Sales of polyethylene bags and films do not typically provide distributors of packaging supplies with many profit dollars. They tend to move these products at tight margins, and in some scenarios, even at a loss. The result is that poly-packaging products become more of an “add-on” as opposed to a profit generator.
Fortunately, innovations in plastics manufacturing have produced new products that are changing the landscape. Here are five strategies companies can use to convince their customers that today’s poly bags and films are worth the investment and a boon to the bottom line.
1. Be the firstThis isn’t unique to the plastics industry-it’s just good business sense. If you have a great new product, it’s important that your company be the first to offer it to the marketplace, before the competition can ante up. It’s a proven fact that companies that are the first to offer a new product have the best chance to win and keep new customers.
Case in point: A few years ago, Dan Effrein, purchasing and traffic manager with Quality Pork International Inc., Omaha, Neb., switched to a new, lighter gauge plastic called Elasticene, offered by our company, Base Plastics.
“They offered a product that no one else did,” says Effrein. “It took several years for the other major manufacturers to fall in line with something comparable in performance and formulation.”
2. Reduce costsIt’s no secret that the raw materials used in the plastics industry are getting more expensive by the minute. In fact, the polyethylene industry saw an almost unprecedented increase in raw material costs in 2007. With oil more than $100 a barrel and emerging markets in China and India driving demand, any process that uses less raw material to create poly bags and films has the potential to be a winner.
Another benefit to downgauging is saving space. Because the bags weigh less, manufacturers can put almost twice as many bags in each roll or case. This greatly saves on floor space along with labor time for the end user. Plant operators change rolls on racks half as many times and shipping costs are less.
3. Increase qualityNot only can the newest plastics offer reduced costs by reducing input of raw materials, they truly offer better quality as well. Better quality means fewer leakers, and that means happier customers. “We were able to downgauge and obviously reduce our costs,” while reducing leakage and spoilage, says Effrein. Especially important, don’t let potential customers assume that a new, thinner film or bag is a smoke screen to mask a reduction in strength. Let them test it out for themselves by offering samples.
4. Make it newAmericans love all things new, and we associate novelty with increased quality. Rather than just rolling out your new poly bags and films, emphasize what’s new and improved about your products. For example, the recent public interest in safeguarding the environment provides a perfect opportunity for environmentally friendly packaging manufacturers to win new customers. Consider the used plastic that ends up in landfills.
In years past, the only way to obtain greater strength and moisture barrier properties was to use thicker plastic. Newer, lighter-gauge plastic provides comparable or better performance with fewer raw materials, and this means less plastic ending up in our already overcrowded solid waste facilities. When it comes to the “Three R’s”-Reduce, Reuse and Recycle-plastic manufacturers can score an A+ in the eyes of their customers and in the world at large for their contribution to a greener environment.
5. Be a problem solverDon’t sell your products short. They’re not just bags and films-they’re problem solvers. Probably the most extreme example of the “problem solver” strategy in use today is the advertising used by the pharmaceutical industry. By creating a problem in the mind of the customer (in many cases, one the customer never knew they had or never thought of as a problem), they can position their new drug as a problem solver: something that improves life of the user and lets them focus on what’s really important to them. Another example is the electronic gadget industry. Apple tells us that for years, we survived without the internet or stock updates in our pockets. The question is, how?
As a distributor of poly bags and films, your customers’ problems are concrete and pressing. They don’t need to be told that bags work better when they don’t leak. But you can still position your product as a problem solver by carefully listening to your customers’ needs and showing how your product can improve their operations.
You can also help the customer troubleshoot problems. Dan Effrein says that when he had problems with his poly products, his manufacturer “never presented it like it wasn’t a bag problem, and a positive business relationship developed out of that.”
Winner take all