People used to marvel at Michael, especially when he’d go off on a 40-plus point per night rampage. I remember him scoring 49 in one playoff game against the Milwaukee Bucks. But what was the result of that game? Surprisingly enough, the Bulls lost.
The next night, Michael scored less but racked up more assists. He got everyone involved. The Bulls ran away with it.
No one can go it alone in this world. From art to business to politics to family, the most successful entities always have a team.
But does teamwork apply outside the company?
There used to be a silo mentality in this business, especially in the supply chain. Company A would hand a project to Company B, who then passed it on to Company C. That led to inefficiencies and finger-pointing.
Today, the companies that collaborate with others outside the organization are the ones that win, and win big.
Brands are eager to collaborate
We spoke recently with Jason Tham, CEO of Nulogy, a leader in supply chain software. Tham shared some interesting data from the Contract Packaging Association. Contract packaging has experienced significant growth, booming from $12 billion in 2008 to $25 billion in 2016. That equates to a nearly 11% yearly increase. Follow the math, and the volume doubles in roughly seven years.
Tham’s company, Nulogy, is focused on connecting contract packagers with brand customers. Why? Because what was once a cottage industry – contract packaging – has now become a sophisticated mechanism for brands to help meet the lofty expectations of consumers. Customers want their products customized, and they want them delivered today. No, correct that, right now. Brands realize they can’t do this alone, and they’re reaching out to printers, converters and anyone else on the supply chain to collaborate on solutions.
Tham says contract packagers need to expand their scope upstream and downstream. “The brand may want you to not only participate in making the product but also to source the right materials,” he notes.
They want to collaborate in ways never seen before. And that’s your foot in the door.
Being a friend to brands big and small
In this column and on my own blog, I’ve shared some of the stats about how much print is produced by big brands. Vince Mallardi of the Print Brokerage Buyers Association (PBBA) has noted that over $5.5 billion of print will be generated by five entities and among 300 of their associates. That equals out to over 3% of all the print on the planet. At first glance, 3% doesn’t seem like an overwhelming number, but PBBA dissected those numbers even more. They found that 1,500 print buyers cover more than half of all printing, and that the top 100 buyers are bigger than the next 500.
Big brands spend big money on print. Mallardi has been preaching for years for printers to focus their efforts on these big brands. If you don’t, you’ll get the “scraps,” as he refers to them. Don’t get me wrong: Those scraps have built printing companies. And we’ve also seen recent data indicating that smaller brands are increasingly putting pressure on big brands, which we’ll detail in a future column.
But regardless of whether you’re shooting to work with brands big or small, pursuing the types of collaboration that Jason Tham was talking about is how to get your foot in the door. As Vince Mallardi has shown us, there is plenty of business, providing you can deliver what brands want.
Becoming a part of the big picture
So, how do you find out what brands want? Todd Cohen, SCP, is an expert on building sales cultures and is an international keynote speaker. He recommends that discovering ways to collaborate is a long-term proposition. It requires learning about the brand, inside and out, through ongoing research.
Cohen advocates studying the organization and learning about the people who work there. Find out what they know and who they network with. But more importantly, learn about the company. Read their content and news releases, and find out what they’re rolling out.
That’s step one. Step two comes from Mark Geeves at Color-Logic, who has created a product that allows printers to collaborate closely with brands in a very unique, niche product: Metallic colors.
Brands want to differentiate
Color-Logic was created by Mark Geeves and his partner, Richard Ainge, to solve a longstanding problem among printers and brand designers: Producing metallic colors in a simple, cost-effective manner.
They created the Process Metallic Color System, in which 250 new metallic colors can be produced using only five inks – white plus CMYK or silver plus CMYK. But why they did it – beyond filling a need among designers and printers for a simple solution to metallic colors – was to deliver the wow factor to brands, something Geeves says brands desperately want from their printers but few printers seem capable, or willing, to deliver. Geeves has plenty of experience working with big brands. His background is in color measurement, and he’s worked with the big dogs like P&G and Coca-Cola. He cringed recently when he showed a printer the Color-Logic technology.
The printer responded, “My customer hasn’t asked for this.”
Later, Geeves was presenting the Color-Logic system to a big brand, and he mentioned the printer’s response. The brand representatives were flabbergasted. “How the hell can we ask for it if we don’t know it exists?” they said.
Brands don’t know what they don’t know – so collaborate
Geeves feels like too many printers sit back on their heels and wait for the orders to come. But that’s not what brands want. They want innovation. That’s where the collaboration comes into play. A brand needs help delivering the wow factor, but they don’t have the time or resources to dig into the weeds and find out what is out there to help them deliver.
That’s on you. As you’re doing the research that Todd Cohen advocates, don’t just learn about what the Big Brands do. Think about what you can bring to the table and how you can help them differentiate from the pack.
Don’t just give them a product
Color-Logic’s collaborative efforts didn’t stop at rolling out a product. They integrate with their customers in a number of ways. The company is primarily trying to reach two prospects: Designers and printers. Designers are the ones who create the packaging and use the metallic colors, and printers are the ones who can service brands.
Color-Logic educates printers on the proper usage of the metallic colors. For example, Geeves notes that metallics are best used in 25-30% of the design as an enhancement. Through a series of training videos, they demonstrate how to use the software from an operational standpoint and a design perspective. For the printer, they provide a series of examples showcasing the metallic colors. The best companies use these types of tactics to become a collaborator with their clients.
The final example of collaboration at work: Me
I’m a big proponent of collaboration through my work with mergers and acquisitions. It’s impossible to succeed without both parties sharing data before the sale, and then collaborating on the transition afterward.
I love the win-win, so I was more than happy when my marketing team, Winbound, integrated it into our content marketing. Instead of just blogging about my own experiences and expertise, we started reaching out to industry experts – such as all the folks I’ve mentioned throughout this article.
The results have been fantastic. Not only have my keyword rankings, website traffic and social media shares gone through the roof, we’ve uncovered many new insights and data that we never would have discovered in the past. In the end, we’re helping our collaborators gain exposure to a bigger audience, and in return, I’m sharing their research and expertise with my readers and audience.
Collaboration works. If you’re holed up in your silo, it’s time to reach up and out. Remember my story of Michael Jordan scoring nearly 50 points and losing. When all my teammates – excuse me, my collaborators – score, we win. Isn’t it time you get in the game?
Rock LaManna, President and CEO of LaManna Alliance, helps printing owners and CEOs use their company financials to prioritize and choose the proper strategic path. Rock can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.