Use social media to get close
to your customers
Proven tips to strengthen
email marketing and drive
visitors to your website
Your products. Your colleagues. Your business.
into customer satisfaction
TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE NEWS
IF YOU CAN EMAIL IT,
YOU CAN PRINT IT. *
HP OFFICEJET PRO
©2011 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. *Requires an Internet connection to the printer. Feature works with any Internet- and e-mail-capable device. Print times may vary. For a list of supported documents
and image types, see www.hp.com/go/ePrintCenter.
B August 2011
INTRODUCING ePRINT FROM HP.
Now, HP’s new web-connected printers have
a unique e-mail address, giving you the freedom
to print from wherever business happens. If you can
e-mail it, you can print it! No need to hook up to your
PC. The world is your offi ce. Welcome to the HP
In the Box
thE linE on ...
As GooD As nEw
thE FinAl worD
Out of the Box
pressures from customers
moving online, and the draw
of the latest big-box initiatives,
independents need to stand out
as never before. One of the best
ways to succeed in the face of growing
competition is to seriously ramp
up involvement with social media.
That’s because understanding and
using what’s being said about your
business online is the foundation to
marketing success. Your chances of
making an emotional connection with
customers improve immeasurably
when social media is added to your
While 14 percent of
people trust ads, 76
percent of people trust
Social media marketing employs
a trust model similar to word of mouth,
which has resulted in phenomenal
success. Studies reveal that while 14
percent of people trust ads, 76 percent
of people trust consumer recommendations
for purchase decisions.
When you build an online community
of loyal users, you gain customer
mindshare, strengthen brand identity,
and become the source of their
own news. When you take a step into
the world of social media, you’ll get
people talking about your products,
announcements, and content. With
those benefits, it’s easy to see why
companies increasingly are adopting
social media marketing.
Azerty, A Division of United Stationers Supply
Expand your possibilities
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The Line On...
| ... news | ... office products | ... tech | ... Jansan | ... breakroom | ... Furniture | ... kudos |
GO GREEN, GET GREEN!
Green CyCle is a Great new CartridGe reCyClinG
proGram from United stationers. Approximately
100 million new toner cartridges are produced each
year and our Green Cycle program provides an environmentally
responsible solution for empty ink and toner cartridges
your customers generate, while helping you earn top dollar. Green
Cycle also helps reduce the consumption of fossil fuels needed to
produce the plastic in each cartridge.
All of the materials collected through our Green
Cycle program are either reused or recycled.
When your customers recycle their
empty cartridges, they can help
save nearly 4 million cubic feet of
landfill space. And recycling with
Green Cycle could not be easier.
Customers fill pre-supplied
Our cartridge recycling program can earn you top dollar
shipping boxes with used laser, fax, ink, and copier cartridges. Once
full, customers can return the boxes to you or ship them directly to our
recycling center using the pre-paid UPS shipping label.
Green Cycle pays maximum market value for cartridges with a
rapid payment program to get money in your hands as soon as possible!
Resellers who participate in the program receive a fee for each qualifying
cartridge returned. Green Cycle pays top dollar for empties as
pricing is updated monthly based upon demand and market trends. And
payments are made rapidly; resellers receive a check six to eight weeks
after their empties are returned.
Green Cycle is replacing Link 360 with many enhancements;
all Link 360 participants will be automatically registered for
GO GREEN Contact your Azerty sales rep today to sign up and start
earning cash for your empties!
The Line On ...
4 August 2011
improvements to the alera
fUrnitUre line, United
stationers fUrnitUre division
annoUnCed that its entire
alera fUrnitUre line is
GreeenGUard Certified for
indoor air QUality. This
certification identifies goods,
such as furniture, with low
chemical and particle emissions
for use indoors.
Governing the integrity of
the certification process, The
Institute rigorously tests products
for more than 10,000 volatile organic compounds. Certified products
emit the fewest possible chemicals into the indoor environment; are
suitable for use in environments where children and others work, play,
or reside; and contribute to the creation of healthier interiors.
While printer sales were
generally down in April,
there were a few bright
spots in the market
there was some Growth in
printer sales volUme dUrinG
april 2011, bUt revenUes
deClined almost aCross the
board. Here are the latest market
details as reported in the most
recent Printer Market Pulse from The NPD Group.
Unit sales in the single-function mono laser printer segment increased
14 percent in April 2011, while revenue dropped 10 percent
from April 2010. In March, the category experienced a 14 percent
increase in revenue with a 2 percent drop in unit sales. Once again, HP
and Lexmark lead the category in year-over-year unit growth rates.
April 2011 unit sales in the single-function color laser segment
increased 8 percent, and revenue was up 7 percent over April 2010.
Four of the top six brands posted year-over-year improvements in unit
volume: HP (up 15 percent), Lexmark (up 51 percent), Brother (up
9 percent), and Ricoh (up 13 percent). HP held eight out of the top ten
“Receiving this esteemed
certification is a momentous
event in the history of the Alera
line,” said Geneva Savage, brand
manager of United Stationers Furniture
Division. “As an important
differentiator in today’s increasingly
this certification will give dealers
a tremendous advantage in the
bidding process, helping to
expand their market share.”
The Alera furniture portfolio
has more than 20 product lines
with styles ranging from traditional
to contemporary. Its broad
range of more than 600 SKUs
includes office suites, desk chairs,
conference and training tables,
bookcases, storage cabinets,
pedestal desks, reception furniture,
and wire furniture and
shelving. All Alera products are
in stock for immediate delivery,
are backed by a five-year warranty, and meet ANSI/BIFMA standards.
BREATHE EASY For more information about Alera furniture, contact your Azerty sales rep.
unit share spots with its LaserJet
Pro CP1525NW leading with a unit
share of 14.6 percent and an
average price of $197.
The MFP mono laser segment
was up 6 percent in unit sales for
April 2011, while revenue was
down 4 percent. Only three of the
top six brands posted positive
year-over-year unit increases, including
HP (up 27 percent), Samsung
(up 217 percent), and Xerox
(up 45 percent).
Unit sales for the multifunction
color laser segment for the month of April increased 36 percent over
last April, while revenue was up 42 percent. All top-six brands posted a
year-over-year revenue increase, including HP (up 45 percent), Lexmark
(up 165 percent), Brother (up 20 percent), Xerox (up 3 percent), Canon
(up 93 percent), and Okidata (up 62 percent).
The MFP inkjet category decreased its year-over-year unit sales in
April 2011 by 23 percent, while revenue dropped 36 percent.
GET THE FACTS For more information on NPD Research Reports, send an e-mail to
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The Line On ...
6 August 2011
Introducing New HON seating that’s
perfectly priced for any office
United stationers and the hon Company are teaminG Up to
brinG United’s resellers a variety of refreshinG, stylish, and
attraCtive mesh Chairs jUst in time for the heat of sUmmer.
All of these chairs will be stocked beginning July 2011 and will be
cataloged beginning in 2012.
Two chairs will be exclusive to United through the end of the year.
The BSX VL702MM10 is a curvy, mesh high-back designed to complement
the Basyx VL700 family; this chair lists for $439. And the BSX
VL573VB10 is a sleek, high-back mesh chair that looks great next to its
mid-back counterpart, the BSXVL571; it’s attractively priced at $321 list.
Four more chairs—sure-to-be-superstars—are being stocked
beginning July 2011:
The VL300 nesting chairs are available with or without arms and are
the perfect addition to training rooms. Casters and a flip-up seat make
portability and storage a snap. Easy on the eyes and on the wallet, this
pair is ready for introduction to the market at winning list prices—BSX
VL301MM10 with arms lists for $270, and BSX VL302MM10 without
arms lists for $260.
Nucleus is a multifunction work chair, which uses unique materials
and innovative construction to deliver surprising comfort without bulky
padding. The back features multidirectional stretch mesh that provides
lumbar support exactly where you need it. This contemporary chair
supports up to 300 pounds and is backed by HON’s limited lifetime
warranty. United is bringing this chair to you in two color options: the
black mesh back with a black upholstered seat (HON N1AHIMNT10SB),
and a fog mesh back with black upholstered seat (HON N1AHIFNT10SB).
