International Fasteners needed to stand out, but that can be difficult in a crowded market category. They were already publishing product training through BlueVolt, but how could they reach even more people?
By starting their own University and using it as an external marketing tool, International Fasteners was able to increase per-year enrollments in product training courses by more than 4x and stand out to buying groups and cooperatives, winning award recognition and strengthening their market position.
International Fasteners, a supplier to the specialty tool and fastener industry, has been around since 1996. With six stocking locations throughout the United States offering a wide variety of quality fasteners, the company prides itself on quick pickup and delivery turnaround times.
According to Joanne Bialas, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the relationship between International Fasteners and BlueVolt goes back to 2009. Back then, Bialas was invited to be on the Sphere One University Committee, which had just launched with BlueVolt, and took a training on how to do courses.
“We started using those early courses, internally, for new hires. And actually, to this day, one of the first things we do when we hire people is we make them sit down and log on to our university and take all the courses, and they learn a lot about screws,” Bialas said.
Although International Fasteners originally shared courses à la carte, after a decade of working with BlueVolt and sharing courses both internally and with different buying groups, it made more sense to create their own University. Daggerz University officially launched in February of 2021, and since then, enrollment in International Fasteners’ courses (internal & external) has shot up from an average of 839.7 per year in 2010-20 to an average of 3,578.5 enrollments per year in 2021-22.
Bialas notes that for International Fasteners, their University is a marketing tactic, offering potential buyers training on their product, in turn making their product easier for buying groups and cooperatives to sell. In fact, of their 2022 enrollments, 97.3% of those enrollments came from courses that were shared externally, while only 2.7% of enrollments were internal.
“We made our own business cards that we give out at shows, and we do get a lot of people interested in [our University] … We have a direct link to it from our website under ‘training.’ And we do try to promote it,” Bialas explained.
According to Bialas, one of the main value-adds of BlueVolt is that it helps her company stand out—International Fasteners was supplier of the year for the Evergreen Marketing Group in 2022, and won the BlueVolt Engagement Award at Netplus, as well as other awards. In addition to the added value for members of their University, winning these awards makes their company more visible.
“It's not just an actual dollar sign. It's a perception. And there's a lot of value in that perception for us to be in front of all the people that are there going, ‘who should we be buying from?’ We do sell brand value, we sell company value,” Bialas said.
“And they're out there talking about our training, that we do it—some of our competitors that are huge companies, they're not doing the training, they're not putting that investment into it. I'm always so surprised to learn that they have all the resources available and they're not doing it. So we like to be special. That helps you stand out.”
Bialas added that another benefit she’s seen from working with BlueVolt is the connection—especially after winning the BlueVolt Engagement Award, she’s seen greater connections through the BlueVolt network. Not only that, but their University and its capabilities have provided the grounds for greater connections with pre-existing customers.
“I was having a meeting with some members, and they said, ‘…we have just a lot of Spanish speaking employees, can you do some of your courses in and translate them into Spanish?’” Bialas explained, adding that they of course did so. “We have a customer for life... I see that customer and I often think, I know he doesn't shop me, he just buys everything from us... It's the little successes that keep me going.”
For International Fasteners, BlueVolt isn’t just about training the people who work for them, it’s about differentiating themselves from other fastener suppliers on the market. With buying groups and cooperatives, International Fasteners’ award-winning investment in training sets them apart from their competitors. And with their new University, their courses are reaching more eyes than ever through the BlueVolt network.
“I've been involved with BlueVolt for many years... I've seen the successes along the way; I've not been surprised as you continue to grow—it's a great platform… I always look forward to working on the next course and how we can keep it going,” Bialas said. “We love our little Daggerz University.”