Bringing Out the Best in Brands

Want a world-class program that delivers results for you? Think Highlands.

Not only can we help you build a strategic sales and marketing plan but we can execute it for you too.  We are truly your partner from beginning to end, and the next beginning...

We offer a range of services that clients can utilize from field representation, e-Commerce management, strategic planning, digital and traditional marketing through to selling into some of the world's largest and best distributors and retailers.

Our obsession is getting your products into the hands of consumers 

ahead of your competitors.

Want to know more?  Then get in touch.

Supporting your brand to maximize your sales.



Highlands covers content creation, and digital and print production and promotional campaigns to.  We ensure your work is 'on brand', 'on time' and 'on budget'.
Let us develop and manage your strategic blueprint alongside you.  Our PLAN - BUILD - RUN - OPTIMIZE model ensures you gain the right insights to successfully execute your strategy. 
Highlands has the skills and resource to maximize the presence of your brand with key resellers to help grow your sales volume.

Supporting your brand to maximize your sales.

Having trusted relationships with all the largest accounts means that Highlands can get your products listed quickly and build plans to accelerate sales.
Highlands brings you a trusted and personalized eCommerce strategy to complement your traditional routes to market, growing your brand and digital presence.
Our great engine room ensures we deliver on our promises.  Full content management, creation and re-purposing of collateral and driving promotional activity are just part of what our team helps with.


Taming the Beast

February 15, 2017

Ecommerce has dramatically effected retailing forever and, in time, may overtake brick and mortar. It’s easy to imagine such a shift as ecommerce continues to grow at double-digits while traditional retailers do their best to hold on. Even categories not normally associated with etailing show promise. Carvana lets you buy a car online! They deliver on a flatbed, you test drive, you buy or return it for a different car. Mattresses can be bought online. Couches, refrigerators, frozen foods - you name it. Even groceries are moving toward ecommerce with 29% of U.K. grocery sales coming online!  In the U.S., online grocery sales is expected to exceed $18 Billion by 2020.

These behaviors have transformed the office category as well. Staples relies heavily on ecommerce with over 50% of its revenue coming online (source: emarketer). Amazon just reported 2016 revenues of $136 Billion, of which Amazon Business contributed heartily. As more B2B players market online, Amazon will continue to take share from etailers and retailers with its powerful brand presence, support, and pricing model. Like it or not, Amazon is a hungry lion that can eat at your margins, prices, and customers.  

But there are ways to tame the beast.


. Understand what Amazon does well and clearly define where and how it can help you. Same for the other etailers (Wayfair, Hayneedle, Staples, Tesco, John Lewis, etc.).  Many of our partners find value in Amazon’s fast-turn, free delivery capabilities. Others leverage its easy-to-use storefront option on the world’s best-known etailer. That said, Amazon is not a cure-all. Make sure you understand why you need Amazon -- and why you don’t.


. Consider white-labeling products you feature on Amazon, and other ecommerce sites, with different pricing strategies. Amazon charges upward of 20%, which undermines the investment made in your brand. White-labeling allows you to leverage multiple etailers while maintaining strong branding and higher margins on your own site. Remember, Amazon is a price follower, not a leader. Margin erosion can be avoided with effective pricing strategies for each online reseller.


. Social media can make all the difference. Depending on your brand and product line, platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are fantastic ways to extend online marketing efforts.  


. Amazon is no longer the only mega-player. WalMart’s acquisition of Jet creates an interesting opportunity as it charges lighter fees (stronger margins for you) and does not require an annual fee (ala ‘Prime’) to get free two-day shipping. Plus, you can usually get same-day pick-up at your nearest WalMart.  FedEx is also taking on Amazon, recently announcing plans to warehouse and distribute online purchases for small to medium-sized manufacturers. More and more, strong alternatives to Amazon are appearing across the globe.

These are very disruptive times, exciting times. Those willing to take a smart, strategic, clear-eyed jump online will be rewarded. But jump in with an informed, committed strategy or risk getting eaten alive.


Cheryl Whyers

SVP New Business Development


Think Backwards

February 10, 2017

Think Backwards: Sounds counter intuitive, but many business owners forget about the most important part of their business the customer.

How do you present yourself to your customer?  Think about your website.  Is it all about what you offer?  What you do?  Who you are?  We love what we do and our products and services.  Problem is… our customers don’t care unless it’s overtly clear how you can solve their problem one that is particular to them and one that you can solve better than anyone else.  

Journalists call that burying the lead.

The opportunity here is not about website design. It’s about the relationship between you, your products and services and your customers.  We typically lead with our stuff and hope our customers like what we offer. Our sales message often has the same logic.

And then we wonder why it always comes down to price.

