The Inside Secrets of Your Outside Partners

  • Strong partnerships lead to an active exchange of ideas, which yields more interesting products and a more competitive edge in the market.
  • Taking advantage of the company’s total range of capabilities, and as early in the development process as possible, produces the best results.
  • A partner company that fully understands its beauty brand owners’ needs from the bottom up may offer even more than a stellar product—it can help cut through some of the red tape.
  • When a supply chain partner understands your relationships with your other partners—retailers, for example—it can be of further benefit in your brand efforts.

It’s been said that “No man is an island,” and chances are, your company isn’t, either. Whether you recently started marketing products from a one-room studio, or if your products have been mass produced for years, you rely on other companies—contract manufacturers, brand strategy consultants, packagers and logistics providers among them—to make sure that your offerings are properly made and then become readily available for purchase. What you might not realize is that some of these suppliers can provide even more than you bargained for. More and more outside partners can do double duty—an ingredient supplier offering sales and marketing support, for example—easing much of the burden off of you.

Thinking of You

Just as you want your target consumers to continue to purchase your goods time and time again, outside companies want you to keep coming back to them for repeat business. And, once you have established a partnership with an outside company, such as a contract manufacturer, it knows it is to its benefit to proactively provide you with reasons to return.

According to Melinda Wochner, COO and vice president of marketing for CoValence Laboratories, a contract manufacturer based in Chandler, Arizona, the company will make an extra effort to build upon its clients’ product lines. “We think on behalf of our clients; therefore, if we see an ingredient that may fit into a client’s product line, we may let them know via e-mail and discuss development options, or we may create R&D samples without their knowledge and send it to them to try,” she says. “We want to think about development on behalf of our clients so they can do what they do best: sell the products.”

Likewise, at Coughlan Products, headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey, long-term clients benefit from an open line of communication. “With our established customers, we have a more defined understanding of their brand’s image, we know their brand’s DNA, so we can be proactive by bringing fresh ideas to them, instead of waiting for that phone call,” says Michele Forrest, vice president of sales for Coughlan. “Along with this comes a higher expectation on the part of the customer, that we will bring fresh ideas on a regular basis. This alliance leads to an active exchange of ideas, which yields more interesting products, and ultimately affords brands a more competitive edge in the market.”

Added Value

In a strong partnership, not only will outside partners come to you with new offerings—they’ll also come to you with unexpected services. CaseStack, often most known for its shipping and transportation solutions, actually provides services throughout the supply chain. “We can handle everything from importing raw materials and finished goods from overseas, to warehousing that inventory in one or multiple warehouse locations, and also provide a complete suite of value-added services: re-packaging, labeling, light assembly, heat shrink and more,” says Colby Beland, vice president of the Fayetteville, Arkansas-based branch. “In addition, our Web-based technology platform ensures our clients have complete visibility of their supply chain at any point in the chain.”

And many contract manufacturers may surprise you with the depth of their capabilities. Farmingdale, New York-based Lady Burd Cosmetics, in business for more than 50 years, offers everything from custom formulations and contract filling to total turnkey products. “We offer many options to make our customers’ lines as unique as possible,” says Janelle Rogers, product developer, Lady Burd. “They have the option of hot stamping or silk screening their packaging and changing the labels, which are made in-house.”

The experts at Coughlan agree that taking advantage of the company’s total range of capabilities produces the best results, and a brand owner will benefit most by “picking its brains” earlier in the creative and development processes. “For example, a company may come to us for a price on aqua-colored bath crystals, but if we gave them the quote without defining their objectives, we wouldn’t see the bigger picture and learn that the company is creating a line of products with an ocean theme,” says Pat Campbell, Coughlan’s CEO. “Suddenly, we’re talking about a plethora of ideas to expand their line, such as sea salt scrubs, tablets shaped like shells, skin-beneficial marine additives to enhance their product and solid perfumes that smell like an ocean breeze. We can even further define which ocean the products represent by using unique salts from around the world.”

Some companies also offer creative solutions outside of the product realm. “A number of clients will say, ‘I didn’t know you did that’ when they find out that we can help them with their marketing and selling verbiage,” adds Wochner. “We also help them proofread label and marketing copy. We can give enough information to help them sell their products and create their marketing brochures.”

Peace of Mind

A partner company that fully understands its clients’ needs from the bottom up may offer even more than a stellar product—it can help beauty brand owners cut through some of the red tape issues that they often face. For example, CoValence helps its clients work through the process of selling their products outside of the United States. “Our clients do not need to hire out for global help because we offer most of our global assistance at no charge,” says Wochner. “Our global regulations team will help a brand owner navigate through the quagmire of red tape that normally accompanies exporting documents.” The company further offers up-to-date lists of contact information for other industry vendors—packaging, labeling and such—to ensure their clients’ search for additional vendors is less cumbersome.

Moreover, when one of your supply chain partners understands your relationships with your other partners—retailers, for example—they can further benefit you. “We strive to have the highest level of shipment compliance in the industry—including order fulfillment accuracy, on-time performance, claims-free shipments and accurately invoicing our customers,” says Beland. “However, there are times when doing it 98.5% on-time just isn’t good enough, and when that is the case, we offer our ‘Guaranteed’ Retailer Consolidation Program, where if we fail, we will cover the cost of the retailer penalties.”

And sometimes, what makes a supply chain partner valuable is simply that it came through for you when others couldn’t. “We are often called upon to solve problems or innovate around a specific product concept or idea, sometimes at the eleventh hour,” says Campbell. “That call can start with, ‘We’ve been trying to make a product that does x, y and z; is that something you might be able to help us with?’ Or, ‘Our launch is planned in two months and our product just fell apart on stability. Our head of R&D said to call Coughlan, they can help.’ These are projects where we really shine and that often bring us customers who become customers-for-life.”

There’s no reason to be afraid of pushing the boundaries of your partnerships along the supply chain—there’s a good chance that they’re underutilized and can give you more opportunities to ultimately increase your bottom line. “Why reinvent the wheel when you can have a team of experts who has been doing this for decades do it for you? It just makes sense,” says Rogers.

For additional insight, please see the Q&A with Solo Laboratories, Inc.

For information on potential partners all along the supply chain, view GCI magazine’s directory here. The Products and Services showcase and Ad Index in the back of the print issue are also a valuable resource.

Lisa Doyle was formerly the associate editor of GCI magazine and is a freelance writer in the Chicago area. Her work has appeared in Skin Inc. magazine, Salon Today, America’s Best, Renew and Modern Salon.

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