Move Over Majors, The Independents Have Arrived
Innovative technology and old-fashioned service give independents an advantage.
Just try telling Tom Tabor that direct-selling manufacturers have the upper hand in the forms industry. With today's innovative technology allowing distributors to tap into high-tech capabilities, while still maintaining custom-ized service, the attempt would be futile.
Said Tabor, vice president of Duluth, Georgia-based Data Supplies, "With the e-commerce applications that are available today, there is no account that is safe for a direct."
In the past, direct-selling manufacturers were able to wow customers with their large size and mass-producing machinery. Their ability to handle heftier accounts and eliminate the proverbial middleman was a seemingly attractive quality that set them apart from independent distributors and manufacturers. But what was once deemed by some to be a faster and easier process can actually be more of a hindrance than a help.
According to Tabor, directs can't keep up with the pace of today's ever-changing printing processes. And to make matters worse, they aren't able to provide the attentive service that independents have been honing for years.
"It's like trying to steer a battleship with a little rudder. There is so much steel on the floor and documents are changing at such a warp speed that directs just can't change fast enough," he said.
In addition, directs have the added pressure of answering to stock holders. This causes them to be more focused on revenues and less on client customization—a key solution customers are demanding.
As a result, said Tabor, independents have an opportunity to win accounts from directs. Currently, Data Supplies manufactures about 20 percent of what they sell. The remaining 80 percent is doled out to other independent manufacturers which makes it easier to accommodate clients' special requests.
Directs, however, don't have such flexibility. In fact, any job that is forced outside of a direct manufacturer's network results in a penalty to the salesperson.