WearGuard - B-to-B with a Consumer Twist (2007 words)
By Alicia Orr Suman
Whether in its catalog design or ordering procedures, uniform supplier WearGuard strives to mirror the shopping experiences customers have off the job.
WearGuard has been in the business of marketing rugged work clothes since the 1950s, when founder Gene Salem started selling personalized work shirts and pants out of a converted milk truck. For Salem and his customers — gas station owners — it was more than a business-to-business (b-to-b) relationship: It was about people selling to people.
The company has grown and changed during the years, but one thing has remained constant: Whether the customer is the procurement manager at a Fortune 500 company or a sole proprietor, WearGuard recognizes the human side of the business relationship. As such, many of the company's creative elements mirror the proven techniques used by consumer catalogers such as Lands' End.
"Even in the largest of corporations, there's still a person who makes the decision to buy your product," says Joan Abrams, director of marketing for WearGuard, now a division of Aramark. When people go to work each day, "they don't check their 'consumerness' at the door," she notes.
As Abrams sees it, b-to-b marketing is a misnomer: It's still a consumer who makes the buying decision. And that human element is what WearGuard tries to capture in its catalog creative.
WearGuard has 110,000 active customers, and they extend from small- and mid-sized businesses to large corporations. Among the many markets it serves are construction, maintenance, utilities, delivery/transportation and food service. The company mails up to 17 times a year to its best customers.
Abrams says customers buy WearGuard apparel for two reasons:
Identification — namely, logos embroidered or screen-printed onto clothing to represent their brands; and
Protection — a need for rugged, durable apparel on the job or outerwear to protect workers from the elements.