Built-up through years of acquisitions, alphabroder blended the best people, processes, and products to become one of the most trusted wholesale promotional products suppliers in the industry. Alpha Shirt, Ash City, Bodek and Rhodes, Broder Bros., Commonwealth Cotton, Golden State T’s, NES Clothing, and Imprints Wholesale–all together, alphabroder combines decades worth of experience in apparel. In 2017, with the addition of Prime Line, they added hardgoods into the mix and created a true one-stop-shop for promotional products distributors.  

Click here to explore alphabroder’s current catalogs and lookbooks.

Since 2011, Steve Valeri has served as alphabroder’s Vice President of Marketing, and one of his primary responsibilities is overseeing the company’s content marketing strategy. Considering just how wide the breadth of their brands and product lines, that’s no small feat. We sat down with Steve to talk about the strategy behind their decision to move from printing books with over 1000 pages to not printing anything.

You can jump to the full interview with Steve here or check out the highlights below.

Video Highlight: The Differences Between Print and Digital

Contrary to appearances, alphabroder did not decide to eliminate print because of the pandemic. They’d been tracking a steady decline in the demand for their catalogs over the last 10 years. In January of 2020, they tried printing a much smaller book: 400 pages filled with only their best sellers as opposed to their traditional 1000+ page “bricks”, but even that drastic change didn’t change the demand for print versions of their catalogs. 

Meanwhile, they saw a sharp increase in digital usage. What’s more, the customers who were only using digital marketing materials were doing just as well as they were before moving away from print. All of this information combined with the COVID-19 tipping point to cement their decision to go fully digital. 

When we asked Steve if there was any chance alphabroder would walk back that decision, he posed his own question to us:

“Is it likely a company is going to back away from using email and start investing in stationary and envelopes again?”

Video Highlight: Adoption and Promotion

Like any feat worth doing, going completely digital was not without challenges. At every step along their journey, they had to get buy-in from their coworkers and customers. Convincing their internal teams was the easiest hurdle to overcome. The numbers made it clear that going digital was the right choice.

Converting their customers, however, would be an ongoing process. People tend to resist change, and they didn’t expect 100% overnight buy-in. But more and more people are adapting to new technologies and adopting digital tools every day. 

Steve likened the switch to digital catalogs to his own personal struggle with mobile banking. At first, he was adamant about going to the bank to cash his checks in person. It was safe and familiar, but with gentle (sometimes insistent) ribbing from his kids, he finally made the switch, and now he’s never going back. 

After the decision was made they encountered a different kind of challenge–design.

If alphabroder was going to go all-in on digital, then they were going to do it right. They couldn’t simply make a copy of their print catalog. (That would have been the bare minimum effort, and they wanted something worthy of their momentous first foray into a world without print.)

“This was an incredible opportunity to add to the customer experience,” Steve said, and he wasn’t going to waste it. So going forward, they ask themselves, “How do we give more information to the customer, so they can make the best choice for their project?”

Video Highlight: Moving Beyond Print

When you’re not printing a book, you’re not bound to the limitations of print. That means you need to rethink your design process to take advantage of digital opportunities. 

Visually, print catalogs are focused on photography and listing product details, but with digital, you can include video, external links, offers to download more tools, and a variety of sharing methods.

Steve’s team went into the process with one question at the forefront of their minds:

“How do we give customers everything they could possibly need to sell these products?”

This philosophy helped make alphabroder’s recent catalog the most viewed ZOOMcatalog of 2020, and they didn’t post the book until August. That means it took them only five months to rise to the top. 

And Steve points out that their customers who have switched to digital have grown faster than those who are only using print. Going digital has allowed alphabroder to see who’s using their catalogs and how those customers are performing. The data-tracking is next level and removes all the guesswork when calculating ROI. 

The key to successfully using any tool is knowing how to use it quickly and efficiently. Steve points out that it’s best to focus on the three things people need to know how to do with digital catalogs:

Video Highlight: Getting the Most Out of Digital Catalogs

Getting the most out of a digital catalog or flyer means knowing how to distribute it–via email, embedding it into your own website, using it on social media, etc. It also means harnessing the power of customization, which is so critical for distributors when they approach end-buyers.

Explore alphabroder’s selection of customizable catalogs and flyers here.

“If you’re going to share it, you might as well make it your own.”

Since alphabroder produces a large number of targeted catalogs–for vertical markets, specialty brands, and more–throughout the year, they worked with ZOOMcatalog to create the alphabroder Catalog Subscription Program. 

This program allows their customers to upload their information to alphabroder’s website, and alphabroder will customize every digital catalog they produce throughout the year and send them directly to the customer’s email inbox. Contact your alphabroder rep to learn how to subscribe.

In addition to going completely digital with their catalogs, alphabroder also launched a new website this last year, which was no small undertaking. Their previous site was over 10 years old, and according to Steve, it felt very outdated. Now, however, it’s more than just a webpage: it’s an entire marketing suite.

The best part? It’s all searchable.

Video Highlight: The Future of alphabroder

So what’s next for alphabroder? They’re taking all of the money they saved on printing and reinvesting it into their digital assets. They’ll be developing customizable content that’s focused on their customers’ needs and looking for ways to create maximum impact.

When we asked Steve for his advice to others who are going digital, he said, “Don’t be afraid of it. This is happening faster than you think, and you need to adopt it now.” Listen to your customers and design digital solutions to help them overcome their pain points–that’ll pay dividends in the end.

Watch the full interview

Learn more about alphabroder: https://www.alphabroder.com
View alphabroder’s Catalogs: https://www.zoomcatalog.com/search#1641?sp

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