As part of Print+Promo Marketing’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Mark Roggenkamp, executive director of marketing for DFS, Groton, Mass. Here, he talks mastering the art of engagement, explains how to shed a commodity identity and shares why he’s cautiously optimistic for the future.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Mark Roggenkamp: My second job after college was a materials planning role for what later became one of the largest paper printing and converting companies in North America. We produced and sold stock tab computer paper through several subsidiaries, including an indirect trade supplier to dealers. With a hand in the entire supply chain from tree to recycler, I found the distribution business interesting. That evolved into a product development role with several ensuing roles in product marketing, alliance programs and strategic planning. I am currently responsible for the strategic marketing, planning and activities for DFS; how we present to the market; and ensuring we are delivering on our DFS Advantage promise to our dealer base of customers.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
MR: Our planning process starts at the top with a business strategy for the entire DFS business, which cascades into business objectives for the sales, marketing and operations teams. Based on a three-year plan, we develop annual operating plans, which provide opportunity for personal goals. Collectively, the leadership team establishes business goals by starting with our customers’ needs and wants, blended with our current and planned capabilities. For over 35 years, DFS has been recognized for exceptional customer service and for building trusted relationships with our dealers. My personal goals are those supporting marketing steps needed to help our dealers succeed. We use our organizational goals to help ensure our team never loses sight of our value to our customers.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
MR: Certainly, the COVID pandemic has drastically altered our industry. Fortunately, the distribution side of our industry is based on deep relationships, and we’ve seen those relationships can help to withstand market disruptions. The entire industry has shifted to at least partial virtual activities. We’ve embraced virtual technology and shifted quickly to help dealers pivot faster by providing more digital and online selling tools, while delivering information more quickly, including quotes, proposals, proofs and order status updates. We’re just now seeing modest rebound in some of the hardest-hit markets, and we anticipate a slow, but sustained, recovery.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
MR: Technology is leading the way—not only with the tools used to sell and fulfill orders, but also in the creation of value inherent to the products and services that end-users want and expect. The pace of change in our industry is accelerating, and we need to be collectively nimble, to embrace emerging trends, to try new products and to keep rediscovering what customers want. This industry doesn’t have to be labeled as “commodity” if we truly listen and differentiate the experience. What motivated dealers and end-users two or three years ago may no longer be effective. We need to be engaged and creative, and we need to keep asking questions to be the solution when it matters. Much like the hockey analogy: We should be moving to where the puck is headed, not where it is now.
What keeps you up at night?
MR: The vitality of our reseller dealers. We know our industry has matured in many ways, but the effective ‘reach’ of distribution in a business-to-business sense can’t be matched through typical direct channels. Upwards of 30% to 40% of the end-user market is best served by a local dealer. It’s too much market share to take for granted, and for the end-user, working directly with a reputable, trusted dealer represents a richer value proposition.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
MR: We’re excited about the blending of service offerings to extend, or pair with, our current product mix. With traditional print products either flat or declining in total market consumption, there are opportunities to follow the business need into nontraditional services. For example, digital payment methods are becoming an obvious complement to traditional checks (product). This doesn’t imply that checks will ever go away completely, and we don’t believe they will; however, we’re seeing interest in “adding” a digital payment service to an end-user’s normal consumption of paper checks. As a result, we have developed (and will continue to develop), digital payment services. This gives our dealers the ability to stay relevant, to sustain lifecycle revenues and add more value than “just” reselling paper checks. This opens an enormous opportunity in services ranging from fraud protection to digital payments, creative design for digital assets like websites and email marketing, and other cloud services [that] help end-users market and manage their business.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
MR: While I’m not very good at it, I love playing golf. For me, it’s all about enjoying the great outdoors, challenging myself, and spending quality time with friends and colleagues. Although I’m naturally left-handed and do everything left-handed … I play golf right-handed. I can credit my father for that. As a curious young boy, I played around with my dad’s clubs and simply assumed all golf clubs were made to swing from the “right” side. It wasn’t until years later that I learned about left-handed clubs, but by then it was too late—it all felt too unnatural to switch back. Given my high handicap these days, maybe I should reconsider!