Stop Sending Me Junk Mail! According to Wikipedia, the term “junk mail” can be traced back to
1954. I think all of us would agree that printers should not embrace that term,
and I think we also would agree that direct mail puts a very small burden on its
recipients. After all, if they don’t want to read it, they can just throw it
away! It’s the marketer who really bears the burden (read that: cost) of direct mail, and smart
marketers realize that direct mail is an investment. The main point of this column
is that I don’t classify direct mail as junk just because I didn’t ask for it.
But I do call it junk if it’s unlikely to provide a return on the marketer’s
investment. And sadly, I think most direct mail falls into that category.
Invisibility In a previous column, I wrote that a transparent selling strategy—one that a buyer can see right through—is a very good thing. Invisibility, though—not being seen at all!—is a very bad thing for a printing salesperson and for a printing company. How does a printing company become invisible? It starts with a reduction in marketing effort, and sadly, that's a very common occurrence when sales volume declines. Marketing is traditionally the first thing that gets cut when business slows down.
Walking The Walk
About a year ago, I found a coconut in my mailbox, wrapped in a red mesh
bag. It was a promotional mailing from one of my clients — and a very
impressive example, I think, of walking the walk that so many printers
are starting to talk as the make the transition from print provider to
Marketing Services Provider.
Direct Mail Still Works! I found an interesting article at the Bloomberg website. The lead paragraph said this: “Even as retailers debate the efficacy of social-media marketing on Facebook and Twitter, they have no doubts about the power of a decades-old technology to drive sales. The killer app is called email.” That last part may not sound like good news, but it is—as long as you recognize that you’re not in the printing business, you’re in the business communication business. You have opportunity in pretty much every medium that a business can use to communicate.
Putting Your Name Out There I have written before about three capabilities of advertising: keeping your name in front of your customers, putting your name out in front of potential customers, and educating both customers and potential customers by telling them exactly what they could be buying from you. Here are a few marketing strategies and tactics that will help you to do all of that.
Does It Still Pay To Advertise? Karen Hall (QP’s Managing Editor) forwarded an e-mail to me, a request from a reader for an article on advertising strategy. “What works?” the reader asked, and specifically “What will work in this economic climate?” I think you’ll agree that those are good questions. Here are some answers!
Mid-Course Corrections A recent conversation with my brother the rocket scientist got me thinking about mid-course corrections to a printer’s sales and marketing plans. “We’ve got the timing of mid-course corrections with the missiles down to very small fractions of a second,” he told me. “That keeps them very close to the best track to the target. And at the speed these things are traveling at, it doesn’t take very long to get too far out of position for a successful intercept.” Sales and marketing plans don’t move as fast as the rockets and missiles my brother works with, of course, but it’s still true that it doesn’t take all that long to get too far out of position for a successful result.
Competition From Every Quarter Benjamin Franklin is widely acknowledged as America’s first important printer. If that’s true, he was probably also the first American printer to complain about his competition. I wrote this article because I think it’s interesting how similar his complaints are to what I’m hearing today—and the solutions are the same!
Practice What You Preach Direct mail is important to printers, both as a marketing strategy and as a product to sell. From both perspectives, direct mail has become a lot more interesting over the years as we’ve added extreme personalization capabilities. Lots of printers are very interested in selling VDP/EP these days, but I think most of them are undermining their own sales efforts by not practicing what they preach. In other words, if you want to sell your advanced direct mail capabilities, you really ought to be sending out advanced direct mail yourself!
It Takes Focus To Be Customer-Driven I was asked recently to participate in a focus group of United Airlines customers, most of us in the high-mileage category. As I took part in the program, about half of me was thinking about my answers to the facilitator’s questions, and the other half was thinking about how to apply this strategy to a quick/digital/small commercial printer’s business. Your current customers, after all, are your best source of knowledge about what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing well, and what you could be or should be doing as well.
