Marketing Career With Hometown/TriCity
In 2008, Coin Café came up for sale and Hometown/TriCity seemed like a good fit. Bob Daly knew Walsh had a lot of experience and asked him to become marketing director for the newly merged company. Walsh was eager. "I beat the streets to get a location that first week and build creditability with my new employer," Walsh said. "I didn't know if my (marketing) ideas would work."
Walsh dedicated himself to winning new locations. He customizes full color print proposals with lots of graphics for each client after surveying them about their existing service. The most common request he hears is for healthy products, so he's created a special brand just for that category. "It's something vending operators are probably providing, but they need to market it," said Walsh. Hometown/TriCity Vending's healthy program is called "Good 4 You" and is indicated with a special snipe on the snack machine explaining the program and little heart stickers next to the item's price. "Out of 35 selections, about eight are marked 'Good 4 You'" said Walsh, "but it can change based on location requests." In fact, Walsh recalled recently an account asked that all the healthy items be removed from the machines.
In a location that can support it, Hometown/TriCity brands the whole machine in the "Good 4 You" logo. "
Market food, fresh or shelf stable
Hometown/TriCity doesn't run its own commissary, but gets fresh food from KitchenFresh with a "Hometown Deli" label. Walsh tries to customize the menu for these locations. For accounts unable to support food machines, Walsh has created the "Gourmet Snack" program, which includes shelf stable food in a traditional snack machine. "One shelf will be redone to hold food from entrees to fruit cups to soups," said Walsh. "It really eliminates waste," added Ken Martin who prefers the system to traditional food machines despite having to readjust the spirals with spacers. There is no change in temperature of the machine.
Daly always says yes to customers
Walsh uses his ingenuity to meet location needs, but he needs Hometown/TriCity Vending to back up his proposals.
"These guys (the operational side) really take care of their customers," said Walsh. "We didn't do enough of that at Coin Café."
Martin spends five or six hours a day visiting locations, where he cements relationships with his contacts and checks on how the route drivers are doing at the vending banks. Customers stop to chat and give him product suggestions. He even drives over an hour from Peru back to the Oak Lawn area to visit locations he sold when he was there before 2005.
For Bob Daly, the important thing is not just marketing, but that everybody is doing a good job. "It takes a lot to keep those marketing promises, which the two Kens work hard to make sure are taken care of," he said.
OCS and special programs
Hometown/TriCity has offered an OCS program to go along with its vending since the Daly brothers began the business but two years ago they decided to offer a value coffee called Hometown blend. It's very popular with customers. For locations that want single cup, Hometown/TriCity offers the Flavia single cup machine. In fact, Hometown/TriCity was recently awarded the exclusive independent distributor for Flavia in the Chicago area. "We love it," said Walsh, "And feel really honored to have this privilege." Hometown/TriCity chose Flavia because of the taste, variety and because it costs less than k-cups.
Hometown/TriCity recently took the Flavia machine to an expo attended by a number of different chambers of commerce. "We got a lot of exposure out of it," said Walsh. "We'll do it again."
Energy Star machines and no lights = green
Hometown/TriCity is starting to go green, especially with the locations' help. Martin orders mostly the new Energy Star vending machines now, and uses the vending miser when a location is willing to help with the cost of installation. He feels it's a good move not just for electricity but for prolonging the life of the machine. "I think it extended the life of the compressor," said Martin.