How Working with Trade Printers Formed a Reseller’s Niche

Posted by Rock LaManna

Carving your own niche can generate success 


One of the more successful businesses in the label printing industry doesn’t own a single press. NTI Data has carved out a highly successful niche as a reseller, but it’s their expertise in the products they deliver that differentiates them from the rest.

Tom James started NTI Data in 1981 as a reseller that sold data processing supplies to large data centers. Through the years, the company saw an increased demand for quotes on thermal transfer ribbons, labels and related products.

Feeling they could be a niche with plenty of room to grow, Tom eventually shifted his company’s main focus to selling labels and thermal transfer products, which they continue to do today.

NTI Data’s Niche Recipe for Success

As a reseller, NTI Data reaches out to specific trade-only label printer manufacturers who they have sourced. Not only do they receive quotes for their clients, they find the products that provide the best value to their customers based on a pre-selection that evaluates for speed, service levels and quality.

“If we go to a customer and they want a quote on thermal printing products, we’re not limited to what label presses we have,” Tom said.

The difference in NTI Data’s business is about more than just finding the best price. It’s about finding the best solution to meet the client’s needs. This makes NTI Data more than just a reseller - they’re what Tom refers to as a Value Added Reseller.

Most of their clients print labels with critical or technically challenging applications that may need to withstand the elements, extreme heat or cold, frequent contact, etc. One typical example involves labels for chemical and solvent drums. It’s mandatory that these labels last for five to ten years without fading or falling off in any condition.

When a client needs to ship a 55-gallon drum of chemicals overseas, for example, if that drum falls overboard, the divers who recover the drum need a way to identify its contents, typically through a scannable barcode on the drum’s exterior. If that barcode label falls off or if the printing is affected by the seawater, it will be impossible to identify the drum’s contents without opening it up.

Finding the right printing products that can fulfill these types of rigorous requirements takes a high level of technical knowledge most printers lack. Because the technology is always evolving, NTI Data’s team prides itself on being able to go above and beyond the client’s own knowledge of the technical needs of their label solution in order to serve them better.

“When we speak with a prospect, they know that we know our stuff,” Tom said. “We remain focused and learn the technical aspects of labels to ensure our clients have the best products for their applications. No one who works with us ever gets in trouble for having the wrong label or ribbon.”

Because they’ve built relationships with a wide variety of manufacturers, NTI Data also has the insight into who is creating the best products for these specific jobs.

The Importance of Trust

Why does NTI Data go so far to prove their worth to clients? Because their success is firmly rooted in trust.

Most of their clients are cautious when looking for a new supplier, especially if previous manufacturers or suppliers have let them down. Although NTI Data stands behind their products 100 percent with no-risk guarantee, new clients need to see this commitment firsthand.

As a result, a printer will generally give NTI Data an opportunity to prove themselves with a small order. When things go smoothly, they’ll order a larger quantity of products.

“Quality assurance is easy to say it, but it’s tougher to show,” Tom said. “So clients give us a little bit before a lot. The first step is building that bridge of trust. That is also why we offer our guarantee. We want to communicate up front there will be no risk for you when you call us.”

Likewise, NTI Data also needs to have a high level of trust in their manufacturing partners. Their own reputation is at stake should a manufacturer fail to get them the correct high quality products on time, every time.

“We’re only as good as our manufacturing partners,” Tom said. “If they don’t get us quality products in a timely manner, then it’s going to hurt. It’s also why we review our partnerships every year and ensure we provide our clients with only the best.”

The Need for Adaptability in a Niche Market

Technology is constantly evolving, and label printers are no exception. For this reason, NTI Data listens and reads about upcoming advancements in printer technology. Tom is no stranger to adapting. In fact, it’s part of what made them successful in the first place.

When the company first opened, it derived half of its sales from data processing supplies and half from thermal transfer products. When the industry scaled back on huge data centers, it forced NTI Data to parallel the trend. Now, the company spends most of its time focusing on thermal transfer products, which account for 90 percent of the sales.

Currently, the company is beginning to see new evolution in the emergence of digital label printing. Tom admits they don’t know exactly where this new technology will take them, but said they’re keeping a close eye on the possible new trend.

NTI Data saw an opportunity to forge their own path in the label printing industry, and overcame the necessary challenges to do so. Now, they provide an excellent example of how finding a niche in a specialized area can translate into success.

“Some people believe that a niche business has more to lose should something go wrong, but I think it’s the opposite,” Tom said. “We have so much more to gain once we prove ourselves.”

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Topics: Converting Industry, Printing Industry