When I was a kid, I built a lot of model airplanes. My older brother preferred boats, but I was an airplane guy, even way back then. From about fourth grade to sixth grade, I built everything from WWII fighters to Cold War era jets. They knew me by name at the model store in the town I grew up in.
These days, I don’t build models, but I do build from them, because modeling is a very good way to maximize a sales effort and, in fact, to fine tune a business as a whole.
The most obvious application for modeling is in the earliest stages of prospecting, and that relates directly to something I’ve written before: That your next good customer will probably look a lot like a current good customer.
To put that another way, there’s something about each of your current customers that creates a need for the kind of printing you sell. There is also something about them that creates an incentive to buy it from you. That may be as basic as the convenience of having you nearby. It may be as complex as a specific need for a product or service that they think only you can provide. Either way, it’s important to analyze and understand why they buy from you. Because once you understand that, you can go looking for other companies or organizations who share the same circumstance.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. It’s been pretty well established that associations make good customers for quick/digital/small commercial printing companies. On the surface, the reason for that is pretty straightforward—because they tend to buy a lot of printing. But why is that?
If you think below the surface, you might realize that most of the printing they buy is connected with members—communicating with current members and trying to develop new ones. So the bottom line is that associations are good suspects because they’re all about members. (Remember, by the way, that they’re suspects when you think they might be prospects, and only prospects when you’re sure they’re fully qualified. That means you know—not just think or hope—that they 1) buy exactly what you’re best equipped to sell, 2) buy enough of it to make them pursuing them worthwhile, and 3) have some real interest in buying it from you.)
What I hope you’ll see here is that associations aren’t good suspects because they’re associations, it’s because they have—and probably want more—members. So who else has and probably wants more members? How about health clubs, and country clubs, and motorcycle clubs, and basketball leagues, and even churches? Each of those categories is represented in the Top 5 Customers of at least one of my clients, and I think that means they probably have the potential to be in your top group.
Very few printers and printing salespeople seem to know exactly who they should be calling on, or marketing to. The result of that is usually a broad-based “shotgun” effort that hopes to hit something/anything and just bring in some orders. I think it makes a lot more sense to target the best suspects, and I think that starts with a serious analysis of your current customer list. In other words, model your current customers and go looking for more who fit the model.
There’s more to this, by the way, than simply identifying suspects who buy a lot of printing. I define “bad” customers as those who are more trouble than they’re worth, which means that “good” customers have to be less trouble—or worst case, exactly as much trouble—than they’re worth. That’s part of the modeling equation too.
Modeling Marketing Programs
The next most obvious application for modeling is in doing more of what works in terms of marketing. That starts with your own marketing, and it requires an understanding of whether what you’re doing is working or not. I know a lot of printers who use direct mail to market their businesses. I know very few who can prove to me that it’s working. And of those, I know even fewer who know why it’s working.