As best as I can figure, 2010 will represent my 25th anniversary writing a column for Quick Printing, and I have to say it has been a blast. What other publication would allow me to have so much fun sharing so many rants and raves, so many funny stories, and so many sad ones as well?
They’ve been very good to me at this magazine. I can only recall one time in 24 years where a senior editor objected to something I had written. It was some reference to D-Day, and for the life of me I can’t recall what the details were.
Karen and Bob Hall have been fantastic folks to work with. The only time I ever had a run-in with Karen was when Larry Hunt and I hired her to edit our book “Print Shop for Sale.” A day after sending her the first draft, I could hear Karen yelling all the way from Charleston, WV, even without the benefit of a telephone or email.
She took a first look at our electronic file and almost had a heart attack looking at all the italics and exclamation marks Larry and I had used in our first draft. Every time we had something important to say, Larry or I would place it in italics. To us, everything was important, so we ended up with something like 7,000 words and sentences italicized and 750 exclamation marks (or something like that). She gave us a stern lecture about our overuse of these features. She was right, of course, and thanks to her we are in our second printing (2,500 books and counting), and we owe a great deal of gratitude to her for all her work.
High Payroll & “Zero” Marketing
If you’ve been reading my columns for a number of years, you’ve certainly noticed that I tend to split them up with small talk (like the copy above) at the beginning, and then follow up with something more serious. This is the serious stuff.
Recently I have been busier than ever providing business valuations as well as on-site consulting services. The combination of these two provides me with a sense of where the industry is headed and what many firms need in order to survive and prosper.
While I continue to share many of these insights about our industry and challenges in my monthly columns, I have also launched a new blog at www.quickconsultant.com/blog where I can address these issues on a more immediate basis. I invite you to visit my blog and leave comments or questions if you wish.
In the past six weeks I have encountered four firms with sales in the neighborhood of $450,000 and three with sales in excess of $1.2 million. All four of the larger firms (visit my blog for additional commentary) shared two things in common—huge payroll costs and a total lack of any consistent marketing program to promote the business and increase sales.
As for payroll cost, it remains the single largest challenge in this industry. In the case of the four firms mentioned above, the payroll ranged from 32% to 41%; making it virtually impossible to produce any sustainable, long term profits. To say that I am flabbergasted to encounter such extraordinarily high payroll costs is an understatement.
As for marketing efforts (or the lack thereof), at least in three of the four companies mentioned above had no marketing plan in place, whether it involved open houses, direct mail, monthly email newsletters, packaging, or for that matter, anything that would qualify as a marketing program. Zero…nil…nada!
Our Lost & Found Department
So with these observations in mind, I thought I would share with you just one advertising idea in this month’s column. It is simple, easy to prepare, and it will at least get you off to a start in 2010. It is what I call our “Lost & Found” letter.
This direct mail idea consists of a #10 envelope, a simple letter (personalized or not), and a 4x8.5" business reply card (BRC). The mailing is intended to be humorous, while at the same time getting former—or “lost”—customers to tell you why they left, as well as an invitation to give your firm another try. Obviously, you are free to modify, but if you decide to use this letter don’t send it to committee or subject it to over analysis because if you do it will never get done and still be on your desk a year from now.