Target with the Technology Ticket
Ride the e-commerce express to opening new accounts.
Maybe it seems all too obvious to tout technology these days. After all, it's no secret that everyone is jumping on the e-commerce express to bigger and better business. But the fact still remains that a lot of clientele within the forms industry have yet to catch up to modern times—which is why flashing the technology ticket when targeting new clients can yield a smooth ride for distributors.
Webb/Mason, Hunt Valley, Md., is one distributorship flying high on its tactic to target with technology. Anticipating $45 million in sales this year with a 27-member sales team that works with clients in nine markets, Webb/Mason President Warner Mason couldn't fathom it any other way.
For Mason, it's offering value-added e-commerce solutions—the ability to handle online printing, distribution and print management, among other things—that gets his company in the door these days.
Webb/Mason's account acquisition of a large wireless telephone company is solid proof. In fact, said Doug Traxler, executive vice president, technology is the only reason Webb/Mason got in that door.
"I knew about the company, called and got routed to its retail operations people," said Traxler. "That was our early point of entry."
Once the prospect realized that Webb/Mason owned its own interface technology, the soon-to-be new client jumped on the idea of Webb/Mason handling its retail sales reps through online services.
"This company already had its own printers and distributors," said Traxler. "But what they didn't have was a company that owned its own technology, or one that was willing to entertain the wireless company's needs through technology."
Solving a major problem for its new client, Webb/Mason was able to negotiate a deal that stated that the customer would purchase the e-commerce solution as well as the print work that went along with its retail operations.
"Within two weeks we had a prototype up and running that made the ordering and management of printed supplies a lot easier for the client's regional sales reps," said Traxler.
By delivering technology, Webb/Mason has earned more than 70 new clients, noted Traxler adding, "And, most of our new clients say that they didn't know technology could be deployed so quickly and easily."
While a simple call gained the telephone company's initial attention, Webb/Mason also employs technology to sell technology.
"We are pursuing new clients all the time and we've tried a number of different avenues to target them," said Mason. "One was a direct e-mail campaign that incorporated links to our Web site."
By utilizing services rendered through the direct e-mail distribution company targetmail.com, Webb/Mason was able to set up three HTML messages which were sent to companies on a mailing list that fit the parameters of Webb/Mason's target audience. According to Paul Bailey, marketing and communications manager, 30,000 e-mails were sent—10,000 to each of the three cities where the company has offices.
"By tracking the response rate, we found that recipients opened the mail at a rate of 68 percent," said Bailey. "In fact, targetmail.com reported its average is 35 percent, so we doubled the rate of messages opened."
In addition, Bailey reported that of those who opened the mail, 1.25 of them clicked onto at least one of the company's sites.
"This shows that the recipients took action," said Bailey. "Only with direct e-mail can we gain precise data like this."
The effectiveness of the e-mail campaign rested heavily on the fact that hot links to Webb/Mason's site were incorporated. The existence of that site, said Mason, makes a positive impact when courting new clients.
Even with his e-mail and Web site success, Mason conceded that there is no substitute for cold calling.
"Our objective is to ultimately connect with someone at a high level in the company who has a more global picture of the company needs," said Mason. "Usually those people are found in finance and marketing."
R.J. Strauss, president of ABC Business Forms, Chicago, couldn't agree more. His method for contacting new clients consists mainly of cold calling.
"When targeting new accounts, the key comes down to calling the companies and finding the right people to work with," said Strauss. "Sometimes we have to work through a company's internal system, which starts at a purchasing level and moves up through other levels of operation, until we reach the vice president of operations or an IT employee."
This is when ABC Business Forms flashes its technology ticket.
"By offering e-commerce as a primary solution, with printing as a secondary concern, it has opened up a lot of doors for us," said Strauss.
One reason his company's pitch might be so successful is because it is one of few companies in its vicinity offering an e-commerce solution. The second reason could be that it offers an obligation-free contract.
"We haven't run into a lot of competition, at least not selling technology as a primary sales tool," said Strauss. "And we don't require clients to use our printing services should they opt for our e-commerce solution."
Proposals like this have made ABC Business Forms stand out from the rest which, said Strauss, is an important element for a print distributor's success.
"People don't look at us as just another printer, which is an achievement considering how huge the printing market is here in Chicago," said Strauss.
Who, How Many and For How Long?
According to Strauss, all markets offer equal potential when it comes to selling an e-commerce solution.
"We found that this application is very broad-based and it works for both large and small companies," he said. "And a full-service printer who can provide a wide range of services from fulfillment to direct mail is something companies from most markets desire."
Mason concurred, stating that his company's client mix and prospective buyers come from a variety of markets.
"Any market with companies looking for enterprise-wide solutions are fair game," said Mason. "We've had a lot of success in many markets, including health care and financial."
So what is Webb/Mason shooting for in terms of new client acquisitions? Mason revealed Webb/Mason's rather ambitious goal of growing sales by 30 percent each year.
"It is important to sell an account in total rather than having a bunch of accounts with just a few orders each," he said. "We are mainly looking for contractual relations."
Such relations can take time to advance even if they are a quick sell.
Said Mason, "Distributors could be looking at a window of six months to a year from the time they make an introductory presentation and sell the concept to having everything up and running.
"Some of our larger competitors cookie-cutter their services," he said. "We have flexibility in our model which is a primary driver of our e-commerce solution."
By Sharon R. Cole