Reciprocity Reciprocity has long been one of the guiding principles of commerce. As the old saying goes: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!” In a perfect world, a perfect “balance of trade” could exist, but we all know that we don’t operate in a perfect world. I think part of the reason that printers often don’t get a desirable balance of trade with their customers is that human nature leads us to buy from who we want to buy from, not who we have to buy from. Of course, there’s probably a “wisdom gap” in not wanting to do business with someone who does business with you. Be that as it may, the other major problem here is simply that most printers don’t ask!
An Open House Can Help You Build Your Business…If You Do It Right! It’s not uncommon for a quick/digital/small commercial printer to hold an open house to celebrate the move into a new building, the renovation of an old one, or the purchase of some new piece of high-tech equipment. There’s no question that an open house can be a significant marketing event. So that makes me wonder, why wait until you move or renovate or buy new equipment to have one? It’s important to remember, though, that a successful open house won’t just happen. It takes thought and planning to have a truly successful event
The Great Equalizer In the graphic arts marketplace, size can provide a competitive advantage, but the bigger printing company doesn’t always win. The great equalizer in any printing competition is quality, and that’s true whether you’re talking about printing awards competitions or the competition for orders that goes on in every printing market every day.
Targeting Titles If you want to be successful with direct mail marketing—or any other form of marketing!—it’s critical that you put your message in front of the right people. This articles lists the “titles” who represent the best printing prospects, and covers a couple of other mailing list issues.
Increase Response To Your Direct Mail Program Direct mail works for printers. That’s a proven fact in the marketplace. But direct mail hasn’t worked all that well for many of the printers who have incorporated it into their overall marketing plans. This article explain how to increase response to your direct mail program.
Brokering As A Marketing Tool There’s an ongoing debate in the quick printing industry about the wisdom of selling things that you can’t produce in-house. I think brokering provides you with a very important marketing tool, because while you may give up something in profit margin by selling things you have to buy from an outside source, but you can also gain something substantial in volume and in customer control.
Work Backwards To Sales & Marketing Success Most of the time, when someone tells you that you’re going about something backwards, you can assume they’re being critical. In the case of your sales and marketing planning efforts, though, going backwards is exactly the right way to go. As this article explains, once you establish a sales goal, it’s really pretty easy to work backwards through the actions it will take to turn your goal into reality.
Satisfaction Guaranteed The guarantee of satisfaction can be a very powerful selling tool for a quick/digital/small commercial printer, but from some comments I read on PrintOwners, it was apparent that some printers don’t have a clue about how a guarantee can work for them. It seemed to me that half of the respondents were more concerned with being “trapped” by a guarantee, and not nearly interested enough in the positive potential of a guarantee strategy.
Three Strategies For Increasing Walk-In Traffic Many quick printers have de-emphasized the walk-in segment of the business, but others still value customers who walk in the doors, and would like to see more of them. If that’s your situation, this article presents three strategies that can make it happen.
You Only Have Two Ways To Grow A printing company only has two ways to grow—gaining new customers and selling more to existing customers—and the latter is likely to be easier. This article discusses a few new products that provide more to sell.
Live And Learn A speaker at Quick Printing Magazine’s Sixth Annual Industry Leadership Conference commented that “life is a series of sales situations.” That stimulated this article, pointing out a few things you can learn from some of the marketing efforts being aimed at you.
How To Compete With Office Supply Superstores The office supply “superstores” are positioned as low-price suppliers, but there ways to compete against them...without resorting to matching their copying prices.
The Key To Effective Advertising This article describes the four capabilities of advertising, and suggests several ways to match your company’s primary marketing needs to the appropriate capability.
The Rich Get Richer The large and profitable printer is usually the one best positioned to grow, because it takes money to make money. Too many printers don’t grow, though, because they invest in “hardware”—new equipment—without an accompanying investment in “software”—marketing!
