He knew a carpenter, and he asked him to build a cart based on his own design using maple wood. The cart features a tall, octagon-shaped dome that can also hold a DVD player with a flat, 15-inch screen. “I want to catch people’s attention,” Kartiganer said. “It will make them notice and drink more coffee. If you don’t do something innovative, what differentiates you from them (the competition)? We’re not a vendor with blinders. We’re trying to be innovative. We want to make it more than just vending.”
The coffee cart he designed has become popular with many of his auto dealers, and in some cases, it has won him accounts. Some locations have used the DVD player to promote their products and services. In some cases, he customizes the maple finish to the customer’s interior.
Kartiganer developed a Website that displays the coffee carts, www.coffeecartsusa.com.
Kartiganer has purchased all of his own equipment rather than getting bottlers’ equipment for free. This has proven beneficial in recent years as the soda suppliers have become very competitive in vending in his market. Vending operators that use bottler-loaned machines have found they are being forced to pay higher prices for beverages by bottlers who are often vending the same products at lower prices.
Kartiganer uses mostly “live display” cold drink machines that vend both cans and bottles. He prefers these to the glassfront machines. He acknowledges that the glassfronts generate more sales, but he has found they are easier to shake. He has also encountered some mechanical issues with them.
Internet helps win business
The Internet has played an important role in Kartiganer’s success. When he reentered the business in 2000, the Internet was just emerging as a business marketing medium. He noticed that not many vending businesses were advertising on the Internet, so he saw an opportunity to gain a foothold on the World Wide Web.
“I took my sales brochure and I mirrored it on the Website,” he said. The Website describes the services, the equipment, the 24-hour response company policy, and includes color pictures and specifications of the equipment.
Fortunately, he had a friend who was knowledgeable about getting good visibility for his Website on Internet search engines. When a prospective customer inputs the words “Vending South Florida” in a search engine, Professional Vending Service’s Website is usually among the first sites listed.
“At the time I started, most people (operators) didn’t know what the Internet did,” he said. “They didn’t know how to really tap it.”
Getting good visibility on search engine listings is a specialty in itself. Internet marketing professionals are adept at coming up with listing phrases that get good results.
Kartiganer launched four different Websites to advertise his company. He was able to get at least two of his Websites highly ranked on the main search engines. “If you’re not on page one, you might as well be on page 1 million,” Kartiganer said.
Once the Websites were launched, Kartiganer got inquiries from businesses looking for refreshment services. He averaged 1,100 hits a week and two to five phone calls per day.
“Information is important,” Kartiganer said. “It’s easy for me to tell them (a prospect) everything (with the Website). Most of the time I’m talking to you, you’re looking at my Website. Usually, we iron out the deal then and there.”
Having good verbal skills is especially important when talking with prospects on the phone. “You have to hear their questions and answer those questions and allow them to think and see everything,” Kartiganer said. “If you’re hemming and hawing on the phone, you’re going to have a problem.”
In recent years, Kartiganer said more vending and OCS companies have become Internet savvy.
He tried paid advertising on Websites, but did not find it to be useful.
An auto dealer specialist
From the beginning, Kartiganer focused on car dealerships, serving both employees and walk-in traffic.
Once he had a few dealerships, he had more credibility with other dealerships. He marketed himself as an auto dealer vending specialist.
Most of the dealerships did not require food machines since there are many food options available, Kartiganer said, such as mobile caterers.
Two years after launching the business, one of the auto dealerships asked if Kartiganer could also provide paper products. He sourced paper products at an OCS distributorship and a membership warehouse club. This has proven a profitable part of the business.