Flex Products LLC of Carlstadt, N.J., is experiencing robust sales growth in part through online buyers and a four-year collaboration with a unit of Thomas Publishing Co. LLC of New York.
Typically, a Flex customer puts products into Flex extruded or injection molded packaging, but Flex Products as a commercial brand had been virtually invisible, in part because it lacked an outside sales force.
So, in spring 2005, Flex managers met with a consultant for the publishing firm's ThomasNet entity, which provides consulting and technology services to help industrial businesses grow through the Internet. The company has historic roots as the once omniscient Thomas Register directories.
Flex was using ThomasNet, but the underutilized Flex Web site needed help. Working with ThomasNet, Flex revamped the site and catalog with better wording and graphics and expanded it with additional content.
Flex President Ed Friedhoff said search engine referrals for the Web site rose from 12,000 in 2005 to 36,000 in 2006 and continue to grow. More recent figures were unavailable.
Using a new sophisticated [return on investment] tracking tool from our ThomasNet rep Jeff Hunt, we also know that of the 13,000 visitors coming from ThomasNet.com in 2008, almost 2,000 of them contacted us via phone or e-mail, Friedhoff said. That's better than one in seven, where Google reports the average [follow-up contact] as one in 200.
Friedhoff said the catalog has enabled qualified buyers to find Flex more easily through the search engines and then to verify that the company has what they need through the site.
An online ThomasNet product, service, brand or company search may provide multiple opportunities for a prospective buyer to cross paths with links for Flex Products' standard and custom containers, tubes, closures, rods, sheets or packaging.
In moving ahead, we will be increasing our penetration of the medical industry and look forward to working with ThomasNet to expand on that, Friedhoff said. In addition, we will be adding RF welding capabilities this year.
Flex designs, develops and manufactures primarily for industrial customers with highly diversified end markets. For example, one client wants containers with small air holes for live crickets that are shipped to pet stores to become lizard feed.
Recycline Inc. in Waltham, Mass., which markets eco-friendly products, learned that Flex's renewable packaging comes from trees; now, Recycline ships some of its razors and toothbrushes in Flex containers to a superstore with certain green requirements.
Flex employs nearly 100 in a 65,000-square-foot plant and has sales of about $10 million, with extrusion accounting for about 60 percent; injection molding, 30 percent; and fabrication, 10 percent. About 6 percent of Flex Products' sales are outside North America including customers in Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Flex Products operates 11 extruders with screw diameters up to 2.5 inches and 27 injection presses from 10-500 tons. Capabilities include labeling and decorating, including silk screening and hot stamping.
Two engineers founded Flex Products in 1956. Friedhoff joined the privately held business in 1990 as a co-owner.