Both chairs list for $759 each.
Three reasons to take another look at Innovera
innovera has been known for hiGh-QUality standards and
exCeptional CUstomer serviCe sinCe its inCeption. Innovera is
the value leader with core technology accessories and compatibles
manufactured to OEM standards and backed with best-in-class warranty
Now you can look to Innovera for a number of additional advantages:
1. Beginning July 1, most of the top 50 percent of Innovera SKUs by
volume sold by United Stationers will have new lower pricing; many
other items will also have lower prices.
2. The industry’s broadest product offering will be expanded further.
3. All Innovera products will be made available next day through
United’s Wrap & Label distribution program.
SELL MORE Call your Azerty sales rep today for more information on the Innovera line.
A UNITED STATIONERS WHOLESALE EXCLUSIVE!
GET STARTED Talk to your Azerty sales rep to add these great chairs to your furniture
The Line On ...
8 August 2011
mPS mADE EASY
United Managed Print Service
launches HQueue Basic
United’s manaGed print serviCe has laUnChed
hQUeUe basiC, a UniQUe proGram in the
marketplaCe that provides aCCess to the
indUstry-leadinG hQUeUe software platform
in a flexible, easy-to-Understand, sUpport
and deploy paCkaGe. It provides the unique
ability for resellers to monitor their customers’ print/
copier fleet and deliver supplies or services as they
With HQueue Basic, resellers will have complete
visibility to their customers’ print and copier environment.
HQueue Basic doesn’t include automatic toner
fulfillment or service, but resellers are still able to
maintain full control of their customers’ experience
while supporting them with the toner and services
of their choice.
In addition, resellers have an easy migration
path to full HQueue Managed Print without having
to introduce new software. Resellers can take control
of their customers’ print environment, monitor it, start
supporting it with supply deliveries as they do today,
and over time introduce a full managed print solution
if so desired.
MONITOR THE FLEET Please contact your Azerty sales representative
for additional details.
Furniture Division offers resellers
a new turnkey office suite program
United stationers fUrnitUre division has Collaborated with bUsh bUsiness
fUrnitUre to offer resellers a nUmber of preConfiGUred offiCe sUites
Combined with an easy orderinG proCess. This high-margin program is easy
to sell and eliminates reseller concerns about delivery, installation, follow-up, or other
The program features several popular and proven modular office suites that have
been pre-configured and are offered as single-SKU bundles. Pre-configured choices
remove specification work from the sales process and simplify the selection process
for the customer. The program includes a wide variety of commercial-grade furniture
choices covering multiple styles as well as individual workstations, and all are offered
at attractive prices with built-in margins for the reseller.
Nationwide delivery and installation are key components, and the reseller doesn’t
need to get involved with any of the details. Two options are offered at different price
levels. With delivery only, product is delivered to the threshold. (Note that on large
orders of three or more bundles, delivery will be to the room of choice.) Delivery with
installation includes—in a single visit—delivery to room of choice, product setup and
placement, waste removal, product wipe-down, and leveling.
This new offering can open new markets for resellers as it targets new consumer
and geographic segments. The pre-configured suites are well-suited for small business
customers, especially end users who need a simple, fast, and affordable furniture
solution. This furniture is perfect for start-ups, growing businesses, and relocations, as well
as remote offices or home offices, which can take resellers into the residential market.
Delivery typically occurs within five to seven business days, and delivery with
installation is usually nine to 12 days after entry of your order. The program covers all zip
codes within the continental United States, although some remote zip codes may require
additional lead time.
“This turnkey program not only streamlines the specification process for resellers,
but also offers easy-to-understand and flexible options for customers,” said Melinda
Myers, director of marketing for United Stationers Furniture Division. “It enables resellers
to sell and service customers both in and outside of their local areas, potentially expanding
their reach and market share.”
EXPAND SALES Talk to your Azerty sales rep for more details on this innovative new program.
commitment with teeth.
Introducing Hammermill ® Great White ® 50, made with 50% post-consumer fi ber.
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Social media offer the opportunity to get
closer to your customers
oday, 93 percent of all B2B markets
are engaged in social media marketing,
according to a BtoB.com 2011
survey of 577 marketers. It revealed
LinkedIn as the most-used channel,
employed by 72 percent of survey
respondents, with Facebook (71
percent) and Twitter (67 percent)
being nearly as popular. Together,
these three form the core of most B2B
marketers’ social media programs,
with other online destinations such as YouTube and blogging somewhere
in the mix. At this rate, it follows that today’s independent business products
resellers looking for new marketing channels might seriously consider integrating
social media into their marketing plans. Defining it and learning how
others are applying it to their businesses are the first steps to take.
Improve Customer Interaction
The goal of social media marketing for business is to interact with customers
and prospects to generate kinship between those two groups and your
organization. This relationship can help drive purchases, purchase intent,
or loyalty to generate more revenue and customers, according to Jay Baer,
president, Convince & Convert, Bloomington, Ind., and author of The Now
Revolution. “Social media allows that to happen. There is always that notion
that you want to try to build a rapport with people because, once established,
the chance that they will either purchase from you or refer you to
someone else goes up considerably,” says Baer. “That can be a challenge
because companies haven’t historically acted like people. Now business
10 August 2011
owners are being told to ‘take your company and act
like a person,’ which is sometimes a tough concept
to get your head around.”
“Social media marketing is all about a concept
I call ‘sideways marketing,’” says Loren McDonald,
vice president, industry relations, Silverpop, Atlanta.
“That idea opens up opportunities for your customers—or
prospects and fans—to actually market to
each other on your behalf.” For example, a prospect
asks a question looking for feedback about your
business products company. What you really want
is for one of your satisfied customers—or fans—to
jump into that conversation and talk about how great
your company is, what great service and value you
provide, and let the community do the selling for you,
How to Use Social media
“Our Facebook postings aren’t always sales-based,” says Ted Walter,
president, Complete Office CA, Poway, Calif. “Often there might be
no connection to a product or solution that we offer, but just more
12 August 2011
informative content, such as our
social involvement within the
community or timely information
that would be of value to
our followers.” What differentiates
traditional unsolicited email
blasts and a Facebook posting is
that social media followers make
the decision to stay connected
and form more of an intimate
relationship with your company,
Schwegman’s Office Supply,
Batesville, Ark., features manufacturers’
videos on its Facebook
page, says owner Robin King. “One month we ran a vendor’s video on
recycling milk jugs into packaging materials, while near a Christmas
holiday we posted a crafting video on ways to dress up ornaments and
cards,” says King. “We’ve also initiated trivia contests on Facebook.
This allows customers to engage in a more personal relationship
with us. It’s not just a brand pushing out one-way, sales-related
UNLIkE EMAIL RECIPIENTS, SOCIAL MEDIA
FOLLOWERS DECIDE TO STAY CONNECTED
AND FORM AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP
WITH YOUR COMPANY.
information,” adds King.
“Our Facebook postings are designed to let our customers see
the personal side of our company,” says Robin Baxley, owner, Best
Office Solutions, Waynesboro, Ga. Best is located in a rural community;
within that setting, it made sense for employees to promote the
company on their personal Facebook pages. “This way, it didn’t take
long to create a company following. We ran a contest and had our
employees refer to it on their own Facebook pages. It was a very successful
effort,” she says. “We’ve also created a Straight Off the Desk Of
series of YouTube videos.” Videos showcase a favorite office product
of a Best employee. The employee gives a product testimonial, which
links to a product demonstration that outlines benefits and features,
Establishing Social marketing Goals
When determining social media marketing goals, you really need to
tie objectives to your marketing plan, explains Laura Gayle, United’s
vice president of marketing. “To help resellers better understand
the process, United is launching a Social Media Tool Kit that will
be offered through our dealer training unit,” she says (see Great
Resources, page 36). This training module includes a series of videos
that will act as a primer to help resellers determine how these social
media tools actually fit into their marketing programs, says Gayle.
“It will ask all the pertinent questions—What is your goal? Are you
wanting to raise brand awareness? Do you want to promote certain
products or build brand loyalty?”
