Marketing Strategies for Anti-Fatigue Mats in the 21st Century

Ergonomics and OSHA regulations have become familiar words in the anti-fatigue mat industry. These "buzz" words have set a new standard in which mats are viewed as part of the overall package in a work station. They are just another "tool of the trade" seen by employers as cost effective safety and health advantages for their workers. This acceptance of anti-fatigue mats as "standard equipment" provided for the employee is just one of the many factors that have changed the way the distributors should market their product. In today's market there are several new considerations for selling our product. Among these considerations are the aging workforce, the view of standing as a healthy work activity, the use of the internet for advertising and sales, educating consumers on quality assessment, and new opportunities in retail and commercial markets.

Today's market has to consider the impact of the aging workforce on industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it is estimated that in the U.S. that 25 million people left the workforce between 1998 and 2008 and that over 38.5% of the workforce is over 45. Older workers want to continue working for various reasons, needing health benefits, staying mentally and physically active; however, most are facing shortfalls in retirement benefits. Pre-retirees expect to work on average a full decade longer than those already in retirement with 70% saying they plan to continue working past the age of 65.

Older employees whose skills and experience are difficult to replace, are performing physically demanding work. Since they are highly valued by their employers, it is in the best interest of the employer to help them avoid physical problems so they can continue to work. The most frequent health risks are associated with the strain of standing which often leads to musculoskeletal injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that U.S. workers who suffer from musculoskeletal problems ( back, hip, knee pain, etc.) cost $61.2 billion per year in lost productivity. By providing an aging employee a safe and comfortable work space which includes anti-fatigue mats, the savings in lost productivity are obvious. While employers do not need to be convinced of the benefits of mats, they are eager to find a way to help their employees stay on their feet and keep up production. This gives our industry a great opportunity to meet the needs of employers who are trying to help their aging workforce stay on the job.

Another important consideration in today's market is the new viewpoint of the standing worker. This view sees standing as a healthy activity that improves circulation and relieves pressure on the lower back. Some workplaces are being designed to encourage standing instead of sitting or at least offering the choice to alternate between the two. Standing as part of a healthy work position still includes sufficient rest periods and an anti-fatigue mat to make sure there is sufficient circulation and foot activity. Now employers are encouraging their employees that have sitting jobs to find ways to stand at least part of the time. This positive view of standing in the workplace provides another market avenue for our mats.

The biggest change in the market is the use of the internet for advertising and sales. In the past anti-fatigue mats were primarily sold through catalog houses. Catalogues offered opportunities to show photographs or drawings and a few specifications, but very little opportunity to communicate information about the benefits and quality of the product. I can remember times when I only had 20 words to describe my product. With the internet, it is possible to have more complete information about the product and help the customer to make a more educated decision. Through the use of the internet for sales and advertising, a direct line of communication is established with potential customers and this link enables them to ask questions that pertain to their particular situation.

The market of today has consumers who are convinced of the need for anti-fatigue mats, but who are not necessarily knowledgeable about the quality of different mats. It is important to avoid the pit fall that comes with the purchase of look-a-like products that try to capitalize on a quality product's success. It is also important that our industry distance itself from the sub-standard products and not compromise our quality by trying to compete with them. One way to do this is to encourage customers to insist on a full size sample or demo mat that helps them see the quality of the finished product. Additionally we must learn how to walk the fine line between what we consider a mat with the optimum anti-fatigue properties (compression/deflection) and what we call Pivot Point ease. By considering all aspects of the quality of our mats, we can continue to offer superior products and help our customers to recognize them.

The last consideration in today's market is to stop seeing our product as being exclusively for industry and consider them as products that can be used in retail and commercial settings. Recently, there was one company looking at our mats for home use. I am sure that this market has great potential for success. It seems that the uses for anti-fatigue mats are only limited by our imagination.

We have made great progress in marketing anti-fatigue mats because they have become a standard product needed by industry. However, it is also important to find new opportunities for marketing mats by considering the changing factors of the workplace. The aging workforce, the view of standing as a healthy work activity, the use of the internet for advertising and sales, educating consumers on quality assessment, and new opportunities in retail and commercial markets are among the many changes we need to consider when we plan our marketing strategies.

While remaining true to our roots as craftsmen

Ranco is founded on an equal commitment to technology. Better tools and more precise techniques are essential to the manufacturing of the world's best anti-fatigue mats. Ranco personnel have been at the forefront of innovative mat design for the last twenty years. Ranco has cultivated links to manufacturing and chemical engineering partners throughout the world to further our efforts. The ultimate product of these efforts, there's a little Einstein in every Rhino mat.

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