Change Isn't the Problem
I have good news and bad news. 6/17/2019 | Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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At the peak of their power in 2004, Blockbuster Video had 9,000 stores worldwide and had recently been sold for $9B. Meanwhile, Reed Hastings, who had founded Netflix in 1997, understood that online technology was the future of the video business and created a model to support the change he saw coming. By 2013, Blockbuster had closed all remaining stores and essentially ceased to exist – save for the only one still operational in Bend, OR. In nine years, Blockbuster went from the king of the video market to a footnote in history because they didn’t adapt to change.

When the subject of change is discussed, people tend to react as if they are at a seventh grade dance: on one side of the room you have folks who claim to love change while glued to the opposite wall is a group who resists change with every fiber of their being. Both of these perspectives are, in fact, accurate as society has a love/hate relationship with the overall concept change. However, that love or hate is mainly based on the driving force behind the change.

Simply put, people very rarely grumble about change that is directed by their own actions and/or decisions. It’s change that is forced by others or society that creates negative feelings. This uneasiness is generally shared as any variety of “it was better in the good old days” statements – especially in the promotional products industry. Whether it’s the proliferation of internet purchasing or working with millennials, many like to fault stagnating sales on changes outside of their control. However, when the layers of the blame onion are peeled back, it’s easy to realize these are little more than hollow rationalizations.

Internet Purchasing – The old sales adage that states “people buy from people they know, like, and trust” is as true today as it’s ever been, with a slight difference. Today the adage should read, “people buy from people, brands, and companies they know, like, and trust.” The fact is that internet distributors are not the cold, faceless companies of the past. Today, many are able to build meaningful – and trusting – relationships with their clients. If you are losing sales to an online competitor, it simply means that you are not providing the value or experience that your client is seeking.  

Working with Millennials – The fact is that millennials have grown up with more technology than any previous generation could have ever imagined. As such, they communicate using methods that may feel unprofessional: text, Twitter, Facebook messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram to name a few. However, it’s not the responsibly of millennials to ignore 20 years of technology to make older generations comfortable. It’s our responsibility (full disclosure: I’m 49 and, therefore, a member of Generation X) to adapt to the way they communicate.

With all of that said, I have good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: clients will continue to leverage technology to make purchases as long as the experience is easy and without friction and younger generations will persist in adapting technology in the way they communicate and conduct business.

Now, the good news: Individuals and companies that adapt to and integrate societal change are the ones that truly succeed. Instead of doing everything in your power to avoid the change, seek to include that change in your business strategy: learn the value of content marketing, listen to ideas from other generations, and find ways to leverage the internet to compliment services.

Quit complaining about change; it’s as inevitable as death, taxes, and the Dallas Cowboys disappointing in the playoffs every year. It’s up to each company to either adapt to said change or embrace irrelevancy while pining for the way things used to be.

The management that ran Blockbuster Video shouldn’t blame their demise on streaming technology any more than Kodak should blame digital photography for their bankruptcy. The fact is both companies failed to modify their businesses to change and became cautionary business tales.

Clinging on to outdated sales practices and lamenting about the “good old days” might make for interesting fodder on the Promotional Products Facebook page, but don’t mistake it for a business strategy. It is, however, a quick way to become a cautionary tale in the promotional products industry.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 18 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Regional Association Council (RAC) board, and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, and developing branding that resonates with a target audience. He can be reached at

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