We look at our goals in two different ways, explains Staci Korske,
marketing coordinator, New England Office Supply, Braintree, Mass.
“We have general social media goals, and we have specific goals for
each social media platform,” she says. “In general, our goals include
competitive differentiation, growth, brand awareness, relationship
building, and increasing traffic to our website, while our Facebook
and blogging goals are designed around providing value.”
Establishing a viable social media marketing plan initially comes
from the standpoint of helpfulness, says Baer. “Can you answer questions
about business products on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Facebook,
or on a blog? Can you create a series of educational materials that
show people the best ways to shop for these kinds of products, the
right questions to ask, or tips and troubleshooting advice to help customers
instead of turning social media into a commercial?” he asks.
“Social media marketing doesn’t generate instant return as might an
ad that people reply to with an order—or quid pro quo. It’s more quid,
then a bunch of other stuff happens, and then comes quo,” says Baer.
Building the Right Content
“Leveraging your social media content is a trial-and-error process,”
says Mandy Pusatera, director, eMarketing and social networking, The
Highlands Group, Atlanta. Customers in the Midwest, for example,
might react differently to a video than customers in the Southeast.
“Once you figure out who your target market is and how they might
designed to let
see the personal
side of our
— robin baxley
best office solutions
respond, then you’ll have a better idea of what you should be posting,”
says Pusatera. The resulting content should follow a general
profile of gaining trust and making personal connections by providing
information people can use to better their businesses.
“Social media forces companies to be more human, more
personal, and personable—more transparent,” says McDonald.
“It has made them drop the corporate speak and actually have
real humans behind their ‘faceless’ messages.” It’s a real employee
answering incoming questions on LinkedIn, having a dialogue on
Twitter, or engaging in conversation through Facebook, he continues.
Furthermore, the best content isn’t content that marketing teams
create around the conference table. The best content comes from
a happy customer posting a positive story about what a great experience
they had with your company, and you’re capturing that content
and redistributing it to a much larger audience,” says McDonald.
“The messaging is different,” says Korske, “as is the way the
content is projected.” Instead of just featuring a product in a weekly
email, you can now inject your own opinion about the product,
sharing any personal experiences you may have had with it, she says.
“At the same time, you can start a conversation by asking if anyone
else has tried the product and what their opinion of it might be.”
making It Personal
Unlike traditional marketing communication channels that allow
specific messages to be distributed to specific audiences, social
media’s capability to do the same is somewhat limited. But it has its
own advantages over traditional methods. “It’s very difficult using
traditional marketing to hit the same number of users, fans, or people
who are connected to you through social media,” says Walter. If you’re
doing a good job of keeping your content fresh and compelling, you’ll
create demand for others to follow or stay connected,” he says.
“Marketing is getting to be a little more fun through social media
because it’s gotten a little more personal,” says Baxley. “We consistently
distribute the flyers United furnishes to get product information
out into the marketplace. But, at the same time, we’re developing
a relationship with our customers through social media because we
truly care about them,” she says. “We feel if we help them become
successful, we will be successful,” states Baxley. On the back end,
Gayle says that United monitors a number of social media streams to
hear what’s being said about the company. “In the event that there is
something out there we need to address, we can intercept those comments
and get them off public conversation right away,” she states.
“With social media, people who don’t work for your company
could be promoting your brand message,” says Baer. It’s harder
to segment your audience using social media, according to Baer,
because social media marketing is more like indirect marketing.
“I call it ‘tapping into the opportunity economy,’ which is not direct
selling, but it could still lead to a sale,” he says. For example, if you’re
‘listening’ on any of the social media platforms and discover someone
saying that they are moving their business to your city, you could
jump into the conversation and offer to help find a new location for
them and casually mention that you sell business products, says Baer.
Tracking and running social media reports can be achieved using
a variety of available programs, according to Pusatera. HootSuite
lets you post to multiple social networks at once, including Facebook
and Twitter, using the HootSuite dashboard. It also generates custom
reports that track brand sentiment and follower growth, and incorporates
Facebook Insights and Google Analytics, all without leaving
the dashboard, according to HootSuite.com. “Bit.ly is also a great
site for tracking how many times your posts were clicked on,” says
Pusatera. “The provider that we’re using for our blog actually has
14 August 2011
Our office is moving to Chicago, need to look for new furniture.
Looking for furniture for our new offices in Chicago.
Chicago is Great! Did you know I sell office furniture, I can help.
metrics built in,” says Korske, “so we’re able to see the number of
viewers, subscribers, and new visits that we have to our website.
We use Google Analytics to see what kind of traffic is being driven to
our website from our blog,” she says.
Social media is eminently measurable because it is all online,
says Baer. Typically, you want to pick three numbers that make sense
and measure those over time. “Those could be awareness, positive
social mentions, or business rating reviews found on sites like Yelp,”
he adds. “Also measure the traffic to your website, your blog, and
your LinkedIn activity, which will all help determine the impact social
media is having on your business.”
With the rapid social media explosion, there’s no doubt that something
more is coming soon. Upcoming trends include social customer
relationship management (CRM), according to McDonald. “It’s going
to get to the point where we’re basically pulling in interactions, behavior,
and data on a customer or prospect from multiple channels,” he
says. It goes beyond the current CRM database information we collect
on customer behavior; with social CRM, you’ll be able to add their
social media behavior and score them on it, he states. “At that point,
you’ll be able to send a triggered message to someone tweeting a
specific question about a specific product,” says McDonald.
A lot of social media and Web marketing are being geared toward
smartphones, says Korske. “That will continue to the point where we’ll
have to consider how our marketing will look on a mobile device.”
There will be a lot more one-stop-shop type social media sites that
For more details, download
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will allow everything to be done in one place—eShopping, video
uploading, blogging, linking, and so on, according to Pusatera. “I also
think a big change will come, making it easier for B2B companies
selling to audiences across the board to segment their target markets,”
she says. In addition, video consumption continues to soar, says
Baer. “Companies will need to think of themselves as their own TV
station starting now. They need to get comfortable making videos and
creating content in the video format.”
To integrate social media effectively into your marketing plan, you
need to understand what level of effort you can commit to it, says
Gayle. “How does it fit into your plans, where do you want it to take
you? If you don’t know what to do—watch, listen, and learn.”
“I see more office products resellers getting involved in social
media marketing,” says King. “Today, I believe more than 50 percent
of independents are engaged in some form of it and that’s increasing
daily.” This is a good sign. Eventually, every company is going to
have to be social—customers will simply demand it, says Baer. “If
you don’t, your silence will be deafening.” However, those resellers
who take advantage of United’s social media training should be
heard loud and clear.
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Photos: Steve Anderson
16 August 2011
Aloha! todd leong, president, Cos,
signals the shaka sign greeting that
reflects Cos’s philosophy of providing
extraordinary customer service.
If you ask Todd Leong, president of California Office Systems (COS),
Santa Ana, Calif., to tell you about the marketing success of COS, he’ll
modestly tell you that marketing isn’t a strength at his company. Upon
examination, however, it quickly becomes apparent that many of the
best strategies for integrated marketing campaigns result from what
COS personnel do almost instinctively.
“Everyone here goes out there and gives 100 percent to grow the
business so the company not only survives—but becomes stronger,”
says Leong. The commitment of the company’s personnel to act on
those instincts provides a strong foundation for excellence in retention,
acquisition, and growth programs.
COS began in business in 1990 selling Toshiba copiers, and for
a long time the company operated exclusively in the machines area.
With a customer base and infrastructure already in place, selling office
supplies seemed a natural progression. Customers already purchased
18 August 2011
Our success in tOday’s business climate
custOmer service and Our wOrk ethic.
— todd leong
California office systems
these products, so why not position COS as the source?
In 2006, office supplies and furniture were added to the mix, and
today the company is a one-stop office solutions provider specializing
in multifunctional printing devices, office furniture and supplies, and
IT services at what Leong refers to as “megastore pricing.” “Our success
in today’s business climate is due to our employees’ dedication
to customer service and our work ethic,” says Leong. Since adding
office supplies and furniture to the mix, the company has been on a
roll, and it has averaged more than 30 percent growth on the supply
side annually for the past three years.
