As conglomerates like Amazon and Vistaprint continue to change the way we conduct business, alliances between distributors and suppliers are needed now more than ever to protect their spot in the print and promo space. However, there’s a big difference between just working with someone and working well with someone, so it’s crucial to find the right fit for your professional partnership.
Print+Promo spoke with suppliers Miles Wadsworth, president of Logo Mats LLC, LaGrange, Ga.; and Alan Boisvert, vice president of operations for BCT, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., about what they look for in distributor partners, how they support them and, ultimately, what makes the partnership successful.
Know what you’re looking for
BCT, a trade-only commercial printer since 1974, has shifted product offerings and services over the course of its 45-year history in order to keep up with changing consumer habits. For Boisvert, size doesn’t matter when it comes to finding the right partner, as BCT has worked with print resellers ranging from franchises to the smallest of distributors. What does matter, however, is a shared alignment of values between both parties.
“It is always great to work with someone that is excited about the business and the products we are helping them supply to their customer,” Boisvert said.
Similarly, Logo Mats doesn’t discriminate in terms of size; Wadsworth said if distributors are willing to learn and to keep an open mind to new possibilities, he is willing to help.
“It’s kind of the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your business is coming from a certain group of people, so we’ve really invested in the people who are selling our product and then, from there, we focus on customers that are all over the board,” he explained. “For us, it really doesn’t matter the size of the company; it’s really just if they want to sell it. We’re there to help, assist and provide support, and help them grow their business through our product line.”
Educate and support your distributors
Once alliances are formed, it is important for suppliers to make sure that distributors are educated on their offerings. Because knowledge is power, this can lead to impactful conversations with prospects and existing clients alike. From the perspective of a print-focused company, Boisvert admitted that it can be harder for distributors to sink their teeth into print when all they’ve known is promo.
“Some distributors that have only sold promo are sometimes afraid to jump into the print market,” he shared. “We say, ‘Let us help you understand print and assist you with supplying additional products to your current customers.’”
Wadsworth’s team supports its distributors by joining in on sales calls, giving out branded brochures, attending end-user shows and waving setup or art fees. But, it’s truly through in-person product education that Logo Mats is able to embolden distributors with the information they’ll need.
“We normally go [to] a distributor partner’s office, and we bring the top-selling products that we offer,” he said. “We go over the applications, how they’re made, the best use, case studies, case history and then really try to tie it all back in to what they do and if it’s a fit for them and their customers as well.”
Sometimes, a certain product or service doesn’t immediately enter a distributor’s mind during that initial meeting; but providing product samples can help them better understand how a particular item could benefit their bottom line. Take, for example, Logo Mats’ rubber-backed floor mats. Not only do they reduce slip-and-fall accidents, they also improve workplace aesthetics with unique personalization, branded with the client’s logo.
“Usually, with our product line—[and], what people come to understand with the education factor of it is—they have customers that can use it, too,” he continued. “A lot of times, they don’t think of it to begin with, so once they are provided with that education and understand where the products go out to sell it, it becomes an easy addition.”
Know that mistakes happen
In spite of suppliers’ and distributors’ best efforts, mistakes sometimes occur along the way with projects—how you respond to those mistakes is key. Boisvert recalled a time when BCT went above and beyond for a customer to correct an art issue with a fast turnaround time.
“I have heard many stories over the years, but one I always remember [was] when meeting a customer at a trade show, he [told] me he was doing a presentation in the northwest on a Monday afternoon and realized on Friday afternoon there was an error in his art that had been printed by one of our locations on the east coast,” he said. “Our owner in the east contacted an owner of ours in the northwest, and the corrected art was printed and delivered to his hotel Monday morning, so he could make the presentation.”
Work together, not separate
At the end of the day, suppliers and distributors have to work together in order to get a job done. But if you want to grow in your professional relationships, make time for self-reflection, and update your goals as needed.
“I have learned to always treat all customers the way you would want to be treated if you were selling our products,” said Wadsworth. “Our value is doing what is best for the customer. With that value, a lot of decisions are easy to make.”
Lastly, a lesson that Boisvert has learned from various partnerships is to consistently be a partner and never a competitor.
“You learn and adjust in every business, and we have evolved as a company over the many years we have been serving our customers,” he concluded.