In 1933 my grandparents, Armand and Virginia Govin, founded MarkMaster as a rubber-stamp manufacturing company in Tampa, Florida. While stamps are still a big business for us (we make upwards of 10,000 to 12,000 stamps a day), we’ve since evolved into one of the largest custom-marking companies in the world with a basic product line of custom banners, signs, and name badges.
My brother Mark and I still value the same prospecting tools that our grandparents used – trade shows, networking, and referrals. At the same time, growing new business and achieving sales success in a shrinking industry is tough, particularly when marketing and IT resources are limited. Still, we’ve managed to pull off some significant growth, even during the economic downturn. Here are the three keys to our success.
- Streamline. The biggest barrier to our sales is that most prospects and customers dread the process of ordering our products. Managing layouts, text choices, and art placement can be a frustrating experience. We launched an initiative to redesign our new ordering platforms to make the process as easy for the customer as possible, while still giving them plenty of options. We also decided to add features behind the scenes to make our systems interface with other retailers online that sell our products.
- Innovate. While our product line continues to grow (in the next few months, we’ll be adding high-end items to our recognition line, including embedded and engraved crystal awards) there’s no escaping the fact that we’re living in a digital age. I even pay my own bills online instead of using stamps. To keep pace with today’s customer, we’ve begun to create collections that we’ve named the Impress Line. The first collection focuses on tradeshows and events. Now our customers will have a single-source manufacturer who will handle it all, from floor to ceiling. Not only will this make the process a less-stressful one, it will also mean a great deal of savings.
- Embrace Technology. We have a small sales team: three reps, a CSO, and a National Sales Manager. Thanks to our decision to establish an online sales channel, we’ve managed to see a huge return on our collective efforts. Using Ariba Discovery, we’re able to deliver speedy, reliable products to our existing clients and generate qualified leads for new business. As a result, we’ve created a robust, online sales channel and expanded our base of new customers by 65 percent and grow our overall business 20 percent year-over-year. We sell to 60 Fortune 500 companies, and we do almost all of it do through Ariba Discovery. The best way I can describe the service is like a Yellow Pages directory on steroids. We’re now so intertwined with this technology that it’s impossible to think of finding prospects without it.
In fact, Ariba Discovery recently helped our company land a deal with a large bank that had not considered us before due to our small size. We now service nine of the top 10 banks and eight of the top 10 insurance companies in the U.S. These are still important industry focuses for us, but we’re also seeing a turn toward retail, as our product mix has been moving toward signs and marketing items instead of strictly stamps.
Like any good company, we want to provide value to our current clients and find new ways to reach prospects. The traditional sales team is finding new ways to accomplish both of these goals. Sales teams today are more flexible, adaptive, and creative. They’re driven by collaboration and social business. Our business is no exception. By embracing new technology, our family business has managed to navigate around some pretty significant challenges, see significant growth, and achieve sales success, even during the economic downturn.
Now is a great time to invest in new technologies and new ideas. As a minority-owned company in the United States, it feels good that we’re able to offer products that are made right here. We’re not only investing in our company, we’re investing in the future of our families and the families of our employees – many of whom have been with us for decades. That means everything to us.