Setting his foot in the door wasn't a problem for Glenn Staudigel. Getting past the security guard seated just inside was another matter entirely. Staudigel, president of Fine Print Business Forms & Labels, Inc., a distributorship in Huntington Station, N. Y., was determined to do business with the bank. But the bank's purchasing agent was equally determined not to see him. Each time he dropped by in hopes of pitching his company's services, the bank's security guard stopped him, called the purchasing agent and relayed the same message to Staudigel --"not interested."
But one day, as Staudigel entered the bank, he noticed a discarded visitor's badge label stuck on the revolving doors. Staudigel peeled the label off, patted it on his shirt and strolled past the security guard. Within minutes, he was standing in front of a surprised purchasing agent who wondered aloud hoe Staudigel reached her office. "Here I was coming up and showing them that they had a problem with their security," Staudigel says. He quickly explained that his distributorship could provide a better solution for the bank's security needs. Faced with hard evidence, the purchasing agent was finally ready to listen.
Today, Fine Print supplies the bank with 1-color labels that change colors when exposed to sunlight, ensuring that people can't pick up a discarded visitor's label outside and waltz into the bank's offices. Fine print provides between 12,000 and 15,000 of the labels to the bank each year. "We've always had very, very good success selling labels," Staudigel says. "By selling labels, you can come in as the white knight and save the day."
Providing label solutions has turned Staudigel into a hero in the eyes of his customers on more than one occasion. A Manhattan newspaper publisher that Staudigel designed forms for was buying labels elsewhere. The labels were applied mainly to metal newspaper boxes on street corners, but they couldn't stand up to the elements. They were fading in the sun and puffing up in the rain. "It was a nightmare," Staudigel says.
Staudigel did some research and found an aggressive adhesive vinyl stock that is "pretty much waterproof," he says. He provided a 2-color, 8½ x 5¼-inch label with a UV film laminate that keeps the newspaper's red and blue logo from fading. (See sample below.) "As a matter of fact," Staudigel says with tongue in cheek, "the label works too well. It's a long time between reorders." Fine Print supplied an initial order of 10,000 labels and received reorders of 5,000 labels approximately every three years.
A Process of Improvement Henry Cary and Alan Mills' distributorship, Purchase Paper Inc., Paducah, KY., experiences close to a 50 percent growth in label sales last year. Cary, the company's president, attributes much of that increase to the growing popularity of thermal transfer labels. "Technology has changed how people identify manufactured products," he says. "They used to just attach a tag to them. Now they apply a thermal transfer label with a bar code on it. It help eliminate human error."
In few places is the elimination of human error more important than in the medical market. A hospital client asked Purchase Paper for help after buying equipment capable of reading bar codes on lab specimens that were undergoing centrifugal testing. But the distributorship did more than provide labels for the lab equipment. It created blank sheets, each containing 12 die cut thermal transfer labels of varying sizes. Now, when a patient is admitted, the hospital assigns the patient a bar code, which is then printed on the labels. Everything associated with the patient, from wristbands to lab reports to meal menus has a bar code label applied. The labels have an all-purpose aggressive adhesive because some of the labels are submerged in liquid and others must be refrigerated.
Before Purchase Paper's solution, the hospital used continuous labels, each the same size regardless of the application. The patient's name and procedure being performed were typed onto each individual label. "This is a lot quicker," Cary says. "It works great, and they love it." Purchase Paper provides 100,000 of the labels per year.
Any business that tracks products is a potential client for bar coded labels. Kevin Pachla, president of Label Network, a distributorship in Madison Heights, MI., sells a minimum of 500,000 thermal direct bar coded labels to a magazine distributorship each year. The 2 x 3-inch labels are printed with a bar code, a short description of the magazine an the delivery location. The labels are applied in an assembly line to bound stacks of magazines going to grocery stores and news stands. A removable adhesive is required because some labels are applied directly to the top magazine in a bound stack. Others are applied to plastic bags that usually hold the stacks.
The Student Becomes The Teacher
Any distributor will tell you that selling labels is a learning experience. You'll need to have knowledge of adhesives, paper stocks, applications and more. Possessing the patience and desire to teach customers the ins and outs of labels is a key for many distributors.
Today, Pachla provides 4-color process prime labels to Gringo Foods, a salsa company run from the owner's home. Pachla believes his distributorship maintains the order because he invested time in educating the customer. Gringo Foods' owner was encouraged to package his product for stores after sharing his homemade salsa with friends and selling it to bars. He designed a label for the salsa containers and called it Pachla. However, the design didn't leave enough space for nutritional information or incorporate the correct format required by government regulations. Pachla, using knowledge gained as a former pressman, educated the fledgling company's owner about UPC bar codes and nutritional information for labels. "The first phone call he made, "Pachla says, "I was helping him out."
Pachla was soon going to his customer's home twice a week to help with the label design. When he delivered the finished labels, Gringo Foods" owner was ecstatic. "He had these pedestals set up, and he was taking photographs (of the salsa jars with the labels)," Pachla remembers. "He was so proud of them."
