All Labels Are Not Created Equally

Amid budget crunches and a topsy-turvy marketplace, choose label value over cost for the best return on investment. Image courtesy of Lightening Labels.

How to Find the Best Value at a Competitive Price

By Gary Paulin, Vice President of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels

Never was Ben Franklin’s quote, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten,” more true than today.

Mired in a super-competitive, supply chain-compromised, and budget-crunched world, many product manufacturers face tough challenges when it comes to labels and packaging. An often-heard budgeting directive is to “get it all—high quality, fast delivery, and cheap.” Prospective buyers get estimates based on meeting all three directives.

It’s only in the trenches that they discover that “high quality,” “fast,” and “cheap” are subject to circumstances beyond their control in today’s topsy-turvy world of supply chain snafus, shipping delays, and printers who don’t deliver on their promises.

What at first seemed predictably positive winds up becoming a nightmare. Common problems include missed deadlines, inferior quality, printing the wrong files, and the need to reprint. All this results in delays getting products to market, in turn leading to lost sales and customers.

Myriad challenges can arise. For example, examine domestic versus offshore digital label printers, or even U.S. printers dependent on foreign suppliers. Delivery timelines that look great on paper can be blown to smithereens if international supply chain snafus intrude or shipping becomes a quagmire due to backlogs or other problems.

High quality and fast turnarounds

Establishing and acting upon buyer journey preferences can drive product improvement to meet marketplace expectations as well as cement individual customer loyalty by addressing/meeting those personalized preferences. Image courtesy of Lightning Labels

In contrast, domestic label printers sourcing domestic materials and supplies have more opportunities to avoid most if not all supply and shipping snafus—and truly deliver on their on-time commitments. Occasionally, forward-thinking printers anticipate coming challenges and inventory substantial supplies and materials. Further, being able to establish shipping option redundancy has enabled some printers to hammer home their deadlines in the face of almost any adversity.

This same redundancy principle also applies to machines and technology. Having backup printing and fulfillment systems, and maintaining an inventory of the most vulnerable parts for rapid repairs are two critical ways some printers continue to add value. Add to that a workforce comprised of ample, experienced, and reliable employees to help meet workflow demands. Instead of providing excuses for “what went wrong,” these printers quietly and reliably get it right.

Machine and technology redundancy also are factors. If something breaks, there’s bandwidth to repair and replace quickly—and still meet deadlines.

These issues are just one piece of a much larger label printing puzzle. Understanding behind-the-scenes aptitudes and attitudes (e.g., how is their customer service?) will help ensure that product labels/packaging are all they can be. In turn, this meets the high-quality and fast turnaround challenges.

Cost-effective pricing

Today’s product manufacturing customers deserve, and expect, excellence, including
Integration of customer service and support into every element of the process, from ordering through shipping. Image courtesy of Lightning Labels

Now, what about “cost?” This is where Ben Franklin’s quote truly hits home. Cost-effective price is one thing. Lowballing just to get an order is another. Many product manufacturer coffers are filled with names of label printers who’ve gone before. The reasons for failure vary, but in the end, commitments weren’t kept and the initial “low price” wound up skyrocketing because of poor performance.

How did that sweet low price end up leaving a bitter taste and ultimately costing way more than at first glance? Here are a few scenarios:

1. Lowballing often equates to cutting corners. From design through printing and fulfillment, labels lacking compelling and professional appearance and adequate durability can be losers on several fronts. The time and trouble often spent to redo labels that aren’t up to snuff can become very costly, both in terms of hard dollars and sales opportunities lost while correcting problems.

Then, there’s the situation where product manufacturers use inferior-quality labels that fail to engage prospects—in turn leading to lost sales that wind up in the hands of competitors. It’s actually a double whammy because many of those lost sales could have accrued to the product manufacturer’s bottom line if done right the first time.

2. It’s about more than labels these days. Is the label printer socially conscious? Is there a consistent commitment to reducing carbon footprints and using sustainable label stocks, inks, adhesives, and aligned supplies? Increasingly, product manufacturers want to promote their socially-conscious commitments as a selling strategy. Being able to include the label printer as part of this effort gives the manufacturer additional competitive edge, and therefore enhanced revenues.

As part of the “more than” discussion, increasingly labels are becoming an incredibly powerful sales, retention, and counterfeit-prevention tool—all leading to revenues gained and losses prevented. How?

QR Codes, Augmented Reality codes, and Custom Asset Tags can help provide valuable product education and verification about product authenticity and safety. Information, entertainment, and interactive platforms lead to improved engagement—in turn leading to more sales. Label printers able to provide these value-add types of offerings as part of a professionally-branded label open robust new avenues of profitability to product manufacturers.

Establishing and acting upon buyer journey preferences can drive product improvement to meet marketplace expectations as well as cement individual customer loyalty by addressing/meeting those personalized preferences.

Product manufacturers jumping on these bandwagons stand to gain substantial market share, while those looking first and foremost at “low bid” will be losing that market share to competitors seeing the value.

Socially conscious label printers are committed to reducing carbon footprints and using sustainable label stocks, inks, adhesives and supplies. Image courtesy of Lightning Labels

3. Customer service is much more than a catchphrase. Providers that lead with price typically have no or poor attention to customer care. Even “dirt cheap” labels aren’t worth the risk if the label printer doesn’t integrate customer service and support into every element of the process, from ordering through shipping. Today’s product manufacturing customers deserve, and expect, excellence in these critical areas. In reality, they’re all critical areas.

Does the label printer: a) Make ordering easy and reliable through both online and live phone options? b) Offer a full customer-care team including a dedicated account manager familiar with specific company needs and wants, along with team backup? c) Provide full phone support without extended wait or callback times? d) Consult with clients as desired about a wide range of design, printing, and pricing options to ensure the best solutions, outcomes, and bang for the buck? e) Follow up to assess satisfaction as well as areas meriting improvement?

While all these considerations may not be top-of-mind when setting out to get suitable labels at a budget-conscious price, they should be. When vetting label printers, take the time and make the effort to find the best value at a competitive price.

Remember the words of Oscar Wilde: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”  Don’t be a cynic.

About the Author

Gary Paulin is Vice President, Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Founded in 2002, Lightning Labels established the benchmark for effective customer care teams in an ecommerce environment. Contact:; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.

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