In two years, 4imprint has leveraged technology and built relationships with corporations like School Specialty of the Fox Cities and Lands' End of Dodgeville to successfully build its market share. 4imprint's customer list reads like a Who's Who of the world's large and high-profile corporations.
"We have in our customer base every one of the Fortune 100 companies," said Dick Nelson, president and chief executive officer of Oshkosh-based 4imprint.
The company's ability to meld traditional catalogs sales and marketing with Internet and other methods has bolstered recent sales.
JuneBox.com, a wholly owned subsidiary of Grand Chute school supplies wholesaler School Specialty, and 4imprint formed an alliance earlier this year to sell promotional products via the Internet.
Schools and school districts have the option of ordering more than school supplies on the JuneBox.com site. They can place orders for T-shirts, mugs, keychains and other items which can be printed with their school logo. The order for promotional products is sent to 4imprint for packaging and shipping. "We've made a dent in the education market through our traditional direct marketing venues, but this arrangement will help us increase our presence in the arena," said Patrick Hartel, marketing manager for 4imprint. "We hope to use (JuneBox.com's) expertise to get a stronger foothold within schools." JuneBox, launched in March 2000, sells educational supplies to more than 3,000 customers on the Web.
The company's shared backgrounds in direct marketing and the geographic area made the deal "a natural fit," Hartel said.
4imprint has the option to "pick and choose partners," Nelson said. "We have more people wanting to partner with us than we choose to partner with."
Last summer, the company partnered with apparel cataloguer Land's End.
Land's End named 4imprint its official provider of hard goods, like coffee cups, calendars and pens. That corporate sales agreement has led to programs with General Motors' Saturn division and the American International Automobile Dealers Association, among others.
In addition, The Fortune Group named 4imprint and Land's End providers of marketing merchandise for its annual lists such as Fortune 500 and Best Companies to Work For.
"We're leveraging our technology," Nelson said. "A lot of those efforts are still in their infancy."
"Much of our technology is geared toward improved order processing to make it easier to order through the entire transaction, resulting in lower costs and better service," said Greg Iott, vice president of business development.
Whether customers place orders online or simply use 4imprint.com for research -- the site shows more than 3,000 products vs. the catalog's 400 -- the online presence accounts for 17 percent to 20 percent of weekly U.S.
The company launched a site for international customers last spring.
"All of this technology has made us an operational leader," Nelson said.
"We'd eventually like to see all of our corporate programs worldwide migrate to the Web."
Nelson expects 75 percent of the global corporation's sales will occur online by 2004.
"We are in the midst of developing a version of our software for Adventures in Advertising, the company we bought at the beginning of the year," Nelson said. "When installed by the year's end, all the orders their franchise owners place will be over the Internet."
However, the emphasis on technology has not lessened the importance of print materials, Nelson said.
"Last year we mailed six million catalogs in the United States," Nelson said. 4imprint still prints catalogs four times a year and sends additional versions to about 1 million of its best customers. Catalog sales increased 11 percent from 1999 to 2000.
Nelson said the catalog does more than that, though. It promotes it Web address on almost every page.
"We can use our paper catalog to drive people to our Web site."
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