Make a Big Deal Out of Combo Products
Providing value-added products like form/label combinations involves product knowledge and a greater time investment.
The '90s ushered in some amazing developments in affixing and integrating equipment along with ongoing advancements in materials and adhesives. The upshot is a dynamic crop of time-, efficiency- and accuracy-enhancing combination products such as form/label combinations.
Clearly today's sophisticated business operations are well served by such innovation. However, as Judy Miller, label project manager for Vandalia, Ohio-based PrintGraphics observed, these products are best marketed through solution-selling, which requires up-to-date product knowledge and additional sell time.
Offered Miller, "There are two types of salespeople: those who quote orders that essentially duplicate existing products, and those who start out with pre-existing products but eventually learn the operation from front to back in order to offer new ideas."
Miller noted that the current economy has many distributors thinking outside the purchasing department and increasing cold calls within companies they already sell to. For many, it meant reinventing the selling cycle.
"Ask Joe in purchasing for a walk through the facility," suggested Miller. "The distributor will soon discover that Joe is not the person making buying decisions in other areas." The purchasing person may buy the checks, she explained, but introducing a new lab form for drug testing might require seeing the clinical director.
While a form/label combination is going to be more expensive than a simple pressure-sensitive label, Miller said that customers are not opposed to spending money for solutions that work. To put it in perspective, she pointed out that orders for traditional forms may cost $600, while those for pressure-sensitive labels may average $1,200. On the other hand, affixed form/label combinations can cost about $2,300 and integrated products $6,000.
"It's not unusual to get orders for integrated products totaling $25,000 to $30,000," she said. "Adding combination products to the mix can be very lucrative."
Getting It Together
Because the decision to go with a combination product is often driven by the expertise of the salesperson, education is key. PrintGraphics offers seminars, promotional media and territory representatives to educate distributors, as well as marketing materials featuring selling tips and summaries of how the products are designed.
And because taking a proper job order is essential with these intricate products, suppliers like Interform Solutions, Bridgeville, Pa., provide standard job order sheets to distributors to ensure accuracy.
Said Customer Service Manager Diane Valentino, "It's important for distributors to give us the right specs, including the size of the label, necessary die cuts and slits, what the label is being affixed to, temperature considerations and whether it requires repositionable adhesive."
In addition, the type of printer and whether the label is being pulled off of the 11-inch, 14-inch or 8.5-inch side of the form are factors that influence the direction for integrated labels.
Affixed products such as labels, tags, cards or other pieces are often blown onto carriers for various direct mail and promotional printing applications. Therefore, deciding on the proper adhesive can be tricky. There are, however, multi-purpose adhesives capable of meeting a broad range of applications and temperature ranges. Affixed solutions also offer more substrate choices for the product being affixed.
On the other hand, die-cut integrated products offer far more design flexibility than an affixed product, and so they're frequently used for mailers and marketing materials. Miller, however, thinks of integrated labels as workhorses because of their prevalence in industrial and health-care settings for items such as packing lists and lab slips. Valentino said Interform Solutions also manufactures a great deal of job-specific integrated products, which are growing in popularity as end-users' office equipment is changing.
With end-users gravitating toward inexpensive laser printer technology, some flexibility may be lost and cost savings negated. For instance, Miller explained that laser cut-sheet printers are designed to handle up to about a 90 lb. index at 7 mils. Factor in the carrier, card stock and laminate of an integrated product, and the combined thickness becomes too great for these printers to contend with.
Still, form/label combinations have so much to offer that it would be unfortunate for customers to consider a distributor for only three or four particular products. Taking a single-ply continuous form or cut sheet and adding a label or card can be of tremendous value to the organization.
This value can lead to a significantly stronger customer/distributor bond. "And," said Miller, "a happy customer is not inclined to shop around."
By Maggie DeWitt