Jeff Scott

Direct selling, where suppliers jump your spot in the supply chain and sell directly to your customers, has always been an issue in the industry. But it’s also been an issue prone to prediction and supposition, with many industry insiders trying to guess how and when it’s going to escalate—and how much it’s going to affect the industry.

Distributors develop creative solutions to select promotional product suppliers. Uncertain times and a changing industry have forced some traditional forms distributors to diversify their products and services in hopes of surviving these economic times. As a result, one area that they've ventured into is promotional products, in which they are having to face some formidable giants. The biggest obstacle distributors say they faced when beginning to sell ad specialties was tackling the different vehicles for sourcing products. Once companies had a handle on what was available to them, they needed to figure out how to choose manufacturers and release that information to their sales

Plenty of work and wealth keeps the commercial print market strong. When it comes to paper-based products, commercial printing may be one of the most stable products in the forms industry. Ranking second only to forms in a recent survey conducted by BFL&S, commercial printing accounts for 22.3 percent of our Top 100 Distributors' sales. This is because the market for colorful, full-process print work continues to be infinite. At least, that is what several distributors, whose commercial printing sales account for a large percentage of their revenue, are saying. But will the market for commercial print remain strong? Andrew Duke, co-owner of

Offering direct mail services can help distributors penetrate accounts and boost shrinking revenues. Like lava slowly flowing down a mountain, the proliferation of distributors offering direct mail products has spread slowly but surely over the last decade, fueled by the twin fires of cost-consciousness and demand. As people throughout the forms and labels world desperately try to figure out what the future holds for this maturing industry, attention has turned toward finding new products and services to take the place of older, more commodities-oriented offerings. Direct mail products, with their ability to offer users significant savings over traditional stuffed envelopes, as well as

Distributors report that the rewards far outweigh the hassles when promoting commercial printing. It's about time for distributors to sell commercial printing—literally. The time and energy spent turning around a commercial printing job are much greater than that involved with traditional products, but then so are the rewards. Of those who ranked among BFL&S' Top 100 Distributors this year, 22 percent sell commercial printing. Here, three of them discuss their transitions into this market and how it differs from working with traditional products. Repeating Business When Janis McNeal left her employer in 1987 to establish her own distributorship, she agreed not to

Strategic and thoughtful campaigns can provide big pay-offs Marketing products and services within the forms industry is not something distributors take lightly. Rather, it is a major business component that serves as a distributor's lifeline to success. It is, in fact, a form of communication—allowing distributors to not only present ideas and solutions to current and potential clients, but also to build and maintain relationships. With that said, no price is too high when it comes to strategic marketing campaigns. Spending upwards of $3 million on creative sales, business development, marketing support, advertising, direct mail, public relations and the occasional community event, Cleveland-based

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