“We’ve been able to merge our different product lines and offer
them to our core machine customers,” explains Chris Alexander,
director of office supplies, who joined the company to facilitate the
expansion into office product sales. A couple of experienced salespeople
were brought on to sell supplies and furniture, and also begin
the process of selling copiers and machines to supply customers.
“We’ve done a good job of meshing the businesses,” says Alexander.
Six outside salespeople cover a 50-mile radius around Santa Ana,
Calif. Three sell supplies, two sell machines, and one sells both categories.
Most category cross-selling to supply and machine customers is
handled through communications. Salespeople will pass along referrals
and assist in appointment setting.
On the Acquisition Trail
Adding supply category sales to the machine side of the business
is just one example of the company’s intense acquisition efforts. The
Southern California market is highly competitive—especially for
office supply sales—and COS relishes the opportunity to go head-
to-head with its big-box competitors. “Once you’ve done business
with Staples or Office Depot, you are usually open to a different
experience,” says Alexander. “We offer that difference in terms of
experience, but maintain competitive pricing.”
Acquisition efforts have led the company to target national account
sales to organizations based in the area with outlying locations
across the country. “As long as the headquarters we sold to were
located within our delivery zone, we knew we could use United’s
NED (Nationwide Express Delivery) program to service them,” says
Alexander. “We felt it would be beneficial to expand beyond the
mid-market business and actually compete on a larger scale.” These
efforts have become a part of the company’s acquisition campaign
and have helped keep COS on a healthy growth track.
When the company queries its base of newly acquired customers,
it learns that they seem to be happiest because they’re able to
is due tO Our emplOyees’ dedicatiOn tO
develop a relationship with an inside salesperson. “The biggest
frustration we hear from customers we’ve picked up over the years is
that they have become tired of being a number,” continues Alexander.
COS offers its customers an antidote to this approach. “We don’t have
a call center, so you will never call an 800 number and get someone
who doesn’t know you or your account,” he says.
Every customer is assigned to a dedicated customer service rep,
and that person is available via email, phone calls, or text message.
“Customers find it refreshing,” says Alexander. “Should a problem
ever arise, they know exactly who to contact and their issue will be
resolved. They still have contact with the outside rep, but they just love
the fact that there’s someone here between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every
day they can connect with.”
Responding to Customers’ Needs
COS loves to get feedback from customers, and it leverages that feedback
to adapt its approach to meet customers’ individual needs. “We
do a lot of customizing on an individual basis,” says Alexander. For
instance, if a customer wants its billing statements modified, COS is
happy to accommodate. “Office Depot wouldn’t allow that. All of
its procedures are standardized and they have to be followed exactly.
There can be no variation.”
Even though big-box stores are its largest competition, COS also
recognizes that big-box customers serve as one of its best sources for
new business. When mistakes happen, and they invariably do, how the
big-box stores respond is frequently the difference between account
retention and loss. “Do those customers get the runaround?” asks
Alexander. “Do they have to make 15 phone calls to make it right?
“When California Office Systems makes a mistake, and we do
make mistakes, it’s how we react that makes the difference,” he continues.
“Customers don’t need to make 15 phone calls. They need to
make one.” It’s not uncommon for COS to spot a mistake before the
customer has a chance to notice, and then its employees work behind
the scenes to correct the problem and ensure it never happens again.
That’s the difference between doing business with COS and the bigbox
sellers. “The message we would like to get to our customers is
that when the chips are down, we’re going to make it up to you as
quickly as possible,” adds Alexander.
That sort of response makes every account feel they’re significant
and important, no matter their size. “Although everyone claims they
offer the best service, no one is really able to offer the ‘best’ service,”
says Leong. Excellence at customer service is all about keeping customers
satisfied. It’s also critical for winning new sales. “It’s important
that you recover when you don’t deliver on the first go-around. How you
respond to a customer’s needs determines your success. It’s not about
offering an apology—it’s about making a positive out of a negative.”
Much of that challenge falls on the shoulders of the sales rep. “It’s
the personality that comes with an experienced salesperson,” says
Leong. “Experienced salespeople somehow have that ability to keep
customers happy even when there is a problem.”
In its ongoing dealings with customers and prospects, COS relies
on catalogs and flyers that are key components of its partnership with
United. Everything for the Workplace, Furniture Solutions and United’s
Green Catalog are sent annually, while flyers covering JanSan, breakroom,
and furniture are sent quarterly. “These are all good marketing
materials, and they get our name and company logo out to our customers
on a regular basis,” says Alexander. “We use them regularly.”
This year, COS selected United’s Mail Direct program to get these
materials into the hands of its customers. “Now that we have a larger
volume of national accounts as well as accounts outside our service
area, it just made more sense,” says Alexander. “Mail Direct allows us
to reach these customers more efficiently on a regular basis.”
The versatility of catalog marketing is such that these tools can be
used for penetration with an existing customer base, and are equally
effective for acquisition efforts. Yet when a salesperson is across the
desk from a prospect, an Everything for the Workplace catalog might
be more than that person wants or needs at that point. COS salespeople
will leave behind a quarterly flyer instead or use customized PDF
printouts from United’s Resellers Classified Zone. These PDFs perform
double duty by also serving as monthly promotional flyers.
Strong Growth Continues
The company’s attention to sales and marketing activities apparently
pays off, as evidenced by strong supply sales for the first three months
of this year, indicating continued growth. “It’s likely to be the fourth year
in a row where we come in ahead of the game on the supply side,” says
Alexander. The acquisition of new accounts, continued penetration of the
machine account base, and a high retention rate have all contributed to
the company’s growth.
Efforts to maintain and improve customer satisfaction have also
resulted in a retention rate in the high 90s. “Every company has to grow a
minimum of 10 percent a year to survive,” says Alexander. “The last thing
we want to do is grow 15 percent or 20 percent each year and have a
retention rate of 70 percent. That wouldn’t do us any good.” It’s the goal of
every independent reseller. “Once we’ve established a long-term
relationship with a customer, we want to keep them.”
20 August 2011
Going, Going Green
By helping customers
go green, National Eco
Wholesale (NEW) is thriving
in the green marketplace
A 2010 study reports that 70 percent of Americans
at least sometimes consider
the environmental impact of
their purchases, which is a
promising increase from 2008,
when the economy went south
along with green product sales.
It’s also a good indication that
resellers looking to grow their
green business should jump
on the eco-friendly bandwagon
now—while nationwide enthusiasm
continues to rebound
and before the competition can
land the burgeoning business.
National Eco Wholesale,
Inc. (NEW), headquartered
in Boulder, Colo., established
itself in the green market early
last year, and the company is
now taking full advantage of
the eco-friendly market’s upturn
by expanding its product selection.
One aspect of its expansion
involves a recently formed
partnership with United.
right away that
united gave us a
to bring together
a couple thousand
impact in green
and reach out to
focus on office
supplies or work
— melissa hauser
national Eco wholesale
NEW is the nation’s first specialty distributor of
exclusively natural and sustainable products. Its
founder and CEO, Steve Savage, has been instrumental
in increasing awareness of environmental
issues and sustainability for the past 20 years, and
through NEW he is strengthening his commitment
to bringing effective and innovative green products
into the mainstream.
Expanding Green Sales
Speaking to Savage’s goal, NEW works with some
retailers but primarily e-retailers, serving as a
“virtual” warehouse filled with a wide variety
of products and providing fulfillment/drop ship
services. The corporate mission, as stated on its
website, is to give retailers and e-retailers a reliable
and knowledgeable source for high-quality,
eco-friendly products at competitive prices. By
partnering with United, NEW strengthened this
overarching objective, and its customers can now
log onto the company website to access an Excel
file with 2,000 green product SKUs from United.
NEW’s e-commerce customers use this file to build
their own websites with United’s products.
“In the past, NEW’s typical e-retail customer
catered to the average stay-at-home-mom online
shopper, who’s oriented more toward household
goods,” explains Melissa Hauser,
NEW’s director of sales. “So
partnering with United opened
up a whole new channel for us.
