Everyone has the same amount of time in a day—24 hours, that’s what we’ve got. And I bet you have lots of people telling you how to spend that time. Your family, your friends, your colleagues, they all have lots of advice on what to do and how to do it. None of us can do it all, so we need to decide who and what to listen to. In some circumstances it’s probably easy; in others, probably not.
When it comes to growing your business, I bet that advice leans towards this kind of talk. Your teenager insists you must put your business on Facebook, your peers keep sending you articles about the miracle of blogging for business, and marketing salespeople are around every corner. No matter where you look or who you listen to, everyone will be telling you something different when it comes to how to market your business. How on earth do you know what advice to take and what tactics to choose?
First, it’s important to know there is no one magic marketing formula that’s going to work for every printer out there, so let’s not spend our precious hours looking for one. There’s no such thing as a best fit for everyone, just as there is no one style of shoe that feels comfortable on every foot. Second, when it comes to expert advice, keep the one tip in mind we’ve probably all heard from our mothers at some point, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Last but certainly not least, it’s important to listen to the one person who knows your business best. The one who’s been standing on the front lines since opening day. It’s time to listen to the expert in you.
I know what you’re thinking, “So, Tawnya, are you telling me to quit paying attention to the trends and ignore the experts?” Absolutely not. I wouldn’t be writing this column if I believed that. We have to know what’s out there to choose from and be armed with as much knowledge about marketing best practices as possible. But here’s the kicker— we don’t have to do all of it. We don’t have to feel inadequate if we aren’t able to do all of it. And we certainly don’t have to do something we know in our gut isn’t good for our business simply because “everyone else is doing it.”
Take what you learn from those experts, peers, friends, and family, filter it through what you believe will work best in your specific situation, and then come to terms with your specific time, money, and ability limitations. Let’s talk through the examples I mentioned earlier.
A Place on the Face
Your teenager can probably point out at least a hundred other printers that have Facebook fan pages (the “business” version of a Facebook profile—essentially, a mini-website). He may show you that XYZ Printer has an amazing number of “fans” on his page (people that show their support for these businesses by becoming “fans” of their page). Your teen swears you should have a Facebook page, too. Now these are all really great points, and all very true. But what works for those other printers may not be the best fit for you, no matter how many fans they’ve found. Maybe they have a different customer base; maybe they even offer different products and services. So take your teen’s advice, take a step back and make sure that spending a few of your precious 24 hours on Facebook makes sense for your business.
Consider your customers. Are they on Facebook? If you started telling them, “Visit us on Facebook,” would they really comply? Next, consider your business’ budget, time constraints, and staff ability. A lot of people tend to jump on the Facebook bandwagon because it’s “free marketing,” but as we all know, time is money, so be sure to account for the time it takes to create and update your page consistently. Consistency is key, so be sure you have the time to devote both now and a year from now to keep your page updated and vibrant.
You can apply these same Facebook principles to every marketing decision you make. Replace “Facebook” with about any other marketing or business growth idea and this advice holds true.
Blogging for Business
Blogging, like any other marketing vehicle, works best for those who have thought through their business goals and determined what it is, exactly, that they are trying to accomplish. Bloggers are likely looking for a lot of public recognition; a big following. But is that what you want for your business? Do you want people to say, “Oh yeah—I know Joe the Printer, you guys are everywhere,” or is your printshop perfectly satisfied with a more low key existence? Maybe you’re more interested in a steady stream of loyal customers who spend enough money to keep you in the black and that’s it—no public fanfare necessary.
If you decide a little fame would be good for your business goals, take a look at those 24 hours again. Do you have time to spend on a blog? Then consider your skill. Are you a writer? Do you keep a personal journal and jot every chance you get? Then you definitely have what it takes to be a blogger. But if English was your least favorite subject in school and you’d rather do just about anything other than write, you may want to consider a better use of your time. Keep that in mind for every business venture you undergo, if you don’t have the right mix of budget, talent, and time to do it right, you may want to head down another route. There are so many great marketing options to choose from, why not pick the ones you’re passionate about?
Here a Salesman, There a Salesman
Knowing your business and yourself is key when those salespeople come knocking at your door. If you have a solid understanding of your business goals and marketing strategies that will benefit it, it will be a lot easier to decide if what those salespeople are selling is truly worth its weight in marketing gold.
Again it’s time to listen to the expert in you. If a print ad salesman shows you that every printer within a 50 mile radius is advertising with them, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. In fact, would going “outside of the box” be beneficial? Would it help you stand out from the crowd of competitors? Or maybe that print ad does make sense and this salesperson is the perfect opportunity to negotiate a great deal.
What about the search engine expert who’s been sending you emails? Is what he’s selling truly going to get you the results you seek? Will you see a return on the investment you make with him? Ensuring expert status in this field is tricky, so be sure to do your homework. Make sure they can prove success with others in the printing industry. That should be the very first question you ask anyone trying to sell you this service, “What specifically do you know about print buyers?”
Now let’s consider that email marketing provider touting its excellent return on investment. A very true statement indeed and an amazing follow-up tool for other marketing efforts, but we must remember our business before buying into one sole marketing tactic. If you quit sending samples of your printing to your customers, what message is that sending about your faith in your product? What if you sent a few printed marketing pieces followed by some excellent email promotions? Would that leave a better impression?
The Clock is Ticking
The 24 hours in this day are ticking away as you read this. How are you going to spend the rest of them? I would hope, after reading this article, you’re ready to take a step back and really explore your business. Stop and listen to that inner voice that got you this far in the first place, and only then take note of the trends and “what the experts are saying.” You’ll be amazed how confident you’ll become in your marketing choices once you stop and take a listen to that expert in you.
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 NAQP Industry Award of Distinction for her service as a consultant and educator to the industry. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.
CALL OUT QUOTE
Keep that in mind that if you don’t have the right mix of budget, talent, and time to do it right, you may want to head down another route.