What distributor can’t use a consistent source of revenue? That’s what makes going after program business such an attractive approach to selling in today’s market. “Program business is very steady,” says Jordy Gamson, co-owner of The Icebox (asi/229395). “We actually refer to these accounts as Steady Eddies in our internal meetings since they’re more predictable revenue streams.”
Gamson and his business partner, Scott Alterman, provide several different types of programs to clients, ranging from ongoing safety and loyalty incentives to awards and uniforms. “We started reaching out to customers we knew who would be good prospects,” Gamson says, “and eventually we started winning business.”
Read on to find out how The Icebox built up and maintained its program accounts, and learn how you can score similar business.
Q: How do you identify prospects best suited for programs?
A: We work with a lot of franchisees and franchisors as well as organizations that have a lot of locations spread across a wide geographic area. The general nature of how they conduct business makes them well-suited for programs.
Q: What services do you offer that makes you successful at program business?
A: We offer online ordering integration as well as debit and credit intelligence built into our customers’ human resources databases. We provide uniforms, promotional products and gift cards, among other things.
Q: Give a specific example of a top program you’ve run.?
A: We do all of the uniforms for the Kia Motors manufacturing plant in Georgia. We also have a satellite location on-site, inside of their automotive plant to help manage the program.
Q: What’s the role of technology in winning and servicing this type of business?
A: Technology is a key part. We have to not only make it very easy for the customer or their employees to order from us, we also have to keep track of a lot of data. We also use technology to help manage inventory.
Q: What are the keys to retention in program business?
A: It’s so important to have as few problems as possible with the customer experience. A truly successful program should be almost invisible to the customer. What that means is that the program should be out of sight and out of mind because there are no problems to address.
Q: How do you identify products that work well in programs?
A: We do our best to offer products that are easy and available to source, as well as very limited in SKU count. For example, hats and promo items are one size and one SKU versus apparel that has a size scale and can have many more SKUs. The more complicated the program, the more inventory, technology and potential for problems.
Q: What particular program that has the best growth potential?
A: No one category is better than the others – they’re all growth areas. Usually, if you’re doing a good job for your customer in one area, they will want you to offer programs in other areas. They’re all important and are all great ways to get to deeper and wider into an account.
Q: How can suppliers better help distributors provide rograms to clients and prospects?
A: They can offer small quantities decorated at an affordable price. For example, some of our franchisee customers only have three or four employees and don’t need 36 embroidered hats or 72 screen-printed shirts. To service them today, we would need to have decorated goods on the shelf in inventory for the pricing to work. If suppliers could offer smaller quantities and decorate them, it would alleviate the need for us to have as much decorated inventory on our shelves.