We recognized right away that
United gave us a great opportunity
to bring together a couple
thousand SKUs, make an immediate
impact in green office
supplies, and reach out to
e-retailers that focus on office
Continued on page 22
Photos: Steve Z Photography
A bright future:
melissa hauser, director
of sales, and CEo steve
savage are expanding
nEw in tandem with the
Going, Going Green
supplies or work with commercial businesses.”
In addition to being a distributor of entirely eco-friendly products,
NEW also helps its customers understand the best practices to
market green products. One of Hauser’s top tips is to approach green
sales with a slow and steady approach. “In our minds, any step that
lessons your environmental impact is a positive
step,” she says. “Absolutely everything counts. So
if a business or customer wants to go green, but
they’re hesitating because they think that means
cleaning out every single supply, buying all new
products, and incurring a huge financial expense,
you have to explain that’s not the way to go. No
one is saying that you have to lose money to go
green. Even more importantly, throwing out and
then replacing creates waste—and that’s not green
at all! So we encourage customers to take small
steps. When a product needs to be replaced, take
care of that. But don’t go in and try to start fresh.”
One small step that resellers can take ASAP—and
potentially achieve big results—is introducing
customers to any eco-friendly products made from
recycled plastics or alternative materials meant
to replace conventional plastic products. With oil
prices soaring and expected to climb even higher,
Hauser points out that prices for conventional plastic
goods are on the rise. This is closing the price
gap between traditionally less-expensive plastic
products and their eco-friendly options.
For example, if a customer currently stocks
the breakroom with plastic cups, it’s a good time
to do a cost comparison with corn plastic cups.
“You may find the green option actually saves
money—or at least comes in at the same price,”
Hauser suggests. “I think we’re going to see many
instances where the cost of products made from
recycled or alternative plastic materials will be
competitive in price with virgin plastic products.”
Another small step, specifically for a customer
looking to go green with cleaning products and
tools, is to suggest replacing paper towels with
reusable cloth towels. “It’s a smaller investment
upfront and also a choice that lasts for several
months, so in the end it could very well be a
decision that saves money,” Hauser stresses.
While helping a customer convert to eco-friendly business products
may call for a slow, steady pace, Hauser is quick to add that the payoff
is generally a long-lasting relationship. “Once a company implements
green solutions, they rarely revert to non-green choices,” she says.
“So, for example, if you have a customer who moves away from
Styrofoam cups and into recycled cups, you usually won’t see
them step backwards.”
22 August 2011
CUSTOMERS CAN NOW ... ACCESS
AN EXCEL FILE WITH 2,000 GREEN
PRODUCT SkU’S FROM UNITED.
Going full circle, it’s that slow and steady pace that helps maintain
such a high level of continued green loyalty from customers, Hauser
says. “When you help customers take small steps, they’re able to
make thoughtful decisions that are good financially as well as environmentally.
And they’re decisions that customers can keep in place.
So I would say that overnight skyrocketing green sales isn’t likely. But
we’re already seeing the market rebound and I’m confident that it will
continue to gain strength. We just have to take it slow and steady.”
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Our software supports your company from backend
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24 August 2011
The JanSan market gives customers added convenience
and resellers added revenue
The good news is that every business needs JanSan products. From
coffee creamer and paper cups for the breakroom to general supplies
like paper towels, cleaning tools, and garbage can liners, there’s a
consistent need, and every customer, no matter how small or large,
uses at least some of these products, 9 to 5, five days a week.
What’s the bad news? Nothing! It’s a quickly growing product
category that gives resellers a great opportunity for incremental sales.
If there is any “bad news” attached to JanSan products, it comes from
the customer’s perspective because buying products like toilet paper
isn’t exactly uppermost on the office manager’s mind—at least until
the stuff runs out. Then it’s bad news for everyone. And it’s this precise
sort of situation that gives a reseller the perfect opportunity to lay
down the convenience card. Encourage customers to include
scheduled cleaning supply and paper product deliveries with their
office supply orders, and now you’ve just made the customer’s life
a lot easier while also increasing your sales.
Offering to make your customers’ lives easier comes with another
benefit, says Lynn Pettus, president, Pettus Office Products, Little Rock,
Ark. “It helps tighten our relationship with that customer. And it’s one
step closer to having them buy everything from us.”
Cleaning Up with Convenience
When it comes to increasing sales by offering existing customers the
added convenience of one-stop shopping, Pettus has the best success
with small to medium-size customers. These
are the businesses most likely to value one-stop
shopping and sweeping customer service, as
their staffs are often undermanned and overworked.
To reach even greater success with this
captive audience, Pettus selects a few specific
items to cost out at highly competitive prices,
such as paper towels. It seals the deal quickly
and opens the door for Pettus Office Products
to introduce additional JanSan products with
each new order.
Craig Lund, president, Value Added Business Services, Columbus,
Ohio, strongly supports the customer convenience element when
it comes to growing JanSan sales, and his business does it with oldworld
personal attention. “We still do inventories at customer locations,”
Lund explains. “I’ve got two full-time people who do nothing but that.
They’ve got their routes, they go out and see their people, and they
figure out what the business needs. And they cover a great amount
of geography—probably about 500 miles a week between maybe
100 customers. That’s a lot of personal attention, and it helps take care
of the burden of price objection.”
Wiping Out the Competition
While convenience is a strong pull for many customers, Pettus
stresses that you still have to keep costs competitive. “Between the
Walmarts and the distributors, there’s a lot of competition in this
category. On some items, you’ll have to lower your margins. Just keep
reminding yourself that the goal here is to get your customers to buy
everything from you.”
To be price competitive, a reseller has to know the JanSan
business. For example, Lund says, you might approach a customer
expecting a reasonable 15 percent margin on paper towels or toilet
paper. These items in particular carry the same low margin as copy
paper, and if you don’t price them right, you’ll likely end up looking
foolish. “If you don’t know the JanSan business—really know what’s
going on—you can maybe hope to achieve a 3 or 4 percent growth,
based only on the convenience factor. You can do a lot better, of
course, but that means you have to really keep your head in the
business and take it seriously,” Lund says.
For the reseller who’s new to JanSan or just getting started, Pettus
suggests beginning with one or two specific product categories. This
speeds up the learning process, because you’ll need to study fewer
pricing patterns, and it keeps it manageable. Paper towels and can
liners, two huge categories in the JanSan arena, are a good place
to start, Pettus says. “Everyone’s buying paper towels. But when I say
paper towels, remember, there are hand towels, fan-fold towels,
automatic-dispenser towels—it’s a huge category with a lot to learn.”
Spreading the word that Pettus Office Products sells JanSan is
handled via email as well as printed flyers. Email blasts focus on special
pricings, and at least one email each month carries an attached
SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIzE
CUSTOMERS ARE THE
BUSINESSES MOST LIkELY
TO VALUE ONE-STOP
SHOPPING AND SWEEPING
United Stationers JanSan flyer. In support of the email campaign,
a printed United JanSan flyer is tucked into every order box. “We
send out emails three or four times a month and always to our entire
customer base,” Pettus says. “Then we refer to the most recent email
in every phone call with a customer and out in the field, too.”
At Value Added Business Services, a full-time staff that’s solely
dedicated to JanSan products promotes the company’s product line
and selection. “We acquired a JanSan dealer with a 40-year history,
and that made it very easy for us to get into
the business,” Lund says. “With the purchase,
we also gained the staff’s industry
expertise and knowledge.”
Promoting a Polished Win
For resellers who aren’t looking to purchase
a dealership, however, Lund has a viable
solution. “I would strongly urge you to hire
a full-time JanSan salesperson—somebody
who’s been in JanSan sales for a while. I tried this on my own in the
beginning, and we grew a little, but it certainly wasn’t enough. It was
a head-scratcher until we figured out that experience in this category
is vital for success.”
Of course, a full-time, dedicated sales rep takes you right back to
that convenience factor because a specific go-to person, who handles
all of a business’s ongoing JanSan needs, makes life much simpler
and easier. Suddenly, one-stop shopping with your company is
making a whole lot of sense.
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26 August 2011
e-soluTIons for business
Proven tips to strengthen
email marketing and
increase website visits
When it comes to e-commerce, the good, old-fashioned email
(yes, it’s now 40 years old!) remains one of the reseller’s most
effective, easily applied, and least expensive tools to build
website traffic and boost sales.
