Monday, May 31, 2010

Manufacturer succeeds by switching focus to customized products

Showcasing experienced entrepreneurs offers an added marketing communications or social media element to help promote their businesses. In addition, it provides a forum through which they can share solutions to unique business challenges that might be the answer to a similar challenge with which yet another entrepreneur is struggling. This openness of information flows with the following story offered by

Michael Boskovic, Chief Strategic Officer
Lingraph Services Co.

Lingraph Services Co. offers a real broad product mix. We focus in three main areas – printed products, packaging materials and promotional items. We go pretty deep vertically within these areas trying to be a one-stop-shop. And, within each of these disciplines we manufacture products as well as subcontract and distribute products.

What sets us apart is that we make it possible for our clients to buy printed products, packaging materials and promotional items all under one roof. It’s our mix of machinery and know-how that allows this. Most often in these areas, manufacturers are set in their product mix and in what they’re willing and able to produce. Clients are stuck within these limitations. Conversely, we are a very custom shop building many items from scratch according to the client’s particular needs. We really try to meet the client on their terms being more solutions-driven rather than confining ourselves to pure product specs.

We really do well for big clients that have robust needs and have what we call program needs meaning something is happening on a daily or weekly basis. These kinds of clients tend to be larger B2C type companies. For example, a retailer with a large national consumer base, or a cataloger, or an Internet-based marketing firm that is selling to a broad populous. That way they are dealing with one entity and they can funnel their broader needs down to us again and again.

Our biggest fundamental challenge was the whole differentiation issue that led us to becoming a manufacturer. The problem that we were seeing, years ago, was that a lot of the product that we were distributing as a broker was becoming very commodity-like and out of our control because the manufacturers were dictating what could and could not be made. Many items were becoming price driven. There was a lot of overseas influence followed by bigger companies buying up smaller companies. It became all about the bottom line and not about relationships. At the time, our existing client base wasn’t looking to us for anything innovative and long-term. We saw this as certain death. Somehow, we needed to reconnect with the clients in a very interactive way. We wondered how we could do that in a way that would make us unique. Manufacturing some of our own wares and controlling our own destiny was the solution. Having no previous manufacturing experience became the biggest part of the challenge. Suddenly, we needed to become proficient in machinery and workflow. From a financial capital perspective we now needed to secure the machinery, the infrastructure, the power and, of course, the people.

We did become a manufacturer allowing us to be the end source for our clients. From a strategic viewpoint, it positions us well. We continue to look for a fit in the marketplace - to see what works and then leveraging that to finding new clients. We’ve learned from sources and clients that there are few, if any, companies that are doing exactly what we’re doing – in-house printing, and packaging product and promotional items manufacturing. Now, we have enough breadth and innovation to be doing things that people in the industry, as well as potential clients, are not used to seeing. So, that’s a good thing!

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