Instead of starting with your offering, begin with the progress your customer needs to make when they interact with you the essence of "thinking backwards." Here is how it works:

1.  Focus on your most attractive market segment, the one where you get 80% of your profits.  

2.  Ask a few customers in that segment what progress they were trying to make when they chose you for       this category. (This is not a customer service interview where you ask 'how is our company doing?')  

3.  Then ask them what frustrates or annoys them when they try to make that progress.

Use what you learn to edit - and TEST - a new message and selling approach or a fresh idea to improve your service.
Think backwards. Lead with a promise that your customer really cares about. Then show them how you can deliver on that promise better than anyone else. In this market, we all know we need to differentiate every day, but rarely do we take the time to understand the problems and the value from the customer’s perspective.

This Week:

Call two customers.  Ask, "In your role as ________ what gives you the biggest headache when you try to do your job better?" Be sure to keep asking, "What else?"
I bet you’ll be surprised by the insight and nuance you’ll discover.  

Janet Collins, a strategic advisor in the office products industry and a long-time collaborator with Highlands.  She works with business leaders to develop growth strategies and mobilize teams to take action and achieve results. She's a coach who's been in your shoes, most recently as President of GMi Companies (Ghent, VividBoard and Waddell). 

Contact Janet at [email protected] or visit www.linkedin/in/collinsjanet.

Janet Collins
TurningPoint Strategy

For the love of a notebook

February 7, 2017

Inspired by a fascinating article by Alison Birrane from BBC Worldwide I thought I would share my own OCD about notebooks and the need to write, write and write some more .  

Alison explains that even in this high-tech world the need to write things down on paper to help articulate thoughts and plan your schedule still prevails.  She interviews some really interesting, young professionals who have a need to use notebooks, sticky notes, whiteboards, coloured pencils and marker pens. 

Everyone is different but I still love my notebooks.  We all know the tremendous success of Moleskine but other quality notebook manufacturers such as Leuchtturm1917 and Il Papiro to name a few are doing really well too.  The notebook, alongside your mobile phone is becoming a way of showing who you are, just like the pen you use.  It's a statement.

I have to confess that's not where my obsession started.  Quite simply if I didn't write it down there's a very good chance I would forget.  I believe this is true for a lot of people and am always cautious when people turn up to meetings without a way of taking notes.  Will they remember what we discussed?  More importantly, will they remember the action points they agreed to (and there's a good chance they'll have a few)?

I was kind of pleased when I read in the BBC article that research proves that written notes are better than those taken electronically.  #JustSaying

As well, when I'm trying to work through a complex problem or put together a program for clients (and even when I'm preparing a Blog post) I will invariably find a quiet space, get out my pen and notebook and start writing.  I find writing down my stream of consciousness just helps me to get where I need to go.  It's easy to refer back to, to scribble on, to cross out and to add to.  Like Word and a keyboard just much, much better.

My budget allows me to use a nice notebook, even to convince my company to invest in nice notebooks for us to use and give away to clients.  And, with every new notebook I write my name, contact details, reward information and start date at the very front.  As my notebook comes to the end I ensure every outstanding action point is transferred from my old notebook to my new one, and I write the end date in the old one.  Very OCD, I know.  Even worse is that I keep them all.  I have boxes full in the shed.  My wife wants me to throw them out from time to time but I just can't.  I just can't.

So, thanks Alison :-) , and you can read Alison's article here.

Gordon Christiansen
Partner & SVP Marketing, Highlands

Shannon Blake Joins Highlands as Partner and Senior Vice President of Strategic Accounts

February 2, 2017

Highlands, announces that Shannon Blake is joining the Highlands team as Partner and Senior Vice President of Strategic Accounts. Shannon brings more than 20 years of leadership and experience in both the commercial and retail sales arena to the Highlands team.

“Based out of our Atlanta headquarters, Shannon will be focused on developing new and innovative solutions that meet the challenges faced by our clients selling into the increasingly volatile OP channel,” says Bob O’Gara, CEO of Highlands. Adding her deep and broad strategic account experience to our team allows us to further enhance our service portfolio for our clients, both in North America, and around the globe.

Before joining Highlands, Shannon was President and Owner of So-mine, where she will continue as a partner and leader. So-mine, a supplier of housewares and other retail driven products to the mass and office channels, will leverage the Highlands Strategic Accounts team and other support to drive more rapid product development and product launches.  

Highlands is the only multinational sales and marketing services agency supporting manufacturers and resellers in the B2B, B2C, and eTail marketplaces with custom product, sales, and marketing strategies. For over 55 years, Highlands has focused on engineering greater sales for its partners by providing the most effective and efficient brand advocacy programs, brand resources, and technologies for entire channels.

Today, Highlands serves its clients in the United States, Europe and Canada.  Highlands is proud to combine the most effective and efficient multi-channel brand advocacy strategies with world-class tactics to ensure product sales are maximized throughout the supply chain and across the globe.