The 4-color labels with UV varnish feature a caricature of the owner's face. His head brandishes a cowboy hat. Bright colors surround the caricature, imitating a "confetti explosion." The 3 x 7-inch permanent acrylic adhesive labels are printed on semi-gloss paper and contain a bar code, nutritional information, and the name of the company and the company's phone number. Labels are printed in two different colors to indicate the strength of the salsa (mild, medium, hot, etc.). The owner initially ordered 10,000 labels for each of his five products. At first, the labels were hand applied, but now they are machine applied at a factory. Label Network already has received reorders. "I'm kind of proud of it because I saw it from beginning to end," Pachla says. "He has turned into a pretty good customer now that the footwork is done."
Sell The Process, Not The Product
A large measure of success depends on how you market labels to customers, says George Pickering, president of Corporate Resource Group, Inc, Shawnee Mission, KS. The distributorship listens for customers indicating that they want to improve efficiencies, such as shipping procedures. Then the distributorship sells labels or label/form combinations as part of that process. This often involves completing a systems analysis, designing labels based on specific customer needs and evaluating savings from improved efficiencies after the sale. "It's providing solutions instead of paper and ink on label stock," Pickering says.
New label customers, in particular, need help understanding that they're buying a process, not just a label, Pickering says. Educate prospects about the characteristics of adhesives, liners, face stocks and so on, he says. "The client is not expected to be an expert in those areas," he says. "That's our job." Taking time to explain how labels can improve efficiencies and save companies money definitely has an upside, Pickering says. "If you've sold them correctly, the reorders become more dependable and consistent (than those of many other products)," he says. "When a customer understands the purpose of the label, they don't want to take a risk."
Try these tips to liven up your label sales:
· Have a reputation for sticking around. Few things cause customers to reach their boiling points more quickly than receiving labels that won't stick. This nightmare can usually be avoided, Pickering says, by asking the right questions: What is the label's life expectancy? What is its intended use? What temperature ranges will it be exposed to? Under what condition will it be applied? Of course, Pickering says, asking the correct questions is easier said than done. "I think the key is making up a list of questions ahead of time and making sure you get those questions answered," he says.
Another good rule --never assume anything, even if clients aren't particular about label quality. "You'll have customers that will say, "Ah, it's just going on an envelope," says Staudigel. "But what kind of envelope?" On one occasion, one of Staudigel's customers ordered labels for boxes. Only after the labels failed to stick well did the customer mention that the boxes were wax coated, requiring a different type of label adhesive for peak performance. Staudigel also earned business from a lab after its supplier provided labels that fell off blood sample tubes during refrigeration. The lab had to call patients to have blood work repeated because there was no way to identify which samples belonged to which patients. "Be knowledgeable," Staudigel says. "Know what the different adhesives are capable of and not capable of. If you can solve a problem, that endears you to people."
· Research labels' resiliency. Pachla of Label Network set up his own "label testing lab" outside his distributorship. He puts different label stocks with various adhesives on numerous surfaces to determine if they will stick, fade or otherwise hold up to the elements. "It's kind of a makeshift test," he says, "but that's what (our customers') labels are exposed to, so that's what we do. I want them to know all the things these labels can and can't do."
· Perform a compatibility check. Always test label samples in customers' equipment to ensure that they run smoothly and image correctly. Lewis tests bar coded labels to ensure that the bar codes scan accurately on clients' equipment.
· Look for ways for labels to be problem solvers. Staudigel's distributorship provided 4-color brochures promoting an event for the national Retail Federation. Only after the brochures were proofed and printed did the organization's personnel realize they had provided incorrect dates. To save the cost of reprinting brochures, Staudigel suggested using labels to cover up the mistake. He provided two small labels on a coated white glossy stock with an opaque backer. The correct dates were printed on the labels and then applied by an outside firm. The labels blended in with the brochure. "You'd never know there was something printed behind there to begin with, "staudigel says. "It wasn't great, but it sure beat throwing out 50,000 brochures. They were very happy with the solution."
· Look beyond the obvious. Companies that distributors never imagined would use labels a few years ago are finding applications that fit their businesses, " Lewis says. For example, one of his customers supplies individually packaged cigars to convenience stores. Stores began requesting bar codes on the cigars to make it easier for cashiers to ring them up. Lewis supplies the cigar distributor with ¾ x 1½-inch bar coded labels that are applied to clear plastic tubes that hold the cigars. A different bar coded label is needed for each brand and type of cigar offered. Lewis provides approximately 500 labels for each brand about every other month. "Years ago, " he says, "that would never have happened.
· Broaden your horizons. With the surge in popularity of bar coded labels, many distributorships also sell accompanying products such as bar code equipment and ribbons.
· Pick professionalism, not price. Distributors who sell labels should judge manufacturers based on high quality, not low price, Pickering warns. "Otherwise," he says, "if you have a problem, you'll be out on a limb ... you may have the lowest price, but you won't have the right solution."
Jonathan Rollins is an assistant editor at FORM Magazine.