How IMA Beverage & Packaging Diversifies in a Competitive Market

Five tips for solidifying your place in the industry

MEET MELISSA HOLMES With more than 40 years of experience combined in the food-service, bottling, and packaging industry, Melissa Holmes and her husband, Mike, are the dynamic duo behind IMA Beverage & Packaging Services. Melissa focuses much of her time on the team’s sales, financials, and operations sectors, as well as handling the company’s diversification and business-development efforts.
MEET MELISSA HOLMES
With more than 40 years of experience combined in the food-service, bottling, and packaging industry, Melissa Holmes and her husband, Mike, are the dynamic duo behind IMA Beverage & Packaging Services. Melissa focuses much of her time on the team’s sales, financials, and operations sectors, as well as handling the company’s diversification and business-development efforts.

1. Understand the need

IMA Beverage & Packaging Services didn’t jump into the new- and used-equipment market without first making sure it had a deep understanding of the industry landscape and nuances. Operations manager Melissa Holmes and her husband, Mike, already had decades of experience within the marketplace. “We’ve watched it evolve,” she says. “We’ve seen it crumble and then build itself back up again.” They took that historical perspective and then spent several months travelling through North America, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, gathering additional information about the market. “We met with other brokers in the industry as well as users, and got a real feel for what was going on with the used-equipment market,” Holmes says. She and her team also attended trade shows and conventions, using the opportunities to connect with equipment manufacturers and users, to understand how IMA Beverage & Packaging Services could best work with them.

2. Know your competition

The team at IMA Beverage & Packaging Services had an extensive knowledge of the industry, and used that as a launch pad to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other players in the sector. Their expertise told them that the industry not only needed someone who could provide consulting services, but also someone who had the resources to put everything together into a turnkey package and stand behind their promises. “There are a lot of good salespeople out there who will tell you they can deliver something,” Holmes says. “It sounds like you’re getting what you want, but it’s really not what you need.” Because IMA Beverage & Packaging Services was able to key in on the areas its competitors were missing, customers now receive the performance and support they need.

3. Get your name out there

During their travels, the IMA team members also stopped to talk with customers along the way. “We wanted to get our face known in the industry,” Holmes says. “It was to let people know that we were there, ready to support them.” They started a number of conversations via phone, but Holmes says that approach was only the beginning of the process, not the end. Phone contacts were followed by on-site visits and the team “actually going right to their facility and putting our feet in their door,” Holmes says. “It let them see how serious we really were.”

Equipment manufacturers were also on the company’s networking list, an approach that helped make them a known quantity among industry vendors. The team effort to get IMA’s name out there has definitely paid off. Holmes says that a significant portion of the business they’ve landed was generated by word-of-mouth referrals.

4. Be bold

“I think one of our biggest challenges was just taking a chance,” Holmes says.  IMA Beverage & Packaging Services housed a tremendous amount of internal expertise, but translating that into sales meant the team needed to have a strong belief in their own abilities. Not only did it need the confidence to approach customers and industry insiders about the company’s service offerings, but also the spunk to overcome some of the stereotypes that were floating around. “We had to let people know that we were here and that we were here to stay,” Holmes says. There have been companies like IMA Beverage & Packaging Services that didn’t weather the soft economy well. “They crumbled, folded, and walked away,” Holmes says. Her team needed to prove it wasn’t going anywhere. It meant IMA had to both build a plan for success and have supreme confidence in that plan.

5. Follow through

Seeking out new customers, getting to know additional manufacturers, and gathering information on emerging trends is something that Holmes says will continue to be priority. Because of the results IMA Beverage & Packaging Services has achieved in its diversification efforts, Holmes says she gained a new respect for the importance of engaging contacts on a regular basis. “We’ve really started utilizing our network skills,” she says. “We had leveraged them all along, but we never used them to their fullest capacity.”

Networking is now an ongoing process, from talking with people in the industry to being more socially involved with happenings across the sector. “If customers need somebody to help them find equipment, install equipment, or set up turnkey operations, they now know that we’re the company that can do that for them,” Holmes says.