Choosing the Right Vendor
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Choosing the Right Vendor

Making sure you align your company with vendor partners who will assist you in integrating their new product/service offering long-term are crucial to your success.

By Kathryn Schwartz, Peachtree City Foamcraft

Choosing vendors with all the right qualities for your business will provide success for your business and your clients.

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  • The signage industry is an $11.7 billion dollar industry and the 2012 ISA State of the Industry report projects a significant growth in both outdoor and sustainable, green friendly signage in 2013. The demand for high quality, attractive and durable architectural signage continues to rise as businesses are constantly trying to improve their overall image in hopes that the first impression will mean more business and a healthier bottom line.

    Once you make the decision to jump into a growing market with the goal of improving your bottom line, you need to make sure you are aligned with partners who will assist you as you integrate a new product/service into your offerings.

    There are several factors that influence purchasing designs in the signage industry. As a sign company, it is inevitable that you will have to align yourself with quality manufacturing vendors to ensure you can offer a full range of signage products to your client. When you choose a manufacturer to partner with, do you consider the primary factors that influence your clients purchasing decisions or do you partner purely based upon price?

    We are going to focus on the primary factors that you should take into consideration before partnering with a specific distributor or wholesaler: preference for channel of distribution, financial strength of the manufacturer and expertise.

    Your Competitor or Your Partner?
    The first question you should ask a prospective manufacturer is - Do you sell wholesale only? There are several manufacturers who double-dip, they sell both retail and wholesale making them your partner when convenient and your competitor when profitable. Partnering with a manufacturer who distributes on two fronts could be catastrophic to your business. Protect your business, do your research and align yourself with a 100% Wholesale Only vendor who will always be your partner, and never your competitor.

    Mirror, Mirror
    Any product you sell your client is a direct reflection of your business and your workmanship, even if you did not make the product in your own shop. Remember, the guarantee only lasts as long as the company who gave it is in business. Several manufacturers are closing their doors, as a result of the struggling economy and as quickly as they disappear, so does your guarantee. Find a reputable manfuctacturer who only sells to the sign industry and has a strong financial record - multiple locations and longevity are good indicators. Also beware of manufacturers who disappear and reappear under new ownership, this is not a sign of their financial strength but often a last effort to reorganize and most likely the new ownership WILL NOT guarantee the signs you purchased prior.

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    Tell me what you know
    If you want to be the best, you need to partner with the best. A quality manufacturer will have extensive knowledge, research and visible growth. When you are looking for a wholesale only manufacturer that has considerable financial strength, ask them to explain their product, the manufacturing process, and their experiences. A true expert in the signage industry will be glad to educate you and stand by your side from conception to completion and beyond.

    In addition, be sure to ask the sales representative for any literature or samples they may have. Many manufacturers offer free or low cost literature and samples for you to distribute to your clients. Often the literature/samples provided are "tried and true" already focusing on the features and benefits of the product, eliminating the need for you to spend a great amount of time deciphering the selling points of the product.

    Check Please
    We examined experience, distribution, and financial strength - but often times, the decision comes to price. It is important to note, that when companies are looking for a partner for their business to provide a quality product that will improve the image and profitability of their business, price is not the primary factor.

    The 2012 State of the Industry report published by the International Sign Association (www.signs.org) shed light on the true factors that impact the purchasing agents design for selecting vendors and the results may surprise you.

    The quality of the product a vendor offers was the most influential factor on the purchaser when making a purchase. The next most influential factors were as follows; the relationship the sign shop had with the vendor, price then technical support. Notice that price came in second to last, far behind the quality of the product and the relationship established with the vendor.

    If you base your purchasing decision on price - you will have partnered with a company which either has less expertise, less financial strength or distributes on multiple levels - all factors that can be detrimental to the long-term outlook of your business. The age old saying is true, "You pay for what you get." Protect your business and investigate expertise, financial strength and distribution BEFORE you choose your partner. If not, it could cost you your business.

    Katie Schwartz is the Marketing Coordinator at Peachtree City Foamcraft, the leading supplier of foamcore monument signs and architectural accents. Peachtree City Foamcraft is the only wholesale manufacturer to have their product independently tested and approved to withstand 175 mph winds. katie@ptd.net

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