Go Big or Go Home
It's a hard product to miss. In fact, some distributors may be intimidated by its size. But, they should be more fearful of the possibility of a missed opportunity.
Jumbo roll suppliers believe there's no better time than now to put such concerns to rest. According to Lynn M. Rogge, vice president, distributor sales for Atlanta-based PRINTSouth, the potential for new business has been around for some time.
"The opportunities are and have been out there," he insisted. "Convincing the distributors to hunt for them always has been tough. They are convinced that 'The Big Directs' have a significant price advantage and manufacturing facilities that enable them to control the jumbo roll business. Not true. A lot of jumbo roll accounts purchase from distributors."
Allen Simon, president of Monaca, Pennsylvania-based Datatel Resources Corporation, agreed.
"We cannot say it loud enough that the high-volume print opportunities are very abundant in today's marketplace. We encourage our distributor and re-seller partners to proactively attack the marketplace as end-users are very much in search for dependable and stable suppliers," he said.
End-users have their own concerns. They worry about the quality of products, how quick the turnaround will be and whether a jumbo roll source is competent. Simon believes a smart distributor will address any concerns up front by partnering with the right manufacturer.
"It is extremely imperative to create a partnership between the distributor and the manufacturer so the end-user evaluates the combined value in a favorable light," he stressed.
Despite the financial possibilities, there is no doubt jumbo roll production can be complicated.
"[Partnering together] is extremely important as jumbo roll production requires significant expertise and attention to detail, from prep to production to packaging for shipment," noted Gerard M. Toscani, CEO of Westampton, New Jersey-based Paris Business Products.
Toscani recalled many instances when distributors turned to his company after experiencing problems with their previous supplier partner. "To prevent such occurrences, we perform an upfront needs assessment with our partners. This ensures that all details and concerns are addressed right from the start. Then, we employ rigorous quality control throughout the entire production packaging process," he said. "All details are meticulously adhered to, right down to the lot numbers noted on our roll cores. This attention to detail ensures that our distributors and end-users reap the uptime and cost savings benefits of jumbo rolls."
While Simon said he and his staff don't always know the history behind some of their partners' problems, they do know that turnaround is key to putting their minds at ease.
"In the past, we have run entire trailer-loads in less than two shifts on our wide-web equipment that can run an 18x11" format, 2-wide," he mentioned. "Or we have produced highly visible and important correspondence within 24 hours of copy approval for a very important mailing. … Once a relationship is established, you need to be able to turn a dime when necessary and always keep in mind the 'big picture' of a contractual relationship."
He continued, "Jumbo roll relationships may mean that you may need to be in a data processing or service bureau location anywhere in the country to react to an opportunity. We will be there with our customer when required."
Rogge, who has been in this business for more than 45 years, respects the abilities and knowledge of his competitors but said, "I want them to know that I'm pretty good and smart myself."
He added, "We all have many stories where we have saved the day. One comes to mind—a Sunday afternoon my home phone rang and it was my distributor partner. 'We have a problem,' he said. A few questions answered, you climb on a plane (even on a Sunday) and turn a problem into an opportunity."
What's in it for Me?
Simon suggested distributors realize certain things from the start. For instance, jumbo roll contractual business is not the type of business that should be handled as a traditional customer service-based quotation. Instead, the selling process requires "an investment and level of involvement that goes well beyond a standard quotation," he commented.
Choosing the right supplier to make this happen can be overwhelming. Distributors should research what the various suppliers can offer them to create a positive experience for their end-user clients. To make distributors feel more at ease, Rogge makes a compelling proposal.
"We tell the story about what we do, how proud we are of our customer list and how long we have had a great business relationship with them," he said. "Quality of product is unquestionable, national production and again lower material costs are important, but the product going out the door of one of our facilities must be the best in the industry."
PRINTSouth essentially becomes a support system for its distributors. "We work very close with our distributor partners, making sales calls with them. [We offer] plant visits for the distributor and the end-user so everyone knows each other. The production team, the quality control team, right down to the shipping department—we become their production facility," Rogge stated.
Paris Business Products offers what Toscani referred to as a "white glove" consultative service, where experienced production managers visit with end-users. Many of the company's production personnel have been with Paris for more than 20 years.
"This consultative approach helps our end-user customers print our rolls on their equipment in the most efficient manner possible, and is a great example of how we support and partner with our customer base," Toscani enthused.
Datatel Resources Corporation takes a similar approach. "Datatel provides a high level of selling assistance to include joint sales efforts and an operational evaluation so the end-user can identify tangible processing savings," Simon explained.
He also encouraged test runs and possible plant evaluations. To decrease the financial burden for distributor partners, Datatel does not charge extra for services such as test productions. "We believe this is part of the investment to obtain business," Simon said.
Finally, like PRINTSouth and Paris Business Products, Simon's team will communicate directly with end-users—when necessary—to ensure a direct line of communication on pressing issues. Simon observed that the end-user appreciates this, and he feels the distributor can use this as another way to demonstrate the distinct advantages of the distributor/manufacturer pairing.
Beyond customer service, some suppliers help educate distributors.
Paris Business Products provides educational marketing materials such as customized presentations, collateral sheets and samples. Meanwhile, PRINTSouth has a DVD and a printed sample of a jumbo roll product showing each and every possible capability that can be incorporated into a jumbo roll, along with an instructional 22-page specification manual outlying its jumbo roll production, handling, packaging and shipping of the company's rolls.
Datatel Resources Corporation can provide education on what print operation is best served for the particular application at hand, and it can provide vertical market information on where to find potential jumbo roll opportunities. However, while Simon realizes education is important, he cautioned distributors not to get too caught up in it.
"All we need our distributor partners to do is what they do best: sell and create opportunities. From there, we will be fully supportive in terms of education and assistance to succeed on the specific opportunity," he stated.
It Takes Two
Like any good relationship, both parties must be engaged for it to work. The manufacturers offered several pieces of advice.
Simon thinks aggressiveness is a must. "We'll do our part, but we need our sales channel (distributors and re-sellers) to get in the door and then let us become involved as a true partner," he said.
He also recommended creating a dialogue with operations in addition to purchasing to determine what can be improved upon to create operational efficiencies.
Rogge urged distributors to go after the big orders. "Some distributors have a problem calling on the big accounts in their territories," he noted. "To sell jumbo rolls, you need to build confidence and a good business relationship. Ask a lot of questions of your customer and your manufacturing partner."
In Toscani's opinion, distributors need to offer a clear value equation to end-users. He asked, "What makes them unique? Is it innovative solutions, customer service, other attributes? They need to position these differences."
Rogge instructed distributors to deliver quality, availability and price. But he warned, "Believe it or not, as the old saying goes, 'if you can only have two of the three, price should be dead last.' If all you are doing for your customer is throwing a price at them, you will lose." ￼