A Quick Printer’s Manifesto I think it’s a pretty good idea for every quick printer to develop his/her own “manifesto.” Why? Because if you do it right, you’ll equip yourself and your employees with an invaluable marketing tool. The object—and opportunity—of a quick printer’s manifesto is to tell your prospects (1) who you are, and (2) why they should buy from you.
Get All Of The Value From Each One Of Your Customers Every current customer provides you with three distinct levels of value. The opportunity in front of you is to harvest more of the value at each level and create a healthy increase in your sales figures.
Fellman Weighs In On Ad Specialties Should printers sell ad specialties? I think these products probably have much more potential for you as a marketing tool than as a profit center. In a world where gaining the interest and attention of a potential buyer is a key challenge, ad specialties—properly used—can be very effective.
Killer B’s Should printers sell business forms? Many printers are intimidated by the “Killer B’s”—brokering and business forms—but this can be a very profitable product category. That’s especially true of the simple forms you’d run in your own shop, using pre-collated carbonless sets.
Mike Was Absolutely Right! You Should Definitely Be Using Direct Mail. Mike Stevens wrote an article for Quick Printing which listed his “Top 10 List” of compelling reasons to use direct mail as one of your principal marketing weapons. My column a few months later amplified a couple of points he made, and suggested a few new points to consider about direct mail marketing.
Scattered (Sales & Marketing) Thoughts (2000) This is an article that touched on a number of sales/marketing issues, including the difference between selling and servicing, the difference between suspects, prospects and customers, and several issues surrounding holiday gift-giving to customers.
What Exactly Is Marketing? Many printers—and some consultants—don’t really understand what marketing is all about, or even what the term really means. This article starts to set the record straight.
How To Make “Selling” And “Marketing” Work Together “Marketing” and “Selling” are not two words that describe the same activity, and “Marketing” can’t replace “Selling.” Once you understand that, it’s easier to understand how marketing activities can make selling easier.
More Than Just Ink On Paper Every job that comes through your plant is a combination of two things: ink on paper and words on paper. The importance of the words provides a progressive printer with a significant marketing opportunity.
Trade Show Marketing Trade shows offer a very attractive marketing opportunity, but most printers go into them poorly prepared...and get predictable results. A little bit of planning can make all the difference.
More Trade Show Techniques This article presents several “audience involvement” techniques which will build traffic in a trade show booth.
Why Don’t You Go See Charlie... This is an article about word of mouth, a mysterious business building technique that many quick printers believe accounts for a significant share of their new business.
Market Research What can market research do for a printing company? How do you get it? And finally, are you better off doing the research yourself, or hiring an expert?
Image Studies This article describes a specific type of market research: the image study, which provides a “competitive comparison” between your company and your rivals.
Starting Smart Toward the end of each year, you should start thinking about next year’s marketing plan. But to be most effective, that plan should consider whether you’re ending the year on an upswing or a downswing.
How Much Should I Spend On Marketing? How much should the “typical” printer spend on marketing. There’s no fixed answer, but just about every printing company will fit into one of four categories.
Building Sales With Limited Resources What do you do when you know you need to market more aggressively, but you just can’t afford a large marketing budget. Here are a few thoughts, including an option that many printers might not think of.
Entertainment Marketing Entertainment can be an important component of a printing company’s overall marketing program. But you have to think entertainment strategy through to get the best—and most cost-effective—results.
The Year Of The T-Shirt An impressive number of the exhibitors at NAQP QUICK PRINT 92 were either marketing T-shirt production equipment...or using T-shirts as a part of their own trade show marketing plan. This article describes how a hot new product can play two roles in a quick printer’s marketing plan.
Micro Marketing is about marketing to specific customers...maybe even one at a time. The rules are different than in “mass marketing.” It’s an important understanding that every prospect already has a printer, and the decision to start buying from you often has to be accompanied the decision to stop buying from that other printer. This article discusses how to put together a “rifle-shot” presentation against a specific competitor.