Customer Service

‘Pot’-stickers: using labels to make friends

By Mark Lusky | April 15, 2014

Burgeoning recreational marijuana industries in Washington and Colorado provide a rare glimpse into the birth of a brand new market. For custom label printers, it’s both an opportunity and an enigma.

In Colorado, where retail sales began January 1, overwhelming demand for inhalable, edible and drinkable products coupled with myriad state labeling disclosure requirements have made labeling more focused on function than form. In turn, this has made label printing a home-printer focused process to a large degree. Sellers are scrambling to make sure they’ve complied with state regulations, and generally are slapping very basic information-laden labels onto packages. Buyers just want their product(s) and don’t seem to care how attractively they’re packaged.

Given this scenario, there is relatively little demand presently to change the label picture, literally or figuratively. Down the road, competitive pressures will drive more attention and money toward branding and marketing, but for now, that is down the road.

So, what can custom label printers do to drive customer service in a new industry that is yet to realize a need for much beyond Avery adhesive labels and single-color ink? Following are ways to start building customer relationships in this type of niche realm as well as in more established, mainstream industries:

1. Offer something for (next to) nothing. Most businesses today are preoccupied with in-the-moment demands and are consumed with the challenges and crises du jour. Label printers wanting to start or ramp up their customer service stature with particular companies can encourage development of a “trusted advisor” relationship to address a variety of challenges, including how to move toward developing more professional and hotly-branded labels.

This can be done through words and/or actions. For the former, emphasize your availability to discuss the company’s present label strategy and offer ideas/insights that help further their aims. To be effective, this must be done diplomatically and in a way that engages the company (versus coming across as a naked sales pitch). While this may not yield sales short-term, it helps build the foundation for a solid, long-term association.

In the actions realm, consider offering a sample of how a more robust label could look on that wine bottle, jar of hot sauce, or edible marijuana product. For a reasonable price (or even free if you can justify it), trot out a hot shot designer, create a sizzling spec label, affix it over the product’s existing label, and send it to the company with a short note inviting consideration. Again, this will get people thinking without feeling hard-pressured into anything.

2. Make a business case. For those accustomed to spitting out labels on a home printer, offer education about the relative costs. Although digital printing is well-established, many businesspeople still don’t know about its cost-effectiveness even in small quantities. And, there are the “hidden” costs of self-printing – including disruptions caused by printing out labels versus handling other high-priority items, dealing with technology snafus (e.g., a jammed printer), and product buyer skepticism triggered by shoddily-printed, easily defaced labels.

While this latter concern is not front-and-center currently in the recreational marijuana arena, it certainly is in more entrenched industries. By suggesting a logical, compelling, side-by-side comparison of do-it-yourself versus professional custom label printing, you can begin to move people toward doing business with you without appearing pushy.

3. Make an offer they can’t refuse. Costco has built its reputation and customer loyalty on this principle. If you can get a half-gallon of organic half-and-half for little more than a quart of the same brand in the local grocery store, why wouldn’t you? This is why, in large part, Costco continues to grow and flourish while other retailers struggle to make a profit.

When it comes to label printing customer service, make buyers realize that they’re getting a deal. Whether it’s the time-honored discount, a bonus (e.g., you print and ship extra labels at no charge as a thank-you for their business), or a “membership” where frequent buyers amass points toward future purchases, prizes and the like, a deal is a deal.

Even in the retail marijuana realm, this can seal the deal – especially when the offer also makes the case for re-allocating time spent spewing out its own labels elsewhere.

Regardless of industry, demand or competition, labels affect the “curb appeal” of their products. By offering insights/incentives to create cost-effective and well-designed labels, custom label printers provide a valuable service that will ultimately yield a strong ROI for everyone involved.

Tammie MacLachlan contributed to this report.

Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels since 2008. Tammie MacLachlan is the customer service manager of Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA. She has been in the printing industry for 19 years and with Lightning Labels for more than seven years. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.