Web Marketing: Web-to-Print Is Only the Beginning

Print service providers of all sizes from coast to coast are talking about Web-to-print, workflow, integration, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO). They are asking, as I’m sure you are, how do these things fit together? As I’ve engaged with printing company owners during the past several months, I’ve found that most are struggling with what to do. At the core of the challenge is how to keep up with the fire hose of information and change.

Printers are trying to figure out how to integrate websites with production workflow and Web-to-print solutions. And on the marketing front, everyone is hearing about how they need to embrace SEO and social media. Problem is, understanding what is the best use of your time. What’s a printer to do?


It is not enough to simply have a Web presence. Your website must be functional, relevant, and user friendly from a client’s perspective. Make it easy for your regular customers to re-order and place new orders through online customer portals. Utilize tools such as Adobe PDF JobReady that make it easy for clients to get files to you. Be diligent about getting clients to utilize FTP instead of email, but never require a customer to download special software to send you a file. Start making content updates more than once a year. Audit your content and replace words such as “four color,” “full color,” “full service,” and “digital printing” with print buyer-friendly words like “direct mail,” “postcards,” “brochures,” “logo design,” etc.

When is the last time, if ever, you used your website as if you were a customer of your company? This is an incredibly healthy exercise that you will find enlightening. Walk through your ordering system as if you’re a customer. When you’re finished, you might understand why you don’t have more people using your website. Don’t forget to include links on your homepage to LinkedIn and Facebook. If you don’t adhere to these basic principles, the effectiveness of your other marketing and online initiatives will be substantially minimized.



For more than a decade, the printing industry has been buzzing about finding the Holy Grail of integration and workflow. The dream is to connect and automate all of the steps in the process of getting a project from concept to finished piece, including the Web-based order entry.

It’s my position that most printers need to let the software developers keep working with the bleeding-edge printers to work out a solution while the rest of us focus on profitability. Stop looking for the perfect solution to integrate your Web-to-print, MIS, production system, etc. There is no perfect solution and you’re creating paralysis by analysis. Focus instead on how you’re taking care of your customers today. There are so many tools that can help your production, sales, and creative teams do things more efficiently. Ideally, you want every element to have seamless integration and talk to each other from Web-to-print orders into your production management system. That isn’t always feasible. When considering your options, do a reality check when it comes to budgets, labor, and time.


Social Media Marketing

Start with a plan. Yes you need a plan. Many printers have found success by using LinkedIn to leverage existing client relationships to get new prospects. LinkedIn is possibly the best tool available to connect with the professional people who actually need the services printers sell. You can export all your contacts into LinkedIn. You can also view your connections by industry. This information is extremely useful as you will recognize trends in industries that you work with. Using this information, you have the ability to capitalize on these industries through your website by creating specialized landing pages and by utilizing 1:1 direct mail pieces and other marketing campaigns.

Don’t forget to ask for recommendations from clients. Create groups for discussion with print buyers in your community and join groups where the conversation is active. There is a wealth of dialogue already going on in the printing industry.

Now let’s turn to Facebook. First off, all printing company owners should have a Facebook page for their businesses. Decide who will be posting content on a regular basis and what the content will be. If you do it right, you can manage your entire social media presence in less than 15 minutes per day.

For social media to work you must engage people and drive them to your website. You should never use Facebook to pimp your products and services. No one wants to be sold to. Be interesting and engaging and you’ll be successful. And no, Facebook should never become your primary Web presence.


Search Engines

The customers you want and need are within easy driving distance of your shop. Set your sites on the local market. Businesses and nonprofits in your community are struggling to reach their audience and understand how to market themselves between conventional mail and the Web. They need your help.

Update the content on your website to include keywords (words that your customers use—not you) to describe the products and services you offer. Your primary objective with search engine optimization is to be found locally. Don’t worry about competing with Vistaprint and other low-margin printers. It’s not worth competing against these giants who spend tens of thousands of dollars every day bidding on keyword terms. Instead, optimize your content to stand out in your city or region.


Don’t get too starry-eyed by the perceived benefits of these hot issues. Remember, there is no silver bullet. At the end of the day, it’s all about focusing on the fundamentals. Take care of your customers, leverage your strengths, and utilize the tools that give you the highest return on investment.

Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence. She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from NAQP for her service as a consultant and educator to the industry. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.