A wealth of statistics backs up email marketing’s strength, although three findings
stand out from the rest:
• A total of 44 percent of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based
on a promotional email.
• People who buy products marketed through email spend 138 percent more than
people who do not receive email offers.
• For every dollar spent on email marketing in 2010, marketers generated an estimated
Beyond the stats that add up to success, there’s another big plus when it comes
to email marketing. “It’s a natural for driving Web traffic,” says Dianne Lucca, United’s
manager, email marketing. “Readers click a link in your email and there they are—
at your website. It really doesn’t get any easier than that.”
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While there are proven best practices to increase the likelihood
that customers will open your emails and click through
to your website, it must be said that no amount of tweaking can
achieve maximum impact unless you begin with clean, up-to-date
customer data. After all, email marketing is, at its core, a strategy
to build strong, responsive relationships with current and potential
customers by delivering relevant and timely communications.
If the email doesn’t land in the right inboxes, then the strategy
is lost in cyberspace.
Accurate, Relevant Lists Drive Success
“Data is king,” says Meggie Dials, channel sales manager
for ExactTarget, a leading email service provider. To achieve
optimal data, Dials stresses, you need a strong customer relationship
management (CRM) program in place.
With reliable data at the ready, the natural progression is list
segmentation. Email gives the reseller enormous freedom to
switch out text and graphics to reflect multiple segmented lists,
which are best generated with a CRM program. “There’s no
reason to blast communication to 50,000 people,” Dials says.
“Emails can be easily customized as much or as little as your
lists dictate. So you can create email sections that remain
consistent—like your logo or some content—but you might have
a content box that’s specific to your readers’ preference data.
This increases the email’s relevance, and interested readers are
far more likely to click through to your website.”
For example, a reseller might begin by segmenting email lists
by geography, buying preferences, or purchasing behavior. Then,
by enlisting assistance from United’s email marketing team, a
template is used to create targeted emails for each list. After an
organized list is uploaded and attached to each email version, the
emails are sent.
MAkE SURE TO ADD YOUR WEBSITE’S
NAVIGATION BAR TO YOUR EMAIL
SO THAT YOUR CUSTOMER
DOES NOT GET LOST.
28 August 2011
ThREE BEST PRACTICES
Assuming your customer lists are in order, here are three tips to
strengthen your emails and encourage customers to click through
to your website:
1. CreAte short And sweet suBjeCt lines. “internet
service providers have built-in character limits for subject lines,
so you can get cut off at any point,” says Dianne lucca, United’s
manager, email marketing. “you want to focus on the initial 30 char-
acters or so—including spaces—and never put your most important
information at the end of your subject line.” supporting lucca’s
advice, a study done by the email monitoring company return path
showed that subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had 12.5
percent higher open rates than those with 50 or more characters.
Click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters
were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more characters.
2. the suBjeCt line needs to Convey A strong offer
or other relevAnt messAge. this can be communicated as
urgency to open the email, like a limited time deal; an outstand-
ing offer, as in free delivery; or perhaps an exciting offer that helps
build relationships, such as a great contest. “you open emails if
they are relevant to you, so it helps to be specific,” says lucca. For
example, new England office supply recently sent an email with
the subject line: “Deals of the week—Enter to win an inlay Fire
pit.” the line has urgency, it offers a specific prize, and the entire
line comes in at 48 characters including spaces. it’s important to
note that the email itself must support your subject line, providing
additional information about the offer, relevant message, or both.
remember, the subject line encourages the reader to open the
email, but it’s the email message itself that prompts a click-through
to your website.
3. inClude Ample links within the emAil, so CliCking
through to your weBsite is eAsy. “no matter where your
customer is as he scrolls through your email, there should always
be a link to your website within easy view,” lucca says. that means
hot-linking your logo, any featured products, “shop now” buttons,
and strategically selected type. And, lucca adds, you want to be
careful that links go to the right page. For example, if your email
is announcing a limited-time deal on specific products, and there
are clickable product photographs, make absolutely certain that
the links go to the deal and don’t default to your home page.
“if a customer has to hunt for the deal, you risk losing him,”
to insert additional links, add your website’s navigation bar
to your email. making that addition introduces a strong graphic
element and creates an immediate visual connection between
your email and your website.
because certain internet service providers have preview windows,
allowing the recipient to peruse only a small portion of the
email before officially opening it, meggie Dials, channel sales manager
for Exacttarget, recommends placing a link to your website in
the email’s upper left quadrant. “your customers will see the link,
whether or not they actually open the full window,” Dials notes.
OFF Ce 29
. e-soluTIons for business
Email marketing enables a high degree of measurability, which allows
the sender to assess what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs
fine-tuning. ExactTarget can measure every email sent through its
system for the number of inbox deliveries, bounces (emails returned
as undeliverable), spammed deliveries, opens, click-throughs to your
website, and several more valuable assessments. “After you analyze
results, the next step is to fix things that aren’t working,” Dials says.
For example, if your emails are experiencing high bounce levels, then
EMAIL MARkETING ENABLES A HIGH DEGREE
OF MEASURABILITY, WHICH ALLOWS THE
SENDER TO ASSESS WHAT WORkS.
you should revisit your customer lists, verify email addresses, and
purge out-of-date addresses. After winnowing your list to viable
customers, your metrics will be far more accurate.
For Good measure
Because emails are so easily customized, you can also create test
groups and identify winning strategies. For example, Lucca cites the
10–10–80 test, which analyzes two different subject lines. One subject
line might feature a 15 percent savings and it’s sent to 10 percent
of your email customer list. The other subject line might focus on
product benefits, and it’s sent to another 10 percent of your list. After
determining which subject line has the stronger open rate, the winner
is used for the remaining 80 percent of the list. “It’s all about testing
and learning,” Lucca says.
DO NOT IGNORE
THOSE WHO DO NOT
OPEN THE EMAIL.
DATA AS WELL.
30 August 2011
“From a marketing standpoint, we’ve seen a shift over to the digital
side,” Dials says. “And at the same time, email marketers have
become pretty savvy about what works.” That means, Dials adds, that
online shoppers now expect a highly targeted email that’s relevant to
individual needs or buying patterns. Satisfy these expectations and
you’ve taken a powerful step toward e-commerce strength.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on email opportunities offered by United Stationers, email
Dianne Lucca at email@example.com.
CUES TO USE
Through email software systems like the
one offered through ExactTarget, a leading
email service provider, resellers can measure
customer engagement with a particular
email, from opening the email to making a
purchase on the website. Dianne Lucca,
United’s manager, email marketing, reminds
resellers that information about customers
who don’t open the email or click through
to their website is valuable data as well;
these unengaged customers offer a great
opportunity for follow-up. “It’s a chance to
get behind the details,” Lucca says. “Have
a sales rep call these customers and ask a
few questions. What do they hope to see
in your emails that they’re not seeing? Do
they want to continue to receive emails or
would they rather receive flyers? Maybe this
person is simply on the wrong segmented
list. These are all quick answers that can
suggest easy fixes.”
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32 August 2011
MInD your business
let’s play a round of word association. If someone says
“advertising,” what do you say?
For many business owners, the next word is “Ka-ching!” Last January,
for example, a 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost roughly $3 million,
which breaks down to $100,000 per second. And the companies responsible for these
high-priced wonders say it’s worth every penny, with nearly 50 percent of all Super
Bowl viewers tuning in to actually watch the commercials!
Promoting your business need not break the bank, however. In fact, it can be done
quite economically. What’s more, the right advertising vehicles provide impressive
viewer stats with only a marginal cost.
To help promote your business, here are six economical solutions:
doesn’t have to .
involve pricey ads
in glossy magazines.
Many high schools sell inexpensive
ad space in their sporting
events programs. In addition, you
may be able to buy time on a
school’s field scoreboard. Also,
look into local schools’ private
fundraising events. It may be
an auction, a dance, or some
other themed night, and all generally include a printed program with
ample ad space for local businesses.
