I just don’t get it.” This is probably the most frequent comment I get from printers when we are discussing social media. Social media is everywhere and it is becoming a valuable communication tool for the business community. But some printers are afraid social media will continue to erode their printing volume, so they see it as a threat. If someone wants to broadcast a message to customers or prospects, they can do it with a free tweet from Twitter or a posting on Facebook. Will customers need printing anymore?Printing is not being eliminated by social media. Print and social media are being integrated to create a more powerful and controllable message. Print will continue to play an important role in the communication and sales process and customers will be looking for printers who know how to use social media.
Go Where the Customers Are
Just because a printer doesn’t see a personal reason to use social media doesn’t mean his customers don’t. This is how your customers are communicating and buying services today, especially buyers under the age of 40. Printers are going to have to learn how to set up social media, how to build sales leads, how to create a presence online, how to build audiences and followers, how to help develop content, and how to use social media to engage customers and prospects. Customers will be demanding that social media be used along with printing to spread their message.
Many businesses will pay for an outside resource to manage their social media. Because some companies don’t have the time to spend doing the social media mechanics, new social media support companies are sprouting up around the country. They help develop content and do the postings of the messages on the various social media platforms. They also help drive people to their clients’ sites by helping build audiences and attract followers. These new companies can charge a good price for the service because the customer sees a great deal of value in the services they provide.
Social media support companies are also buying printing for their clients because they know that printing can drive people to social media sites. You have probably already noticed companies adding social media logos and addresses to their printed material. The social media companies use mailings to get their social media information in front of the customer. And they are starting to control the print buying for their customers.
Printers must show customers they too can offer a complete communication service that includes social media. Right now, customers will pay a premium price for the social media component of a project. The printing portion is considered the commodity part. Unless printers begin to offer social media services along with printing, they will remain stuck selling just the printing service that is based solely on price.
Déj vu All Over Again
The printing industry has let this happen before. Graphic designers and ad agencies sell the print buying customer the perceived value part of a project (idea, design, concept, etc.) and leave printers to compete on price and service for the printing portion. The same thing happened with PURLs (personal URLs). PODi, the organization that helps set strategic direction in the digital print industry, reported that on many PURL projects, printing costs made up only 10% of the total selling price. The people selling the idea to the customer took the other 90%. Printing became the commodity product in the mix. Someone else sold the value of the project to the customer and left the printer to compete for what was left.
The same thing could happen with social media unless printers get in front of the curve. Printers need to use social media to increase their own sales. They also need to learn the mechanics so they can provide social media services for their customers.