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Adding Value...Specialty Imaging

By Chris Freddo on May 01, 2006

Prior to the greatly anticipated walk down the aisle, a man and woman must be confident that they can complement each other, and be certain their union will be beneficial to them both. The same concept applies when deciding to add products to an existing line. While most businesses have the potential to increase sales simply by growing existing accounts, some might feel they are ready to take the next step in business development and add on to their product mix to boost sales and further satisfy customers. It is essential to find a product that will grow rather than detract from sales.

One product line many printers and brokers are adding is custom, pressure-sensitive labels or stickers. For printers already providing business cards, magazines, stationery, portfolios, and other printed products, it is a no-brainer to offer labels, as well. Label customers often have characteristics similar to those of an existing customer base, so in addition to attracting new business, this new revenue stream can also help develop present accounts.

According to a recent study, U.S. label shipments will grow 5.7 percent annually through the year 2008 based on new label technologies, substrates, adhesives, and coatings. The value of the North American pressure-sensitive label market in 1998 was $3.93 billion. According to the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute, by 2003, the market reached more than $5 billion with a compounded annual growth of 6.4 percent. More then 98 percent of distributors expect their custom label sales to increase, as well.

Label printing is no longer a craft industry. Continuously developing and evolving, it has become a sophisticated collection of technologies, using a wide range of papers, films, and foil substrates; complex adhesive and ink formulations; sophisticated digital designs; and reproduction formats. The printing is achieved by many different processes in both sheet and roll formats with complex die-cutting solutions, and ever more creative methods of application.

Mixing It Up
New products can be the answer to building sales and transitioning your company in a whole new direction. You can take a cue from big business. Look at how Kraft added Jell-O instant pudding and multiple permutations of the Jell-O brand in order to capture new audiences and expand into previously untapped market niches. It all starts with the addition of a new line.

Think of Gillette as another example. The brand encompasses a number of product lines, including blades and razors, toiletries, writing instruments, and lighters. Individual products exist within each of these product lines. In other words, Gillette's line of blades and razors extends to Lady Gillette, Mach 3, and others. This gives Gillette a wide and diverse product mix, and a share of the profits of those various markets.

Stuck on You
Labels are everywhere. Walk up and down the aisles of your local grocery store or home improvement center and you will see products with labels of every imaginable size, shape, and color. Custom labels are a growth segment of the printing industry, and your clients already purchase them. Break away from selling a commodity. Labels are typically considered critical to a product's success or are an important requirement for meeting federal, state, or local regulations. Your customers will be looking for a value-added product from a knowledgeable and reliable vendor, not just the lowest price.

As a trade, the printing industry has some high growth markets, and some that are mature or declining. Labels belong to the high growth segment. Selling labels gives you the opportunity to increase your revenue and position yourself for continued sales growth.

Diversify within accounts by establishing relationships with key decision makers. The contacts you establish may be outside the purchasing department. You will work with product decision makers, and will gain a reputation as a problem solver, not an order taker. These same decision makers can have a great deal of influence on purchases of all types of printed materials.

The relationships you form while selling labels will give you a definite advantage when bidding on all of your customer's printing requirements. Increase the value of your average order. The average wholesale order of forms, stationery, or business cards is approximately $200. The average wholesale order for labels is more than $1,000.

Tips to Sell Labels
Study Labels
Market yourself as a label specialist. Ask to see the label in action, watching the label move throughout the organization so you can make recommendations. Who is using the label? What is it used for? What is the surface? What environmental factors exist in its application and subsequent use? Today?s labels are versatile and dynamic, and selling them requires a detail-oriented mindset. Although you can rely on manufacturers for help, you will need extensive knowledge of label stocks, adhesives, and secondary printing methods. Determining a label?s use and the conditions it will be exposed to is paramount.

Watch New Technologies
What areas of the market are new? Which areas are growing? What new substrates and adhesives are there?

Make Labels a Marketing Tool
Labels are usually used for informational purposes, but do not forget their potential as marketing tools to increase your client's product appeal.

Aim To Please
Satisfaction is achieved by adding value for your customer. Be a salesperson who researches new ideas for your client's look through new face stocks, adhesives, and constructions that will improve the label. Become a consultant. Pitch yourself to the right person. Some purchasing agents do not like to change vendors, but a manufacturing director or someone who uses the labels will.

Take It for a Test Drive
Once you have chosen a label, test it and observe its performance during every step of the process. Make sure you have the right face, liner, and adhesive type. Get samples and test them at the customer's facility, on the customer's equipment, so he or she feels comfortable with the decision.

Some clients who do not understand the label selection process may rush you. Help them to understand that a rushed job usually creates expensive blunders. Label projects can be time consuming, but once the project is up and running all you have to do is supply the order.

Distributors often say label orders are easier to keep than some other forms of print because effective applications are extremely labor intensive and most end users are not interested in testing new labels; even if it means saving money.

Provide Great Customer Service
Sell a label your customers can "stick with." Label end users often need fast answers to their label dilemmas. A plant nursery owner whose price labels fade in the sunlight is likely to treat his label vendor like a weed. By understanding your customer's needs, as in fade-resistant inks, you can prevent problems from occurring.

Team Up with Reliability
If you are going to risk the reputation you have with your customers, you need to do it with a great supplier of pressure-sensitive labels.

Speak to your customers. Do research to evaluate whether adding labels to your existing product mix is beneficial to you. Consider that nearly every industry uses labels. They perform a broad range of functions including identification, merchandising, marketing, and information transfer. If you do your homework and proceed with an analytical eye, adding labels to your present product line will increase your annual sales, profits, and help your growing print business reach new markets and build market share.

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