In Waynesboro, Ga., Best Office Solutions sponsors local recreational
department and school ball teams. So instead of paying for
a print advertisement, they pay for team jerseys, with their company
name boldly displayed on every shirt. “For around $200, we have
20 kids wearing our name all over town,” says Sandi Shields, the
company’s co-owner and president. “These kids are proud of their
teams and they wear their shirts to school every day. It’s not only a
great marketing strategy, but it also shows how much we care about
our community. They give us their business, and we very much want
to give back.”
2To reach customers
radio ads during peak drive
time periods, stresses Steve
Strauss, senior USATODAY.
com small-business columnist,
founder of mrallbiz.com, and
author of 15 books. “Especially
if yours is a B2B business, radio
should be part of your marketing
mix,” Strauss wrote in a recent column. “But it sure can be expensive—upwards
of $500 a minute during drive time.” According to
Strauss, the solution is to run the radio ad at an off-peak time. That
same ad might cost a fraction of the peak-time price if it runs in the
evening, and the reach on a major station is not dissimilar to what
you would get on a regular station during the day.
As for producing the on-air spot, some radio stations offer costfree
creative services after contracts are signed, and some stations
charge a fee, but that fee is often negotiable. And always ask about
advertiser discounts and package deals, which may reduce your
price or increase your number of spots. Also ask about economical
sponsorships, which buy you an on-air mention, such as, “The
weather was brought to you by ABC Business Products.”
groups help you .
customers and they
can be dirt cheap or even free.
However, choose your group
carefully because some are
exhausting and nonproductive.
“You stand in front of the
group and deliver your elevator
speech, but no one’s listening—
everyone’s busy thinking about
what they’re going to say,” cautions Greg Maddox, president of the
financial services firm Maddox Group and founder of Evanston North
Shore Networking, which grew to nearly 1,800 members in one year.
To create a more connected and successful environment, Maddox
established a group that’s all about helping the other guy. “If I can
help you build meaningful professional relationships by introducing
you to my connections, and you’re doing the same for me, then
mutually beneficial professional relationships can happen very
easily,” he says. “There’s no pressure to seal a deal, and everyone
quickly moves forward.” To locate a networking group that emphasizes
relationship building, start with LinkedIn.com, the largest
Internet-based professional network. Enter “YOUR CITY, NETWORK
GROUPS” into the site’s search box and try a few until you find a fit.
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For a reasonable
fee, a well-placed .
coupon in a
circular often brings
extremely high readership,
a fact backed by the marketing
research firm The Nielson Co.,
which reports that 95 percent of
all shoppers like coupons and
60 percent are actively looking
for coupons. You can also pass
out coupons on your own for free. By slightly tweaking your coupon
message and distribution, it’s a marketing technique that applies
to each of your three primary segmented customer lists.
To retain customers and reward purchase loyalty, include a
10 percent coupon with every invoice that can be applied to the
next purchase. To grow sales, offer customers a 10 percent coupon
specific to products they don’t normally buy. For example, if the
customer only orders business products from you, offer a price
break for JanSan products or office furniture. And to acquire customers,
include a line in all radio and print ads as well as your Yellow
Pages listing that states: “Mention this ad for a 10 percent savings.”
You might also add this offer to an acquisition email campaign.”
34 August 2011
that every business
has a highfunctioning
but it’s particularly important for
the small to mid-size reseller
who can’t afford a large sales
staff. Yes, hiring someone to build
and maintain a professional-level
website comes with a cost, but
that dollar figure will be many
thousands less than one full-time
In addition to providing an ever-present salesperson and sophisticated
e-commerce capabilities, a website also gives the business
owner an opportunity to strengthen customer relations, whether that
means adding your website address to the side of delivery trucks
and Yellow Pages listings, providing an instant website click for
comments, or posting company photographs and videos.
“What often sets the small business apart is its high level of
personal attention, and a website helps customers feel connected
to your business—24/7,” says Kathyleen Brooks, independent associate
with GoSmallBiz.com, an online resource created to help
members run and grow their businesses. “When you’re out of their
presence, there’s still a relationship going on because they can log
onto your website.”
6Five years ago,
lots of great word-ofmouth
chatter. Today, product
and company recommendations
posted at social media
sites are edging out verbal
conversation’s power to sway
purchasing decisions. For
example, a recent study found
that 53 percent of people on
Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with
48 percent of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
In another study, 81 percent of the respondents said they’d received
advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase
through a social media site. Those are strong reasons to give your
business a social media presence.
Of course, the accounts are free. The cost involves time, but if monitoring
and updating a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page fits into
your staff’s schedule, and the commitment can be reliably carried out,
then a social media presence is a cost-efficient and effective way to
promote your business. If you’re new to social media, ask your Azerty
sales rep about United’s new Social Media Toolkit (see p. 36).
a website helps
connected to your
— kathyleen brooks
Affordable Promotions, Substantial Results
Promoting your business doesn’t have to be costly, and in many
cases, economically priced promotions are equally as effective
as a hugely expensive campaign. Common to every promotional
effort, however, is consistency. One coupon won’t turn your business
around. Initiating a social media page but never updating it, or ignoring
your community’s posts, may be counterproductive. So choose
promotional strategies that fit your budget, establish a meaningful
plan, stick with the plan, and the results can be impressive.
make a difference
Since 1983, the office products industry has served as a key
fundraiser for City of Hope, one of the country's leading
research and treatment centers for cancer, diabetes and
other life-threatening diseases.
Now, there's a new and innovative way for independent
office products dealers and their business partners to give
their support to the cause through INDEPENDENT
DEALER's logos for Hope campaign.
You can show your support for City of Hope by buying a
logo that will appear on a special logos for Hope page in
NEED NEW AD
Each logo is just $250 each with 100% of your contribution
going to the City of Hope.
Diseases like cancer hit all of us, regardless of what kind of
business we run. Your support of logos for Hope will help
bring us all closer to a cure and show that when it comes to
supporting worthy causes, no one does it better than
RESEARCH | TREATMENT | EDUCATION
36 August 2011
United leads resellers
into the world of social
networking with the
Social Media Toolkit
In December 2010, TIME magazine named Facebook founder Mark
Zuckerberg Person of the Year. almost immediately, gripes rippled
across the country. “Really?” the naysayers asked. “A programmer?” He
cured no disease, leapt no tall buildings in a single bound, and his company
neither ignited nor extinguished any great controversy. Yet, as time.com reports, “In less
than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a 12th of humanity into a single network,
thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. If Facebook were a
country, it would be the third largest, behind only China and India.”
And it’s a similar story with Facebook’s fellow social media platforms, LinkedIn and
Twitter. The former is now the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with
more than 100 million members in over 200 countries and territories. The latter, estimated
to have more than 190 million users internationally, generates roughly 140 million
tweets per day.
Giving your business a social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
is really no longer optional, at least if you plan on thriving in the 21st century. In fact,
a study conducted by the University of Maryland Smith School of Business found that
nearly 1 in 5 small business owners have integrated social media into their business
strategy, in part because of a strong belief that social media successfully generates
new customer leads.
Illustration: David Cutler
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38 August 2011
To help resellers from coast to coast take the leap, United
introduced the ultimate Social Media Toolkit.
The complete Social Media Toolkit includes five online training
videos, which resellers can purchase and download through UDT,
United’s nationwide, dealer training program. At present, the five-part
series consists of an introduction and a comprehensive wrap-up to
social media, as well as individual videos for Facebook, LinkedIn, and
Twitter. Each specific platform video delivers an understanding of that
Internet-based application, simple setup steps and demonstrations
unique to that Web-based technology, a discussion about security
settings, and a review of different profile types. The current Toolkit
provides beginning level instruction—Social Media 101, so to speak.
Moving forward, United plans to introduce more advanced instructional
videos, which will help resellers take their social media presence to
a higher level of communication and interactive dialogue.
After downloading the Social Media Toolkit, the reseller opens a
specific social media component and simultaneously the corresponding
Toolkit video on the computer screen. By viewing the video and
the social media sign-up screen side by side, the reseller can follow
along with his mouse, click through the setup steps, and easily
establish a social media account.
