified as Employee-Engagement-as-a-Service, where clients often pay a set-up fee to create a program with products that serve the company’s recognition needs, and then a recurring fee for usage over time, very much like a traditional SaaS contract.
It is no longer rare for clients in our world to look for turnkey business solutions in other areas beyond these traditional programs.
For example, one of our B2C clients has worked with Boundless to implement a Merchandising-Program-as-a-Service, where we manage everything from developing their new collection of products to running their entire consumer-facing store, including integrated marketing to drive transaction volume. They are not merchandise experts and do not want to manage this effort, so they outsource it to us.
For a large nonprofit customer, we’ve implemented a Fundraising-as-a-Service solution, where we lead the effort on everything from custom product design for fundraising incentives, to donation management, to order integration and program analytics to drive continuous improvement of the program. This allows the client to focus on their core mission and let us handle the ins and outs of the incentive program.
Increasingly, companies are looking for effective solutions to real business problems like these. It may be “how can I generate more leads at the next trade show?” or “how can I inspire my employees to increase productivity?” or “how can I nurture my relationships with clients to grow my business?” The solutions that tackle larger organizational challenges like these are typically more complex, often requiring a unique combination of people, process, partners, and technology.
But now we are also talking about adding value at a whole different level. The concept of “Promotions-as-a-Service” no longer just means a software solution like an online store. It means looking at the bigger picture and solving the core of the business problem. Whereas giving someone a good deal on a set of branded pens or water bottles can provide value, that’s only a piece of the puzzle, and leaves the heavy lifting to the client. Helping a client implement a continuous solution to an existing business problem makes you a valuable partner that is very hard to replace.
I always tell clients and prospects that “anyone can sell you product.” If that is all they are looking for, we’re probably not the right partner. However, if they are looking for answers to real business challenges, we can deliver a solution that meets their objectives. While we typically don’t charge clients through a fixed as-a-service fee per month, I believe we will see more of it in the future. Why not offer a Customer-Appreciation-Program-as-a-Service, or a Trade-Show-Lead-Gen-Program-as-a-Service, and not charge by the amount of product we provide, but rather based on the number of customers or prospects we service?
In the end, it’s all about maximizing the value we deliver to our customers. Do we deliver more value by just selling someone “stuff” and hope it works out for them, or by delivering solutions that solve specific business problems? I think the answer is obvious.
Do you have a business challenge that could be addressed through one of our solutions? I would love to hear about it! Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.