When Triton Sales & Marketing (asi/347503) travels to trade shows, they certainly make an impression. Consider their health-care theme one year, when the team wore scrubs, showed off a bassinet filled with new items and hung a plastic skeleton in the corner, humorously identified as an unfortunate end-buyer still waiting for his order to be filled. Another time, they turned their trade show digs into a high-end restaurant; staff wore tuxedoes, and handed out menus with a list of their product offerings.
“We learned early on about the importance of creating buzz and staying out on the edges,” says Triton co-owner and president Jack Hurst. “When we first entered the industry, it was a two-lane street. Now it’s a 10-lane highway. There are so many variables, and you have to differentiate yourself.”
It’s certainly been working for Triton, a Richmond Hill, ON-based distributorship that’s proud to be celebrating 30 years in the industry in 2015. In the beginning, Hurst focused on building a client base, including “creating a history, getting orders in the can and casting a wide net,” he explains. “Since then, we’ve done a number of fulfillment programs. Now, we’re into web-based fulfillment, e-company stores and years of service award programs.”
Before founding Triton with his wife Rita, who thought of the company’s “Your need…our challenge” tagline, Hurst honed his skills in various sales and marketing positions at Pepsi, where he worked with a wide range of promotional products to build brand loyalty. “I got a really good perspective on promotional products for a brand,” he says. “I realized the importance of a marketing strategy that focused on clients’ needs, and I learned about the format and procedures for solid fulfillment programs.”
Arguably, no aspect of the industry is as important as customer service, and over the past few years it’s become increasingly challenging to meet clients’ high expectations. Hurst remembers a time, back when Triton was new on the scene, when the timeframe from initial meeting to order delivery was four to five weeks; now, it’s often 48 to 72 hours, sometimes fewer.
“Twenty-four-hour turnaround is not unheard of,” says Hurst. “People expect this now, because we’ve conditioned them. They’ll say for a rush job, ‘You can get it done. You did it before’. They leave it to the last minute, and then we hate to say no. It’s a good thing, but it can also be disastrous if you miss a step before you reach the end.”
Seeing a rush order through can often turn into late hours and sacrificed sleep; on one occasion, Triton had their silkscreener come in to the offices at midnight to finish up an order by 6 a.m., says Logan Hurst, senior account executive and Jack’s son. “Then, we hand-delivered it for a meeting that started at 6:30. It’s hard work, but it creates loyal clients.”
While the increasingly tighter turn times pose quite the challenge, Triton is fiercely dedicated to clients’ satisfaction. “The last thing I ever want to do is disappoint my clients,” says Jack Hurst. “I’ve given them my word, I’ve said I’ll look after them. But sometimes things happen, and you can’t be in a position to give up. Honesty is the best policy. It’s difficult, but you have to address it quickly. It’s the trust factor, and you want to keep getting points on the board. But you don’t want mistakes to ever happen on the first order. That’s why you always have to be prospecting.”
Even when all bases are covered, says Hurst, obstacles will arise. Those who recognize that challenges are inevitable and have a plan to face them will enjoy longevity. “You have to have a good outlook, work hard and keep up with industry trends,” he says. “At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts. It’s all about perseverance and a can-do attitude. Sometimes situations arise that you didn’t anticipate, and you have to persevere.”