Each video also suggests best practices pertinent to each social
media platform. For example, Facebook allows page owners to select
company information that is always visible versus information that is
visible only to page fans. United’s Facebook video explains this feature
and makes recommendations. In addition, the video offers best
practices for what and when to post, so that messaging consistently
supports the reseller’s overarching marketing goals. “All five videos
combined give you a good foundation and the base tools needed
to create a solid presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter,” says
Adam Valentine, United’s social media analyst.
A vital piece of the Social Media Toolkit includes one-on-one guidance
from United’s marketing team. “After the reseller moves through
the Toolkit and is familiar with the fundamentals, there should always
be a follow-up consultation, so we can audit the reseller’s social
media presence and help establish a social media calendar,” says
Valentine. “We need to sit down and make sure the reseller is integrating
social media into his total marketing plan and not just posting
stand-alone comments. Every posting needs to help drive sales, of
course, but it’s important to remember that social media—when
done right—also strengthen company awareness and promote
These individual consults are vital, stresses Keith Ruehl, United’s channel
marketing manager, because how-to videos can only take the
reseller so far. “From a business perspective, social media isn’t about
the tools themselves, which would be Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
It’s really about using the tools to deploy a communications strategy
that humanizes your business and delivers authentic communication,
GIVING YOUR BUSINESS A
SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
ON FACEBOOk, LINkEDIN,
AND TWITTER IS REALLY
NO LONGER OPTIONAL.
ThE RIGhT TOOlS
United’s social media toolkit helps the reseller
establish a positive presence on Facebook,
linkedin, and twitter with:
• Explicit, step-by-step set-up demonstrations.
• Clear explanations of social media
• Best posting practices to ensure that
messages always support your total
• One-on-one follow-ups to ensure that
postings drive sales, strengthen company
awareness, and promote customer loyalty.
• Clear details about communication
calendars, monitoring guidelines, and the
importance of a consistent presence.
It may feel like free
marketing, but from a
social media takes
has to be responsible
for the overall effort,
timing, and content
— keith ruehl
which includes person-to-person messages
as well as posts between you and
your entire social media community. In
both cases, the key is always authenticity.”
For this reason, Ruehl stresses, no how-to
video should deliver mass-market messages
for every reseller to post. If, for example, United handed out routine
Facebook updates and every reseller posted the same message,
somebody somewhere would eventually spot the overlap and the
human element—the authenticity—would be lost. “People will think
they’re speaking to some robot that’s populating messages on behalf
of office suppliers,” Ruehl says. “At some point we have to stop giving
instructions and the posts need to be unique to your company.”
That doesn’t mean the reseller is posting solo, though. That’s
where the one-on-one consults come in. “From our standpoint, these
discussions are all about making sure the reseller understands what
he’s getting into and has a firm grasp on his communication strategy,”
Understanding the full scope of a company’s social media presence
is a key factor in the videos and particularly during the one-on-one
consultations. “People need to know that this is not free,” Ruehl says.
“Yes, it may be free to sign up for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn,
and it may feel like free marketing, but from a corporate perspective,
social media takes valuable company resources. Someone has to be
responsible for the overall effort, timing, and content management.
But if you take the time, make the commitment, and are proactive, the
results can be significant.”
Ruehl cites an example where consistent and thoughtful monitoring
of a company’s social media page means the difference between
a possible negative and an extreme positive. “Let’s say someone
posts a problem on your Facebook page,” Ruehl explains. “Maybe it’s
a product recall. Now if that post stays there for weeks unanswered,
that’s what the world sees. No action. But if you react quickly by
posting your phone number and a promise to fix the situation, it’s a
different story. Now the world sees your company’s immediate and
complete dedication to customer service. You just flipped a negative
into a positive.”
And it’s not only a positive interaction between you and the original
poster that results, Ruehl adds. “Remember, every time a Facebook
fan puts something on your page, all his friends and all your fans see
the conversation, too. So a quick and responsive reply is not only a
great way to keep customers, but it’s also a beautiful way to support
your marketing message and acquire customers.”
United’s Social Media Toolkit is a compilation of easy start-up
steps as well as best practices from top international research groups
and experts. “Social networking is something that’s still evolving,
and while the look of your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page may
change, the basic fundamentals will remain constant,” Valentine says.
“In that respect, the Social Media Toolkit is a great way to jump into
social media and invite everyone to get to know your company—your
brand—and help build long-term relationships.”
PERSONALIzED INSTRUCTION Ask your Azerty sales rep about how to access United’s
Social Media Toolkit and receive one-on-one guidance from United’s marketing team.
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E v E r y o n E G o t
2 | Jay baer, social media strategist, speaker,
40 August 2011
and co-author of The NOW Revolution was
a keynote speaker at United stationers’
2011 vision Conference.
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6 | At vision 2011, CEo Cody phipps (right) presented
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GIVe us Your
Share your valuable experiences
with readers of “The final Word.”
if you could give a new dealer just
one piece of advice, what would
it be? Can you describe your
most challenging sales call and
how you responded? Send your
c/o United Stationers
one parkway north blvd.
Deerfield, IL 60015-2259
or via e-mail to:
subject line: “The final Word”
direCtory of Advertisers
Acco . . . . . . . . . . . . . .pAgE 2
AvEry-DEnnISon . . . . . . . pAgE 27
boISE . . . . . . . . . . . .pAgE 15
c-LInE . . . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 25
44 August 2011
DUrAbLE . . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 39
EcI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 37
ESSELTE . . . . . . . . . bAck covEr
EvoLUTIon . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 29
fELLoWES . . . . . . . . . . .pAgE 7
by Philip Wood
President, Evolution Ecommerce Solutions
Hp . . . . . . . InSIDE fronT covEr
InnovErA . . . . . . . . . . .pAgE 5
InTErnATIonAL pApEr . . . . .pAgE 9
kAnTEk . . . . . . . . . . .pAgE 33
LogoS for HopE . . . . . .pAgE 35
The Web Is About Opportunity
Without an effective website, you’ll lose out on a key growth area
of the market as more customers migrate to online purchasing.
What’s more, if you don’t invest in your online sales efforts, you may
even lose existing customers as they look to find faster, smarter
ways of buying. The potential market is simply beyond belief, and it’s
extremely easy for customers to spend money on the Web. All that’s
needed is an Internet connection and a valid credit card.
to understand the importance of the look and feel of a website,
analyze your own behavior. what websites do you use when making
purchases and how might the look and feel of those sites differ
from traditional b2b platforms in this industry? if you’re like most
people, you use websites like Amazon and Zappos to purchase
goods and services because these websites look great, work great,
and offer a satisfying user experience.
Using the capabilities of the latest software, even start-up
businesses today can come up with a look that rivals these
popular sites. And there’s a good reason for them to want to:
A strong web-based presence simply makes your life easier.
Customers spend more if your website has the right look and feel.
i can’t begin to relate the number of times i’ve ordered additional
product when presented with messages like, “people who bought
this also bought ... ”
to take advantage of this huge potential market, start by
educating your customers. Get them to start buying from the web
instead of relying on traditional trading methods such as phone and
fax. web-based selling solutions are available for a fraction of the
costs associated with a sales staff. they work 24/7, never get sick,
and don’t insist on benefits or vacations.
For more aggressive resellers, the latest software makes it
possible to pursue b2C customers at the same time you’re serving
your already established accounts. with the right look, this is not as
remote as you think, and our Evolution product allows you to export
your online data to price comparison engines such as Google base
to maximize online selling opportunities.
whether your business is a small two-person shop or a larger
regional player, a dynamic, easy-to-use web sales effort can help
you lock in existing customers while you go fishing for additional
MbS DEv . . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 23
UnIvErSAL . . . . . . . . . . pAgE 31
xErox . . . . . .InSIDE bAck covEr
Ten is published bimonthly by Azerty, a division of United Stationers Supply, for the benefit of its independent technology resellers in the business products industry. To obtain a complimentary subscription, please visit azerty.com/ten, or contact your local
Azerty sales rep. The publisher reserves the right to deny subscriptions based solely on its discretion. Advertisers may contact the publisher at email@example.com for rates and schedules.
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46 August 2011
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